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Naomi Klein @ UCSC: Waving with the Whole Hand

On February 16, at 7pm, Naomi Klein dissected the failure of the "X-treme Makeover" known as U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.

Klein is an award-winning journalist and author of the international best-seller "No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies," and "Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate".

Klein spoke about "War and Fleece: How economic 'Shock Therapy' backfired in Iraq" to a crowd of over 600 people gathered at UC Santa Cruz.

Audio: Peace Talks: Naomi Klein at UCSC

[ No Logo I More photos of Naomi Klein at UCSC ]
Photo by Matt Fitt

Klein explained that in the hurrah over Iraq's recent elections, analysts failed to appreciate the significance of giving the purple finger. Many commentators rejoiced that the war and occupation were conclusively justified by the splendid display of the "new" Iraqi joy in participatory democracy. One comment read that the elections were: the first clear sign that freedom meant something to Iraq (Klein citing Mark Brown, columnist in the Chicago Sun Times). CNN's Anderson Cooper opined that the elections were the first time Iraqis were willing to do something to be free. Klein described that in the media deluge following the elections, we viewers at home might believe that even the bombs sounded different.

Klein rejected this mass legitimization of occupation and highlighted the degree to which Iraqis 1) rejected U.S. backed candidates, and 2) did not vote at all. The results of the Iraqi elections suggested that the majority of voters gave the purple finger to U.S. backed candidates and their platforms of economic obeisance and indeterminate occupation. The vote went to candidates alligned with the United Iraqi Alliance which promoted a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign military forces. By comparison, in Fallujah voter turnout was estimated at just two percent. That turnout may reflect the fact that so few people returned home to Fallujah after the extensive combat or continued fear of reprisal. Klein explained that Fallujans refugees were not allowed to participate in the elections unless they returned home. On January 30, photos and news footage broadcast the joyous faces and purple fingers of recent Iraqi voters. But Klein cautions that we must wonder what it means to give the purple finger to Western news media.

Klein explained that the Iraqi people did not discover freedom and democracy on January 30, 2005 in the first nationwide elections organized by the U.S. government. She reminded that Iraqis were "willing to do something to be free" during the administration of the first Bush, when tens of thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites took to the streets against Saddam Hussein expecting the support of the U.S. government. There was no U.S. support to be found then and the result was mass slaughter and mass graves that are being undercovered only now. Desire for freedom was evidenced more recently as well. Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the first U.S. occupation administrator, stated in the wake of the U.S. invasion in Spring 2003 that Iraq could expect a short occupation with elections for the National Assembly to occur within weeks. Even Donald Rumsfield said initially after the invasion that the occupation would last months not years. These officials thought Iraqis were ready for democracy long before January 2005.

Klein compared those early good intentions to the "X-Treme Makeover" executed by Team America's Viceroy Paul Bremmer (who quickly replaced Garner as occupation administrator). Bremmer's plans were fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Klein compared this philosophy to the description of "year zeroists" by British historian Dilip Hiro. Year zeroists intended to remake the country beginning from a blank slate. Klein described the U.S. restructuring of Iraq as the "American dream gone nuts." Bremmer's scheme functioned like the frighteningly popular reality shows which attempt to re-create you by eliminating everything about you, while you do nothing but gasp with pleasure at the new and improved you. In the same manner, U.S. military forces and economic restructuring attempted to create a new Iraq without any vestige of the old. Hundreds of state companies were sold and privatized and specifically marketed to foreign investors who were encouraged to turn their 100% un-Iraqi management into profits to be returned 100% out of the country. As the invasion continued, and the world witnessed the destruction of the cradle of civilization, Rumsfield was quoted as saying, "Stuff happens." He was interviewed on Frontline and explained that Iraq could look forward to increased income from the tourist industry developing at the nation's religious sites.

Klein concluded that we must not leave the language of democracy and liberty to G.W. We must listen to his rhetoric and we must force him to listen to the concerns of Iraqis. We must promote their definition of democracy, which includes self-control of their economy and oil, and debt forgiveness.

War must be made unprofitable. If we can prevent the looting of war then we may be able to prevent war.

Klein explained that she is not without hope. She believes G.W.: humans have a tremendous will to freedom and G.W. may find that this human will is the worst thing that ever happened to him.


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Re: Naomi Klein @ UCSC: Waving with the Whole Hand

Thanks, MN, for the excellent article about Naomi Klein's presentation! This was the first time that i heard her give a presentation (except for recordings), and in my opinion she did a very good job.

I am not familar with life in Occupied Iraq, but i feel that i have a better understanding now. This article does a very good job of highlighting many of Naomi's main points from the presentation.

Naomi is very smart and also very funny.

Thanks, MN, for taking the time to publish!

Re: Naomi Klein @ UCSC: Waving with the Whole Hand



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