Food as a Weapon – The Rape of Iraq

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In 1948 George Kennan, who at the time was a senior US State Department planning official, wrote:

We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.

To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.

Later on, in April of 1974 President Gerald Ford, who had replaced Nixon, issued National Security Study Memorandum 200. The title was Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests. President Ford signed an Executive Order making NSSM 200 official US Government Policy. It dealt with food policy, population growth and strategic raw materials. The NSSM was the work of Henry Kissinger and was secret at the time it was issued.

F. William Engdahl, has written an excellent, though somewhat obscure, book with the title Seeds of Destruction. This diary is based largely on Engdahl’s book. Quotes are from his book unless noted otherwise.

National Security Study Memo 200, issued in 1974, promoted population control in raw materials-rich developing countries. Thirteen developing countries were named as being threats to future US exploitation of their resources unless drastic measures were taken to reduce their population growth. In the NSSM Kissinger put it this way:

The world is increasingly dependent on mineral supplies from developing countries, and if rapid population growth frustrates their prospects for economic development and social progress, the resulting instability may undermine the conditions for expanded output and sustained flows of resources…

At the time, concentration was to have been on 13 key developing countries which were designated to be of special political and strategic interests to the US. The countries named were: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Colombia. Perhaps in today’s world the list would be slightly different.

Let’s look at the history of agricultural development in Iraq.

wheatIraq is home to the oldest agricultural traditions in the world. Historical, genetic and archaeological evidence, including radiocarbon dating of carbon-containing materials at the site, show that the Fertile Crescent, including modern Iraq, was the center of domestication for a remarkable array of today’s primary agricultural crops and livestock animals. Wheat, barley, rye, lentils, sheep, goats, and pigs were all originally brought under human control around 8000 BCE. Iraq is where wild wheat was once originated and many of its cereal varieties have been exported and adapted worldwide. The beginning of agriculture led inexorably to the development of human civilization.

Since then, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia have used informal seed supply systems to plant crops, suited to their particular environment. The saving and sharing of seeds in Iraq has always been a largely informal matter. Local varieties of grain and legumes have been adapted to local conditions over the millennia. While much has changed in the ensuing millennia, agriculture remains an essential part of Iraq’s heritage. Despite extreme aridity, characterized by low rainfalls and soil salinity, Iraq had a world standard agricultural sector producing good quality food for generations.

According to the Rome-based UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 97 percent of Iraqi farmers in 2002 still used saved seed from their own stocks from last year’s harvest, or purchased from local markets.

Source – Global Research

One little publicized result of “Shock and Awe” and the subsequent occupation is the series of laws drafted by the US occupation authority, the CPA. Paul Bremer put the new US-mandated laws into effect in April of 2004. There were 100 of them and they became known as Bremer’s 100 Orders. This mandate was given to Bremer by Rumsfeld’s Pentagon planners, as Engdahl writes …

to impose a “shock therapy” that would turn the entire state-centered economy of Iraq into a radical free-market economic model.

Bremer’s first act was to fire 500,000 state workers, most of them soldiers, but also doctors, nurses, teachers, publishers and printers. Next, he opened the  country’s borders to unrestricted imports: no tariffs, no duties, no inspections, no taxes.

Before the invasion Iraq’s non-oil economy had been dominated by some 200 state-owned companies, which produced everything from cement to paper to washing machines. In June 2003, Bremer announced that these state firms would be privatized immediately.

Corporate tax rates were drastically reduced. Foreign companies were allowed to own 100% of Iraqi assets and they could take 100% of the profits earned out of the country. Iraq was to have become a laissez-faire capitalist paradise.

Iraq was suddenly transformed into to being the world’s freest and most wide-open market. Its economy and banking system had been devastated by war and more than a decade of punitive US led sanctions. Iraqis were simply too poor to buy their newly privatized state companies. A conquered Iraq was in no position to object “aside from military sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the occupiers.” The effect of Bremer’s 100 orders was to give complete control of Iraq’s economy to multi-national corporations.

In addition and of utmost importance

these laws were designed to pave the way for the most radical transformation of a nation’s food production system ever attempted. Under Bremer, Iraq was to become a model for Genetically Modified or GMO agribusiness.

Bremer’s Order 81, quote below is from Global Research

Order 81 deals specifically with Plant Variety Protection (PVP) because it is designed to protect the commercial interests of corporate seed companies. Its aim is to force Iraqi farmers to plant so-called “protected” crop varieties ‘defined as new, distinct uniform and stable’, and most likely genetically modified. This means Iraqi farmers will have one choice; to buy PVP registered seeds. Order 81 opens the way for patenting (ownership) of plant forms, and facilitates the introduction of genetically modified crops or organisms (GMOs) to Iraq. U.S. agricultural biotechnology corporations, such as Monsanto and Syngenta will be the beneficiaries. Iraqi farmers will be forced to buy their seeds from these corporations. GMOs will replace the old tradition of breeding closely related plants, and replace them with organisms composed of DNA from an altogether different species, e.g., bacterium genes into corn. In the long run, there won’t be a big enough gene pool for genetic viability.

Iraq had kept its precious natural seed varieties in a seed bank in the town of Abu Ghraib. Sometime during the early part of the occupation the seed bank vanished, another casualty of the Iraq War. The Agriculture Ministry, fortunately, had taken the precaution of creating a back-up seed bank in neighboring Syria.

As a part of a program to phase out farm subsidies patent protected GM seeds were introduced to Iraqi farmers by way of the Ministry of Agriculture which distributed GM seeds at discounted prices. Once farmers began using the seeds, under the regulations of Order 81, they would be forced to buy new seeds every year from the seed companies.

As per Order 81

if a large international corporation developed a seed variety resistant to a particular Iraqi pest, and an Iraqi farmer was growing another variety that did the same, it was illegal for the farmer to save his own seed. Instead, he is obliged to pay a royalty fee for using Monsanto’s GMO seed.

Upon purchasing the patented seeds, farmers must sign the company’s technology agreement (Technology User Agreements). This agreement allows the company to control farmers’ practices and conduct property investigation. The farmer becomes the slave of the company.

Order 81 ignores Iraqi farmers’ old traditions of saving seeds, and using their knowledge to breed and plant their crops. It also brutally disregards the contributions which Iraqi farmers have made over hundreds of generations to the development of important crops like wheat, barley, dates and pulses. If anybody owns those varieties and their unique virtues, it is the families who bred them, even though nobody has described or characterized them in terms of their genetic makeup. If anything, the new law — in allowing old varieties to be genetically manipulated or otherwise modified and then “registered” — involves the theft of inherited intellectual property, the loss of farmers’ freedoms, and the destruction of food sovereignty in Iraq.

Like U.S. farmers, Iraqi farmers will be “harassed for doing what they have always done.” For example, Iraqi farmers can be sued by Monsanto, if their non-GMO crops are polluted by GMO crops planted in their vicinity. The health and environmental consequences of GMO crops are still unknown. GMO-based agriculture definitely encourages monoculture and genetic pollution. Moreover, this will further increase the already polluted Iraqi environment as a result of tens of thousands of tons of ‘depleted’ uranium dust, napalm, chemical weapons, and phosphorous bombs.

Farmers will also be required to buy fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, against plants disease. Iraqi farmers will be required to pay royalties for the new seeds and they will be forbidden from saving seeds. In other words, Iraqi farmers will become agricultural producers for export, a recipe for the introduction of hunger in Iraq, not unknown in many developing countries.

Evidence shows that Western “bio-prospectors” have been using indigenous genetic material taken from their traditional owners. It is this kind of looting or “biopiracy” that is contributing to the destruction of farmers in the developing world, because they have lost control of what they sow, grow, reap and eat.

All of this was imposed by the US on Iraq without discussion or debate.

Unless an independent, truly sovereign Iraqi government repeals these edicts, they will override Iraq’s original patent law which prohibited private ownership of biological resources. This is another reason the US Military will remain in Iraq into the foreseeable future. It’s not just the oil, and it has almost nothing to do with AQI terrorism. There is money to be made in the rape of Iraq. The people of Iraq will continue to resist and as long as they do our military will be needed to quell the unrest, or as some would say, to fight the terrorists, the terrorists of our own making.

Try to imagine the consequences of the multinational agribusinesses withholding seeds from farmers of Iraq or any other country for political  or strategically important reasons. If one believes we would never do that I suggest re-reading George Kennan’s statement in the introduction to this diary.

X posted at Orange


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  1. When the US talks about shaping the battlefield, they don’t mean militarily.

    I wonder what it takes to bring down a company. Don’t even call for a boycott, just make it popular fact that XYZ’s genetically modified seeds create hellishly deformed children.

  2. this is our fight. to stop these people because we, those who think like us, are not them

    nationality allegiances go out the door and it become a network of kingdoms with a more modern name of corporation…

    these are old model thinkers making a desperate last grasp at dominance. they are not capable of understanding or accepting that destruction of environment and peoples will eventually destroy them.

    with technology, weaponry, and means of travel, they don’t have to contain regions with armies anymore. they can withhold food… water… energy sources.

    it’s a different game. one we can change. we can stop them, and now, while we still have the veneer of democracy, is the best time to stand up and do it with netroots and grassroots congressional seats, school board seats, a network of citizens in all states getting infrastructure ready for another Constitutional Conventions… stop using our credit cards… lots of things.

    and so the battle continues… of the oppressed saying no to oppressors…

  3. are straight out of Orwell.

    • Edger on April 9, 2008 at 16:57

    The Kissinger quote is an eye opening example of doublespeak…

    The world is increasingly dependent on mineral supplies from developing countries, and if rapid population growth frustrates their prospects for economic development and social progress, the resulting instability may undermine the conditions for expanded output and sustained flows of resources…

    Interesting how his persepctive(?) defines “The world” as America, and euphemizes people (insurgencies) in other parts of the world wanting to keep control of their resources and fighting imperialism and hegemony as undermine[ing] the conditions necessary for “The world” to take what it wants.

    Is Bush Incompetent – Or The Last Resort?

    Absolutely convinced we possess the right to pursue our “happiness” and “security”, regardless of the cost to the Earth and the rest of its sentient inhabitants, we US Americans are in a race to hoard the most toys, to eat the most food, to have the most orgasms, to be the best looking, and to be the biggest winners as we engage in a repugnant orgy of narcissistic and gluttonous hedonism.

    We wage war perpetually, strip the world bare like a swarm of locusts, and give virtually nothing in return. Ensuring our “happiness” and “security” extracts a tremendous price from the rest of the Earth.

    Since it rose to military and economic hegemony at the close of World War II, the United States, its proxies, an array of US-installed ruthless reactionary tyrants, and the World Bank have worked in concert to slaughter, torture, and impoverish untold millions of human beings in the “developing world” in an endless quest to satiate our plutocracy’s insatiable thirst for power and treasure.

    Bush, his henchmen, and their multitude of war crimes are not anomalies.

  4. … at the Orange — food riots in Haiti.  There are some interesting links in the comments.

    This is already a severe problem and will cause great violence.

    Hard enough to take it all in, much less come up with solutions.

    Thanks for this great essay, Truong Son Traveler.  This is all interconnected and we need to have a good grasp of what is going on when it comes to world resources.

  5. The Kennan quote is mind boggling:

    We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.

    When I first read it, I was sure that the “not” had been left out.  Rather than embarking us on the road of greed, this sentence should read, “We must afford altruism and world benefaction, because we have so much and others have so little.”

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