The real motives behind the invasion of Iraq are often hard to discern. War was first declared as a response to the atrocities of 9-11, then as a reaction to weapons of mass destruction, and now, as a means of establishing a democracy.
However, Naomi Klein, 33-year-old activist journalist and author of the book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, believes President Bush's true motivation has been unwavering. Klein, who is speaking Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Bryan Center at Duke, points to the Bush Administration's dogged desire for money and free trade. She calls her lecture, "Bomb Before You Buy: The Economics of War."
"The war is about opening up an entirely new trade zone," Klein said in an interview last week, "not just in Iraq, but in the Mideast."
Klein's concern is that the economic incentives for war in Iraq have been relegated to the pages of the business press, and are therefore unknown to most Americans.
Away from the public eye, Bush's plan to open the Iraqi market to Western capitalism has gradually unfolded, she says. On Sept. 19, Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, abolished tariffs and import fees in Iraq. That opened the country to foreign businesses, and allowed public businesses in Iraq to be auctioned off to large Western corporations such as Halliburton and Bechtel. Klein has attended the trade shows and observed firsthand the money changing hands in the name of Iraqi reconstruction.
"I think this war was illegal," Klein says, "and right now they're getting away with it because of corporate economic gain... People are getting very rich off of this."
There is a catch, however. The to-be-elected Iraqi governing powers have the ultimate authority to decide if this open economic environment is permanent. Bush, therefore, has a vested interest in determining who runs the budding "democracy" in Iraq, Klein says.
Under Bush's plan, the U.S.-appointed Coalition Provisional Authority will be at the apex of power. The Coalition Authority will be in charge of appointing committees to create caucuses to appoint a new Transitional National Assembly. With strong U.S. influence, Klein says, it is likely that the newly selected authority would approve free trade in Iraq. However, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite clerk, is calling for one-person, one-vote elections. Such elections would leap over Bush's chain of command.
"There is a lot of fear that direct elections will reverse economic development," Klein says. "They want a puppet government to lock economic development in."
That underlying economic incentive has escaped public scrutiny in America, Klein says. It was apparent to her, though, because she was in Argentina, away from the influence of American mass media, when the bombs in Iraq began to fall.
Following the success of Klein's book, No Logo, which catapulted Klein to the forefront of the anti-corporate movement, she traveled to Argentina to document the dramatic economic changes that country endured. In the past few years, Argentina has evolved from "a model student of modern capitalism" to the largest debt deficit in history.
"Watching it in Argentina made it very clear," Klein says. "Everyone in Argentina said this what they did to us...living in a country that has experience...this is seen as common sense."
According to Klein, it is not only important to recognize the economic motivations, but to acknowledge the power Americans have to change policy. While 100,000 Iraqis protested in recent weeks, shouting, "Yes, yes to elections. No, no to selection," their voice carried little weight. However, American voters in an election year have a real chance to inspire change.
"It's extremely important for Americans to raise their voices and support their forces, because Americans do have a voice," Klein said. "It's an election year...the demands are out there. It's about supporting them."
Klein hopes her speech will give people the tools and ammunition they need to affect change and break the Bush administration's campaign of fear.
"This government has been absolutely masterful at keeping people in a state of fear," Klein said. "When you're afraid, you are like a kid, you want to believe someone is taking care of you...But, fear is immobilizing, fear is infantilizing, fear is a political tool."