Socialist Worker

Don't pipe up about links with Saddam

Issue No. 1850

'THIS IS the big one. Everyone is saying, how do we get in on this?' That's how one business lobbyist summed up the frenzy of companies trying to profit from the ruins of Iraq.

Or as a former US Commerce Department official put it, 'How often do countries change regimes - especially ones that have the world's second largest oil reserves?' The US awarded Bechtel a $680 million contract for Iraqi reconstruction two weeks ago. The US firm has close links to Bush's Republican Party. What is less well known are some of the firm's other dealings.

Bechtel had no objections to trying to cut deals with Saddam. In the early 1980s Bechtel vied for a contract from Saddam Hussein to build an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan. The Institute for Policy Studies has discovered that key figures in Bush's gang, in particular defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, pressed Saddam to approve the pipeline.

This is despite the fact that they were well aware of Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the war with Iran. US officials in the Reagan administration said that the institute 'worked for two years to secure the billion-dollar pipeline scheme for the Bechtel corporation'.

They failed to get the pipeline, but Bechtel continued to do business in Iraq. The firm signed a contract with the Iraqi government in 1988, just after the gassing of Kurdish people in Halabja. The contract was to build a huge petrochemical complex called PC-2.

In the Frame - No. 9 Paul Bremer

He is the US-appointed civilian head in Iraq, overseeing retired US general Jay Garner. Bremer used to be 'counter-terrorism' adviser to Ronald Reagan from 1986-89. That meant backing death squads across Central America. He also worked with war criminal Henry Kissinger's consulting business.

With enemies like these...

A RECENT poll found that those taking part in boycotts against countries which don't support US policy could be scoring an own goal. In the survey 64 percent said Grey Poupon mustard is French (it's from the US).

Some 78 percent thought Universal Pictures was a US company (it's owned by French company Vivendi). And 55 percent said Saab is German (it's owned by US giant General Motors).

Six months to see president

IN MAY 1969 protester Brett Bursey stood with an anti-war sign as President Nixon jetted in on a visit at the height of the Vietnam War. The police arrested him for trespassing - but the charges were dropped.

In October 2002 Brett Bursey was arrested again for trespassing, when he held an anti-war sign to welcome President Bush. Yet again the charges were soon dropped. But now, under a rarely used law, he faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Congratulations, you're sacked

CAROLE Bonehill was delighted to get a congratulations card from her bosses after the birth of her second child. But as she read the messages, her elder daughter found other bits of paper in the envelope.

They were her P45 and a letter sacking her from her job at an electrical firm in Birmingham. They said she'd had too much time off, even though her baby had been kept in hospital with an infection. Carole had also previously suffered four miscarriages.

Now an invasion of Jordan

THE BANKERS, big businessmen and top politicians who gather in Davos in Switzerland every January to talk about carving up the world for business and profit are now planning to go to the Middle East. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and its 'Davos Men' symbolise the global capitalist system, and the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre was set up in direct opposition.

Now the WEF has issued a statement saying it plans to convene, with 1,900 business and political leaders, in Amman in Jordan in June. It said it wanted to 'bring the spirit of Davos to the Middle East'. The meeting will be chaired by Peter Brabeck-Lethmathe, chief executive of multinational corporation Nestlé, and Phillip Condit, the head of the US aircraft multinational Boeing.

The plans have sparked fury in the region. Egyptian activist Wael Khalil said, 'They want to come here to talk about doing business when the blood of Iraqi civilians hasn't yet dried and the people in the region are very angry.'

Remote from reality

MORE NEWS on the values of the satellite station the US has set up to broadcast into Iraq in Arabic. It is being produced in a studio, Grace Digital Media, which is controlled by fundamentalist Christians who are rabidly pro-Israel. Grace Digital Media is controlled by fundamentalist Christian millionaire Cheryl Reagan.

On its website the company says it is 'dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's presence in the world today'. And it adds, 'Grace News Network will be reporting the current secular news, along with aggressive proclamations that will 'change the news' to reflect the Kingdom of God and its purposes.' It proclaims, 'It will be a unique tool in the Lord's ministry plan for the world.'

The network produced a documentary movie called Israel: Divine Destiny which it says is about 'Israel's destiny and the United States's role in that destiny'. The chief executive of the company is Thorne Auchter. He began the dismantling of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the right wing administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.

Figure it out

4.7 million - That's the payout that the four top directors of private firm Capita are due to get. Crapita runs the crisis-ridden Criminal Records Bureau and many PFI disasters.

Who says?

'What the government hasn't said is that the bill also allows any private sector body, from Tesco to Sainsbury to Boots, to run our NHS service.'
Allyson Pollock, top health academic on New Labour's foundation hospitals

'I don't sleep properly anymore because of all the work I have to do.'
Alex Birtles, student daughter of cabinet minister Patricia Hewitt having a go at education minister Margaret Hodge

'You're never going to have it as good again.'
Richard Turner, head of Freight Transport Association on today's congested roads

'If a school can teach the world is less than 10,000 years old and still obtain a 98 percent success at GCSE, isn't that evidence our exam system is failing?'
Richard Dawkins, scientist and academic on the Gateshead school that teaches creationism

'They are essentially inside each other's thinking. They complete each other's thoughts.'
Colin Powell, US secretary of state on Tony Blair and George Bush

'I vote for the Socialist Alliance. I look at what they stand for, and I don't think any are outrageous.'
Samuel West, the actor playing Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Inside the System
Sat 10 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1850
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.