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The New Corporate Liberation Theology. Part 1

by Arundhati Roy Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004 at 7:47 PM

The US government has privatized and sold whole sectors of the Iraqi economy. Economic policy and tax laws are rewritten. Foreign firms can now buy 100 percent of Iraqi firms and export the profits. This is a blatant violation of international law...


By Arundhati Roy

The Indian author’s acceptance of the Sydney Peace Prize on November 4, 2004 in Australia. As everybody knows, the Australian government supports the US in the Iraq war. The Indian author and peace activist condemns the Iraq war in sharp words and names those responsible. Her address originally published in: junge Welt, 11/11/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

The Sydney Peace Prize fills me with job. I accept it as a literary prize that honors an author for her work, not for the many virtues falsely ascribed to me. I an not an activist, the leader of a movement and certainly not the “voice of the voiceless”. The “voiceless” do not exist, only those intentionally made silent or the unheard. I am a writer who cannot claim to represent anyone except myself. Even if I would like to do this, it would be presumptuous to say that I accept this prize in the name of those involved in the struggle of the powerless and outlawed against the powerful. Nevertheless I can say I accept it as an expression of the solidarity of the Sydney peace foundation with a kind of policy and world perception that millions of us around the globe share.


It may seem ironic that a person who has spent most of her time reflecting on strategies of resistance and forging plans to disturb the alleged peace is awarded a peace prize. You must remember that I come from an essentially feudal land and there are few more disturbing things than a feudal peace. Sometimes truth lies in old clichés. No real peace is possible without justice and no justice is possible without resistance.

Today justice and even the idea of justice is attacked. The assault on vulnerable fragile sectors of society is suddenly so complete, cruel and clever – grasping everyone and yet specifically targeted, brazenly brutal and yet incredibly malicious –that its sheer impudence corrodes our definition of justice. This attack has forced us to reduce our sense of distance and prune our expectations. Even among people of good will, the expansive tremendous concept of justice is gradually replaced by the reduced and far more delicate preaching of “human rights”.


An alarming change of paradigms has occurred. Concepts of equality and parity are diluted and weakened. This is a process of war and tear and attrition. Almost unconsciously we begin to believe in justice for the rich and human rights for the poor, justice for the corporate world (the world of big business) and human rights for its victims, justice for Americans and human rights for Afghanis and Iraqis, justice for Indians of the upper castes and human rights (if at all) for dalits and adlvasi (casteless and aborigines), justice for white Australians and human rights for aborigines and immigrants.

Violating human rights is a constant and necessary part of the process of realizing a coercive and unjust political and economic structure in the world. Without enormous violations of human rights, the neoliberal project would remain in the dream world of policy. Increasing human rights violations are represented as unfortunate, accidental side effects of a politically and economically accepted system as though they were little problems that can be corrected with some extra attention of non-governmental organizations. Therefore human rights activists are viewed with a measure of suspicion in conflict areas like Kashmir or Iraq. Many resistance movements in poor countries that fight violent injustice and question the principles of “liberation” and “development” see human rights organizations as modern missionaries who come to remove imperialism’s dirty edges, channel political rage and preserve the status quo.


A few week ago the majority of Australians reelected Premier John Howard under whose leadership Australia joined in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq’s invasion will certainly enter history as one of the most cowardly wars. This is a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times, encircled a small land, falsely accused it of possessing nuclear weapons, forced the United Nations to disarm it and then attacked and occupied it. Now the land is being sold.

I do not speak of Iraq because everyone now speaks of Iraq (at the expense of other horrors developing in the dark in other places). I speak of Iraq because it is a sign of what we have to expect. Iraq marks a possibility for observing the cabal between the corporate world and the military that has become known as an “empire”.

While the struggle for control of world resources intensifies, economic colonialism through formal military aggression experiences a comeback. Iraq is the logical culmination of the process of corporate globalization in which neocolonialism and neoliberalism are fused. When we dare to look behind the veil of blood, we will see the merciless transactions behind the stage. Let us look first at the stage.

In 1991 US President George Bush senior waged Operation Desert Storm. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed in the war. Iraqi fields were bombarded with 300 tons of depleted uranium that caused a four-fold increase in the cancer sicknesses of children. For more than 13 years, 24 million Iraqis have lived in a war zone where they were denied food, medicines and clean water. In the turmoil of the US elections, we remember that the level of cruelties did not fluctuate whether democrats or republicans were in the White House. A half million Iraqi children died on account of the economic sanctions before “Operation Shock and Awe”.


Until recently we had no idea how many Iraqis were killed while the number of US soldiers who lost their lives was carefully registered. Us General Tommy Franks said: “We don’t count the dead” (the Iraqi dead). He could have added: “We don’t follow the Geneva Convention.” A new detailed study published by the medical journal Lancet estimates that 100,000 Iraqis were killed since the 2003 invasion.. This bloodbath is technically called precision bombing. In conventional language, it could be called slaughter.

Most of this is general knowledge. Those who support the invasion and vote for the invaders cannot hide behind ignorance. They must really believe that this epic brutality is right, just or at least acceptable because it occurs in their interest.

The “civilized modern world” – built conscientiously on an inheritance of genocide, slavery and colonialism – now controls most of the oil of the world, most weapons of the world, most money of the world and most media of the world, the embedded corporate media in which the doctrine of free spe4ech was replaced by the doctrine of acceptable free speech.

The chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said he found no evidence for nuclear weapons in Iraq. All of the pieces of evidence presented by the governments of the US and Great Britain proved to be false – whether reports of Saddam Hussein’s uranium purchases in Niger or British secret service reports that turned out to be the plagiarism of a graduate student’s dissertation. Nevertheless the “most respectable” newspapers and TV channels in the US showe3d headlines about proof of Iraq’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. The source of the fabricated “proofs” was Ahmed Chalabi who (like General Suharto in Indonesia, General Pinochet in Chile, the Taliban and naturally Saddam Hussein) was picked by the good old CIA with millions of dollars.

A land was bombed into the past. Yes, there is some mumbling of apologies. Sorry for these people but we must continue. New rumors arrive about nuclear weapons in Iran and Syria. Who reports about these recent rumors? The same reporters who brought the first false scoops about Iraq, the seriously embedded A-team.

The head of the British BBC had to resign. A man committed suicide because a BBC reporter charged the Blair administration with cooking up secret service reports about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program. Still Britain’s leader keeps his job even though his government did much more than hype the secret service reports. The government is responsible for the illegal invasion of a country and the genocide of this people.


From Australia’s visitors like myself, one expects answers to the following questions in completing the visa application: Did you ever commit war crimes or crimes against humanity or against human rights or become entangled in them? Would George Bush and Tony Blair be given entry visas? Under the provisions of international law, they would certainly be classified as war criminals.

Nevertheless thinking that the world would change if they were removed from power is naïve. The tragedy is that their political rivals do not really argue with their policy. The core of the US election campaign was posing as a better “commander-in-chief” and a more effective manager of the American empire. Democracy only offers voters a deceptive choice, no longer a real choice.

Even if no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, new evidence surprisingly reveals that Saddam Hussein planned a weapons program (as when I planned to win an Olympic gold medal in synchronized swimming). Fortunately, there is the doctrine of preventive strike. God knows what other wicked thoughts he had – perhaps sending tampax to American senators or exposing female rabbits in burkas in London’s train system. All this will undoubtedly be revealed in Saddam Hussein’s free and fair trial that is on the agenda in the new Iraq.

Everything except the chapter in which we could learn how the US and Great Britain courted him with money and material assistance when he committed murderous attacks on Iraqi Kurds and Shias. Everything except the chapter in which we would discover that a 12,000 page report presented by Saddam Hussein’s government to the UN was censored by the US because it mentioned 24 US corporations that participated in Iraq’s nuclear and conventional weapons before the Gulf war (including Bechtel, DuPont, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard, International Computer Systems and Unisys).


Thus Iraq was “liberated”. Its people are oppressed and its markets are “liberated”. That is the hymn of neoliberalism: Liberate the markets. Gag the people.

The US government has privatized and sold whole sectors of the Iraqi economy. Economic policy and tax laws are rewritten. Foreign firms can now buy 100 percent of Iraqi firms and export the profits. This is a blatant violation of international law that an occupying power has to observe and one of the reasons for the secret and flimsy charade with which power was transferred to an interim Iraqi government. When the transfer of Iraq to the multinationals is complete, a mild dose of real democracy cannot do any harm. It actually may even be good public relations work for the corporate version of liberation theology that is otherwise known as New Democracy.

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