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Shock Doctrine” Author Naomi Klein on State-Sanctioned Torture and Disaster Response for the Chosen

Shock Doctrine” Author Naomi Klein on State-Sanctioned Torture and Disaster Response for the Chosen

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Author and journalist Naomi Klein reacts to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of Michael Mukasey, which she calls an endorsement of state torture. And she turns to California, where in last month’s wildfires a spate of new companies offered privatized solutions to emergency management -- only for those rich enough to afford it. [includes rush transcript - partial]


"Rapture Rescue 911: Disaster Response for the Chosen." That’s the title of Naomi Klein’s latest article in The Nation. It’s about the wildfires that just ravaged Southern California and the spate of new companies that offer privatized solutions to emergency management -- only for those rich enough to afford it.


  • 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: Judge Mukasey's nomination thrusts the issue of waterboarding and torture

into the spotlight. In her latest book, The Shock Doctrine, award-winning author Naomi Klein has a chapter all about the history of torture. She joins me now in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, Amy. Good to be with you again.

AMY GOODMAN: Respond to what you’ve just heard.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think that was an absolutely shocking display, and I think what’s most shocking about it is this idea that this is somehow a question of good government and the torture question can be belittled. I mean, what we just saw was lawmakers knowingly voting in favor of someone who has said that one of the classic modern torture techniques -- I mean, the classic torture techniques of the French in Algeria, for instance, were simulated drowning, electroshock and rape. These are the three main tools of contemporary torture. And this is a man who has said to the world that one of those key techniques, simulated drowning, water torture, is not illegal. So, with that knowledge, he was just endorsed.

And to elevate a man who has said this to the highest legal office in the country, I think, just puts everyone of those lawmakers, but particularly the Democrats who voted for him, into bold new territory. They have just crossed a line, because they can no longer pin this on Bush. They can no longer claim ignorance. Anyone who faces these techniques in the future, they will be complicit in those war crimes, in those crimes against humanity -- everybody who voted for this man.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, you just heard Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, saying we can just pass a law against waterboarding. Of course, Ted Kennedy said we have passed laws against torture. But that idea passing a law -- but that law also has to be signed by President Bush. And whether or not he signs it, if he does sign it, he can do what he has done more than a thousand times, which is sign a signing statement next to it, which says he doesn’t have to abide by this law.

NAOMI KLEIN: Exactly. And -- exactly. And it’s amazing to belittle the importance of what it would mean to take a stand in this moment, in the face of this statement that Mukasey has made that he does not -- he’s not sure that waterboarding is illegal. He has put that forward. And now there's an opportunity for an absolutely unequivocal repudiation of that position. That power is there, and it’s just slipping away.

It’s an amazing moment. It’s an amazing crossing of the line into active complicity. It’s bad enough that you have Democrats in power who are unwilling to hold the Bush administration legally accountable for the war crimes they have already committed, but now they’ve moved into endorsing it. And they can say all they want, that they’re not actually voting for him when it comes to torture, but they just did it, because he has said it publicly, and they no longer have plausible deniability. It’s gone.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written about torture in Chile and Argentina.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and waterboarding or simulated drowning. And when you read the Truth Commission reports from Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, these are -- it’s a technique that comes up again and again. It is -- you know, Amy, what waterboarding is, is it’s instilling the belief that you are going to die. We talk about -- and people often do die. I mean, it’s happened many times.

And we talk about torture so often in this country as being just about getting information. Torture is a tool of state terror. That is what torture is, and that is why it’s prohibited. It is about instilling -- it’s a method of instilling terror in an individual, and it’s also a method of spreading terror throughout a whole society, saying we are willing to use these techniques; if you cross us, you will be subject to these techniques. So it is the science of terror. It is literally terrorism. You know, if you have somebody in your control, and your goal is to convince them that they are going to die, and as they gasp for breath their lungs are filled with water, what are you, if not a terrorist?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, we had Stephen Grey on yesterday, the independent journalist from Britain who has done so much to track extraordinary rendition flights, these kidnapping flights. And he said in the end that he wants to apologize for himself and all journalists that he has always used that term “simulated drowning,” but that waterboarding is actual drowning, because you’re filling the torture victim's lungs with water.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you are approaching death, and you believe you are going to die. You have the ultimate fear. And so, how does this not fit every definition, both international and domestic, against the prohibition of cruel treatment?

AMY GOODMAN: I encourage people to go to our website at to the day before yesterday’s show, Monday's broadcast, when we interviewed Henri Alleg, who is the French journalist who was covering the Algerian Revolution in 1957, taken by French military and subjected to water torture, to waterboarding. This is Democracy Now!, When we come back, we’ll talk to Naomi Klein about another issue she has been addressing, the second part of the title of her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Stay with us.

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