Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Naomi Klein, writing in The Guardian, lists a few countries that aren't run by nasty dictators anymore but aren't getting any debt relief:

...despite its now irrefutable complicity in Argentina's tragedy, the US has opposed all attempts to cancel the country's debt. And Argentina is hardly exceptional. The US has used its power in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to block campaigns to cancel debts accumulated by apartheid South Africa, Marcos in the Philippines, Duvalier's brutal regime in Haiti and the dictatorship that sent Brazil's debt spiralling from $5.7bn in 1964 to $104bn in 1985.

The US position has been that wiping out debts would be a dangerous precedent (and rob Washington of the leverage it needs to push for investor-friendly economic reforms). So why is Bush so concerned that "the future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt"? Because it is taking money from "reconstruction", which could go to Halliburton, Bechtel, Exxon and Boeing.

It has become popular to claim that the White House has been hijacked by neo-conservative ideologues in love with free-market dogma. I'm not convinced. If there's one thing the Wolfowitz/Baker dust-ups make clear, it's that the ideology of the Bush White House isn't neo-conservatism, it's old-fashioned greed. There is only one rule that appears to matter: if it helps our friends get even richer, do it.

Anyone have a better explanation?

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