Post-September 11, 2001

Klein moves along to the Age of Fear following September 11, 2001. The events of 9/11 were arguably somewhat enabled by cuts to the Airline industry made by Reagan, who privatised, cut costs, and refused to negotiate with unions, continuously lowering safety and security standards. The message should have been clear, that privatisation makes a country weak and susceptible to disasters.

But instead of leading to an increase in government responsibility, 9/11 led to a massive investment in private 'disaster capitalism,' an economy of homeland security, privatised war, and disaster reconstruction. 9/11 gave carte blanche to large firms and stockholders in this industry, a blank check from the government for anything that wore this patriotic mask over private-interest economics. The Department of Homeland Security would outsource up to 70% of its activities; between 2001 and 2006 $130 billion went to private contractors in the industry; Halliburton's expense account increased in leaps and bounds as they took on more military services and expanded prisons like Guantanamo.

This all contributed to an environment where “public money pays the corporate overhead and invests in corporate infrastructure, as private hands enjoy the increase in stock price.” In this milieu, private companies can even complain about any state-owned or state-run enterprises, seeing this “compassionate federal impulse” – whether spending on defence or social services – as ideologically unacceptable interference.

9/11 essentially stupefied the American population to the point where the government and big business could use endless public money, passed into private hands, to control the citizenry both domestic and international. Vice President Cheney had shares in Halliburton through his term; Rumsfield kept stocks in Lockheed martin: administrators and leaders had direct shares in disaster capitalism. As Klein puts it, the nature of the War on Terror meant that war was no longer a disruption to business, but business itself.

Continuing the onslaught of evidence, Klein gives a frightening list of civil servants who in various ways encouraged the war on terror and then switched into the private sector to reap personal benefit from it. In this period discussed, 94 civil servants moved into the homeland security industry. Former Secretary of State George Schultz formed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which essentially lobbied for the US to attack Iraq. Schultz was also on the board of Bechtel, a large firm that would make huge profits rebuilding in Iraq.

The examples continue to the extent that this segment of the book becomes more an indictment of the US and less a continuation of the general narrative surrounding the shock therapy and free market reform. Nonetheless, the information gathered here is quite stunning, the involved individuals' greed unceasing amidst obvious conflicts of interest. In summary, the war on terror allowed disaster capitalism to blur the line between (public) domestic security and (private) ‘homeland security,’ and between public intellectual, private interest, and policy maker - much to the profit of a select few.

Lesson learned:
Even an educated public, close to home, with a powerful media can be taken advantage of via the same route - through disaster (or terror) and fear to private gain.


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