Monday, October 02, 2006


By Thomas Riggins [PA Archives]

Here is number 12 in our series of Book Roundups—which are essentially reviews of reviews of the current literature. Anyone who wants to do a full review on any of these books, please contact us at

MY YEAR IN IRAQ: THE STRUGGLE TO BUILD A FUTURE OF HOPE by L. Paul Bremer III (Simon & Schuster, 2006, 417pp.) reviewed by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times January 12, 2006.
The very opening of this review points out the trouble with the US aggression against the Iraqi people. Kakutani points out that Bush sent Bremer to Iraq as a proconsul (viceroy would be a better term) but that “he knew little about Iraq.” It seems to be a penchant of the Bush administration to appoint people to highly responsible positions who are ill equipped and under educated for the job. Perhaps this simply reflects Bush’s own qualifications.

The reviewer draws attention to the fact that after Bremer left office (he had a 14 month tenure)—the insurgency was not only in full swing, it was increasing. Bremer also prevented former Baath party members from resuming their positions in government jobs—“thereby depriving the occupation of experienced Iraqi administrators.” In other words he left a big mess behind—no doubt as result of the fact that “he knew little about Iraq.” Kakutani says that Bremer’s book is “an amalgam of spin and sincerity.”

At least Bremer began to realize what was going on. He told Cheney that there were not enough troops to get the job done—i.e., to give security and put down the insurgency. As he put it there was no real “military strategy for victory.” He also told Rice that the US was “the worse of all things—an ineffective occupier.” It certainly looks as if he was right on both counts. If so this shows that the Bush administration is both morally bankrupt (for starting an unnecessary war in the first place) and functionally incompetent (for not knowing how to fight one.)

Bremer holds that the Bushites dream that they could “quickly turn full authority over to a group of selected Iraqi exiles” (the likes of Ahmad Chalabi and others) was unrealistic, as Kakutani writes. Bremer thought those exiles had no “credibility” with the Iraqis. The idea that Iraqi oil would pay for “reconstruction” was also off the mark due to sabotage and the run down state of the oil facilities.

Even more deplorable is Bremer’s admission that in 2003 he saw an Iraqi document that called for “organized resistance to be put into effect’’ if the US invaded and toppled the regime. So we knew what was coming and didn’t have the sense to effectively prevent it. Not that we could have prevented it. The history of unjustified aggression that should have been learned, especially after Vietnam, is that people will resist aggression and that there is no peace for aggressors (outside of small countries such as Granada and Panama which are the limit of what the US military is capable of successfully attacking.)
Bremer’s disbanding of the Iraqi army only fueled this resistance. The reviewer concludes that after reading this book we will have “a sobering sense of the staggering difficulties of the situation in Iraq.” To be sure. Perhaps we will also appreciate that unjust aggressive wars, now basically mounted against civilian populations by people “who know little,” have no chance of success.

END OF THE LINE: THE RISE AND COMING FALL OF THE GLOBAL CORPORATION by Barry C. Lynn, Doubleday, 2005, 312pp., reviewed by Mark Levinson in The American Prospect, February 2006.

This sounds like an interesting book. It is about the negative results of globalization with respect to the “outsourcing of operations to the far corners of the world.” The reviewer mentions specifically Wal-Mart, Dell, Cisco, GE and GM. Levinson says that while most (bourgeois) economists and reporters think globalization is not only inevitable but a good thing as well, Lynn “sees the making of a disaster."

The reviewer stresses that Lynn does not base his critique on the virtual enslavement of third world workers and their lack of rights, fair wages, healthy environments, etc., [why bother, that is just S.O.P. for the capitalist system left to itself] but bases his critique on the systems “own terms”. Levinson points out that the argument hones in on “the Achilles heel of the global economy” which turns out to be the “most successful” corporations [in terms of profitable planet wide looting].

What has developed is “a single global industrialized system marked by extreme specialization.” In other words, no one makes any finished products—they just coordinate many subcontractors and assembly plants etc. to put together their products.

For example, you can find ads for Dell computers in the Sunday papers and in magazines all over the place. But Dell does not make computers. It just coordinates the supply chains from all the different companies that specialize in this or that part. The Dell executives are not even aware of all the trains of production involved in putting together one of “their” computers.
Dell is mentioned because it had to close down its plants in California due to an earthquake in Taiwan. Dell was unaware that a key component was only made by one plant in Taiwan and since it was temporarily unavailable a domino effect started throughout this supply system. Multiply this by thousands of examples and you can see how a serious disaster or political upheaval could result in the entire world economic order collapsing like a house of cards.

Levin quotes Lynn “We now live in a world in which a conflict on the Korean peninsula or between India and Pakistan would create great havoc in the heart of the American economy.” Lynn proposes some remedies which he thinks the US can put into effect to protect itself but they seem to be of the kind that would require capitalists to give up their own advantages to help the common good—an impossible expectation under current circumstances.

Lynn also points out that it was the Democratic president Bill Clinton who turned the “corporations loose on the world”, but Levinson says the blame extends “across the two major parties.” So, while the reviewer writes that the book “is not without its problems” you should read it “to understand how the dominant business model of our time contains the seeds of future crises.” Read Marx first, however, if you really want to get a handle on things.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

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