|December 6, 2007|
|Naomi Klein Makes Sense of the Bush Administration's Gross Incompetence|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Naomi Klein has done it again. She took on the “brand bullies” in 1999 with her classic book, “No Logo.” Klein has now achieved the impossible. The Canadian writer has made sense of the Bush White House.|
The Bush Administration did not screw up New Orleans and the “War on Terror,” according to an impressive new book by Klein. It was part of a grand plan.
She contends that the gross incompetence displayed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (e.g., “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”) and bungled occupation of Iraq is at the core of “disaster capitalism,” which views either natural or man-made catastrophes as exiting business opportunities.
In “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” Klein writes that a war, hurricane, coup, or terror attack can put an “entire population into a state of collective shock.” The resulting “clean slate” allows a government and its corporate allies to re-write the old rules.
For instance, though the floodwaters of New Orleans had barely receded, conservatives were busy with plans to rid the city of its public schools, replacing them with “charter schools.” While levees and the electricity grid were repaired at a “glacial pace,” the auctioning off of the New Orleans school system took place with "military speed and precision,” according to Klein.
There were 123 public schools in the Big Easy prior to Katrina. The school board is now responsible for four. The number of charter schools rose from seven prior to the storm to 31. The teachers’ union contract was shredded and 4,700 of its members were fired, replaced by non-union educators. It was a stunning victory for the privatization crowd.
Of the War on Terror, Klein writes:
“To kick-start the disaster capitalism complex, the Bush Administration outsourced with no public debate, many of the most sensitive and core functions of government—from providing healthcare to soldiers, to interrogating prisoners, to gathering and data mining information on all of us.”
Uncle Sam’s role in this “unending war is not of an administrator managing a network of contractors but of a deep-pocketed venture capitalist, both providing its seed money for the complex’s creation and becoming the biggest customer of its service.”
To demonstrate the scope of the transformation, Klein notes that in 2003, the U.S. issued 3,512 contracts to perform security jobs. The Dept. of Homeland Security, an entity at “Ground Zero” of the disaster complex, issued 115,000 security contracts from 2004 to 2006. The global homeland security market, which was created by the selling of fear post 9/11, is now a $200B market.
Wars and disasters used to be manna for defense contractors and construction companies needed to rebuild cities. That has utterly changed, according to Klein: “Now wars and disaster responses are so fully privatized that they themselves are the new market, there is no need to wait until after the war for the boom—the medium is the message.”
Klein deserves another pat on the back for her work. This blogger hopes Shock Doctrine is under a lot of Christmas trees this year. It is a much needed wake-up call for America.
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