Naomi Klein on the Rise of Disaster Capitalism


Richard Moore

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Monday, September 17th, 2007
The Shock Doctrine: Naomi Klein on the Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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Pinochet's coup in Chile. The massacre in Tiananmen Square. The collapse of the 
Soviet Union. September 11th, 2001. The war on Iraq. The Asian tsunami and 
Hurricane Katrina. Award-winning investigative journalist Naomi Klein brings 
together all of these world-changing events in her new book, "The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." In her first national broadcast 
interview since the publication of "The Shock Doctrine," Klein joins us in our 
firehouse studio for the hour. Klein writes, "The history of the contemporary 
free market was written in shocks." She argues that "Some of the most infamous 
human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have tended to be 
viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact 
either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or 
actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical 
free-market reforms." [includes rush transcript]

Economist Milton Friedman once said, "Only a crisis produces real change. When 
that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are 
lying around. " Naomi Klein examines some of what she considers the most 
dangerous ideas -- Friedmanite economics -- and exposes how catastrophic events 
are both extremely profitable to corporations and have also allowed governments 
to push through what she calls "disaster capitalism."

Klein writes in the introduction to "The Shock Doctrine" that "The history of 
the contemporary free market was written in shocks." She argues that "Some of 
the most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which 
have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic 
regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing
the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of 
radical free-market reforms."

I want to begin by playing excerpts from a short documentary co-written by Naomi
Klein and "Children of Men" director Alfonso Cuaron. It's directed by Cuaron's 
son, Jonas. It's also called "The Shock Doctrine" and premiered last week at 
film festivals in Venice and Toronto.

€ The Shock Doctrine Short Film, a film by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein, 
directed by Jonás Cuarón.

- Click to watch the entire film

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, the bestselling author of "No Logo" 
and the co-director of "The Take." Her latest book is called "The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." She joins us in the firehouse studio
for the hour.

€ Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist, the bestselling author of "No Logo" and
the co-director of "The Take." Her latest book is called "The Shock Doctrine: 
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." More information at


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AMY GOODMAN: Pinochet¹s coup in Chile, the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the 
collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11th, the war on Iraq, the Asian tsunami
and Hurricane Katrina. Award-winning investigative journalist Naomi Klein brings
together all these world-changing events in her new book. It¹s called The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Economist Milton Friedman once said, ³Only a crisis produces real change. When 
that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are 
lying around.² Naomi Klein examines some of what she considers the most 
dangerous ideas -- Friedmanite economics -- and exposes how catastrophic events 
are both extremely profitable to corporations and have also allowed governments 
to push through what she calls ³disaster capitalism.²

Naomi Klein writes in the introduction to Shock Doctrine the quote, ³The history
of the contemporary free market was written in shocks.² She argues, ³Some of the
most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have 
tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, 
were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the 
public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of 
radical free-market reforms.²

I want to begin by playing excerpts from a short documentary co-written by Naomi
Klein and Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron. It¹s directed by Cuaron¹s son
Jonas. It¹s also called The Shock Doctrine. It premiered last week at film 
festivals in Venice and Toronto.

€ NEWSREEL: The 1940s have been a decade of breakthroughs and developments in 
medicine and psychiatry. Scientists have developed a new technology to cure 
mentally ill adults. With the use of electroshocks, the minds of sick patients 
are being wiped clean, giving them a fresh start. On this blank slate, 
physicians then imprint a new healthy personality.

€ NAOMI KLEIN: Remaking people, shocking them into obedience. This is a story 
about that powerful idea. In the 1950s, it caught the attention of the CIA. The 
agency funded a series of experiments. Out of them was produced a secret 
handbook on how to break down prisoners. The key was using shock to reduce 
adults to a childlike state.

€ TEXT: The following narration is excerpted from the CIA's 1963 and 1983 
interrogation manuals.

€ NARRATION: It¹s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these are 
techniques are, in essence, methods of inducing regression of the personality. 
There is an interval, which may be extremely brief, of suspended animation, a 
kind of psychological shock or paralysis. Experienced interrogators recognize 
this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the source is far more 
open to suggestion, far likelier to comply, than he was just before he 
experienced the shock.

€ NAOMI KLEIN: But these techniques don't only work on individuals; they can 
work on whole societies: a collective trauma, a war, a coup, a natural disaster,
a terrorist attack puts us all into a state of shock. And in the aftermath, like
the prisoner in the interrogation chamber, we, too, become childlike, more 
inclined to follow leaders who claim to protect us.

€ One person who understood this phenomenon early on was the famous economist of
our era, Milton Friedman. Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in 
which profit and the market drive every aspect of life, from schools to 
healthcare, even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, 
deregulating all prices and eviscerating government services.

€ These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. 
They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, and make life more 
precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman
and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock.

€ NARRATION: The subject should be rudely awakened and immediately blindfolded 
and handcuffed. When arrested at this time, most subjects experience intense 
feelings of shock, insecurity and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent 
the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

€ NAOMI KLEIN: Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for 
interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to 
soften us up for his radical free-market crusade. He advised politicians that 
immediately after a crisis, they should push through all the painful policies at
once, before people could regain their footing. He called this method ³economic 
shock treatment.² I call it ³the shock doctrine.²

€ Take a second look at the iconic events of our era, and behind many you will 
find its logic at work. This is the secret history of the free market. It wasn't
born in freedom and democracy; it was born in shock.

€ NARRATION: Isolation, both physical and psychological, must be maintained from
the moment of apprehension. The capacity for resistance is diminished by 
disorientation. Prisoners should maintain silence at all times. They should 
never be allowed to speak to each other.

€ NAOMI KLEIN: There¹s one other thing I¹ve learned from my study of states of 
shock: shock wears off. It is, by definition, a temporary state. And the best 
way to stay oriented, to resist shock, is to know what is happening to you and 

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of The Shock Doctrine, directed by Jonas Cuaron, 
co-written by Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron with Naomi Klein. You can 
watch the entire film online. We¹ll link to it at This is 
Democracy Now!,

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, the bestselling author of No Logo 
and the co-director of the film The Take. Her latest book is called The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Naomi Klein joins me for the hour in 
our firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!

NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It¹s very good to have you with us. Why don't you start off by 
talking about exactly what you consider to be the shock doctrine?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, the shock doctrine, like all doctrines, is a philosophy of 
power. It¹s a philosophy about how to achieve your political and economic goals.
And this is a philosophy that holds that the best way, the best time, to push 
through radical free-market ideas is in the aftermath of a major shock. Now, 
that shock could be an economic meltdown. It could be a natural disaster. It 
could be a terrorist attack. It could be a war. But the idea, as you just saw in
the film, is that these crises, these disasters, these shocks soften up whole 
societies. They discombobulate them. People lose their bearings. And a window 
opens up, just like the window in the interrogation chamber. And in that window,
you can push through what economists call ³economic shock therapy.² That¹s sort 
of extreme country makeovers. It¹s everything all at once. It¹s not, you know, 
one reform here, one reform there, but the kind of radical change that we saw in
Russia in the 1990s, that Paul Bremer tried to push through in Iraq after the 
invasion. So that¹s the shock doctrine.

And it¹s not claiming that right-wingers in a contemporary age are the only 
people who have ever exploited crisis, because this idea of exploiting a crisis 
is not unique to this particular ideology. Fascists have done it. State 
communists have done it. But this is an attempt to better understand the 
ideology that we live with, the dominant ideology of our time, which is 
unfettered market economics.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain who Milton Friedman is, who you take on in a big way in 
this book.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I take on Milton Friedman because he is the symbol of the 
history that I am trying to challenge. Milton Friedman died last year. He died 
in 2006. And when he died, we heard him described in very lavish tributes as 
probably the most important intellectual of the post-war period, not just the 
most important economist, but the most important intellectual. And I think that 
a strong argument can be made for that. This was an adviser to Thatcher, to 
Nixon, to Reagan, to the current Bush administration. He tutored Donald Rumsfeld
in the early days of his career. He advised Pinochet in the 1970s. He also 
advised the Communist Party of China in the key reform period in the late 1980s.
So he had enormous influence. And I was talking to somebody the other day who 
described him as the Karl Marx for capitalism. And I think that¹s not a bad 
description, although I¹m sure Marx wouldn¹t have liked it very much. But he was
really a popularizer of these ideas.

He had a vision of society, in which the only acceptable role for the state was 
to enforce contracts and to protect borders. Everything else should be 
completely left to the market, whether education, national parks, the post 
office; everything that could be performed at a profit should be. And he really 
saw, I guess, shopping -- buying and selling -- as the highest form of 
democracy, as the highest form of freedom. And his best-known book was 
Capitalism and Freedom.

So, you know, when he died last year, we were all treated to a retelling of the 
official version of how these radical free-market ideas came to dominate the 
globe, how they swept through the former Soviet Union, Latin America, Africa, 
you know, how these ideas triumphed over the past thirty-five years. And I was 
so struck, because I was in the middle of writing this book, that we never heard
about violence, and we never heard about crises, and we never heard about 
shocks. I mean, the official story is that these ideas triumphed because we 
wanted them to, that the Berlin Wall fell and people demanded their Big Macs 
along with their democracy. And, you know, the official story of the rise of 
this ideology goes through Margaret Thatcher saying, ³There is no alternative,² 
to Francis Fukuyama saying, ³History has ended. Capitalism and freedom go hand 
in hand.²

And so, what I¹m trying to do with this book is tell that same story, the key 
junctures where this ideology has leapt forward, but I¹m reinserting the 
violence, I¹m reinserting the shocks, and I¹m saying that there is a 
relationship between massacres, between crises, between major shocks and body 
blows to countries and the ability to impose policies that are actually rejected
by the vast majority of the people on this planet.

AMY GOODMAN: We¹re talking to Naomi Klein. Her new book is called The Shock 
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We'll be back with her in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today is Naomi Klein. She took the world by storm with 
her first book, No Logo. Now she is back with The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of 
Disaster Capitalism.

Naomi, you¹re talking about Milton Friedman. Expand it to the ³Chicago School.²

NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So the influence of Milton Friedman comes from his role in 
really being the popularizer of what¹s known as the ³Chicago School of 
Economics.² He taught at the University of Chicago. He studied, actually, at the
University of Chicago, and then he went on to be a professor there. He was 
mentored by one of the most radical free-market economists of our time, 
Friedrich von Hayek, who also taught for a time at the University of Chicago.

And the Chicago School of Economics really stands for this counterrevolution 
against the welfare state. In the 1950s, Harvard and Yale and the Ivy League 
schools tended to be dominated by Keynesian economists, people like the late 
John Kenneth Galbraith, who believe strongly that after the Great Depression, it
was crucial that economics serve as a moderating force of the market, that it 
soften its edges. And this was really the birth of the New Deal, the welfare 
state, all of those things that actually make the market less brutal, whether 
it¹s some kind of public healthcare system, unemployment insurance, welfare and 
so on. This was actually -- the post-war period was a period of tremendous 
economic growth and prosperity in this country and around the world, but it 
really did eat into the profit margins of the wealthiest people in the United 
States, because this was the period where the middle class really grew and 

So the importance of the University of Chicago Economics Department is that it 
really was a tool for Wall Street, who funded the University of Chicago very, 
very heavily. Walter Wriston, the head of Citibank, was very close friends with 
Milton Friedman, and the University of Chicago became kind of ground zero for 
this counterrevolution against Keynesianism and the New Deal to dismantle the 
New Deal. So in the ¹50s and ¹60s, it was seen as very, very marginal in the 
United States, because big government and the welfare state and all of these 
things that have become sort of dirty words in our lexicon thanks to the Chicago
School -- they didn't have access to the halls of power.

But that began to change. It began to change when Nixon was elected, because 
Nixon was very close with Milton Friedman, although Nixon decided not to embrace
these policies domestically, because he realized he would lose the next 
election. And this is where I think you first see the incompatibility of these 
free-market policies with a democracy, with peace, because when Nixon was 
elected, Friedman was brought in as an adviser -- he hired a whole bunch of 
Chicago School economists. And Milton Friedman writes in his memoirs that he 
thought, you know, finally their time had come. They were being brought in from 
the margins, and this sort of revolutionary group of these 
counterrevolutionaries were finally going to dismantle the welfare state in the 
USA. And what actually happened is that Nixon, you know, looked around, looked 
at the polls and realized that if he did what Milton Friedman was advising, he 
would absolutely lose the next election. And so, he did the worst thing 
possible, according to the Chicago School, which is impose wage and price 

And the irony is that two key Chicago School figures, Donald Rumsfeld, who had 
studied with Friedman as a sort of -- I guess he kind of audited his courses; he
wasn¹t enrolled as a student, but he describes this time as studying at the feet
of geniuses, and he describes himself as the ³young pup² at the University of 
Chicago -- and George Shultz were the two people who imposed wage and price 
controls under Nixon and when Nixon declared, ³We¹re all Keynesians now.² So for
Friedman this was a terrible betrayal, and it also made him think that maybe you
couldn't impose these policies in a democracy. And, you know, Nixon famously 
said, ³We¹re all Keynesians now,² but the catch was he wouldn¹t impose these 
policies at home, because it would have cost him the next election, and Nixon 
was reelected with a 60% margin after he imposed wage and price controls. But he
unleashed the school on Latin America and turned Chile, under Augusto Pinochet, 
into a laboratory for these radical ideas, which were not compatible with 
democracy in the United States but were infinitely possible under a dictatorship
in Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in Chile.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think Democracy Now! viewers and listeners know this 
chapter in history, which was that after Salvador Allende was elected, a 
democratic socialist was elected, in 1970, there was a plot to overthrow him. 
Nixon famously said, ³Make the economy scream.² And the plot had many elements, 
an embargo and so on, and finally the support for Pinochet¹s coup on September 
11, 1973. And we often hear about the Chicago Boys in Chile, but we don't hear 
that many details about who they actually were.

And so, what I do in the book is I retell this chapter of history, but, for me, 
the economic agenda of the Pinochet government is much more front and center, 
because I think we do know the human rights abuses, we know about Pinochet 
rounding up people, taking them to stadiums, the summary executions, the 
torture. We know a little bit less about the economic program that he pushed in 
in the window of opportunity that opened up after the shock of that coup. And 
this is where it fits into the shock doctrine thesis.

I think if you look at Chile -- and this is why I spend some time in the book 
looking at it and examining it -- we see Iraq. We see Iraq today. We see so many
similarities between the intersection of a manufactured crisis and the 
imposition of radical economic shock therapy right afterward. So I¹m thinking 
about the sort of parallels between Paul Bremer's period in Iraq, when he went 
into Baghdad with the city still burning and just -- you know, I came on the 
show at the time talking about how he had torn up the whole economic 
architecture of the country and turned it into this laboratory for the most 
radical free-market policies possible.

Well, in Chile, on September 11, 1973, while the tanks were rolling in the 
streets of Santiago, while the presidential palace was burning and Salvador 
Allende lay dead, there was a group of so-called ³Chicago Boys,² who were 
Chilean economists who had been brought to the University of Chicago to study on
full scholarship by the US government as part of a deliberate strategy to try to
move Latin America to the right, after it had moved so far to the left. So this 
was a very ideological government-funded program, part of what Chile¹s former 
foreign minister calls ³a project of deliberate ideological transfer,² i.e. 
bringing these students to this very extreme school at the University of Chicago
and indoctrinating them in a brand of economics that was marginal in the United 
States at the time and then sending them home as ideological warriors.

So this group of economists, who had failed to sway Chileans to their point of 
view when it was just part of, you know, an open debate, stayed up all night 
that night, on September 11, 1973, and they were photocopying a document called 
³the brick.² It¹s known as ³the brick.² And what it was was the economic program
for Pinochet¹s government. And it has these striking similarities, Amy, with 
George Bush's 2000 election strategy -- election platform. It talks about an 
ownership society, privatizing Social Security, charter schools, a flat tax. 
This is all straight out of Milton Friedman's playbook. This document was on the
desk of the generals on September the 12th, when they reported for work the day 
after the coup, and it was the program for Pinochet¹s government.

So what I¹m doing in the book is saying, you know, these two things are not 
coincidental. You know, when Pinochet died -- he died the same -- shortly before
Milton Friedman -- we heard -- or, actually, he died shortly after Milton 
Friedman --we heard this narrative, you know, in places like the Washington Post
and the Wall Street Journal, of, ³Of course, we disapprove of his human rights 
violations,² and this sort of, you know, shaking of fingers at the atrocities 
that we know about in Chile, ³but on the economy he was terrific,² as if there 
was no connection between the free-market revolution that he was able to push 
through and the extraordinary human rights violations that took place at the 
same time. And what I¹m doing in the book and what many Latin Americans do in 
their work is obviously connect the two and say it would have been impossible to
push through this economic program without the extraordinary repression and the 
demolition of democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about shock in the sense of torture. It¹s where you 
begin: ³Blank is Beautiful.² Talk about that.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I start the book looking at the two laboratories for the 
shock doctrine. As I said, I look at different forms of shock. One is the 
economic shock, and another is body shock, shocks to people. And they aren't 
always there, but they have been there at key junctures. This is the shock of 

So one of the laboratories for this doctrine was the University of Chicago in 
the 1950s, when all of these Latin American economists were trained to become 
economic shock therapists. Another one -- and, you know, this isn't some sort of
grand conspiracy that it was all planned, but there was another school, which 
served as a different kind of shock laboratory, which was McGill University in 
the 1950s. McGill University was ground zero for the experiments that the CIA 
funded in order to understand how to -- basically how to torture.

I mean, it was called ³mind control² at the time or ³brainwashing² at the time, 
but now we understand, thanks to the work of people like Alfred McCoy, who has 
been a guest on your program, that actually what was being researched in the 
1950s under the MK-ULTRA program, when there were these experiments in extreme 
electroshock, LSD, PCP, extreme sensory deprivation, sensory overload, that 
actually what was being developed was the manual that we can now see at use in 
Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. This is a manual for unmaking personalities, for 
total regression of personalities, and creating that window of opportunity where
people are very suggestible, as we saw in the film. So McGill, in part because I
think it was seen by the CIA as easier to perform these experiments outside the 
US --

AMY GOODMAN: McGill in Montreal.

NAOMI KLEIN: McGill in Montreal. At the time, the head of psychiatry was a man 
named Ewen Cameron. He was actually an American citizen. He was formerly head of
the American Psychiatric Association, which I think is quite relevant to the 
debates going on right now about complicity in the psychiatric profession with 
current interrogation techniques. Ewen Cameron was head of the American 
Psychiatric Association. He moved to McGill to be head of psychiatry and to head
up a hospital called the Allan Memorial Hospital, which was a psychiatric 

He got funding from the CIA, and he turned the Allan Memorial Hospital into this
extraordinary laboratory for what we now understand as alternative interrogation
techniques. He dosed his patients with these odd cocktails of drugs, like LSD 
and PCP. He put them to sleep, sort of into a comatose state for up to a month. 
He put some of his patients into extreme sensory deprivation, and the point was 
to make them lose track of time and space.

And what Ewen Cameron believed, or at least what he said he believed, was that 
all mental illness was taught later in life, that these were patterns that set 
in later in life. He was a behavioral psychologist. And so, rather than getting 
at the root of those problems and trying to understand them, he believed that 
the way to treat mental illness was to take adult patients and reduce them to a 
childlike state. And it's been well known -- it was well known at the time -- 
that one of the side effects of electroshock therapy was memory loss. And this 
was something that was seen, actually, by most doctors as a problem, because 
patients were treated, they may have reported some positive results, but they 
forgot all kinds of things about their life. Ewen Cameron looked at this 
research and thought, ³Aha, this is good,² because he believed that it was the 
patterns that -- because he believed that it was the patterns that were set in 
later in life, that if he could take his patients back to an infantile state, 
before they even had language, before they knew who they were, then he could 
essentially re-mother them, and he could turn them into healthy people. So this 
is the idea that caught the attention of the CIA, this idea of deliberately 
inducing extreme regression.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the woman you visited in the nursing home who had gone 
through this.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. I start the book with a profile of a woman name Gail Kastner.
Gail Kastner was one of Ewen Cameron¹s patients. And I read about her because 
she successfully sued the Canadian government, which was also funding Ewen 
Cameron. I read about her lawsuit, that she had just won an important victory: 
she had gotten a settlement, because she had been used as a guinea pig in these 
experiments without her knowledge.

So I called her, actually just got her number from the phone book. And she was 
very, very reticent to talk at first. She said she hated journalists, and it was
very difficult for her to talk about it, because she would relive all these 
experiences. And I said, well -- she said, ³What do you want to talk to me 
about?² And I said, ³Well, I just got back from Iraq² -- and this was 2004 -- 
³and I feel like something that was done to you, the philosophy of what was done
to you, has something to do with what I saw in Iraq, which was this desire to 
wipe clean a country and to start over from scratch. And I even think that some 
of what we¹re seeing at Guantanamo with this attempt to regress prisoners 
through sensory deprivation and remake them is also related to what happened to 
you.² And there was this long pause. And she said, ³OK, come and see me.²

So I flew to Montreal, and we spent the day talking, and she shared her story 
with me. She talks about her electric dreams, which is, she doesn't have very 
many memories of what happened to her in this period, because she underwent such
extraordinary shock and it did wipe out her memory. She regressed to the point 
where she sucked her thumb, urinated on the floor, didn't know who she was, and 
she didn't have any memory of this, any memory at all that she had ever been 
hospitalized. She only realized it, I think, twenty years later, when she read 
an article about a group of fellow patients who had successfully sued the CIA. 
And she picked out a few lines in the newspaper articles -- regression, loss of 
language -- and she thought, ³Wait a minute, this sounds like me. This sounds 
like what I¹ve heard about myself.² And so, she went and she asked her family, 
³Was I ever at the Allan Memorial Hospital?² And at first they denied it, and 
then they admitted it. She requested her file, and she read that, yes, she had 
been admitted by Dr. Ewen Cameron, and she saw all of these extraordinary 
treatments that had been done to her.

AMY GOODMAN: We¹re going to go to break, but when we come back, we¹re going to 
move from shocking the individual, shocking the body, to shocking the body 
politic, whether in Chile or in Iraq. We¹re talking to Naomi Klein. Her book is 
being released today. It¹s called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster 
Capitalism. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine 
-- it¹s coming out today -- The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. I want to move from
the individual body being shocked to the body politic. You talked about Chile, 
let's talk about Iraq, the privatization of war in Iraq.

We have this breaking news out of Iraq today: The Iraqi government says it¹s 
pulling the license of the US security company Blackwater over its involvement 
in a fatal shooting in Baghdad on Sunday. Interior Ministry spokesperson 
Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and thirteen wounded, when 
security contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a 
predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad. Khalaf said, ³We have 
canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over 
Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial 
authorities.² It was not immediately clear if the measure against Blackwater is 
intended to be temporary or permanent. Naomi Klein, take it from there.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, that¹s an extraordinary piece of news. I mean, this is really
the first time that one of these mercenary firms may actually be held 
accountable. You know, as Jeremy Scahill has written in his incredible book 
Blackwater: The Rise of the [World's] Most Powerful Mercenary Army, the real 
problem is, there haven't been prosecutions. These companies work in this 
absolute gray zone, and, you know, they¹re either boy scouts and nothing has 
going wrong, which completely doesn't mesh with what we know about the way 
they¹re behaving in Iraq and all of the sort of videos that we¹ve seen online of
just target practice on Iraqi civilians, or the lawlessness and the immunity in 
which they work has protected them. So, you know, if this is -- if the Iraqi 
government is actually going to kick Blackwater out of Iraq, it could really be 
a turning point in terms of pulling these companies into the law and questioning
the whole premise of why this level of privatization and lawlessness has been 
allowed to take place.

But, you know, I mentioned how Donald Rumsfeld was a student of Milton 
Friedman¹s in the ¹60s, actually, and the thing about Donald Rumsfeld is he 
really went beyond his mentor, because Milton Friedman, as I said earlier, he 
believed that the only acceptable role for government was policing, was the 
military. That was the only thing he really thought the government should do; 
every thing else should be privatized. Donald Rumsfeld studied with Friedman, 
saw him as a mentor, celebrated his birthday every year with him, but he really 
took this one step further, because Rumsfeld believed that, actually, the work 
of policing and of war fighting could also be privatized and outsourced. And he 
made this very clear.

This was really his mission of a transformation, which I think is really not 
understood, how radical it was. You know, we hear this phrase, and we hear Bush 
praising Rumsfeld for his radical vision of transformation of the military, and 
it¹s all these sort of buzzwords that are hard to understand, but if we look at 
what Rumsfeld¹s record was, it was that -- you know, I write in the book that 
really what he did is -- this is somebody who, after he left the Ford 
administration, spent a couple of decades working in business and really saw 
himself as a man of the new economy.

And, you know, this is somewhere where I think that the research I did for No 
Logo really intersects with this disaster capitalism stage that we¹re in right 
now, because Rumsfeld took the 1990s revolution in branding, in corporate 
branding, where -- and this is what I wrote about in No Logo, where you had all 
of these companies that used to produce products announcing with great fanfare 
that they don't produce products anymore, they produce brands, they produce 
images, and they can let other people, sort of lesser contractors, do the dirty 
work of actually making stuff. And that was the sort of revolution in 
outsourcing, and that was the paradigm of the hollow corporation.

Rumsfeld very much comes out of that tradition. And when he came on board as 
Defense Secretary, he rode in like a new economy CEO that was going to do one of
these radical restructurings. But what he was doing is he was taking this 
philosophy of this revolution in the corporate world and applying it to the 
military. And what he oversaw was the hollowing out of the American military, 
where essentially the role of the Army is branding, is marketing, is projecting 
the image of strength and dominance on the globe, and then -- but outsourcing 
every function, from healthcare ­- providing healthcare to soldiers to the 
building of military bases, which was already happening under the Clinton 
administration, to the extraordinary role that Blackwater has played and 
companies like DynCorp, where we -- you know, as Jeremy has reported, they¹re 
actually engaged in combat.

AMY GOODMAN: And, in fact, Blackwater working with Pinochet¹s soldiers, but in 

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and, I mean, this is -- we see these layers of continuity. I 
mean, Paul Bremer was the assistant to Kissinger during the Nixon administration
when the support for Pinochet was so strong. So you have all of these layers of 
historical continuity. And, you know, that's why, I guess, my motivation for 
writing the book was -- there has been no accountability for these crimes. And 
in Latin America, there have been truth commissions, there have been trials. The
people who were at the heart of this very violent transformation, many of them 
have actually been held accountable. Not all of them, but many of them have 
actually been held accountable, if not in the courts, then certainly in a deep 
and important public discussion of truth and reconciliation. But this country, 
that has never happened, despite the fact that there has been a great deal of 
wonderful investigative reporting. And because there has never been any 
accountability, the same players are really at it again.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about, Naomi Klein, the destruction of Iraq. Talk about ³Shock
and Awe,² the shock economic therapy of Paul Bremer, the shock of torture, as 
well, putting them all together in Iraq.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, well, as I said, you know, in Chile we see this triple-shock 
formula and torture as an enforcement of these policies. And I think we see the 
same triple-shock formula in Iraq. The first was the invasion, the shock-and-awe
military invasion of Iraq. And if you read the manual, the military manual that 
explained the theory of shock and awe -- a lot of people think of it as just 
like a lot of bombs, a lot of missiles, but it¹s really a psychological 
doctrine, which in itself is a war crime, because it says very bluntly that 
during the first Gulf War the goal was to attack Saddam's military 
infrastructure, but under a shock-and-awe campaign, the target is the society 
writ large. That¹s a quote from the shock-and-awe doctrine.

Now, targeting societies writ large is collective punishment, which is a war 
crime. Militaries are not allowed to target societies writ large; they¹re only 
allowed to target military. So this was -- the doctrine is actually quite 
amazing, because it talks about -- it talks about sensory deprivation on a mass 
scale. It talks about a blinding, cutting off the senses, of a whole population.
And we saw that during the invasion, the lights going out, cutting off of all 
communication, and the phones going out, and then the looting, which I don't 
actually believe was part of the strategy, but I think doing nothing in some 
ways was part of the strategy, because, of course, we know that there were all 
kinds of warnings that the museums and libraries needed to be protected and no 
action was taken. And then you had the famous statement from Donald Rumsfeld 
when he was confronted with this: ³Stuff happens.²

So, it was, I think -- it was this idea that because the goal was, in New York 
Times columnist Thomas Friedman¹s famous phrase, not nation-building, but 
³nation-creating,² you know, which is an extraordinarily violent idea, if you 
stop and think about what it means to create a nation in a nation that already 
exists, something has to happen to the nation that was already there, and we¹re 
talking about a culture as old as civilization. So I think that because there 
was this idea that we were starting from scratch and this idea that is often 
portrayed, you know, in the US media as idealistic, of wanting to build a model 
nation in the heart of the Arab world that would spread to neighboring countries
and lead to an opening up, this idea of building a model nation is -- you know, 
it has all kinds of colonial echoes. It really can't be done without some kind 
of a cleansing. And so, I think that the ease, the comfort level with the 
looting, with the erasing of Iraq's history, has to be seen within that vision 
of, OK, well, we¹re starting over from scratch. So anything that¹s already there
is really just getting in the way. So if it¹s loaded onto trucks and it¹s sold 
in Syria and Jordan, that sort of just makes the job easier. And so, I think we 
saw that on many, many levels.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, how does Abu Ghraib fit into this picture?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I quote Richard Armitage in the book, saying that the theory 
-- that the working theory in Iraq was that Iraqis would be so disoriented by 
the war and by the fall of Saddam that they would be easily marshaled from point
A to point B. Now, as we know, that was not the case. And as Paul Bremer -- when
Paul Bremer rode in and did his radical country makeover, fired the entire Iraqi
-- much of the Iraqi civil service, as well as the army, declared Iraq open for 
business, cheap imports flooded the country. Iraqi businesses couldn't compete. 
That first summer, there was a huge amount of peaceful protest outside the Green
Zone, and it became clear that it was just simply not going to be possible to 
marshal Iraqis from point A to point B.

And it was after that, when the first armed resistance emerged in Iraq, that the
war was brought to the prisons. And this also comes back to Donald Rumsfeld's 
vision of being this sort of CEO Defense Secretary, because, of course, like any
CEO, he understaffed the war. And he was not in a position, or the US occupying 
force was not in a position, to deal with this drastic miscalculation and this 
sort of fantasy that Iraqis would just behave and accept this economic shock 
therapy and this -- really this looting of their country. So when Iraqis began 
to resist, the suppression of that resistance couldn't take place in the 
streets, because there simply wasn't the person power.

So people were rounded up and brought to the jails, and torture was used, as it 
was in Latin America, to send a message to the entire country. And torture is 
always -- it¹s both private and public at the same time. And this is true no 
matter who is using it, that for torture to work as a tool of state terror, it¹s
not just about what happens between an interrogator and a prisoner; it¹s also 
about sending a message to the broader society: this is what happens if you step
out of line. And I believe torture was used by the US occupation in that way, 
not just to get information, but also as a warning to the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, I want to end this part of our conversation by taking a 
reverse trip. President Bush just went from the Bayou, from New Orleans to 
Baghdad. Let's go back. Both you and I were just in New Orleans. I saw you last 
two years ago in New Orleans, as well, just after the hurricane. Fit Katrina and
the US response to the drowning of the American city into this picture.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, New Orleans is a classic example of what I¹m calling the 
shock doctrine or disaster capitalism, because you had that first shock, which 
was the drowning of the city. And as you know, having just returning from New 
Orleans, it was not -- this was not a natural disaster. And the great irony here
is that it really was a disaster of this very ideology that we¹re talking about,
the systematic neglect of the public sphere.

And I think, increasingly, we¹re going to see this, where you have twenty-five 
years of steady neglect of the public infrastructure, and the bones of the state
-- the transportation system, the roads, the levees -- are weak and frail. And 
the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that it would take $1.5 
trillion to bring the bones of the state up to standard, because they¹re so 
weakened, the bridges and the roads and the levees.

And so, what we have is a kind of a perfect storm, where the weakened frail 
state is intersecting with increasingly heavy weather, which I would argue is 
also part of this same ideological frenzy for short-term profit and short-term 
growth. And when these two collide, you have a disaster. And that¹s what 
happened in New Orleans. The frail levees intersected with heavy weather, 
although not even that heavy weather. The Category Five hurricane didn't 
actually hit.

And I think, you know, just as an aside, since we¹re in New York, that another 
really powerful example of exactly that happened this summer when the subways 
flooded, that it was -- everyone was shocked, because it didn't rain that hard. 
But the infrastructure was so weakened because of the steady neglect. And what 
was the headline in the New York Sun? ³Sell the Subways.²

So you -- first the ideology weakens, creates the disaster, and then it¹s used 
as an excuse to finish the job, to privatize everything, and that is what 
happened in New Orleans. Immediately after the city flooded, you had this 
ideological campaign, ground zero of which was the Heritage Foundation in 
Washington, which has always been, I guess, the most powerful engine for this 
radical free-market vision, announcing that, you know, this is a tragedy, but 
it¹s also an opportunity to completely remake the state, i.e. eliminate it, so 
an explosion of charter schools -- the public schools were not reopened. They 
were converted to charter schools. The public hospital, like Charity Hospital, 
remains boarded up. The public housing --and this is the most dramatic example 
-- that horrible quote from a Republican congressperson: ³We couldn't clean out 
the housing projects, but God did it ten days after the levees broke.² This is 
what I mean by the shock doctrine, this idea of harnessing a disaster to push 
through radical privatization.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, as we wrap up this hour, what were you most shocked by in 
researching the shock doctrine?

NAOMI KLEIN: I was shocked that there is this cache of literature out there, 
which I didn't know existed, where the economists admit it. You know, and this 
is what I guess I¹m most excited about in the book is how many quotes I have 
from very high-level advocates of free-market economics, everyone from Milton 
Friedman to John Williamson, who¹s the man who coined the phrase ³the Washington
Consensus,² admitting amongst themselves, not publicly, but amongst themselves, 
in sort of technocratic documents, that they have never been able to push 
through a radical free-market makeover in the absence of a large-scale crisis, 
i.e. the central myth of our time that democracy and capitalism go hand in hand 
is known to be a lie by the very people who are advancing it, and they will 
admit it on the record.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, folks, there is more to come. We'll continue this 
conversation afterwards and bring it to you on a later broadcast. Naomi Klein, 
our guest, in her first national broadcast interview on the release of her book 
today, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Tonight, we¹ll be at
the Ethical Culture Society at 2 West 64th Street in New York. Naomi will be 
launching her book, and you can look at her book tour at to 
see where she will be in the coming months, a very extensive tour around this 
country. Thank you, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you so much, Amy.

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