- Antonia Juhasz, author of 'The Bush Agenda,'
explains what Bush really means when he says he wants to spread freedom
around the world.
- When George W. Bush says that he wants
to spread freedom to every corner of the earth, he means it.
- But of course the president that turned
Soviet-era gulags into secret CIA prisons in order to do God-knows-what
to God-knows-whom isn't talking about individual freedom. He means corporate
freedom - freedom for the great multinationals to extract everything they
can from the world's resources and labor without the hindrance of public
interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections.
- Bush's vision of a free world actually
looks just like the corporate globalization agenda pushed by a succession
of American presidents in institutions like the World Trade Organization.
- But this administration yearns for freedom
too much to leave it up to trade negotiators. Unlike his predecessors,
Bush isn't content to use carrots and sticks and a liberal dose of arm
twisting to advance that agenda. His administration has made the neoliberal
policies euphemistically referred to as "free-trade" a centerpiece
of its national security policy.
- Bush is willing to use the awesome force
of the United States military to guarantee the freedom of the world's largest
- In her new book, The Bush Agenda, Antonia
Juhasz peels the veils away from Bush's agenda - imperialism, militarism
and corporate globalization - and exposes who drives it: a group of hawkish
ideologues with an unprecedented relationship to major defense and energy
- Juhasz shows that the invasion of Iraq
- an invasion that was as much economic as military - was the centerpiece
of a larger project: the creation a New American Century in which the end-goal
of American foreign policy is to enrich the corporate elites, and dissent
at home will not be tolerated. Juhasz is a wonk - she got her start as
a staffer for Rep. John Conyers - but the book is as readable as it is
- I caught up with Juhasz last week at
Washington's Union Station, just blocks away from the White House, to chat
about The Bush Agenda.
- Joshua Holland: [19th century Prussian
military philosopher Carl von] Clausewitz said that war is an extension
of politics by other means. You suggest that for the Bush administration,
war is an extension of corporate globalization by other means. Run down
your basic premise.
- Antonia Juhasz: The Bush administration
has implemented a particularly radical model of corporate globalization
by which it has teamed overt military might - full-scale invasion - with
the advancement of its corporate globalization agenda. And this model is
particularly imperial - that's one of the things that makes it different
from, for example, the Reagan or Bush Sr. regimes. As opposed to simply
replacing the head of a regime that is no longer serving the interests
of the administration, the Bush team has gone further - using a military
invasion to fundamentally transform a country's political and economic
- It is also using an occupation to maintain
that altered structure, which is the definition of imperialism in my mind:
spreading the empire by changing the very laws of foreign nations to service
the empire's needs. And, as Bush is repeatedly saying, "Iraq is only
the beginning." I detail the rest of the empire's pursuits across
the Middle East in the chapter on the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area.
- The fundamental purpose of the book was
to determine how this model came to be, where its advocates hope it will
go and who its advocates are so that we can better dismantle it.
- JH: But Bush isn't the first to use a
full-scale invasion - unilaterally - in furtherance of those goals. I think
of Reagan's invasion of Grenada to knock off Maurice Bishop, a moderate
- AJ: There was no occupation, and it wasn't
done the same way that the Bush administration - using its own tools, its
own people, its own policies - to explicitly restructure the entire functioning
of the country's economy to serve its own ends. Reagan wanted a different
leader, a leader that would meet his needs and that was enough. Bush has
locked in an entirely new economic and political structure. I'm certainly
not justifying the invasion of Grenada, but for me that was quantitatively
- JH: What is Pax Americana - the "American
Peace" - and what is it about the original Roman version, Pax Romana,
that makes it a poor model to emulate?
- AJ: I talk about Pax Americana because
that's what members of the administration talk about - Cheney, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz, Libby, Khalilzad, Perle, Zoellick, Bolton. In fact, there are
16 members of the Bush administration that were also participants in the
Project for the New American Century, which was very clear that the U.S.
not only has a Pax Americana but should seek to maintain it.
- This is problematic because it seeks
to achieve the Roman model, with an all-powerful emperor who ran his kingdom
on 50 percent slave labor, who eliminated all guarantees of civil liberties
and eliminated all civic participation, but maintained the fallacy of public
institutions and participatory government to keep the elites at bay - to
make elites feel like they had the presence and prestige of serving in
- So there were senators and there were
"representatives of the people," but of course the emperor appointed
those he wanted to sit in the senate, and he chose those who would serve
his interests. And then he appointed regional overlords to oversee the
rest of the empire. In addition, the idea that Rome generated peace - that
it really was in fact a Pax Romana that guaranteed peace for the rest of
the world - is false. To create the empire, there was an enormous amount
of war and bloodshed, and also to maintain the empire there was continued
fighting as nations and peoples were forced to acquiesce.
- However, there was a period of about
200 years where there was relatively less struggle within Rome over who
would rule. But one key reason Rome was able to maintain that internal
peace was all the money that the empire poured into public services - building
aqueducts, providing services, supporting intellectual thought and - as
I say in the book - creating the Western Canon.
- The Bush administration has chosen all
the worst elements of the Roman Empire: the lack of civil liberties and
the movement towards a nonrepresentative government run by a dictator.
Even the most conservative Republican columnist will admit that Bush has
consolidated more and more power in the executive branch than any president
in modern history. And he's increased the proportion of people in the United
States in the lower income sphere, people who have to work day in and day
out in order to meet basic needs like health care, and who often aren't
able to meet those needs. I argue that that is a modern form of slavery.
- And while the administration is explicitly
imperial - it is trying to annex other nations through its military and
its economic policy - its not putting any of that attention to public education,
public resources and public services. So we are getting the worst of the
worst. And just as it was a myth that the Pax Romana created world peace,
the Pax Americana clearly generates more global insecurity. Acts of deadly
terror have increased every year of the Bush administration; they increased
more than three-fold between 2003 and 2004.
- JH: So he's not just the worst president
ever, he's also the worst
- AJ: Yes, he's also the worst emperor
- JH: You're blunt about calling Iraq an
economic invasion. Most analyses are geopolitical, but you put it together
with the long-standing wish list of the corporate globalists. Can you tell
me about Bremer's100 rules and what Bearing Point is?
- AJ: If you look at the corporations that
have profited most from the invasion - Bechtel, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin
and Chevron - these are all corporations that have decades of operations
and activities trying to increase their economic engagement in Iraq - lobbying
the U.S. government to increase their access to Iraq. And they've done
so successfully - first with Saddam Hussein and later with the coalition
authorities and now with the new government of Iraq. They have participated
with or guided - you can choose the word you want - the Bush administration
in its invasion. Through their executives, they played key roles in advocating
for war. George Shultz is the perfect example and one I focus on in the
- I emphasize that it's an absolute fallacy
that there was no post-war plan. The plan was written two months before
the invasion of Iraq by a company, Bearing Point Inc., which is based in
Virginia - it was KPMG Consulting until it changed its name in the wake
of the Arthur Anderson-Enron corruption scandals. The company is not well-known.
It works behind the scenes for every branch of government, and it provides
all kinds of consulting services.
- Bearing point received a $250 million
contract from USAID to write a remodeled structure for the Iraqi economy.
It was to transition Iraq from a state-controlled economy to a market economy,
but I argue that the new model was more a state-controlled economy that
is controlled on behalf of multinational corporations, and heavily regulated
in fact on behalf of multinational corporations. It just no longer serves
the public interest.
- Bearing point's plan was implemented
to a T by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of Iraq's coalition government.
The U.N.'s special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called him the "Dictator
of Iraq," and he was. He ruled Iraq for 14 months, and he implemented
Bearing Point's plan; he rewrote Iraq's entire economic and political structure
by implementing his 100 orders. The orders had the force of law, and any
Iraqi laws that contradicted the orders were overridden.
- The 100 orders put into place a standard
set of corporate globalization policies. Instead of having to wait for
Iraq to become a member of the World Trade Organization, for example, or
to fulfill requirements of the International Monetary Fund or World Bank,
or worrying about whether the policies they most wanted would be accepted,
the administration was able to simply invade, occupy and impose those provisions
itself. And many of those provisions have been long opposed at institutions
like the WTO - for example the investments provisions - but they were implemented
overnight in Iraq with a stroke of the pen by Paul Bremer.
- Probably the most important order in
terms of what happened with the occupation was the very first order. Bremer
fired 120,000 key bureaucrats in every government ministry in Iraq. That
meant that ministries that had been functioning very well for decades lost
their bureaucracies almost overnight. The excuse that was given was that
they were Ba'ath Party members, but nobody could hold those positions unless
they belonged to the Ba'ath Party, so it wasn't an indication that they
were a party to Saddam Hussein's crimes. They were fired because they could
have stood in the way of the economic transformation.
- Then there was the firing of the entire
Iraqi military, and I think that problem is well-known. Less well-known
is how that played out in relation to the rest of the orders. Order number
39 was the foreign investment order. There were several provisions which
I detail in the book, but the most important may be national treatment,
which meant that Iraqis could not preference Iraqi companies and Iraqi
workers in the reconstruction.
- So 150 United States corporations have
received $50 billion for work in Iraq, $33 billion of which was exclusively
for standard reconstruction - building bridges, repairing electricity and
repairing water. But originally the plan was to use the soldiers - the
Iraqi military - for the reconstruction. Instead of taking a half a million
men and canceling their salaries and sending them home with guns, they
were going to go to work and get money, and provide for their families
and be part of the reconstruction.
- Even worse is that those American companies
failed. Miserably. And it's not just because of the insurgency - the insurgency
didn't begin immediately. They failed because they went in to maximize
their profit, to build the most expensive state-of-the-art systems they
could and to get their feet firmly in Iraq so they would be able to profit
long term. But what Iraq needed was just to get the systems up and running.
It was summer in the desert.
- JH: How long did it take for Iraq to
get those systems up after the first invasion?
- AJ: Three months. The Iraqi workers and
companies rebuilt their systems in three months.
- JH: OK, so Bremer imposed these rules
under the Coalition Provisional Authority. Explain how rules set up by
a provisional government ended up codified in Iraq's new constitution?
- AJ: Bremer appointed an interim government
for Iraq when the occupation formally ended. The interim government, together
with Bremer, threw out the existing Iraqi Constitution. And I think at
the time there was this idea that it was a nation being molded out of the
dirt - that it didn't have a government, didn't have a structure - and
here was the United States helping them form a constitutional convention.
But they had a government, they had a constitution - they've had a constitution
since 1922. We didn't have to create a constitutional government for them.
- The first constitution that was written
had all of Bremer's orders, and it could only be changed by a very complicated
process - it essentially locked the orders in. Then the new constitution
for Iraq was supposed to be "of the people." It was drafted by
the interim government and put to a popular vote. But it was crafted so
that it locked into place the occupation, the economic transformation,
the constitutionality of the new oil law - which the United States had
drafted - and all of the Bremer orders.
- The only public discussion of the constitution
was the few things people were gleaning from the press and what their religious
leaders - who were themselves gleaning it from the press - told them. Five
days before the constitution was to be voted on, the paper copies were
released. They made 5 million copies for 15 million voters. And on that
same day, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, was meeting with
influential Iraqi leaders to rewrite fundamental aspects of that very constitution.
There was absolutely no way that the vast majority of the Iraqi people
had any idea what was in the constitution. They were voting for hope, and
they risked their lives to do so. But there's no way they knew that they
were voting to maintain the Bremer orders.
- JH: What's the Hague Convention of 1907?
- AJ: Under international law an occupying
government has one set of responsibilities, and they're very clear. An
occupying government must provide security and basic services. An occupying
government explicitly cannot fundamentally rewrite the laws of the country
they're occupying. The United States did exactly the opposite; we rewrote
the laws, and we didn't provide basic services or security for the people.
- JH: Did we ratify the Hague Conventions?
- AJ: We certainly did.
- JH: You focus on four firms that pushed
the policy and have profited handsomely from the invasion: Bechtel, Chevron,
Lockheed Martin and Halliburton. But there are many other multinational
corporations that have both made a killing in Iraq and have close ties
to both the administration and to the conservative movement more generally.
Why those four and, playing devil's advocate, is there a danger focusing
on a small number of firms when the issues are militarism and corporate
globalization more broadly?
- AJ: These four companies have the longest
relationship to Iraq. Through their executives, they lobbied on behalf
of an invasion of Iraq, and they have profited more than almost all other
companies from that invasion. And they have intimate interlocking relationships
with this administration. They demonstrate very clearly how, in the Bush
administration, there essentially is no distinction between corporate characters
and government characters. They also are companies that because of their
corporate behavior around the world have preexisting and longstanding movements
- social movements - that are organized against their harmful actions,
which readers of the book support and become a part of.
- JH: That's a great segue. In your final
chapter, you discuss ways that people can oppose the Bush agenda, and you
suggest that another agenda is possible. I think that's very important
because so many books bash Bush and then leave readers feeling dispirited.
Name just one thing that needs to be done to reverse this agenda?
- AJ: There are so many alternatives, and
I give concrete examples of solutions - for how to end the economic invasion
of Iraq. What I hoped to do in the last chapter was to present the movements
and many of the ideas generating fundamental change already. I wanted to
empower people - to show that the information in the book can be used as
a tool for these movements and a tool for change.
- So I give examples of not only different
policies, but I also give examples of organizations and communities that
have been successfully mobilizing against the full Bush agenda - that means
corporate globalization, war and imperialism. To me that's more important
than any one of the alternatives that I present. The whole point of the
chapter is that there are, thankfully, millions of alternatives to choose
from. And we're already seeing successful transformation - there are real
movements that we can join and in which we can have an impact.