"The Worse Things Get in
Iraq, the More Privatized This War Becomes, The More Profitable
This War Becomes"
an interview with Naomi Klein
about the Iraq War
Democracy Now, April 2, 2007
Naomi Klein is a widely read columnist
for the Nation magazine and the London Guardian. She is the author
of the international bestseller "No Logo" and more recently
of "Fences and Windows." She visited Iraq in 2004 and
published an article later that year for Harper's Magazine titled
"Baghdad Year Zero" in which she detailed the privatization
of Iraq's state-dominated economy. She has continued to cover
the issue and her forthcoming book on disaster capitalism is due
to be published in the fall.
Naomi Klein recently spoke at an event
here in New York celebrating the launch of Jeremy Scahill's first
book, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful
Mercenary Army." In her talk, Naomi Klein spoke about the
privatization of the state.
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to look at
the issue of Iraq and the US occupation, we turn to the acclaimed
author and journalist Naomi Klein. Naomi Klein is a widely read
columnist for The Nation magazine and the London Guardian, author
of the best-selling book No Logo, more recently, Fences and Windows.
She came to New York for the launch of Jeremy Scahill's book on
Blackwater and spoke at the Ethical Culture Society on the privatization
of military and the state, putting it in a historical context.
0. NAOMI KLEIN: This drive to the privatize
every aspect of the state of government is about a 35-year-old
campaign. Many people date it, many historians date it to the
1973 coup in Chile, which is something that is interesting in
terms of Jeremy's research, because he talks about how Blackwater
are now hiring Chileans to go to Iraq, and I'll let him do that.
But the first example of the attempt to build a fully privatized
corporate utopia was in Chile in 1973 after Pinochet's coup, when
he joined up with a team of economists from the University of
Chicago to engage in that experiment.
0. It is a different kind of colonial project. In Latin America,
this project, which is often called neoliberalism, is referred
to as neocolonialism. The first stage of colonialism was the opening
of the veins of Latin America, as Eduardo Galeano describes it,
the pillaging of raw resources, the exporting of raw resources.
The second stage of colonialism -- and, of course, that first
stage never fully goes away -- was pillaging the state. What had
been constructed in the aftermath of the Great Depression and
during the post-war boom years -- the construction of healthcare
systems, education systems, roadways, railways -- but this is
really what was launched in Chile with the help of the Chicago
boys: the strip mining of the state itself.
0. The way I imagine this corporate project, this privatization
project, is if we imagine the state as a kind of an octopus with
all of these limbs. And for the past thirty years, and certainly
in this country since Reagan, what the privatization campaign
has really been doing is lopping off the limbs of the state --
the phone system, the roadways, these sort of non-essential services,
if you will. And after you've chopped off all the limbs, all you
have left is the center, is what they call the core.
0. And what the Bush administration has really been doing is going
for the core, privatizing those core essential government services
that are so inherently part of what we think of as the state,
that it almost seems impossible to imagine that they could be
privatized, like the government itself, like cutting Social Security
checks, like welfare, like prisons, like the army, which is where
Blackwater fits in.
0. What's so extraordinary about what has happened in Iraq --
and Amy mentioned the "Baghdad Year Zero" article --
is that you really have all of these layers of colonialism and
neocolonialism, this quest for privatization, forming a kind of
a perfect storm in that country. On the one hand, you have sort
of old-school colonial pillage, which is, let's go for the oil.
And as many of you know, Iraq has a new oil law. It's passed through
cabinet, hasn't yet passed through parliament. But, really, it
legalizes pillage. It legalizes pillage. It legalizes the extraction
of 100% of the profits from Iraq's oil industry, which is precisely
the conditions that created the wave of Arab nationalism and the
reclaiming of the resources in the 1950s through the '70s. So
it's an undoing of that process and a straight-up resource grab,
0. Layered on top of that, you have sort of colonialism 2.1, which
is what I was researching when I was in Iraq, which is the looting
of the Iraqi state, what was built up under the banner of Arab
nationalism, the industry, the factories. The kind of rapid-fire,
shock therapy-style strip-mining privatization that we saw in
the former Soviet Union in the '90s, that was the idea, that was
Plan A for Iraq, that the US would just go in there with Blackwater
guarding Paul Bremer and would sell off all of Iraq's industries.
So you had the old-school colonial, then you had the new school.
0. And then you had the post-modern privatization, which was the
idea that the US military was actually going to war, the US Army
was going to war, to loot itself, which is a post-modern kind
of innovation, right? If we remember, Thomas Friedman told us
less than a decade ago that no two countries with a McDonald's
have ever gone to war. Now, we go to war with McDonald's, Taco
Bell, Burger King, in tow. And so, the process of waging war is
a form of self-pillage. Not only is Iraq being pillaged, but the
United States coffers of this government are being pillaged. So
we have these three elements, all converging this perfect storm
over this country.
0. And one of the things that I think is most important for progressives
to challenge is the discourse that everything in Iraq is a disaster.
I think we need to start asking and insisting, disaster for who,
because not everybody is losing. It's certainly a disaster for
the Iraqi people. It's certainly a disaster for US taxpayers.
But what we have seen -- and it's extremely clear if we track
the numbers -- is that the worse things get in Iraq, the more
privatized this war becomes, the more profitable this war becomes
for companies like Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, and certainly Blackwater.
There is a steady mission creep in Iraq, where the more countries
pull out, the more contractors move in, which Jeremy has documented
so well and will talk more about.
0. The danger. These are the stakes that I think we need to understand.
And I really do want to keep this brief, so that we have a fruitful
discussion afterwards. What are the stakes here? The stakes could
not be higher. What we are losing is the incentive, the economic
incentive, for peace, the economic incentive for stability. When
you can create such a booming economy around war and disaster,
around destruction and reconstruction, over and over and over
again, what is your peace incentive?
0. There was a phrase that came out of the Davos conference this
year. Every year, there's always a big idea to emerge from the
World Economic Summit in Davos. This year, the big idea was the
Davos dilemma. Now, what is the Davos dilemma? The Davos dilemma
is this: for decades, it's been conventional wisdom that generalized
mayhem was a drain on the global economy, that you could have
an individual shock or a crisis or a war that could be exploited
for privatization, but on the whole -- and this was the Thomas
Friedman thesis -- there needed to be stability in order to have
steady economic growth; the Davos dilemma is that it's no longer
true. You can have generalized mayhem, you can have wars in Iraq,
Afghanistan, threats of nuclear war with Iran, a worsening of
the Israeli occupation, a deepening of violence against Palestinians,
you can have a terror in the face of global warming, you could
have increased blowback from resource wars, you can have soaring
oil prices, but, lo and behold, the stock market just goes up
and up and up.
0. In fact, there's an index called the Guns-to-Caviar index,
which for seventeen years has been measuring an inverse relationship
between the sale of fighter jets and executive luxury jets. And
for seventeen years, this index, the Guns-to-Caviar index -- the
guns are the fighter jets, the caviar are the executive jets --
has found that when fighter jets go up, executive jets go down.
When executive jets go up, fighter jets go down. But all of a
sudden, they're both going up, which means that there's a lot
of guns being sold, enough guns to buy a hell of a lot of caviar.
And Blackwater is, of course, at the center of this economy.
0. The only way to combat an economy that has eliminated the peace
incentive, of course, is to take away their opportunities for
growth. And their opportunities for growth are ongoing climate
instability and ongoing geopolitical instability. Their threats
-- the only thing that can challenge their economy is relative
geopolitical and climatic peace and stability, so I suppose we
have our work cut out for us to fight the war profiteers.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, her forthcoming book is called The Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.