Flimsy Sanity: Naomi Klein via Huffington Post

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, October 15, 2007

Naomi Klein via Huffington Post

John Cusack: The Real Blackwater Scandal - Build a Frontier You Get Cowboys

I was just going to reference a little of this but it was hard to know where to stop. Please go and read the whole thing and buy her book.

You hear people complain about how Hezbollah is a "state-within-a-state" in Lebanon -- what about Blackwater in the USA? And that's just one company of hundreds, and a relatively small player compared to Lockheed and GE and Booz Allen. But once again, we can't keep being surprised by this shadow world -- it is an inevitable consequence of Rumsfeld's vision of an outsourced and contracted-out state. A right-wing journal in the U.S. called Blackwater "al Qaeda for the good guys" and it's a striking analogy. Wherever the disaster capitalism complex has landed, it has produced a proliferation of armed groupings outside the state. No surprise, really -- when countries are rebuilt by people who don't believe in government, the states they build are invariably weak, creating a market for alternative security forces, whether Hezbollah, Blackwater, the Mahdi Army or the gang down the street in New Orleans
Well the first place where we all saw this happen was in New Orleans after the flood. Within weeks, the Gulf Coast became a domestic laboratory for the same kind of government-run-by-contractors that was pioneered in Iraq. And the whole Green Zone gang was there: Halliburton, Blackwater, Parsons, Fluor, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill.
But again, this is way more than just a story about shoddy work by contractors. These private companies were actually taking over state functions instead of rebuilding the public sphere. And in New Orleans, the supreme irony was that it was the very frail public sphere that caused the disaster in the first place when the levees broke and the public transit system couldn't handle the evacuation and FEMA was nowhere to be found.
This is the opposite of the New Deal, when public works created good jobs and strengthened society. In today's disasters, public money floods into corporate coffers and those corporations replace the public sphere. Look at New Orleans today: public schools have been converted into charter schools, public housing remains boarded up as condo developers circle, the levee system remains inadequate, and the city's largest public hospital -- Charity Hospital -- is still closed. Meanwhile, contractors are driving down wages and working conditions, with African-Americans virtually locked out of reconstruction jobs, and migrant Latino workers locked in, telling horror stories of modern day indentured servitude. This is what I mean when I say that disasters are dress rehearsals for a sci-fi vision of corporate rule -- it's not just that disaster response is being privatized, it's that in places like Baghdad and New Orleans, the public sphere is disappearing completely and there is no plan to bring it back. This is the warfare state you send up so brilliantly in War Inc [see the trailer here and a preview clip here] -- with the same company selling the bombs and the prosthetic limbs for the victims of those bombs. It's crazy, but we are really not that far off from your twisted imagination!
Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, but it was economically insignificant compared to today's disaster capitalism complex. Before 2001, wars and disasters only provided opportunities for a narrow sector of the economy -- the makers of fighter jets, for instance, or the construction companies that rebuilt bombed-out bridges. The primary economic role of wars was as a means to open new markets that had been sealed off and to generate postwar peacetime booms. Now wars and disaster responses are so fully privatized that they are themselves the new market; there is no need to wait until after the war for the boom -- the medium is the message.
It's the mother of all con jobs -- free market rhetoric is being used as the cover story for crony capitalism... They are the biggest welfare freaks on the planet.
it's most outrageous in Iraq. When I was in Baghdad, it was clear that this was one of the things that most enraged Iraqis -- watching the non-stop conveyor belt of corporate welfare going to western companies while having to listen to patronizing lectures about the free market. My favorite was from Michael Fleischer -- former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's brother. In the kind of nepotism rampant in the Green Zone, Michael was put in charge of Iraq's "private sector development" during the first year of the occupation. At one point he told a group of Iraqi business leaders that they would have to lose all their subsidies and trade protections because "protected businesses never, never become competitive."
In fact, the Disaster Capitalism industry has been built almost exclusively with public resources: 90 percent of Blackwater's revenues come from state contracts and virtually its entire staff is made up of former soldiers, which means that the training also came at public expense. Yet this vast infrastructure is all privately owned and controlled. The citizens who have funded it have absolutely no claim to this shadow state or its resources.
So I've become quite cynical about the claim that the architects of this new system are free-market ideologues. They are in fact corporate supremacists. The proof is that they will betray their supposed libertarian beliefs at the slightest opportunity if that betrayal will turn a profit for a crony company. You see the hypocrisy most shamelessly in the mega-contracts handed out so private companies can help the Bush administration read our emails and data-mine our lives. It's a kind of triple whammy of hypocrisy: these are people who purportedly believe in restrained government spending, individual liberties, and getting government off our backs, yet without hesitation they will expand the reach of the state, gobble up public money, and violate individual privacy, so long as there is profit in it. Calling the Bush gang "ideologues" gives them way too much credit.


  • At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My brother was one of those who benefitted from the surveillance mega-contracts; he would boast that he sold his spyware to every intelligence agency in the world so they could compose a portfolio on any internet user within five seconds...

    but in a stunning display of mental myopia he divorced himself from the ramifications of possible misuse by saying he had no idea what these intelligence agencies actually did with that information, and he was not responsible for what they did with his product.

    Any of my criticisms were met with platitudes like, "It will improve healthcare," or even more incredibly, "It helps the spread of democracy."

    It's really like being married to Hitler. You don't know whether to cut his head off while he sleeps, or make him pancakes for breakfast.



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