Paul Krugman is discussing and comparing the Marshall plan with the current plans for Iraq. He accuses the White House of cronyism and blatant profiteering.
Iraq’s reconstruction, by contrast, remains firmly under White House control. And this is an administration of, by and for crony capitalists; to match this White House’s blithe lack of concern about conflicts of interest, you have to go back to the Harding administration. That giant, no-bid contract given to Halliburton, the company that made Dick Cheney rich, was just what you’d expect.
And even as the situation in Iraq slides downhill, and the Iraqi Governing Council demands more autonomy and control, American officials continue to block local initiatives, and are still trying to keep the big contracts in the hands of you-know-who.
For example, in July two enterprising Middle Eastern firms started offering cellphone service in Baghdad, setting up jury-rigged systems compatible with those of neighboring countries. Since the collapse of Baghdad’s phone system has been a major source of postwar problems, coalition authorities should have been pleased.
But no: the authorities promptly shut down the services. Cell service, they said, could be offered only by the winners in a bidding process one whose rules, revealed on July 31, seemed carefully designed to shut out any non-American companies. (In the face of strenuous protests the rules were revised, but still seem to favor the usual suspects.) Oddly, the announcement of the winners, originally scheduled for Sept. 5, keeps being delayed. Meanwhile, only Paul Bremer and his people have cellphones and, thanks to the baffling decision to give that contract to MCI, even those phones don’t work very well. (Aside from the fact that its management perpetrated history’s biggest accounting fraud, MCI has no experience in building cell networks.)