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An Iraq jobs program?


Discontent with President Bush’s “New Way Forward in Iraq” is deep and wide across the U.S. and around the world. A big reason is his recent decision to deploy 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. Opinion polls show that the American public’s approval of Bush’s job performance has plunged to a new low.

On this note of displeasure, we turn to the president’s call for the creation of new employment in Iraq. “To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs,” he said in his January 10 address.

Of course Iraqis out of work need to be on employers’ payrolls. Just ask Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, and Newt Gingrich, a former Congressman and current senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

In a January 12 Wall Street Journal op-ed, they estimate that Iraq has a 30 percent to 50 percent jobless rate, and suggest creating “an Iraqi Citizen Job Corps, along the lines of FDR’s civilian conservation corps during the Great Depression.”

It is worth noting that Iraqi joblessness on the low end of Giuliani and Gingrich’s figures is nearly the official unemployment rate for black teens in the U.S. And there is nothing on the political horizon now to improve that bleak situation that predates the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It is beyond the political pale to press for an FDR-like program of employment opportunities for these African American youth, facing three meals and a cell in the nation’s fast-growing prison-industrial complex.

Be that as it is, the U.S. Congress should debate and discuss the details of creating more jobs for Iraqis. I mean the involvement of politically-connected GOP firms such as Halliburton. The new Democratic majority, this means you.

Recall that Halliburton, the construction and engineering firm led by Dick Cheney before he became Bush’s vice president, is synonymous with corporate profiteering under the U.S. occupation of Iraq. To wit, the U.S. government claims to have spent over $20 billion on rebuilding Iraq. However, Baghdad residents today have less access to electricity and water than before the March 2003 invasion, says Dean Baker, a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC.

This kind of makes you wonder why no wit has coined the term Halliburtonized as a verb meaning to be looted. If such a U.S. company and others feeding at the American taxpayer trough slither into an Iraq jobs program, this would bode ill for these long-suffering people. They deserve much better.

So for their sake, I urge the Democratic-led Congress to make every effort to root out America’s corporate rascals from any future Iraq employment program. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to banishing all GOP-oiled firms from sucking any more resources away from Iraqis out of a job.

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