From Florida To Baghdad

Abdulwahab Badrakhan

The name of James Baker was suggested more than once in Washington, and specifically at the White House, to manage the post-war Iraq file. And finally the former Secretary of State under George Bush senior was appointed to administer what appears to be a marginal issue, but really lie at the heart of the case: managing Iraq’s debts; in other words, controlling Iraq’s monetary policies in the post-war period, in an era of chaos and total uncertainty.
The veteran ?big-wheeler? on the USA right-wing, James Baker has been appointed as George W Bush?s ?personal envoy to Iraq?.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were seized by the Americans before, during, and after the war. Some of it was spent, and some of it disappeared. There are also stories about Saddam Hussein withdrawing a billion dollars before the military operations, and stories about a billion dollars that could have been withdrawn by Qusai, but after the latter died, the money disappeared; not to mention the billions of dollars in foreign bank accounts, or those in the custody of the UN. There are also the debts owed to countries that did not participate in the war, and that don’t seem eager to participate in the reconstruction process before their rights are re-established. Most probably all this will be added to the money promised by the donor countries, which haven’t donated anything yet. And most importantly, there is all the money that the Americans spent on the war, and the tens of billions of dollars ratified by Congress to unravel the current Iraqi dilemma.

Before the war, the word was for any “peace of information” that would support the war, especially pertaining to the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Probably in all its history, the USA has never spent as much money on ‘nothingness’ as on Iraqi WMDs. After the war, the word is now for money, and this money determines the decisions and choices in Washington. Accordingly, Baker - who is known for his proficient management skills, diplomatic wisdom, not to mention his past with the Bush family - was assigned to administer the financial matters of Iraq. Following the 2000 presidential elections, during which the Florida votes stirred a major legal quandary in the USA, both parties resorted to arbiters, and Baker was among those appointed by Bush father and son, to solve the problem.

Baker’s new mission in Iraq is not far from the previous one, as it falls in the context of President Bush’s re-election campaign. But it is certainly more difficult and complicated. Between these two missions, Baker also gained another dimension to his personality, when the UN Secretary General appointed him as his personal envoy on the Western Sahara case. While he did not manage to resolve this case, and even made it more difficult, nonetheless, he succeeded in denouncing certain American, European and regional stances that were equivocal and vague.

To what extent will Baker use his “UN diplomatic model” to solve the Iraqi dilemma? This is possible, even tempting, but it is not what the Americans are concerned about right now. There is no doubt that he will have another priority: Baker means Pectel, which is the leading oil company that seems to be overseeing all the major deals being cut in Iraq, despite the competing Halliburton, which has been linked to the name of Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Baker has major responsibilities, one of which is to regain the money that was spent by America for the “liberation of Iraq,” and to reorganize the management of the Iraqi money floating here and there. Not to mention that he will be fighting the corruption that was allowed by the prevailing chaos, among the Americans and their Iraqi business partners. Contentions regarding James Baker’s role have already started, as he will not be working under the administration of Paul Bremer, and will not assume a mission without a vision and prerogatives, and cannot be imagined in a technical clerical accounting position. As long as his mission is financial, this means it is political, and accordingly Baker, with his current task, will once again steer through the region whether he likes it or not.

Published Monday, December 8th, 2003 - 02:30pm GMT

Article courtesy of Dar al-Hayat

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Abdulwahab Badrakhan

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