The Independent (London), October 27, 2006 Friday?
Reparations that are now an absurdity;
In the topsy-turvy world of international politics, Iraq, a nation in political and economic turmoil, has just paid more than $21.4bn (?11.3bn) in “war reparations” to some of the richest countries and corporations in the world. The payment is the latest tranche in a staggering $41.3bn so far paid out by the struggling Iraqi government in recompense for the first? Iraq war in which Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
And so it should, many might say. The damage done to Kuwait in that period needs to be made good. Those who lost relatives, limbs and property should be compensated. Yet most of the payments to those who suffered personal injuries or losses have now been made, and in fairly small sums.
Much larger amounts have gone – and continue to go – to big corporations. The chief beneficiaries are oil companies and contractors? such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Mobil and Shell. But compensation has also gone to Nestl”, Pepsi, Philip Morris, Sheraton, American Express, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even Toys R Us – not because Saddam damaged their property in Kuwait , but because, they claim, they “lost profits” or experienced a “decline in business” because of the war. The payments announced yesterday also went to governments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, India,” Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.
Saddam Hussein is long gone from power and yet the down-trodden people of Iraq are still being forced to pay for the crimes of their former dictator. The amount they are paying is more than Iraq’s annual health and education budgets combined. Payments are running well behind schedule, and will take years to complete. The country is being forced to borrow from the? IMF, with all the additional constraints that brings.
The new Iraqi government has requested a change. There is no reason why it should not come. In 1991 Iraq was paying 30 per cent of its oil revenue in compensations. In 2000 this was reduced to 25 per cent. After the fall of Saddam it was cut to 5 per cent. Surely it is now time that it should end entirely.
The lesson of history, as with Germany post-1918, is that while war reparations do salve the past, they also store up trouble for the future.
Things are bad enough in Iraq without this added burden. Every dollar sent as “reparations” is a dollar not spent on humanitarian aid and reconstruction.
The vanquished have always paid the victor. But for the occupied to pay the occupiers – much of the “reparations” go to the United States and Britain – is little short of an obscenity. At a time when the battle for hearts and minds is being daily lost, it is patently a political absurdity too.
Morning Star, November 27, 2006?
Iraq bled white by reparations
by Louise Nousratpour
Peace campaigners condemned revelations on Sunday that public money is funding private mercenaries in Iraq to the tune of millions of pounds, while the country’s oil revenues are being used to bolster corporate profits.
The government will face tough questions in the House of Commons on Monday over its recent commitment to increase reconstruction aid to Iraq, while Iraq’s own oil revenues are being “siphoned off” by transnational companies.
While welcoming Chancellor Gordon Brown’s pledge for more Iraq aid, campaigners expressed fears that the extra money will also be seized by greedy privateers.
The warning followed news of companies such as Bechtel, Halliburton and even Kentucky Fried Chicken are demanding vast sums – not for damage, but because the Iraq war has dented their profits.
The Iraqi puppet gover nment has decided to divert over ?10.35 billion of its oil revenues into additional “reparations” payouts to? oil-rich Gulf states like Kuwait and to companies which suffered “loss of business” during the first Gulf war.
This is in addition to over ?20.7 billion already paid out by the? UN from a fund which is fed by a 5 per cent levy of Iraq’s oil revenues.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn condemned the move, accusing the Iraqi government and its Western allies of prioritising private profit over desperately needed welfare for the suffering Iraqi people. “Over 600,000 Iraqi lives have been lost in the war and depleted uranium and cluster bombs are killing a whole? generation,” he said.
“Yet their priority appears to be pouring money into the already bloated bank accounts of very wealthy multinational firms and private mercenaries.”
Mr Corbyn argued that, if Britain and the US were serious about helping to clean up their own mess in Iraq, they would invest in? “sanitation, health and education.”
Stop the War Coalition (StWC) spokesman Chris Nineham welcomed any British government aid to Iraq for damages caused by the war and? occupation. But he stressed that this should not sim ply be pumped into the “corrupt Iraqi government to help line the pockets of big corporations.”
Peace campaigners also expressed fury at reports that British taxpayers have paid almost ?160 million to private security companies in Iraq – some of which have been accused of human rights abuses and randomly? shooting civilians.
Mr Nineham castigated the occupation forces for turning Iraq into a money-making haven for private army firms.”The funding of private security in Iraq and Afghanistan shows how bankrupt the whole proj ect of occupation? is,” he said.
“The StWC calls for the withdrawal of not only all British troops, but also all private security companies, which are simply a tool of the occupation.”
War on Want revealed a slew of human rights abuses commited by these private firms last month.They ranged from torture and rape in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison to involvement in prostitution rings in eastern? European countries like Bosnia.
The firms employ hundreds of former special forces troops who are paid up to ?600 a day.
There are an estimated 48,000 of these mercenaries operating in Iraq, six times the number of British troops. Defending the ?160 million tax money paid out to security firms, a Foreign Office spokesman declared: “We’ve a duty of care to staff and? believe this provides good value for money.”
Morning Star, November 27, 2006
Comment – Almost past belief
There are times when the phrase mind-boggling simply isn’t adequate to describe the reaction to one or other item of news.
This is just such a time. The news that shattered and partially dismantled Iraq has paid out over $40 billion in so-called “reparations” is bad enough.” But to find out to whom that vast sum has been or is about to be paid to is so shattering as to be almost incredible.
That a country which has been illegally invaded, which has lost over 650,000 of its population, which has been carved up between the oil transnationals and the state s that host them and which has had a puppet government foisted on it which has no more relation to democracy than fly in the air should have to pay reparations is, in itself, ludicrous.
That the companies which are claiming large slices of that $40 billion should include Kentucky Fried Chicken is appalling.
But that the list should include Halliburton, the scandal-plagued oil company that US Vice-President Dick Cheney used to run and which has been coining it ever since the war started, firstly by winning the contract to put out the oilfield fires that the US started and latterly by multibillion dollar “reconstruction” contracts to rebuild what the US and Britain demolished in the course of the war, is utterly beyond the bounds of reason.
After that, the news that Bechtel, which recently announced that it is leaving Iraq after three years of work there, during which it pocketed a cool $2.3 billion should have the unmitigated gall to join the queue for reparation handouts, merely puts the icing sugar on the cake.
And it is not just companies that are hitching themselves to this? vulture-dominated bandwagon. The government of Kuwait has already been awarded over $273 million and is now picking up another $335 million.
The government of Saudi Arabia has trousered over $85 million and has just added another, comparatively modest, $30 million chunk to its coffers.
One wonders on what these sums are based. Certainly Kuwait lost massive oil revenues during the invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But it is almost certain that those sums have been more than equalled by the enormous increase in oil revenues generated by the price rises in the wake of the war.
With the US companies, one is driven to ponder just what the compensation is for. Is KFC, for example, seeking redress because the US government and its allies killed 650,000 potential customers for its family? bucket?
And is Halliburton aggrieved that it hasn’t been afforded the chance to employ those 650,000 people and extract a bit of surplus value?
Whatever the reasons, this obscene example of victors’ justice must stop. It is not Saddam who is paying.
It is the dazed and bloodied people of a country that has been trashed in a resource war that was none of their making, based on lies that are still being uncovered today – who are paying, while their infrastructure lies in ruins, their security is negligible and their sons and daughters lie dead. This cannot be allowed to continue.