(Health Impact News) Food freedom is a hot topic here in the U.S., especially regarding the Raw Milk wars. The government is coming down hard on small-scale dairy farms that are selling raw milk to consumers eager to buy it. The battle has been well documented in the media and blogs throughout the U.S.  But perhaps unknown to the general public is the fact that the industrial model for our current dairy production here in the U.S. has also been attempted to be promoted to the Iraqi people as well, replacing fresh raw milk with industrialized processed milk – with your tax dollars.

Peter Van Buren, a 23-year foreign service officer with the U.S Department of State, has recently published his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Iraqi People, and was interviewed in National Public Radio yesterday. From the book’s website:

We Meant Well is Peter’s eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge—that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world we had just destroyed. Leading a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team on its quixotic mission, Van Buren details, with laser-like irony, his yearlong encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world’s largest embassy, who fail to realize that you can’t rebuild a country without first picking up the trash.

The book has caused quite a stir, and Mr. Van Buren has stated on his blog that the State Department does not like it, and is trying to prevent it from being distributed. Mr. Van Buren also wrote a column at TomDispatch.com this morning explaining how the State Department has fired him after 23 years of service for supposedly linking to WikiLeaks from his blog. Fortunately, the book is available via Kindle (for the moment), so I downloaded a copy while it was still available.

Since we have published stories in the past regarding what has happened to native agriculture in Iraq with the introduction of Big Ag and GMO patent-able seeds, I was very intrigued to read about Mr. Van Buren’s personal accounts in working with Iraqi agriculture during the one year he spent in Iraq.  One chapter that caught my attention right away was the chapter “Milking the US Government.”

As the book explains, the idea was to develop a milk industry that would provide jobs and an industry that would lure young men out of the ranks of al Qeda and terrorism. Millions of dollars were spent on this project, apparently with no regard as to how the Big Dairy industry was failing miserably in the U.S. for many years now. As Mr. Van Buren explains:

We were going to change the way farmers sold milk. From year zero, Iraqi farmers in our area had raised a cow or two each. The farmers kept some of the milk for themselves, selling the excess to their neighbors. Lacking refrigeration, transportation, and an organized distribution system, each area instead sought a delicate balance between the number of cows, the number of people, and the need for milk. It worked well enough for everyone but us. Without checking with the farmers, we decided to modernize the whole milk chain to create jobs. Farmers would sell their milk to our newly built centralized collection centers equipped with refrigerated tanks, and the centers would then sell the bulk milk to dairy-processing plants, also built by us. The processing plants were expected to sell to the farmers’ neighbors, who would surely be waiting around wondering what happened to the friendly farmer who used to bring fresh milk around daily.
Van Buren, Peter (2011). We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project) (p. 81). Metropolitan Books. Kindle Edition.

Sound familiar? Replace the local “milkman” with a highly processed and industrialized system. Fortunately for the Iraqis, the whole project failed. Unfortunately for the American taxpayers, we paid for that failure.

This is just one of many stories that Mr. Van Buren relates, regarding the $63 billon (and counting) reconstruction effort in Iraq, and how it has failed miserably. I encourage you to pick up the book, while you still can.

Note: According to a blog entry on Mr. Van Buren’s site, he had lunch with Congressman Dr. Ron Paul and four other Congressmen who work closely with him back in June of this year. Dr. Paul was one of only six Congresspeople who voted against the Iraq war in 2002. The Congressman and Mr. Van Buren reportedly spent over an hour together, with Dr. Paul asking some very probing questions. He and his foreign affairs staffer, who has read the book, agreed that the chapter Chicken ****, about a failed $2.58 million project to process chicken in rural Iraq, best captured the insanity of what we faced in Iraq. One can only hope that other politicians will investigate the waste we are spending around the world in places like Iraq.

Related Articles:

The collapse of native Iraqi agriculture, and the prosper of US Biotech and GMOs in Iraq

Afghanistan’s Last Locavores

and what agriculture is like where we have not yet occupied the country and where American biotech businesses are not allowed:

Organic Farming in Iran: Government has goal of 25% of Agriculture to be Organic in Near Future