Bush, Bremer, and Iraq

BUSH, BREMER, AND IRAQ….I mentioned yesterday that the Bush administration’s war against labor unions in the United States continues apace. Along similar lines, Matthew Harwood has a terrific article in the April issue of the Washington Monthly about how the Bush administration’s ideological aversion to unions even carried over into the rebuilding of Iraq:

During his tenure, CPA chief L. Paul Bremer repealed virtually the whole Iraqi legal structure with his so-called 100 Orders. He did not, however, repeal Saddam’s 1987 Labor Code, which forfeited the right of public sector workers to bargain collectively. That decision, though deeply foolish for purposes of nation-building, made perfect sense to the movement ideologues staffing the U.S. occupation. Much of the CPA’s effort in Baghdad was devoted to helping create a conservative’s ideal state, complete with a 15 percent flat tax on individual and corporate income. Bremer’s crew was so zealous that they tried, in September 2003, to privatize virtually the whole economy?200 state-owned firms. Legalizing labor unions would not have been helpful, to say the least, to these privatization plans.

….What’s especially maddening about the U.S. government’s attitude towards [Iraqi trade unions] is that organized labor has repeatedly played a vital stabilizing and democratizing role in situations that, in some cases, come close to that which Iraq finds itself in today. In Poland, Solidarity quickly evolved from a labor crusade into a social movement that peacefully brought down the communist regime and, once in power, established a system of regular, free elections. The trade-union movement in Brazil had a similar effect, helping to end 21 years of oppressive military rule and usher in 15 years of representative government.

Labor unions in Iraq were banned by Saddam Hussein and worked underground for years. They were (and still are) strongly anti-insurgent and strongly anti-Baathist. They are pro-democracy, pro-American, and they span ethnic and religious boundaries. In other words, they were among the prime institutions that could have been helpful to the American reconstruction effort. Instead, for rigid ideological reasons, they were ignored.

Read the whole thing for more details. It’s today’s Republican party in a microcosm.

And while I’m at it, you might also want to check out Matthew’s blog, Woodshavings. It’s good stuff.

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