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Context of 'Early August 2003: Bush Appoints Friend to Help with Privatization of Iraqi State-Owned Businesses'

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George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

Robert G. Joseph, director for nonproliferation at the National Security Council.Robert G. Joseph, director for nonproliferation at the National Security Council. [Source: CBC]Embarrassed and angered by CIA Director George Tenet’s refusal to support the use of the Iraq-Niger uranium claim in President Bush’s upcoming State of the Union speech (see October 5, 2002, October 6, 2002, January 27, 2003, and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003), the White House decides to go behind Tenet’s back to get CIA approval for publicly citing the claim in the speech. Robert Joseph, director for nonproliferation at the National Security Council (NSC), telephones Alan Foley, director of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), and mentions plans to include the Africa-uranium claim in Bush’s upcoming State of the Union address. When Foley warns that the allegation has little evidence to support it, Joseph instead suggests including a statement about the British learning that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa, leaving out the bit about Niger and the exact quantity of uranium that was allegedly sought. [Washington Post, 7/17/2003; New York Times, 7/17/2003; Time, 7/21/2003; Washington Post, 7/27/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 273-274] Foley apparently has no qualms about putting his bureau’s stamp of approval on the claim, having already told his staff, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.” Foley rationalizes that if Bush attributes the claim to British intelligence, he can make it without having to worry whether it is actually true. The fact that the CIA has repeatedly labeled the British reports as untrustworthy does not stop Foley from vetting the claim. [Unger, 2007, pp. 273-274] Joseph will claim he does not recall the discussion, and White House communications director Dan Bartlett will call Foley’s version of events a “conspiracy theory.” [Washington Post, 7/27/2003]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Dan Bartlett, Central Intelligence Agency, Alan Foley, Robert G. Joseph, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Jay Hallen, a 24-year old Yale graduate, is bored with his job at a real-estate firm. He is fascinated with the Middle East, and has taken some Arabic classes and read some history books about the region. He contacts Reuben Jeffrey, an adviser to CPA head L. Paul Bremer whom Hallen had met in 2002 when trying to land a job at the White House, and asks if there is a job for him in Baghdad.
'I Don't Have a Finance Background' - Three weeks later, Hallen is in Baghdad, and meets with Thomas Foley, the CPA official in charge of privatizing Iraq’s state-owned enterprises. Foley, a former classmate of President Bush and a major Republican donor, says he is putting Hallen in charge of Baghdad’s stock exchange. Hallen is shocked. “Are you sure?” Hallen asks. “I don’t have a finance background.” No problem, Foley responds. He will be the project manager; his subordinates will do the actual work. Before the invasion, Baghdad’s stock exchange was primitive by American standards; author Rajiv Chandrasekaran will describe it as loud, boisterous, and, despite all appearances, quite functional. After the invasion it was looted to the bare walls and ignored by the first wave of US economic reconstruction specialists. But Iraqi brokers and businessmen want it reopened, so the CPA acquiesces.
Revamping the Exchange - Hallen launches an ambitious, if almost entirely ignorant, plan to modernize and upgrade the stock exchange to make it the most technologically sophisticated exchange in the Arab world. He also wants to implement a new securities law that would make the exchange independent of the Finance Ministry. The Iraqi brokers and businessmen who clamored for the exchange to reopen are horrified at Hallen’s plans. “People are broke and bewildered,” broker Talib Tabatabai—a graduate of Florida State’s business department—tells Hallen. “Why do you want to create enemies? Let us open the way we were.” Tabatabai, like other brokers, believes Hallen’s plan is ludicrously grandiose. “It was something so fancy, so great, that it couldn’t be accomplished,” he will later recall. But Hallen is unmoved.
Hallen's View - “Their laws and regulations were completely out of step with the modern world,” Hallen will later say. “There was just no transparency in anything. It was more of a place for Saddam and his friends to buy up private companies that they otherwise didn’t have a stake in.” To just reopen the exchange the way it was, Hallen will insist, “would have been irresponsible and short-sighted.” Hallen recruits a team of American volunteers, most with no more experience or knowledge of finance than he has, to rewrite the securities laws, train the brokers, and purchase the necessary computers. By the spring of 2004, CPA head Bremer approves the new laws and appoints nine Iraqis hand-picked by Hallen to become the exchange’s board of governors.
No CPA Role - The new exchange board names Tabatabai as its chairman. The new laws have no place for a CPA adviser as a decision-maker; immediately a conflict between Hallen and the board arises. Hallen wants to wait several more months for the new computer system to arrive and be installed; unwilling to wait, Tabatabai and the board members buy dozens of dry-erase boards for the exchange floor, and two days after Hallen’s tour ends, the exchange is open for business. Without CPA oversight, the exchange quickly begins functioning more or less as it did before the invasion. When asked what would have happened had Hallen not been assigned to reopen the exchange, Tabatabai will answer: “We would have opened months earlier. He had grand ideas, but those ideas did not materialize.… Those CPA people reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2006]

Entity Tags: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Reuben Jeffrey, Talib Tabatabai, Thomas Foley, Iraq Finance Ministry, Coalition Provisional Authority, Jay Hallen, L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

President Bush appoints Thomas Foley to the new position of director of private-sector development for the interim US authority in Iraq. Foley, a corporate turnaround expert and multi-millionaire investor, attended Harvard Business School with President Bush and served as the Connecticut finance chairman for Bush’s 2000 campaign. Foley’s task will be to help open Iraq up to foreign investment and to privatize more than 200 state-owned industries, including mining, chemical, cement, and tobacco companies. Excluded from the privatization plan will be Iraq’s oil, utility, and insurance industries. [Financial Times, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/2/2003] The targeted industries currently employ close to 500,000 workers, or three to four percent of the country’s total workforce. Many Iraqis are unhappy with the plan. They say only an elected Iraqi government should make such decisions. According to Fareed Yasseen, adviser to Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi, the assets will probably be sold off to foreign firms and Iraqi merchants who grew wealthy off their connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime, since they are the only ones who will be able to afford to make the purchases. He warns, “If you have a situation where state assets are sold to foreigners or result in large layoffs, this will lead to popular unrest.” [USA Today, 8/9/2007]

Entity Tags: Thomas Foley, George W. Bush, Fareed Yasseen

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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