Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Disaster Capitalism in New Orleans

The cost (or here) of cleaning up the results of Bush's negligence in failing to deal with global warming and spending money needed for New Orleans levees on his war in Iraq may be as much as the $300 billion spent in four years to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, what most people would regard as a cost, the entrepreneurial politicians in the Bush White House see as yet another opportunity to transfer money from taxpayers to their personal friends. The scheme is blatantly obvious:


  1. Bush has started to issue Iraq-style no-bid contracts, with cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend.

  2. Old buddies like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Fluor are first in line. Joe Allbaugh, the former director of FEMA, is lobbying for Halliburton, and another winner of the Katrina windfall, Shaw Group Inc.

  3. In order to increase profitability at the expense of the working people most affected by the hurricane and thus most in need of money, Bush has removed (or here) federal minimum-wage provisions from the reconstruction contracts.


The concept of 'disaster capitalism', a term coined by Naomi Klein, is now being applied to the United States itself. Klein wrote:

"Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration's doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate 'post-conflict' plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries 'at the same time,' each lasting 'five to seven years.'


and (my emphasis in bold; note that Halliburton had a 'pre-completed' contract for New Orleans):

"Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual's office keeps 'high risk' countries on a 'watch list' and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to 'mobilize and deploy quickly' after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks - some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have 'pre-completed' contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could 'cut off three to six months in your response time.'"


and (my emphasis in bold):

"But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, 'It's not reconstruction at all - it's about reshaping everything.' If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them. Kumara, in another e-mail, warns that Sri Lanka is now facing 'a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization,' potentially even more devastating than the first. 'We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines.'"


and(my emphasis in bold):

"A group calling itself Thailand Tsunami Survivors and Supporters says that for 'businessmen-politicians, the tsunami was the answer to their prayers, since it literally wiped these coastal areas clean of the communities which had previously stood in the way of their plans for resorts, hotels, casinos and shrimp farms. To them, all these coastal areas are now open land!'"


Just like New Orleans! If the Bush Administration has elaborate pre-made plans to make money off conflicts which have yet to occur in other countries, why would they not also have elaborate pre-made plans to make money off natural disasters that occur within the United States? A book of plans for New Orleans, a book of plans for Florida, a book of plans for San Francisco . . the money to be made is enormous! The implications of FEMA's 'incompetence' and Bush's inexplicable failure to do anything about the plight of New Orleans until it was too late become rather obvious. Competence just leads to fewer chances to make money. All of the reconstruction contracts can be directed to friends of the Bush Administration, and no one will complain about the extremely generous payments. At the same time, 'undesirable' populations - blacks in New Orleans, gays in San Francisco - can be cleaned up, thus ensuring that the area will vote Republican in the future.

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