Mesopotamia is a capitalist’s dreamscape. As one put it, “If the United States was going to the trouble of invading Iraq, shouldn’t American companies reap the rewards?”
The Bush administration has answered affirmatively, Los Angeles Times reporter Miller tells us. First came the tanks, then the suits looking to clean up in what promised to be very lucrative times—for Americans, that is, who always won out over local suppliers, who, with a little cash, might actually have turned into friends rather than insurgents. Consider the children’s hospital that Laura Bush so dearly wanted for feel-good purposes. The Republican head of foreign operations for the House Appropriations Committee asked, “Why should we build a hospital for kids first when kids in Iraq need clean water?” Right, but the politico shelved his objections after NSC staffers came calling to make it clear that the First Lady really wanted the legacy. The American builder made out, though the hospital is a shell and the kids still don’t have clean water—to say nothing of electricity, vaccinations, food and other niceties. Part of the problem, by Miller’s account, is that there was “never any single [American] agency that took control of the reconstruction effort”; another is that big corporations such as Bechtel and the notorious Halliburton were offered uncompetitive-bid, secret-contract agreements to carve up the reconstruction economy for themselves; yet another is that vultures such as the aptly named principals of the security firm Custer Battles were given free rein to rip off Americans and Iraqis alike. In the face of this officially sponsored looting, absence of accountability and shameless profiteering—all ongoing—one ethical hero of Miller’s tale commits suicide, while hundreds of GIs and Iraqis die.
Another epitaph for Mr. Bush’s War, and a book sure to fascinate—and anger—its readers.