Naomi Klein has just written a book called The Shock Doctrine: The Age of Disaster Capitalism. It charts the latest developments in US capitalism, which seems to thrive most furiously on war, fear, suspicion and hatred, as these three eras of military/security spending suggest:
- The Cold War
- The ‘War on Terror’
(Just imagine how marvellous it would be if all this energy and ingenuity were turned towards creating an egalitarian and sustainable society …)
Among Naomi’s revelations:
- The new Homeland Security Agency is a ‘hollow shell’ which outsources most of its functions to a rapidly growing army of private contractors.
- The CIA has outsourced the ‘rendition’ of prisoners to Boeing.
- ‘Security’ lobby firms in Washington, which promise to link security companies with politicians, have grown in number from two in 2001 to over 500.
- Interrogations and torture are now outsourced, by the CIA, to private contractors, who of course have to ‘get results’ in order to hold onto their contracts
- The US pays informants huge amounts of money, creating a huge incentive to lie about others: a US flyer handed out in Afghanistan read: “Get wealth and power beyond your dreams. You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces … This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.”
When information about who is or is not a security threat is a product to be sold as readily as information about who buys Harry Potter books on Amazon or who has taken a Caribbean cruise and might enjoy one in Alaska, it changes the values of a culture. Not only does it create an incentive to spy, torture and generate false information, but it creates a powerful impetus to perpetuate the fear and sense of peril that created the industry in the first place.
There have been and are debates, of course – about the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, about indefinite detention, about torture and extraordinary rendition – but discussion of what it means to have these functions performed as commercial transactions has been almost completely avoided. What passes for debate is restricted to individual cases of war profiteering and corruption scandals, as well as the usual hand-wringing about the failure of government to adequately oversee private contractors – rarely about the much broader and deeper phenomenon of what it means to be engaged in a fully privatised war built to have no end.