The Soils of War

The top grossing film in the United States this weekend was Argo, an above average caper about how the CIA smuggled six embassy staff out of the country during the Iran hostage crisis.

Argo’s Agricultural Attaché (right)

No, there weren’t any terribly sympathetic Iranian characters other than a demure domestic worker – every other Iranian is a swivel-eyed fanatic. But, to be fair, the film tosses Hollywood’s How To Demonize the Middle East rulebook at the beginning of the movie, with a good potted history. First, the Iranians democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh. He nationalized the country’s oil, much to the chagrin of BP, and was subsequently deposed in a CIA/MI5 coup. The US installed the Shah’s tyranny which, in turn, incubated the Ayatollah. Don’t see that too often in Hollywood. The fate of the domestic worker is concisely, and wryly, observed too.

The embassy workers who made it out are a quirky bunch of misfits. All of them are in the visa-issuing business, it seems, except one. The quirkiest of them all is Henry Schatz, the 31 year old agricultural attaché, played by Rory Cochrane (channeling Nick Frost) as the kind of man who probably has a small gun in the back of his underpants. Agricultural attachés, bless them – the hick cousins of the more urbane passport-stamping crowd. What could be more comic?

Except that, in general, it is the job of this person to undermine a country’s food sovereignty, either by promoting the export of the host country’s food or to encourage the purchase of agricultural hardware and food from the attaché’s home country. This is known as ‘agricultural and trade cooperation’.

If this sounds more than a little cynical, do have a look at GRAIN’s latest 2009 report, The Soils of War, in which you can read how consular agricultural aid has been a means for US agribusiness to get its hands on desirable chunks of Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, the US isn’t the only country to have such bagmen in its embassies. From Australia to China, similar positions exist. And the two things such positions have in common is that they have yet to be consigned to history, and they’re not that funny.


2 Replies to “The Soils of War”

  1. ON IRAQ
    William Engdahl writes “Bremer’s Order 81 – The CPA explicitly defined the legal importance of the 100 Orders to leave no doubt that they were, indeed, orders. An Order was defined as, ‘binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people that create penal consequences or have a direct bearing on the way Iraqis are regulated, including changes to Iraqi law.’ In other words, Iraqis were told, ‘do it or die.’ The law of occupation was supreme.

    Buried deep among the Bremer laws was Order 81, ‘Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law’.

    At the heart of Order 81 was the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) provision. Order 81, states: ‘Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph (C) of Article 14 of this Chapter.’

    In plain English, this gives holders of patents on certain plant varieties, i.e. large foreign multinationals, absolute rights for 20 years over use of their seeds in Iraqi agriculture. The protected plant varieties are Genetically Modified or Gene Manipulated (GM) plants, and an Iraqi farmer who chose to plant such seeds must sign an agreement with the seed company holding the patent that he would pay a ‘technology fee’ and an annual license fee for planting the patented seeds.

    Any Iraqi farmer seeking to take a portion of those patented seeds to replant in following harvest years would be subject to heavy fines from the seed supplier. Iraqi farmers would become vassals, not of Saddam Hussein, but of multinational GM seed giants.”


    Antonia Juhasz 2006, author of ‘The Bush Agenda’:

    “The plan was written two months before the invasion of Iraq by a company, Bearing Point Inc., which is based in Virginia – it was KPMG Consulting until it changed its name in the wake of the Arthur Anderson-Enron corruption scandals. The company is not well-known. It works behind the scenes for every branch of government, and it provides all kinds of consulting services. Bearing point received a $250 million contract from USAID to write a remodeled structure for the Iraqi economy. It was to transition Iraq from a state-controlled economy to a market economy, but I argue that the new model was more a state-controlled economy that is controlled on behalf of multinational corporations, and heavily regulated in fact on behalf of multinational corporations. It just no longer serves the public interest. Bearing point’s plan was implemented to a T by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of Iraq’s coalition government.”

    A Militarised Neo-Liberalism:
    Australia’s Economic Policies in Post Saddam Iraq

    Further links
    Published on Sunday, June 24, 2012 by Common Dreams
    Patenting Staple Foods (Bremer’s Order 81) Is Ruinous to Iraq’s Agriculture by Adnan Al-Daini. 2004
    Context of ‘October 18, 1907: Hague Convention Prohibits Occupying Powers from Changing Laws of Occupied Country’

    Note Wiki:
    “…BearingPoint’s origins lie in the consulting services operations of KPMG, which became a distinct business unit in 1997. Following demerger from KPMG in 2000 and an IPO in 2001, the company was renamed BearingPoint Inc. in October 2002. BearingPoint became one of the world’s largest providers of management and technology consulting services, with operations in more than 60 countries and approximately 17,100 employees. In February 2009 the company’s US unit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[4] Following restructuring and a management buyout in August 2009, BearingPoint’s continuing operations have been organized as a Netherlands-based partnership…”

    “August 2009 to present:
    On 28 August 2009, control of BearingPoint was transferred to its European management team, with continuing operations owned by about 120 Partners in 14 countries throughout Europe. Peter Mockler, who had been serving as the EMEA leader for BearingPoint since 2006, and his management team continued to lead the organisation, providing leadership stability and continuity. Employing 3,250 people in the European region, the independent company kept the BearingPoint brand. In Australia, BearingPoint completed a local management buy out in September 2009. The China-based information technology company HiSoft acquired BearingPoint Australia for an undisclosed sum in July 2012.”

  2. New Report from War on Want:

    “The UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) is using the aid budget to tighten the corporate stranglehold over the global food system.

    This report reveals how DFID has been using hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money with the express purpose of extending the power of agribusiness over the production of food, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. While this will increase the profits of corporate giants such as Monsanto, Unilever and Syngenta, it threatens to disempower small farmers and rural communities and condemn them to long-term poverty.”

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