The Neo-Colonial State of Exception in Occupied Iraq

The Neo-Colonial State of Exception in Occupied Iraq

David Whyte (University of Liverpool, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9675-4.ch015
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This paper explores the immediate post-conflict period following the 2003 Coalition invasion of Iraq, analysing the political strategy of economic exceptionalism violently and illegally imposed by the Coalition partners. The government of occupation, Coalition Provisional Authority, (CPA) ensured the disbursal of revenue and the accumulation of profits at an accelerated rate with few administrative controls or mechanisms of accountability. In the case of the post-invasion transformation of Iraq, routine corporate criminality, facilitated by the government of occupation, is revealed as an important means of producing and reproducing (neo) colonial power relations. The systematic corruption of the reconstruction economy unfolded in a liminal space opened up by the suspension of law. This neo-colonial ‘state of exception' became the mode of domination that sough political and social transformation as part of the ‘reconstruction' process in post-Saddam Iraq.
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Giorgio Agamben (2005) is perhaps the best known writer to analyse the form of contemporary states of exception. In his book State of Exception, he points out that the tendency of governments to resort to non-lawful means under the pretext of a ‘war on terror’ is nothing new. In a historical analysis that includes Napoleon’s state of siege in 1811, Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus in 1861, the Italian states of siege in Palermo, Naples and Milan in the latter half of the 19th century, Roosevelt’s assumption of extraordinary powers in 1933 and the Third Reich’s suspension of the Weimar Constitution, Agamben maps out the resort to ‘state of exception’ as a regular feature of modern states.

In so far as the state of exception depends upon the suspension of law to impose a new force of law, it’s relationship to the rule of law cannot be defined easily; it exists neither as a lawful state nor as a state of complete lawlessness. Rather a state of exception is a state of limbo that exists in an indeterminate space, oscillating between law (in so far as a sovereign authority issues a degree or order that is, by virtue of the fact it has been made by the sovereign, claims a legal source) and non-law (in so far as the normal rule of law, or the normal rules of legal procedure have been suspended or erased).

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