We posted a video of John Cusack’s interesting interview of Naomi Klein last week, but apparently, their conversation did not end when the cameras stopped rolling.
Here is an excerpt of their continuing conversation on the rise of ‘Disaster Capitalism’ from the huffingtonpost. It’s pact full of disturbing facts, and presents a horrific picture of the corporate capitalist take over now being seen around the world, particularly in Iraq.
Naomi Klein: 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.”
Cusack: He said this with a straight face?
Klein: Yes — he seemed entirely unconcerned by the irony that Halliburton, Bechtel, Parsons, KPMG, Blackwater et al were in Iraq, madly gorging off this vast protectionist racket in which the U.S. government had created their markets with war, barred their competitors from even entering the race (remember, French companies weren’t invited…), then paid them to do the work on “cost-plus” contracts, which guaranteed them profits — all at taxpayer expense.
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.
Cusack: You’ve said that in the future the ultimate luxury will be your own survival…do you really think this is where we’re headed?
Klein: Well, the disaster bubble is going to burst, like all bubbles do. And when it does, firms like Bechtel, Fluor and Blackwater are going to lose much of their primary revenue stream. They will still have all the high-tech gear and equipment bought at taxpayer expense, but they will need to find a new business model, a new way to cover their high costs. The next phase of the disaster capitalism complex is staring us in the face: with the state in decay, the parallel corporate state will rent back its disaster infrastructure to whoever can afford it, at whatever price the market will bear.
So imagine that after the next hurricane, Blackwater might not just be working for FEMA, as it was after Katrina — it could sell its security and evacuation capacity to other corporations, or directly to the public, the very same public that funded its entire start-up phase. Want a helicopter ride off a roof? A bed in a shelter? Bottled water? We’ll bill you later. Meanwhile, everyone who can’t pay will be out of luck, since evacuation is no longer a “core competency” of the state, and besides, the state shouldn’t interfere with the free market. The people who can’t pay will either be abandoned — like the people left on their roofs in New Orleans — or sucked into the privatized prison surveillance apparatus, to be profited from in another way.
Companies like Blackwater and Halliburton are already roaming the world looking for new markets in other frail states – new governments to guard, new war zones to privatize.
Cusack: Here’s what I’m thinking. If these people want to create their own privatized countries, they should practice what they preach, and “take their chances on the open market.” Secede from the union and stop bankrolling the whole thing with our tax dollars. I’d love to hear someone make a legal argument that the constitution allows for corporations to build private armies at taxpayer expense. I mean, publicly funded mercenaries are totally outside the boundaries of any conceivably acceptable legal version of the constitutional checks and balances we all learned in civics class. But Blackwater is a symptom of a larger problem which is also more terrifying: basically what the Bush administration has done is use its time in office to fund and create a dangerous counter-power to the very government it is leading.
To read the full text from the huffingtonpost.com, click here.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.