Not the Hay Festival: Juhasz, Muttit, Christodopoulos
By Sarah Meyer
I used to be a Guardian Hay Festival addict. Good talks, good bookshops, good food. This year the festival is a bit incestuous. The blog editor of The Guardian is interviewing Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, for example. Now this would have been a stimulating conversation if one of the Media Lens editors had conducted the interview. The BBC, under continual criticism from bloggers for ‘unbalanced’ reporting, is much again in evidence at Hay – unchallenged. It thus appears that the Hay Festival is supporting the Mainstream Media agenda whilst a roar of controversy and fear surrounds the incursion of bloggers into the corporate news world’s ratings. There seems to be a resistance to, or ignorance of, the radical and informed Blog World. There are excellent UK bloggers that would have given a needed stimulus to the festival.
“Club Regulars,” eg Winterson and Greer, are here.’ Al Gore will talk. But a wide gap remains unfilled by those authors questioning the political / corporate status quo. What has happened to the Hay challenge to expand our knowledge and fixed ideas? Visitors are again offered Christopher Hitchens (yawn). One local said, “Where are the Gore Vidals, the Norman Mailers, the Philip Roths? It seems to be mostly c-list celebs.”
There are exceptions – John Pilger; ‘girl-blogger’ from Iraq, Riverbend, author of Baghdad Burning; Gary Younge, author of Stranger in a Strange Land. Hearing the very special writer whose work cannot be categorized, Philip Marsden will be a treat. The activist / comedian Mark Thomas will try and make the lethal arms trade sound funny.
Last year, the festival moved from the centre of town to a field. Another local person said “Last year I could get a seat in the pub - I've never known that during a festival before.” Now the festival is a bus ride away. A small cut-out Guardian headline in a bookshop window reads: "Hell for low-paid locals."
I went, instead, to hear three speakers at the London School of Economics, who should be in the Hay Festival schedule, and are not.
I became a fan of Loukas Christodoulou3 when I read his excellent report, Corporate Carve-up: the role of UK corporations in Iraq (03.03. – 03.06). He spoke on this subject. “It was a political decision to bring corporations into Iraq. The corporations then support the Occupation.” Thus, he said, “it is important to find out who is there. The majority are US corporations.” Perhaps, he thought, the UK felt they were not getting value for money. A great deal of money could be made “all in the name of helping Iraqis.” However, “the restructuring of Iraq's economy is providing fertile opportunities for an army of consultants.” For example, AMEC, a large construction firm with a £500m contract in their pocket, is working alongside the US firm Fluor. “AMEC is organised much like Tony Blair’s PFI (Private Finance Initiatives) in UK hospitals.1” Consultancy firms, advising the new Iraqi government and the Ministries have also moved in. “Brand Identity” is inserting itself alongside the private security / military companies, in which there are 30,000 private employees.
“A policy decision was taken to base Iraq’s future on corporations. It is an agenda that is being pushed. There is enough talent in Iraq to reverse this trend.” A precis of the excellent full report can be read here.
Greg Muttitt is the author of the revealing report by Platform, Crude Designs: the Rip-off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth.2
“The oil situation in Iraq is a repetition of history,” Muttitt said. “While Iraq was occupied by Britain, in 1925 a contract was signed. This contract gave foreign (especially British) companies control and ownership of Iraq for 75 years, continuing well beyond the occupation - despite enormous opposition in Iraq.” 1961 and 1972 saw nationalisation of oil in Iraq – which was only possible because similar changes were taking place around the oil-producing world.
“Now the players are slightly different, as the US is the Nunber One power, with Britain now as the junior partner. The other difference is that the Iraqi people have seen all this before – for this reason, the language has changed a bit. Oil companies are described as ‘contractors’, and the state is offered nominal ownership of the resource. But in practice, things are much the same – the contracts being considered would again give control over Iraqi oil, and a large chunk of revenues, to multinational companies.”
“The word ‘advice’ keeps coming up. It reflects a somewhat racist attitude, that ‘we know how this should be done and the Iraqi’s don’t. But it’s also misleading. An offer of advice which is backed up by 150,000 troops becomes an offer that’s hard to refuse.”
“Now that a government has been appointed, it has four months to review and potentially amend the constitution. After that, the next step will be to pass an oil law, which determines the structure of the oil industry, whether foreign companies can invest in it and on what terms. After that, it will be possible to sign long-term contracts, which could last for decades. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has insisted on being involved in the drafting of the law, as one of its economic conditions imposed on the Iraqi government. And the US government has appointed the consultancy company, Bearing Point, to “advise” (that word again) ”on the writing of the law”.
“This process is not inevitable. There is considerable resistance to this process amongst Iraqi politicians and academics. Strikes have, for example, shut down Iraqi oil. Everyone needs to resist this theft of Iraqi oil.”
Muttitt’s recent article, Further Steps toward Long-Term Oil Contracts, (04.06) can be read here.
Antonia Juhasz is a vibrant speaker who knows her corporate facts and presents them with great flair. Her book, The Bush Agenda, has just been published in the UK. Having read her articles in various publications, I was keen to see and hear her speak. She told us a little of her background: she was a former Project Director at the International Forum on Globalization. Working meant “leapfrogging the federal government to help social welfare.” She is a Project Censored Award recipient.
In the nine days after 9/11, she said, the US government would be combating terror with trade, under the guise of the ‘war on terror.’ Pax Americana was mentioned 19 times in the mythical belief that Rome were peace creators. “All the key people in the US government are oil people - the President, the Vice President and the now Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice (Chevron). They have umbilical links.” Juhasz said that sixteen members of the Bush administration are involved with Lockheed Martin.
"The Reagan administration wanted greater economic links with Iraq, particularly in oil. The new system is to lock in the economic structure of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) so that it would not matter who was the head of a country in the future. Before the war in Iraq, all the foreign suitors for Iraqi oil were countries who had dealings with Iraq except the United States. So, a working group met at the State Department. All these oil contracts were cancelled. The contract was rewritten under Paul Bremer. Bremer gave 100 orders … The Iraqi government is not allowed to give priority to Iraqis for reconstruction. The Iraqis are not happy. The new government does not oppose either the oil laws or the corporate laws. The oil time-line is guiding the end of the occupation."
Juhasz said there was "poor monitoring of oil". Iraqi oil is definitely going to the US, she said. “The oil companies are doing all right but would like to do much better.” The corporate lobby, she said, “are more powerful than OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).” She feels that Mahdi is the most important person in the Iraq government now – “he backs US corporations.”
Juhasz felt the US was not buying the ‘fear’ of the US administration’s direction on Iran. “There is a good, strong anti-war organization.”
 There has been criticism of the PFIs in the UK. Its results are underwhelming.
 See: William Bowles (02.12.05), On the road to Damascus; James Cogan (08.12.05) Report outlines plans for corporate plunder of Iraqi oil; Sarah Meyer (07.03.06), PNAC: Rebuilding America's Defenses - A Biopsy on Imperialism; Part II: "Special Interests" - The Persian Gulf.
 Reader to note. The name Christodopoulos is incorrect due to a printout of the lecture with the incorrect spelling. The correct spelling is Loukas Christodoulou.
The url of 'Not The Hay Festival' is: http://indexresearch.blogspot.com/2006/05/not-hay-festival-juhasz-muttit.html
Sarah Meyer is a researcher living in Sussex, UK.
Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.