November 28, 2003

- - Better Under Bush? - -

We keep hearing from The Cheney Gang that "the good news" from Iraq is just not getting any air time. Gimme a break ovaheah! Whether that's true or not, the fact is that the bad news ain't gettin' alotta play either. So how 'boutcha reality check, by The Progressive's David Bacon, bwo ZNet - "The War on Iraq's Workers". Excerpts:

The disaster that is the occupation of Iraq is much more than the suicide bombings and guerilla ambushes of U.S. troops which play nightly across U.S. television screens. The violence of grinding poverty, exacerbated by economic sanctions after the first Gulf War, has been deepened by the latest invasion. Every day the economic policies of the occupying authorities create more hunger among Iraq's working people, transforming them into a pool of low-wage, semi-employed labor, desperate for jobs at almost any price.

While the effects of U.S. policy on daily life go largely unseen in the U.S. media, anyone walking the streets of Baghdad cannot miss them. Children sleep on the sidewalks. Buildings that once housed many of the city's four million residents, or the infrastructure that makes life in a modern city possible, like the telephone exchange, remain burned-out ruins months after the occupation started. Rubble fills the broad boulevards which were once the pride of a wealthy country, and the air has become gritty and brown as thousands of vehicles kick the resulting dust into the air.

In the meantime U.S. contractors get rich from the billions of taxpayer dollars supposedly appropriated for reconstruction. Iraq's national wealth -- factories, refineries, mines, docks, and other industrial facilities -- are being readied for sale to foreign companies by the occupation's bureaucracy, to whom democracy and the unrestrained free market are the same thing . . .

In August, a representative of the International Labor Organization, Walid Hamdan, visited Iraq. On his return, he made a report to the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ICFTU). Guy Ryder, the ICFTU's general secretary, called for an international labor delegation to visit Iraq to investigate conditions for workers. "Ensuring respect for workers' rights, including freedom of association, must be central to building a democratic Iraq and to ensuring sustainable economic and social development," the ICFTU said in a May 30 statement. "Democracy must have roots. It requires free elections, but also mass based, democratic trade unions that help secure it and protect it as well as being schools of democracy." Arab trade unionists are also critical of the occupation's effect on workers.

According to Hacene Djemam, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, "war makes privatization easy: first you destroy the society and then you let the corporations rebuild it." He emphasized that Iraqi workers must be able to form unions of their own choosing.

Meanwhile, US Labor Against the War, which brought together unions and labor councils that opposed the Bush intervention before it took place, prepared a research paper after the occupation started, profiling the US corporations that were given reconstruction contracts. A USLAW delegation to Iraq in October took copies of the report, and offered to assist unions there if and when they confront the kind of union-busting activity for which some of those companies have become notorious. A British labor delegation also visited Iraq in September.

Yeah, there's a lot to read - but it's important. One thing you might notice is that the neocons are trying to build a "society" to their specifications and unionization is the non-violent resistance to that. The Iraqi people are fighting, while most of the so-called "labor movement" (and I use that latter word VERY hesitantly) in the USX is moribund. GO WDTU!

Be at peace.