Friday, December 09, 2005

30,000 new Iraqi businesses are the problem!

On Wednesday, December 7, Margaret Warner of the News Hours with Jim Lehrer interviewed a USAID official named James Kunder, who defended the president's viewpoint in his speech about Iraq. Electricity shortages were mentioned by a Democratic senator, and Warner asked Kunder about that. Kunder said the most stark, intellectually craven thing:

"There are more than 30,000 new businesses that have started since the military action commenced, and I'd like to point out the fact that while we have a problem in not being able to meet electricity demand in Baghdad and across the country, part of the problem is -- the problem, if you call it that -- is that there have been so many new Iraqi businesses started in many parts of the country, that we can't keep up with the demand."

This attempt to deceive is an insult to our intelligence, but it has a sort of beautiful logic: The problem cannot be that we are unable to supply electricity, so the problem therefore must be too much new demand, due to the vibrant new Iraqi economy. The language of deception is also skillful: While implying that new demand is the only problem, he slips in weasel words ("part of the problem") so that he doesn't actually say that.

It's a classic piece of lying.

I am further amused because it also resonates with the concepts used a while back to justify Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. You may remember a lot of talk about benefitting "small businesses." We were supposed to not realize that these "businesses" were just private individual wealth being invested in securities and real estate.

Likewise, when the 400,000-strong Iraqi Army is disbanded by the administration, and those sorry suckers start trying to sell their boots, rifles, RPGs and ammo, that's "new business." It may not require electricity to sell an RPG, but since we're dealing in hypotheticals and fiction here, you can put your hand down.

Never mind the near impossibility of an ordinary Iraqi trying to rent or buy a space in Iraq that has electricity, much less actually starting to draw power from the grid. We're supposed to imagine lots of new businesses creating so much new demand that ordinary residences cannot get power for hours at a stretch.

According to the CIA, the population of Iraq is 26,074,906. Divide the 30,000 fictional businesses into that, and we get one fictional business for every 869.16 Iraqis. Does that sound like a level of economic upturn that should mean Riverbend should go without power for six or eight hours at a stretch? To quote her: "The electricity schedule in what appears to be most areas in Baghdad is currently FIVE hours of no electricity for every one hour of electricity."

I hate to be the one to say it, but I think most of those 30,000 new businesses are small craft shops making IEDs, or synergistically leveraging the employee knowledge base to tear down the Iraqi power grid.
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