economics

What We Could Have Done With The Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We’ve Spent on Iraq

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Weighing in at just 97 pages with a cartoon cover, Rob Simpson’s What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We’ve Spent on Iraq on Iraq is a short explanation of what is an incredibly serious topic that will have consequences for years to come. The Iraq War has cost $1 trillion according to the Congressional Budget Office (a conservative estimate) and as much as $3 trillion by other estimates.

Simpson understands the seriousness of the war when he writes that the book was written to help people contextualize exactly how much is being spent on the war:

“But the book, frankly, seeks to do more than help you understand how much money we’re spending. It was also created to provoke action.

This is our money. We could be doing great things with it–for ourselves and our families, for America and for the world. This is the sort of money that launches New Deals, that builds interstate highway systems, and pays for Marshall Plans.”

In the best of the short sections (they tend to be around two to three pages), Simpson outlines how the money could be used to provide affordable hosing, offer affordable college education, pay for veterans’ care, fix Medicare, expand broadband Internet access, foster investments in green energy, and restore the United States’ polluted waterways.

However, these sections are overshadowed by a number of incredibly ridiculous ideas. Simpson mentions that the money could be used to pay for TV for everyone in the world (export American culture), fly all Iraqis to the US and treat them to a baseball game (show them real American values), buy iPods for everyone in the world, and a $3,200 clothing allowance for everyone in the United States. While the money could technically be used for these things–and they might provide an interesting way of quantifying and conceptualizing the amount of money that is being talked about–they primarily function simply as distractions.

Overall, Simpson’s book is too simplistic to really be taken seriously. While he is right in arguing that the money spent on the Iraq War could have been used in a number of more positive ways, his simplistic analysis and hair-brained ideas–such as makeovers for everyone–discredit his argument. Readers who want to understand the cost of the Iraq War would be much better reading The Three Trillion Dollar War and consulting the numbers at CostOfWar.com to see what it could have bought in terms of progressive social policies.

Rob Simpson, What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We’ve Spent on Iraq, (Hyperion, 2008).

War Without End: The Iraq War in Context

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

While the US occupation of Iraq became a marginal issue in the months leading up to the US elections, it is still an important issue that Americans need to address. Now that Barack Obama has been elected to the White House it might be even more important for those who have opposed the US War in Iraq to rethink their understanding of the motives for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Michael Schwartz’s new book, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, provides some very timely analysis of the ongoing US occupation of Iraq. Unlike many other books that have focused on the deceptive tactics used by the Bush administration that led to war with Iraq, Schwartz’s book sifts through the policy in order to draw some conclusions about the real motives behind the near six year war.

In some ways, War Without End is a detailed investigation of US policy in Iraq that builds on the analysis of Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. Like Klein, Schwartz argues that the real motivation for the US occupation of Iraq is that it fits into a larger neo-liberal agenda of political and economic control of the region. The author argues that the US military occupation is primarily about: 1) restructuring of Iraq’s economy so that Iraqi resources, particularly oil, are privatized and that foreign investment can flourish, and 2) creating an Iraqi government that would be favorable to this economic restructuring.

Schwartz devotes several chapters to what was accomplished during the two years that US envoy Paul L. Bremer was in charge of the neo-liberal project in Iraq. Bremer was able to get the Iraqi Constitution rewritten to make it more adaptable to foreign investment and to subject Iraq to World Bank development loans and IMF structural adjustment policies. These policies would primarily include the privatization of services that were previously funded publicly, such as health care, education and some utilities.

An early manifestation of this economic restructuring was the so-called “reconstruction projects” that were done by companies like Halliburton. Much of the analysis of this reconstruction process has tended to focus on the cronyism between corporations benefiting from these projects and the Bush administration. Schwartz, on the other hand, challenges readers to see the reconstruction projects as a first step in the neo-liberal project. For the author, the reconstruction not only gave money to US-based companies–it often used foreign laborers as a way of breaking Iraqi unions, and it promoted projects that would create economic dependency for Iraq. One example would be the “health centers” that were built by the multinational Parsons Corporation. These “health centers” were built throughout the country in order to undermine the Iraqi public hospital system and were equipped with high tech medical equipment. This is part of an effort to move Iraq into a for profit-health care model.

In addition to Schwartz’s investigation into the economic restructuring of Iraq’s economy, the book also takes a close look at the US plan to create a political climate that will be favorable to long-term US interests. The author argues that Iraqi sovereignty has been undermined by the US Occupation. Schwartz looks at how the US has tried to employ a variety of tactics that have been applied differently in response to the ethnic regions of the country. The Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities have all been confronted by attempts to win them over and get them to support long-term US interests.

However, there has been significant opposition and resistance to the US neo-liberal plan. Here again, Schwartz points out that it is not just the brutality of the US military occupation that has led people to join the Iraqi resistance movements, it is the growing opposition to the economic restructuring of the country. Iraqi engineers are joining the resistance because the reconstruction contracts are given to US companies who don’t hire Iraqi’s who are well equipped to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. This is an important point that the author makes since it challenges readers to view the Iraqi resistance as more than a group of people who are motivated exclusively by religious or political ideology.

War Without End is an important book for those in the US who are now faced with the challenge of getting people who previously opposed the US war in Iraq to continue this opposition, despite the election of Barack Obama. Michael Schwartz’s book not only is a great resource to motivate ongoing opposition to the war, but provide us with an important analysis that can inform our actions.

Michael Schwartz, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, (Haymarket Books, 2008).

Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

I assume that many people have been somewhat enraged and confused by the current economic crisis in the US. How do we make sense of the crisis and the factors that contributed to the massive economic fraud and recent government bailout of those who committed the fraud? If you listen to the media pundits or the financial experts that have been paraded out on the TV screen, we are told not to panic and to consult a financial expert before we make any drastic decisions. But why should we trust the opinions of the very people who have been promoting the deregulated practices that have led to the current crisis?

Media critic Danny Schecter offers some of the most refreshing analysis in his new book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal. It is ironic in some ways that what led Schecter to investigate the economic crisis was what he discovered in working on a documentary beginning in 2005 that took a critical look at the problems with credit and debt in the US. Schetcher’s documentary, In Debt We Trust, exposes the predatory practices of credit card companies and their influence in Congress in writing legislation that is favorable to their interests and the public’s expense. Schecter discovered that the practices of the credit card industry is a microcosm of what the financial sector has been engaging in for years.

Plunder is written in a style that combines investigative journalism and daily diary. Schecter looks at the “subprime scandal” as a systemic problem that not only involves the major financial institutions in the country, but their friends in Washington as well. What is interesting about Schecter’s findings is the sheer arrogance that the financial sector displays with what they do. In February of 2008, a powerful lobby called the American Securitization Forum held its annual conference in, of all places, Las Vegas. Some 6,500 financial advisors got together in what the New York Times called a “predators ball.” Schecter says that financial practices these sectors engage in could all be considered predatory.

Here is a sampling of what they do:

* Target persons who are perceived to be less financially sophisticated or otherwise vulnerable to abusive lending practices.

* They engage in inadequate disclosure of the true costs and risks of loan transactions

* Padding/Packing – charging customers unearned, concealed or unwarranted fees.

* Flipping – frequent and multiple refinancing, usually of mortgage loans, requiring additional fees that strip equity from the borrower.

* One way referrals – a prime lender refers the public to its subprime subsidiary (predatory lenders) but never the other way around.

* Significant differences in then proportion of loans made in predominantly minority geographic areas between the prime lender and the subprime subsidiary.

* Home improvement scams in which the service provided is worth far less than the mortgage taken.

* Paying off low interest mortgages with low monthly payment and high interest loans.

* Force placed insurance that adds to borrower’s cost when insurance lapses.

These financial institutions then engage in aggressive marketing practices by targeting vulnerable audiences through ads convincing them to take these loans. Schecter states, “Mortgage lenders have spent more than $3 billion on TV, radio and print advertising since 2000.” Much of this advertising is deceptive and misleading, but news outlets generally don’t challenge the claims made in the ads since they profit heavily off the ads themselves.

The US government, Schecter says, has been in collusion with the financial sector when it comes to this type of predatory behavior. Some analysts blame deregulation, but that is only part of the problem. The bigger problem is the power that these financial institutions have in crafting the policies that the government adopts. One example that Schecter cites is the bankruptcy legislation that was passed in 2005, legislation that was crafted by the banking industry.

Schecter also points out that the crisis that the US is now facing is a global one and has much more of a devastating impact on the Third World. Schecter writes that the speculative interests of the financial sectors have placed more emphasis on commodities like oil, gas, rice and wheat in recent years, which he believes is the number one factor in soaring prices. The soaring prices have much more of a deadly impact on poor people throughout the world than they do in the US.

The other major component of the book that Schecter looks at is the complete failure of the US news media to investigate the “crisis.” The author states that this failure is due in part to the laziness of the journalistic community, but more importantly “many reporters themselves are entrench in and have invested in the stock market.” The other factor that contributes to such poor news coverage around economic issues is that most news agencies are part of large corporate structures that do not want to investigate a system which they are intricately part of.

Plunder ends with some recommendations, particularly the need for activists to make this issue central to their organizing work. Schecter believes that we have to de-mystify the economic world and make it relevant to the work that activists do, whether that is anti-war, anti-racism or environmental work. Schecter even provides some interesting web links that provide some ongoing critique of the financial crisis, such as www.deepcapture.com, www.stopthesqueeze.org, www.itulip.com, and www.creditcardnation.com.

Plunder, is a great place to start when trying to make sense of the current financial mess, without having to speak the financial jargon.

Danny Schechter, Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal, (Cosimo Books, 2008).

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the US occupation of Iraq, one aspect of the war that gets little attention is the monetary cost of the war. Occasionally, we hear reports on Congressional voting for new war appropriations, but the nitty-gritty details rarely see the light of day. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have co-authored an important book that begins to look at the actual costs of the US occupation of Iraq.

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict takes a methodical look at what the costs have been to the US. As one would imagine, there is a tremendous amount of data and numbers, which normally can overwhelm such an undertaking, but the authors do a good job of not coming across as researchers who have little interaction with the public. Both Stiglitz and Bilmes frame this information in such a way that most anyone could share it with their neighbor.

The book is broken up into sections that tackle various aspects of the cost of the US war in Iraq. First, they look at the Department of Defense budgets since the beginning of the war and come up with the figure that is pretty much indisputable. Most sources, like the National Priorities Project, put the current spending just above $500 billion dollars. This figure accounts for what has been budgeted in each fiscal year since 2003, however, it does not include monies from the annual Defense Budget since general funding for troops and equipment comes from that. These kinds of costs would include the increase in spending for military recruiters and signing bonuses.

However, there are additional costs with the increased use of private contractors doing reconstruction work, providing services traditionally performed by the military, and providing security for government officials. Once you get beyond the actual numbers for the use and deployment of soldiers and contractors, then you have to figure in the costs incurred from deaths and injuries, both physical and psychological. The longest section of The Three Trillion Dollar War is devoted to these costs, which the authors believe are grossly underestimated, since they are only going by the numbers that the Veteran’s Administration provides. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in hard costs to taking care of the men and women who have been wounded and/or suffer from the psychological consequences of war. What is not factored into to the cost are all the men and women who don’t “qualify” for medical benefits and those who do not pursue them within the government provided services. Not all of the men and women who are wounded, particularly those who suffer psychological trauma, are not factored into the costs of the war.

The authors then go even further to say that there are other costs that are never factored in. First, they mention that the amount of money that war veterans might have made as civilians in a stable job is in the billions of dollars. Add on to that the salaries lost by family members who quite their jobs to take care of veterans who suffer from chronic health problems, and that is another large cost. Another cost would be how the long-term care impacts communities, which the authors acknowledge is impossible to quantify.

Beyond the hard costs of troop deployment, equipment, and veterans’ care, there are also what are called macroeconomic costs. One of the most obvious is the increase cost of oil since the US occupation of Iraq began. According to the authors, the cost of oil as gone up, which means that US oil imports have cost us more. This would be not just at the gas pump, but the increased cost of other services and products that are oil dependent. This is certainly an exterior cost that many Americans can relate.

One aspect of the book that I really liked was that the authors were willing to look beyond the cost of the US Occupation of Iraq in US terms. The Three Trillion Dollar War devotes the last third of the book to what the cost has been to the Iraqis, both in human and monetary terms. The authors seem to agree with the figure of 655,000 Iraqi deaths from the US occupation that John’s Hopkins University came up with. The book also addresses the tremendous displacement of Iraqis since 2003, both internal to the country and those who have fled to neighboring countries. The authors make the point that these costs are not factored in to the figure given on what the cost of the war is, plus they acknowledge that the US has not even paid their fair share of costs for refugee relief, despite that the US Occupation is the primary factor in causing a refugee crisis.

Looking at the costs just from the US side, the figure that the authors come up with is $4.5 trillion dollars and that this figure is a conservative estimate. When factoring in the Iraqi costs, the number is more like $8.6 trillion. I purposely waited until now to mention the actual number, because numbers don’t seem to do justice to the human reality of these costs. It is always difficult to quantify human suffering, but The Three Trillion Dollar War does a pretty good job of helping us understand what the monetary costs are in human terms. The book is a valuable resource for those opposed to the US occupation of Iraq and an important contribution for the next generation of US citizens who will no doubt bear the burden of paying for it.

Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, (W.W. Norton, 2008).

Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Writers like Michael Eric Dyson have argued for years that the legacy of Dr. King has been suppressed. The federal holiday has reduced him to nothing more than a Civil Rights leader suspended in time and the only message we hear is his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Dyson, and others, have pointed out that King was not content with the signing of the Civil Rights legislation and that in the last three years of his life King’s own political views matured.

By 1966, King no longer limited his vision to simply ending segregation. King began to see racism, indeed white supremacy, as one of the three “evils” of this country. In addition to racism, King identified war as a major moral problem and began speaking out against the US bombing of Vietnam. The third pillar of evil that King recognized was the devastating nature of capitalism. King began to identify poverty and economic exploitation that were equally repressive as racism in keeping Black people from experiencing real liberation. King not only began to condemn capitalism, but he began to build alliances with organized labor, developed the Poor People’s Campaign, and he actively supported workers on strike.

Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign is the latest book that can help us see the how the Civil Rights activist evolved. Michael Honey looks at the last campaign King was involved in, which was the Memphis sanitation worker’s strike. Equally important, the book provides a detailed background on the racial and economic realities of Memphis, the hundreds of people who organized the strike, their relationship with labor unions, and the tensions that existed between the adherents of non-violence and a growing number of Black youth that were embracing Black Power.

The first third of the book deals exclusively with the economic and racial context of the Memphis strike. Memphis, like much of the South, was mired in institutional racism. The Black community suffered greatly from economic exploitation, Jim Crow laws and White Supremacist groups like the KKK and the John Birch Society. African Americans made up about a third of all city workers in Memphis, yet they only held positions such as sanitation workers. Their wages were poverty level and Memphis City government under the control of Mayor Loeb was zealously anti-union. These conditions alone were enough to organize around, but the real catalyst for the sanitation workers’ strike was the death of two of workers. On February 1, 1968 Echol Cole and Robert Walker were killed by their garbage truck, known as a “weiner barrel.” Their clothes got caught in the machine and both of them were pulled into the compartment were trash was crushed. What their co-workers quickly recognized is that the garbage truck was old and had faulty parts. The machine malfunctioned because the city refused to update its equipment and provide workers with safe conditions.

African American workers began to organize. They sought out the support of local, regional and national unions. Since these were city workers the organizers called in the regional field director of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). The field director was PJ Ciampa, one of the unsung heroes of the Memphis workers strike. The workers also enlisted the help of area clergy, such as Rev. James Lawson, a close friend of Dr. King and seasoned organizer in the Civil Rights movement.

The strike went into effect with weeks of the death of the two sanitation workers, since Mayor Loeb refused to meet any of the demands the workers put forth. Not all the sanitation workers went on strike, so workers harassed those that did take trucks out on the road to pick up garbage. The city began to hired scab workers, so the strike organizers began to solicit more support from the community by asking fellow community members to not take the scab jobs. The striking workers collected funds to support themselves and their families and even received monetary support from the AFL-CIO and UAW.

By the time that March had rolled around the striking workers also began to hold large town hall like meetings and marches to confront the Mayor of Memphis. In addition, they began to call for a boycott of downtown businesses with the hope of putting pressure on the White business community. Once the marches and boycott started some in the white community began to retaliate. There were acts of intimidation and death threats made by members of the Klan, but most of the violence was instigated by the police. The FBI also began to pay attention and they began to monitor the activities in Memphis.

The strike continued to gain support, but many organizers and activists felt that the tactics were inadequate to bring about real change. Frequently, conversations at meetings centered around tactics while more and more people were expressing their support of Black Power. One of those advocating a more militant approach was Charles Cabbage, a draft resister and member of SNCC – the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Cabbage and another young activist Coby Smith formed a group in Memphis called BOP, the Black Organizing Project. BOP organized mostly young Black men from the housing projects, pool halls and off the street. BOP quickly became the target of the FBI’s counter-intelligence program known as COINTELPRO.

It wasn’t until late March of 1968 that Dr. King came to Memphis to support the strike. On March 28, thousands turned out to march for justice in support of the sanitation workers, for racial justice and to pressure Mayor Loeb into meeting their demands. The march began without incident, but within minutes there were groups of young Black militants who began breaking the windows in some of the downtown businesses. Soon hundreds of armed police in riot gear converged on the marchers and began to beat and arrest marchers indiscriminately. The news media tried to blame the violence on the Black militants, but reports later came out that the police were attacking marchers anywhere along the route, sometimes beating people who were just asking questions. King was removed from the march by his closest associates and taken to a hotel out of harms way, even though King himself did not want to leave.

Tensions were running high and another march was planned for April 2rd. King had already left town for other speaking engagements, but planned to fly back for the march. An unusual snow storm hit Memphis and the march was cancelled. King arrived back in Memphis on April 3, despite numerous deaths threats, one of which caused the airline to search the plane for a bomb someone claims to have planted.

That night King gave a speech at the Mason Temple entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” King knew his days were numbered, but he still had the capacity and courage to denounce institutional violence and economic exploitation.

“The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.”

King himself was energized by the speech and the enthusiasm of the audience. He stayed up until 4:30am talking with his colleagues about the next steps at the Lorraine Hotel. Several rooms were dedicated to King’s staff, which continued to have discussions and strategy session the next day. While joking on the balcony of his room with staff members in the parking lot, King was shot dead by a single bullet on April 4. Memphis and the rest of the country were in shock. Riots broke out across the country, but not much happened in Memphis. King’s supporters urged people to not retaliate out of respect for the fallen minister, but also to not jeopardize the strike. Two days later a memorial service was held in Memphis for Dr. King. The white community and even some of the white news media blamed extremists for King’s death. On April 16, Mayor Loeb finally agreed to the demands of the striking workers.

Michael Honey’s book is an important contribution for those interested in moving beyond the popular images of Dr. King. If is also important for all of use to come to terms with the complexities of movements and movement tactics. Going Down Jericho Road can be a useful tool for those who still fight for justice today.

Michael K. Honey, Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign, (Norton, 2007).

Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

John Bowe’s Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy is an examination of slave labor in the United States. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Bowe asserts that slavery is very much alive in the United States. The cases profiled in the book are not unique incidents themselves, but rather show how slavery can exist in diverse ways in the contemporary global economy, despite the fact that it is rarely noticed.

The book focuses on three separate cases of slavery: the enslavement of immigrant laborers in Immokalee, Florida, temporary workers in Tulsa who came from India and were locked up at their factory, and Chinese garment workers in the United States territory of Saipan who are paid little and are horribly treated. Bowe describes the day-to-day lives of people working in these diverse areas to draw out common themes of horrific working and living conditions coupled with direct or implied threats of violence or reprisal should the “employees” complain about their situation. He also explores the difficulties inherent in prosecuting these cases, difficulties that unfortunately often have as much to do with inadequate laws as they do a lack of investigative resources. Interestingly, all of the cases examined in the book have to do with immigration, examining how the enslavers are able to hold immigration status–or in some cases physical papers–over forced laborers. The slaves are often indebted to their employers who have assisted them in getting to the United States or its territories, but then are essentially powerless to stop their abuse because of this relationship. Of the chapters in the book, the one dealing with the immigrant workers in Immokalee is the most interesting and even inspiring, as it discusses how workers have been able to organize to challenge slavery. This challenging of slavery has included assistance in the prosecution of slavery cases, while being part of a larger effort to improve the treatment of farm workers in South Florida.

Unfortunately, throughout much of the book, Bowe’s narration gets in the way of the cases of slavery that he talks about–often deflecting attention from the very real labor abuses that he reports. Many readers will likely find themselves distracted by Bowe’s comments and his own feelings–skepticism about allegations of slavery, his difficulty in relating to his own employed “researchers” and what that says about “slavery,” comments that “greed and senseless aggression” can simply be “the nature of power” rather than “evil”–as he relates them throughout the book. Especially in the brief interlude chapters in which Bowe uses simplistic arguments and analysis to place contemporary slavery within its historical context, Bowe’s own psychological conflicts over the nature of slavery are annoying at best.

Despite Bowe’s narration, Nobodies does provide some useful discussion of contemporary slavery in the era of globalization. However, the utility of the book is limited in that so much of the focus is on Bowe’s process–how he went from place to place interviewing people and what he saw as he went there–that the information frequently gets lost. Moreover, it lacks an overall context from which readers can understand contemporary slavery and instead slavery seems to be something motivated by simple “greed” rather than something occurring within an overall global economic system. To his credit, Bowe does get to this context in the final section of the book, but the discussion is too brief and too simplistic.

John Bowe, Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, (Random House, 2007).

Whose Trade Organization?

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

For many people, the protests at the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was the first time they heard of the WTO and its agenda. However, activist and public interest groups such as Public Citizen had been monitoring the General Agreement on (GATT) for years and, consequently, have since followed the actions of the WTO. Following the Seattle WTO protests there has been a wealth of information published about the WTO, although much of it has been published in a variety of different sources and mediums, sometimes making it difficult to easily find information on all the different aspects of the WTO and the implications of its policies and rulings. Whose Trade Organization?: A Comprehensive Guide to the World Trade Organization, Second Edition remedies this problem, putting together a wealth of information on all the various components of the WTO–environmental policy, intellectual property provisions, agricultural rules, the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), and numerous other WTO sections–in an easy-to-read and well indexed volume.

Whose Trade Organization systematically goes through the major and minor provisions of the WTO, grouping them into chapters focusing on the environment, food safety, labor, human rights, agriculture, and other such topics. Throughout these broadly focused chapters, the authors present detailed analyses of the various components of the WTO. The authors examine the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rules, the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), the General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS), the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, and other components of the WTO, conclusively demonstrating that the WTO is both an oppositional and unaccountable agent in the lives of people around the world, both in the “developed” and “underdeveloped” world.

In addition to the breadth of its content, Whose Trade Organization’s other major strength is the quality of its information and research. Whereas much of the information circulating in activist circles regarding the WTO is presented in very vague ways, Whose Trade Organization discusses the specific sections of the WTO and how they will negatively affect people and the environment, often citing the text of relevant WTO documents. For example, when discussing the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), the authors explain how the agreement’s function is to set criteria that WTO member nations must follow regarding their domestic policies affecting trade and protection of life and health in food and sets parameters on domestic policies regarding livestock and fisheries. The authors then go on to explain how the primary goal of the SPS is to increase and facilitate trade by eliminating differences in food, animal, and plant regulations among WTO member counties–a goal that undermines countries capacity to craft protective policies by making domestic regulations and their enforcement the subject of WTO review. Additionally, each chapter contains case studies that show the WTO policies in action and describe how they work to undermine democratic government.

Whose Trade Organization is an indispensable resource for anyone involved in the anti-corporate globalization movement, as well as a great introduction to anyone curious about why there has been so much attention focused on the WTO in recent years.

Lori Wallach and Patrick Woodall, Whose Trade Organization?: A Comprehensive Guide to the World Trade Organization, Second Edition, (The New Press, 2004).