The Bush administration has no love for unions anywhere, but in Iraq it has a special reason for hating them. They are the main opposition to the occupation's economic agenda, and the biggest obstacle to that agenda's centerpiece - the privatization of Iraq's oil. At the same time, unions have become the only force in Iraq trying to maintain at least a survival living standard for the millions of Iraqis who still have to go to work every day, in the middle of the war.
Excerpts from the article are as follows:
But one demand overshadows even these basic needs - renegotiation of the oil law that would turn the industry itself over to foreign corporations. And it is this demand that has brought out even the US fighter jets, which have circled and buzzed over the strikers' demonstrations. In Iraq, the hostile maneuvering of military aircraft is not an idle threat to the people below. This standoff reflects a long history of actions in Iraq, by both the Iraqi government and the US occupation administration, to suppress union activity.
Together with other unions in railroads, hotels, ports, schools and factories, they've gone on strike, held elections, won wage increases and made democracy a living reality. Yet the Bush administration, and the Baghdad government it controls, has outlawed collective bargaining, impounded union funds and turned its back (or worse) on a wave of assassinations of Iraqi union leaders.
President Bush says he wants democracy, yet he will not accept the one political demand that unites Iraqis above all others. They want the country's oil (and its electrical power stations, ports and other key facilities) to remain in public hands.
The occupation has always had an economic agenda. Occupation czar Paul Bremer published lists in Baghdad newspapers of the public enterprises he intended to auction off. Arab labor leader Hacene Djemam bitterly observed, "War makes privatization easy: first you destroy society; then you let the corporations rebuild it."
The Bush administration won't leave Iraq in part because that economic agenda is still insecure. Under Washington's guidance, the Iraqi government wrote a new oil law in secret. The Iraq study commission, headed by oilman James Baker, called it the key to ending the occupation.
Like all Iraqi unionists, Juma'a says the occupation should end without demanding Iraq's oil as a price. "The USA claimed that it came here as a liberator, not to control our resources," he reminded Congress. Congressional opponents of the war can only win Iraqis' respect if they disavow the oil law.
If Bush were in the least bit honest he can now with the empirical knowledge base and consequent actions meet with the American and Iraqi dead and explain exactly why they died.
Reap the whirlwind,