Chaos is not a side effect

Reading Naomi Klein and Robert Fisk on what’s going on in Iraq, you get the same facts but two different interpretations. Both are on the ground right now. Fisk has a longer experience in the region. But I think it’s Naomi who’s right. About Paul Bremer’s decision to shut down as-Sadr’s paper, Fisk says:

“It now seems that his decision to shut down the paper (its circulation of 10,000 was hardly going to arouse Shias to attack Western troops) has incited violence on a far greater scale than Mr Bremer could have imagined.

“Yet he managed to say all the wrong things again yesterday. “This morning, a group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and they have moved to violence,” he announced. “This will not be tolerated. This will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people and this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.”‘…

Fisk also says:

“The Americans can scarcely contain the Sunni Muslim revolt to the north; they cannot fight another community, this one representing 60 per cent of Iraqis, even if British troops, who control the largely Shia city of Basra, become involved.”

But is this really the case? Or are the Americans doing just exactly what they want? Naomi believes the latter.

“On the surface, this chain of events is mystifying. With the so-called Sunni triangle in flames after the gruesome Faluja attacks, why is Bremer pushing the comparatively calm Shiite south into battle?

“Here’s one possible answer: Washington has given up on its plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, and it is now creating the chaos it needs to declare the handover impossible. A continued occupation will be bad news for George Bush on the campaign trail, but not as bad as if the handover happens and the country erupts, an increasingly likely scenario given the widespread rejection of the legitimacy of the interim constitution and the U.S. appointed Governing Council.”

I think this is exactly what is going on, and it is a very important point, not yet widely understood, about the way the US has been operating lately. A few decades back, the preferred mode of operating in third world countries was to find an authoritarian ruler who would bring ‘stability’: open markets, freedom to invest and plunder the country for multinationals, accompanied by a police state and the liquidation of opposition. But I don’t think that’s the case any more. Today, it is a different model. Military bases in key areas give the option of direct control over resource-rich areas, and prevent anyone else from controlling those resources. As for the type of government, if a pliant authoritarian regime can be found, fine. If not, complete chaos is fully acceptable, so long as the bases and control are there.

That is what was done in the Balkans; it was the model for Haiti; it is the model for Venezuela; it is what is happening in Colombia; it is what is happening in Afghanistan; and it is what the US is preparing in Iraq.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.