The Shock Doctrine: Naomi Klein
on the Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Naomi Klein interviewed by Amy
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."
AMY GOODMAN: Pinochet's 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. It's
called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
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
Naomi Klein writes in the introduction
to Shock Doctrine the quote, "The history of the contemporary
free market was written in shocks." She argues, "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
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
AMY GOODMAN: It's
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. It's 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 "economic shock therapy." That's sort of extreme
country makeovers. It's everything all at once. It's 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 that's the shock
And it's 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 that's not a bad description, although I'm sure Marx
wouldn't 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, "There
is no alternative," to Francis Fukuyama saying, "History
has ended. Capitalism and freedom go hand in hand."
And so, what I'm trying to do with this
book is tell that same story, the key junctures where this ideology
has leapt forward, but I'm reinserting the violence, I'm reinserting
the shocks, and I'm 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: We're 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, you're talking about Milton Friedman.
Expand it to the "Chicago School."
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So the influence of
Milton Friedman comes from his role in really being the popularizer
of what's known as the "Chicago School of Economics."
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 it's 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 exploded.
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 '50s and '60s,
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 controls.
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 wasn't
enrolled as a student, but he describes this time as studying
at the feet of geniuses, and he describes himself as the "young
pup" at the University of Chicago -- and George Shultz were
the two people who imposed wage and price controls under Nixon
and when Nixon declared, "We're all Keynesians now."
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, "We're all Keynesians
now," but the catch was he wouldn't 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
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, "Make the economy scream." And the plot
had many elements, an embargo and so on, and finally the support
for Pinochet's 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 I'm 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
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 "Chicago Boys," 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 Chile's former foreign
minister calls "a project of deliberate ideological transfer,"
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
"the brick." It's known as "the brick." And
what it was was the economic program for Pinochet's 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 Pinochet's government.
So what I'm 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, "Of course,
we disapprove of his human rights violations," and this sort
of, you know, shaking of fingers at the atrocities that we know
about in Chile, "but on the economy he was terrific,"
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 I'm 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. It's where you begin: "Blank is Beautiful."
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 "mind control"
at the time or "brainwashing" 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 hospital.
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 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,
"Aha, this is good," 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 Cameron's 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, "What do
you want to talk to me about?" And I said, "Well, I
just got back from Iraq" -- and this was 2004 -- "and
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 we're seeing
at Guantanamo with this attempt to regress prisoners through sensory
deprivation and remake them is also related to what happened to
you." And there was this long pause. And she said, "OK,
come and see me."
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, "Wait
a minute, this sounds like me. This sounds like what I've heard
about myself." And so, she went and she asked her family,
"Was I ever at the Allan Memorial Hospital?" 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: We're going to go to break,
but when we come back, we're going to move from shocking the individual,
shocking the body, to shocking the body politic, whether in Chile
or in Iraq. We're talking to Naomi Klein. Her book is being released
today. It's 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 -- it's 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 it's 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, "We 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."
It was not immediately clear if the measure against Blackwater
is intended to be temporary or permanent. Naomi Klein, take it
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, that's 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, they're either
boy scouts and nothing has going wrong, which completely doesn't
mesh with what we know about the way they're behaving in Iraq
and all of the sort of videos that we've 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 Friedman's in the '60s, 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
it's all these sort of buzzwords that are hard to understand,
but if we look at what Rumsfeld's 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 we're 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, they're
actually engaged in combat.
AMY GOODMAN: And, in fact, Blackwater
working with Pinochet's soldiers, but in Iraq.
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 "Shock and Awe,"
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 it's 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. That's 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; they're 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: "Stuff happens."
So, it was, I think -- it was this idea
that because the goal was, in New York Times columnist
Thomas Friedman's famous phrase, not nation-building, but "nation-creating,"
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 we're 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, we're starting over from scratch. So anything that's
already there is really just getting in the way. So if it's loaded
onto trucks and it's sold in Syria and Jordan, that sort of just
makes the job easier. And so, I think we saw that on many, many
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
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
-- it's 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, it's not just about what happens between
an interrogator and a prisoner; it's 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
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 I'm 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
we're talking about, the systematic neglect of the public sphere.
And I think, increasingly, we're 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 they're 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 that's 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 we're 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?
"Sell the Subways."
So you -- first the ideology weakens,
creates the disaster, and then it's 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 it's 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:
"We couldn't clean out the housing projects, but God did
it ten days after the levees broke." 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
I'm 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, who's the man who coined the
phrase "the Washington Consensus," 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, we'll 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 shockdoctrine.com 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.