I happened yesterday to catch Amy Goodman’s interview with Naomi Klein about her latest book, The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism. Klein is a young Canadian journalist with several highly regarded books. This latest is truly shocking in that it exposes a strategy of contemporary American libertarian capitalism initiated by Chicago’s Milton Friedman and implemented by William Buckley and his merry crew of right wing think tanks — particularly the Heritage Foundation — with the National Review as its central voice.

The shocking thesis is that our right wingers determined back when that unfettered capitalism could not be imposed by normal democratic processes, but rather must either wait for or initiate a crisis situation in which the public was temporarily in a state of shock during which the capitalists could move to liberate corporations to do their thing unfettered during a total remake of society’s standards and values. Instances of the shocks that could initiate such moves were natural disasters such as Katrina which led to the instant closing down of public hospitals, public housing in New Orleans and private capitalistic substitutes.

The most obvious move of this era was the war on Iraq made possible by the 9/11 attack on national security and the world’s economy which created a vacuum filled by Bremer in Iraq reconstituting Iraqi society (or trying to and failing) and Bush mounting various economic moves to end welfare capitalism, sabotage Social Security, and above all increase the incomes of the most wealthy so that they might take over our American democracy. Think of the numbers of billionaires on the march here buying political offices — ranging from Bloomberg to Romney.

Having watched Buckley’s evolution over the years from the time when he was lurking around Yale trying to pick up as acolytes any of us undergrads who might be enlisted in his right wing mission (spawned straight out of Texas where his father was an oil man and Franco’s Spain where the family summered), I am all too well aware of the pattern and the patter that goes with it — big government, cut your taxes, stay the course, etc., etc. There is virtually a new slogan a week that oozes from one or another of the some 300 right wing think tanks. “Surge” was the contribution of Bill Kristol (National Review) and Fred Kagan (Heritage Foundation):

In addition to natural, military, and economic shocks, Klein gets into our long history of experimentation with torture with which I have some experience. Back when we were poor grad students a number of us were enticed for a few bucks into CIA experiments — a Danforth Fellow reported at one of our summer meetings how he, but not all of his fellow students, had survived LSD experiments explicitly carried out by the CIA. I had been a member of another group tested at Republic Aviation (for space shots?) who were put in isolation chambers after some low level pain tests (hands thrust in ice water, burning with a wired mechanism on the arm), 48 hours of sensory deprivation (eyes covered, ears deafened with a roar, hands covered with gloves as we lay stretched out — followed by more pain tests. I had fortunately had some Yoga training the summer before with B.K. Iyengar with which to cope with the pain. I was told that most of my fellow students had panicked and burst out of their capsules with wires dangling. The loud roar impaired my hearing permanently.

Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are our torture shock implementation centers of today. They are not fortuitous. They were designed to retrain Iraqis and others to make them good Americans bent on pursuing free enterprise fortunes rather than religious aspirations. We now have some 6-8,000 Iraqis locked up in a “re-training camp” per a CNN report last week. I have seen no further mentions of this institution and it does not pop up on Google.

Klein suggests that Pinochet’s Chile was a pilot case for imposing disaster capitalism — Friedman had brought a number of young Chileans to Chicago on full pay fellowships for training in his economics of liberated capitalism. The day after the coup by Pinochet, they arrived at the offices of the generals with their plan for restructuring the Chilean economy — which is still being celebrated today by the Friedman followers — despite the many thousands murdered to implement it!

Iraq under Bremer looks to be a failed version, despite the many thousands killed in attempts to implement it. The Iraqi government has just pulled the license for the Blackwater private mercenary army doing security for the U.S. interests there — for killing civilians — many of Blackwater’s well paid hoods are ex-Pinochet soldiers.

Privatization of public functions is a central tactic of disaster capitalism and is all around us now — in our prison systems, the school voucher programs, etc. Our medical system is a profiteer’s heaven.

Klein suggests that the inner circle of right wingers trying to implement disaster capitalism are quite candid with each other about its incompatibility with democracy. And so Amerika goes today? Or may we now reverse this horror? Remember that the super wealthy paid 91% in income taxes when Kennedy came to office. Now many of them pay nothing and our corporations are moving their central offices offshore to avoid American taxes totally as they out source American jobs. The sub-prime mortgage disaster that is threatening world markets is an all too ominous example of shock capitalism calling for state controls and regulation.

Needless to say the U.S. cannot keep on with the mindless deterioration of our infrastructures and waste of monies on corporate profit-making schemes. Check the prices at the gas pump and oil and natural gas costs for heating homes this winter. Someone is making out — but not the American public!

Read Klein’s book and weep — too many lives sacrificed to greed!

Amy Goodman promises another session with Klein. I recommend it strongly.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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