War Without End: The Iraq War in Context

Michael Schwartz’s War Without End is an important book for understanding the motivations of the Iraq War. Unlike the many books that simply blame Bush, Schwartz looks at the underlying role of neoliberalism in driving the war.

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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).

Author: mediamouse

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