AMY GOODMAN: President Bush has lifted an almost two-decade-old executive order banning offshore and natural gas drilling. With prices at the pump over $4 a gallon, Bush has been pushing to allow more drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge, amidst strong opposition from environmentalists.
The executive drilling ban was issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. His son’s lifting of the ban yesterday is largely symbolic, because a separate congressional ban has prohibited offshore drilling since 1981. Speaking on the White House lawn Monday, the President urged lawmakers to lift the ban.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The failure to act is unacceptable. I
AMY GOODMAN: In President Bush’s final months of office, the economy is at the top of the agenda. Oil prices now exceed $140 a barrel, more than double $70 a year ago. The high cost of oil has helped exacerbate the global food crisis that threatens to push over 100 million people below the poverty line due to rising food prices. This all comes amidst an ongoing housing crisis, with the US Treasury and Federal Reserve unveiling sweeping steps to possibly bail out the nation’s two largest mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Amidst these multiple crises, how best to understand government policies being enacted? Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The book is out in paperback this month. It was first published in September, and in some ways, much of what Naomi writes about in the book is more relevant today. Naomi Klein joins us in our firehouse studio for the hour. Welcome to Democracy Now!
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Food, fuel, housing, climate change—talk about these crises. First, start with oil.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, it’s—I mean, there really is a kind of a tsunami of shocks facing not just the economy but people’s lives, people’s real lives. They’re all intersecting. They’re making each other worse. And I think we really are seeing some very live examples of what a write about in the book, which is how there is a strategy. And this is what I mean by “the shock doctrine.” There is a clear political strategy, and has been for several decades, to exploit these moments when people are desperate for quick-fix solutions and more inclined to believe in a kind of a magical cure, to push through very, very unpopular policies that don’t actually solve the crisis at hand, that don’t actually help people, but are incredibly profitable for multinational corporations.
And I think we are seeing a very vivid example of this with this speech from George Bush yesterday, where he is taking a very real crisis, which is demanding complex and profound changes in the way we live, in the way we organize our economy, but particularly in the need to diversify our energy sources. And I think there’s a tremendous actual amount of support for this idea from the public. And he comes in—and I call him in my recent column the “extortionist-in-chief.” Basically what he’s saying is he’s holding the country ransom. He’s not taking any of these long-term policy routes to dealing with climate change, to dealing with high oil prices. It’s just let us drill, or, you know, nobody can go on summer vacation. And he’s selling a myth, which is that by allowing drilling, the price at the pump is going to go down, which is really interesting, because just yesterday, in response to Bush’s announcement, oil went up, and oil futures went up. And so, the price of oil is going to keep going up.
AMY GOODMAN: What would—how long would it take the oil drilled offshore, if he succeeds in getting his father’s ban reversed, to get into the supply?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, first of all, I think it’s really important for people to understand that we are being subjected to an incredibly aggressive media campaign sponsored by the oil and gas industry. And, you know, it’s to the point where it really is impossible to tell the difference between the paid advertisements, which we’re being bombarded with on cable news from the oil and gas industry, talking about how they can solve the problem of high prices with more drilling, and all of these commentators, from Larry Kudlow to Sean Hannity, repeating these talking points, and not to mention Dick Cheney, who just propagated a complete lie, saying that China was drilling off the coast of Cuba, and the Vice President’s office actually had to retract that. It turns out his source was George Will, who also had to issue a correction. China is not drilling off of Cuba. And so, there’s a very aggressive campaign going on.
The reality is, it would take between five to ten years to see any of that oil. Everybody admits this. Everyone knows this. You have to do the exploration, then you have to build the rig, which takes a huge amount of time. So it takes—we’re talking about as long as a decade to see any of this oil.
So when you press people who are selling this drill in ANWR, more offshore oil drilling, also drilling into the shale in places like Montana, what they actually say is that the reason why it will lower prices at the pump, you know, soon, this summer, is because it will send a message to the stock market, it will send a message to the oil speculators that more supply is on the way. So, essentially, what they’re saying is, let’s play the market, let’s collectively play the market.
And that’s why it’s significant that yesterday, in the face of Bush’s announcement—and it was a significant announcement, because it was a real indication of the seriousness of this administration to really make this their, you know, final push in office, and they could well win, because this media campaign is really bringing public opinion on side, and we know that the Democrats are pretty weak in the face of that public opinion, and the only thing that they could fight this with is with real commitment to green policies. And, you know, don’t hold your breath.
AMY GOODMAN: What does this offshore drilling, lifting the ban—how would you relate this to what’s happening in Iraq right now and what’s happening at the Oil Ministry and the pushing through the permanent occupation that the Bush administration is pushing hard for?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think we’re seeing the Bush administration in its final months just handing out a series of gifts to the oil and gas industry, both at home, pushing for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and then in Iraq, the prize, the biggest prize of all, which is allowing foreign multinationals to gain control of Iraq’s oil fields. And we’re seeing a two-stage process now, and it isn’t over yet, where first there was the service—the short-term service agreements, no-bid contracts, that were announced. They haven’t been signed yet, but they’re going to the big oil companies that were kicked out of Iraq in the ’70s. They’re coming back.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain how that works, these no-bid contracts, how it is—who’s signing these contracts?
NAOMI KLEIN: OK. Well, at the moment, Iraq does not have an oil law, so Iraq can’t sign long-term exploration agreements, although they are doing it in Iraqi Kurdistan, and we’ve heard about this with Hunt Oil. But that’s—those are illegal contracts. They’re very precarious. There could be future expropriations. It’s really risky to go that route, because there isn’t a law. And we know it’s been a major push of this administration to get the Iraqi parliament to accept a US-backed oil law. This has been sold as a symbol of Iraqi unity. That’s not the way it’s seen in Iraq.
In Iraq, the reason why it has been years in resisting this oil law is because nationalizing the oil in Iraq was the centerpiece of the anti-colonial struggle, as it was in neighboring nations throughout the Arab world. And it is not just a pro-Saddam idea. It is not just a Baathist idea. It’s the core of Arab nationalism. And that victory is being protected by many political forces in Iraq, and most notably by the oil workers’ unions in Iraq, who said, “We don’t need these foreign multinationals to get the oil out of the ground. We can do it ourselves. We can bring in technical support without giving away management control, without giving away ownership control.”
And, I mean, but let’s stress here that unlike the oil offshore, unlike the shale, this is very difficult oil to extract. It’s extremely—it requires a huge amount of technology. It requires a huge amount of investment. And that’s part of the problem with what the Bush administration is selling. These—actually, they—the oil companies need the price of oil to stay high in order for it to be economically viable to do these—to get oil out of solid rock, for instance, which is very hard, very expensive. Offshore oil drilling, also very, very expensive—you have to build the rigs and so on. Iraq, no. Iraq, stick a straw in the ground and suck. I mean, this is incredibly accessible oil. And Iraqis actually know how to extract this oil themselves. So this idea that they need these foreign multinationals to come in is yet another myth.
And not only have companies like BP and Texaco been offered these no-bid contracts, but what’s strange about it is that they’re service contracts, and these are not oil service companies. So what’s significant about these contracts is that they appear to be giving these oil companies the right of first refusal on future, more significant contracts. So, one week after these smaller service agreements were announced, the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that they also will be handing out longer-term management agreements, which will give oil companies the ability to manage existing fields in Iraq and hold onto 75 percent of the worth of those contracts and leave only 25 percent for Iraqis, which is absolutely unheard of in the region, where 51 percent for the country is the baseline for new exploration, for new fields. These are existing fields. They’re already working. The technology is already there. And these foreign companies are going to be taking 75 percent of the worth of those existing fields in Iraq. So it’s daylight robbery. It’s armed robbery, actually, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Naomi Klein. Her book is just out in paperback, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We’ll keep talking about oil. She’s a Canadian journalist, and we’re going to find out about, well, the largest supplier of oil to the United States. No, it’s not Saudi Arabia; it is Canada. And, well, Naomi is just back from China, so we also want to find out what she’s been investigating there, what she says is the building of a police state with the help of US military contractors. And we’ll find out why she’s suing the US government. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Naomi Klein, the award-winning journalist and bestselling author. Her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is just out in paperback. It’s being translated now into twenty-five languages. And by the way, she’s speaking here in New York at Barnes & Noble, Union Square, tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.
We’re talking oil. Naomi, how is it that the oil prices are, well, among the highest they have ever been, and yet so are the oil company profits—ExxonMobil, Chevron—why?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, they have a captive market, and the fact that the price is high means that they are earning more profits.
AMY GOODMAN: But supposedly the price is high because it’s harder to get, not to give them more money.
NAOMI KLEIN: There’s a speculative bubble going on right now, and this market is being played. I mean, I think this is really the new bubble. Actually, it’s replacing the housing bubble. And, you know, any time anything bad happens in the world, that’s the indication for speculators to drive the price up. It happened yesterday. Bush announced that he would be opening up to offshore oil drilling, but at the same time, there was an oil strike in Brazil, so the price of oil went up. So everything drives the price of oil up. I think it’s really a classic bubble. Certainly, there are some supply issues, but I actually don’t think that that is the main reason why the price of oil is going up.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re from Canada. Talk about Canada being the major supplier of oil to the United States. I think most people in this country would not understand this. And I also want to talk about ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, it’s really striking, because in all of these discussions—and we heard this just now from President Bush—it was, we need to drill offshore to get away from our dependence on foreign oil, and there is still an overwhelming perception that most of the oil in the United States is coming from countries like Saudi Arabia. There has been, since the invasion of Iraq—and this is the period where the price of oil has skyrocketed—this has already changed. The number one supplier of oil to the United States is not Saudi Arabia, it’s not Mexico—it’s Canada.
And it has all of the elements that these new initiatives that are being proposed—offshore, ANWR, shale—possess. It’s close. It is an absolutely secure source of oil for the United States, and the reason for that is because locked into the North American Free Trade Agreement, locked into NAFTA, is a clause that we Canadians are really not very pleased with, which actually makes it illegal, impossible, under NAFTA, for Canada to turn off the tap, even if we face an oil crisis and are not able to supply oil for our citizens. We have to keep supplying the United States. So it’s a legally binding agreement that this tap will stay open. So Canada is now the number one supplier.
And the other that it holds in common is that it’s ecologically devastating, what’s going on in Canada, because the majority of this new oil coming to the United States is coming from the Alberta tar sands, which are often called the “oil sands.” We call them the “tar sands,” because it’s a more accurate description. And this is another oil industry talking point, to get you to stop calling it the “tar sands” and start calling it the “oil sands.”
But essentially, the oil in Alberta is very linked to the high price of oil, which is to say that when oil was at $30 a barrel, the tar sands, this huge oil deposit, was not counted as part of the global oil reserves. And the reason for that is that it was so expensive to process this very, very thick tar-like substance into liquid oil. It costs between $25 and $30 a barrel, so it just didn’t make sense to count it as part of the global oil reserves, because who was going to make the investment required if they were obviously not going to get a return on their investment? So once the Iraq war started and the price of oil started skyrocketing, oil was discovered in Canada. Everyone knew it was there, but it became part of the global oil reserves. More than that, it is now counted as the largest oil deposit in the world. These are the tar sands.
And, you know, I would argue that this oil should be left in the ground. Environmentalists are calling for a moratorium on the tar sands, because it takes three times the amount of fossil fuels, of burning fossil fuels, to process one barrel of oil from the tar sands as it does to process the kind of oil that they have in Iraq, for instance, which is already in liquid form.
AMY GOODMAN: So you dramatically increase emissions.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s why Canada has become a climate renegade, along with the United States, because our emissions are increasing because of the tar sands, because it is so carbon-intensive and water-intensive—which is another issue—to do this very, very dirty processing of this tar-like substance into liquid form. So the argument is that it should actually be left alone.
But the other argument that we see is that even with this huge boom going on in Canada—and this is the reason why our economy is actually doing better than the US economy, because of the tar sands—is that it in no way has affected the price of oil. So, here you have a paradigm to look at of what is being proposed right now with ANWR, what’s being proposed with offshore, what’s being proposed with shale. We can see it right now in Canada. And as this huge boom is taking place, the price of oil has gone up month after month after month, and it has had absolutely no effect on the price at the pump.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Naomi Klein. Naomi, you’ve been writing a lot on a number of issues. One of them is about what you call Obama’s Boys.
NAOMI KLEIN: Obama’s Chicago Boys, yeah. I just want to add one more point, and I just want to take this opportunity, because I feel like people are being so bombarded with these oil industry talking points, and it really is changing public opinion. I mean, people need to know this. There’s—polls are being commissioned that are finding that 67 percent of Americans support offshore oil drilling, because they think it’s going to lower the price at the pump.
What’s actually going on is the oil companies may not even bother drilling. What they’re doing is they’re stockpiling leases. And what that means is that the oil companies will have a much greater control over the oil supply. When the oil companies have a much larger control over the oil supply, they can turn it on and off. They can control price. They can fix the price. So, in fact, what this is doing is the opposite of what they’re saying. It’s actually giving the oil industry much more power to drive the price of oil up by controlling supply, by just giving them all of these leases. And we keep hearing, well, they have all these leases already, and they’re not using them, and they want more. Why? Why do they want all these leases? Because that is what gives them control over supply. That’s what allows them to fix prices.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, this has united you with people across the political spectrum. You’ve been invited on a number of right-wing radio talk shows, because everyone is deeply concerned about the price of oil. They just have different solutions for what should happen.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. But, you know, there was this little window, Amy, where even Bill O’Reilly was talking about the obscene profits of the oil industry—it was like three days—where people were—where the logic of the situation was just so glaring, where, you know, you have Shell reporting $7 billion in profits in one quarter. People are very concerned about climate change. And it just makes sense to take some of those profits in the form of a windfall profit tax or some other measure and—because these are the companies that have created this crisis for us—and using this moment.
And let’s remember that this is what countries around the world are doing. They’re using this moment of high oil prices to invest in alternative energy and alternative infrastructure. The way to make solar and wind work, you know, is not just to do venture capitalism for startup solar and wind companies. These companies need major investment, need states to make major investments in infrastructure that can carry these new energy sources, new grids. This can only be done by the public sector. And this is actually a moment of opportunity, when there is such high prices, when people are so angry at the oil companies, to actually take some of this money and invest it in the public sphere, so that alternative energy becomes viable.
And there was a moment where there seemed to be some agreement about that, even on the right. And then, it just shifted because of this very aggressive barrage coming from the oil and gas industry, which is selling this false hope of “drill now, pay less.”
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, Obama’s Chicago Boys, who are they?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, one of them is Obama. Obama spent ten years teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, which is a very conservative law school. You know, I wrote a column recently talking about how conservative Obama’s economic roots are, with his ties to the University of Chicago.
His first response to the mortgage crisis, let’s remember, was he was worried about the government taking action to keep people from being evicted from their homes, because that would create moral hazard. And he was not talking about the big companies, the big mortgage lenders; he was talking about individual low-income people being thrown out of their homes. He was worried about moral hazard. That’s a very University of Chicago take on the situation.
And yeah, one of his—his chief economic adviser was Austin Goolsbee, this University of Chicago economist. And, you know, now his chief economic adviser is Jason Furman, who is not a University of Chicago-affiliated economist, but is certainly on the right of the economic—Democratic economic spectrum, has defended Wal-Mart, has attacked critics of Wal-Mart, saying that they’re doing more harm than good, that actually Wal-Mart is a progressive institution that is helping low-income people with their low prices, and that living wage campaigns, for instance, are actually hurting low-income people. So these are pretty conservative ideas, and I think it is important for people to understand that this is who Obama has chosen to take his advice from.
AMY GOODMAN: This is very interesting, because, of course, he really slammed Hillary Clinton when it came to her tenure on the board of Wal-Mart.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And he said he wouldn’t shop there.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s true. He said both of those things, and it is a political campaign, and we’re seeing a lot of double talk on these issues. Austin Goolsbee, for instance, got himself into some trouble after he met with Canadian consulate officials. And they left that meeting with the distinct impression that he had told them that they shouldn’t listen to what Obama’s saying about NAFTA and renegotiating NAFTA for labor and environmental standards, because it’s just an election campaign. So it would seem that perhaps we should take Obama’s Wal-Mart comments in the same spirit. But, you know, my message on—
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you have him speaking—Obama himself being quoted in Fortune magazine, after he had said that that whole—well, what became a sort of little scandal there, with Goolsbee going to the Canadian consulate—
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —at the time when he was going through the states where labor was stronger, where he was really slamming NAFTA, saying this wasn’t true, that he was telling them, “Don’t worry. It’s just overheated rhetoric.” And then he said that precise thing, Senator Obama himself, in Fortune.
NAOMI KLEIN: That it was overheated rhetoric. Yeah, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: That he supports NAFTA and free trade.
NAOMI KLEIN: And it’s—you know, it’s shades of Bill Clinton’s first campaign, where he also campaigned very actively about labor and environmental standards and NAFTA. NAFTA had already been signed, but it hadn’t come into law. And then there was a turnaround, and there was a turnaround in the transition period, after the election but before he took office, where there was a sort of fateful meeting.
And I think the fear is that some of the same people, like Rubin, responsible for, you know, Rubinomics, which turned into Clintonomics, which was, you know, the Democratic full-scale embrace of the ideology of privatization and so-called free trade, that this same sort of group of people are following—are now surrounding Obama. And Jason Furman is a Rubin protégé and worked with him at the Hamilton Project, which is a sort of sub-think tank of the Brookings Institution, which emerged a few years ago to prevent the Democratic Party from embracing what they saw as populist economic policies, the centerpiece of which would have been a reexamine of the ideology of free trade, which is being discredited around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have Obama on NAFTA, people perceiving that he’s changing his position. And then you have the major issue of FISA, where even on his own website—and many say—
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, just to be clear on economics, I mean, I think what we actually saw with Obama is that he started pretty much at a conservative point on economic policy, and Clinton—and the campaign with Clinton, because she was moving so far to a populist position, he then moved. And as soon as she dropped out of the race, he moved back. So I think there are some real points of disagreement, and I think that there are some places to point to much more progressive outlook in Obama’s roots, particularly on foreign policy, but I don’t think economic policy is one of them.
AMY GOODMAN: He had called the free trade agreement, in the debates with Hillary Clinton and with John Edwards, “a mistake.” He called it “an enormous problem,” but now, with Fortune, said, “Sometimes during campaigns rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. My core position has never changed. I’ve always been a proponent of free trade,” which you say actually is true.
NAOMI KLEIN: And he appointed Jason Furman the day after Hillary dropped out of the race. Yeah. So, it was—as I said, I really think he’s moving back to actually where he started, with his first reaction, as I said, to the subprime mortgage crisis being, well, we can’t keep low-income people from being evicted, because we have the moral hazard of encouraging them to make bad loans, essentially blaming them for having been—having accepted these mortgages in the first place.
AMY GOODMAN: So now you have FISA, and you’re suing on this issue. But on December 17th, a press release from Obama’s Senate office read: “Senator Obama unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies and has cosponsored Senator Dodd’s efforts to remove that provision from the FISA bill. Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same.” Ultimately, of course, he supported the bill, and it just passed, and the telecommunications companies got the retroactive immunity that they had sought.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and I think we should see this as part of these parting gifts that the Bush administration is handing out to their cronies in the oil and gas industry and also in the telecommunications industry. And we really see the priorities of this administration. It’s a tremendous disappointment.
The lawsuit that you mentioned is, I think, a really forward-looking initiative from the ACLU, where they’ve been anticipating, hoping that this wouldn’t happen, that there would be a legal defeat of this—of the bill in Congress and the Senate. But, of course, they were realistic and knew that there was a good chance of a cave, and so the ACLU has been preparing a lawsuit, and I think it’s really the ACLU at its best, which is defending the law when the lawmakers decide not to.
And they’ve brought together coalition of human rights groups, different NGOs, who do a lot of international work, as well as journalists, who—and we’re all saying—I’m one of the complainants on behalf of The Nation, me and—Chris Hedges and I and The Nation are named in this lawsuit, and we are all saying that the fact that our communications with international sources, with international colleagues, are now open to absolute, free surveillance, with no restrictions whatsoever, severely limits our ability to do our job.
And I think the most disappointing thing about the way in which Obama and other Democrats have defended their reversal on this law is that there’s a tremendous amount of dishonesty about what is in the law. I mean, they’re having to say that they’ve gotten all of these improvements, that it’s much better, that there’s much less to worry about, in order to justify their, I think, deeply immoral position. And so, there’s a lot of misunderstanding now about just how bad this law is.
And it’s just as bad as we feared, not just on the immunity for the telecoms, which is a disaster, but, more importantly, the fact that there, you know, is no burden of proof, except to say that the party being put under surveillance is outside of the United States. So if I’m communicating—I’m in the United States and I’m communicating with somebody in Argentina, they don’t—the government does not have to prove that they have reason to believe that that person in Argentina is affiliated with a terrorist group, is a suspected terrorist, has information about terrorism. All they have to prove is that they are not an American.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Naomi Klein. We’re going to come back to this conversation. If you’d like a copy of the broadcast, a DVD, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Naomi Klein’s book has just been launched in paperback, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The Olympics are coming back. Naomi Klein is just back from China. We’re going to talk about what she found there. She’s talking about the rise of a police state with the help of US military contractors. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein. Her book is just out in paperback. It’s called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We were talking about Obama changing, or not, his positions—also have to talk about Iraq, both Obama and McCain. And then we’re going to go to the food crisis, as well as China, what’s happening there.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, on Iraq, Obama does not have a plan to end the occupation; he has a plan to downsize the occupation slowly. He’s been clear that he wants to keep the Green Zone intact. You’ve covered this extensively on the show. And that means, as Jeremy Scahill has made clear, that means that they have to keep Blackwater in Iraq.
So, I think that the point of this is not just to bash Obama. I mean, what I’ve been trying to—the point I’ve been trying to make is that Obama needs more than super fans. He needs pressure from his base, because he has all the energy of the antiwar movement and the antiwar infrastructure. I mean, you’ve got groups like MoveOn that really built their infrastructure out of the huge anger and desire for change around Iraq, and now the infrastructure of the antiwar movement largely is going to support Obama, but there aren’t clear demands being made of him to deserve that support.
AMY GOODMAN: He’s now calling for 10,000 more troops to go to Afghanistan.
NAOMI KLEIN: And, you know, the corporations who are funding Obama’s campaign, one of—somebody who I referred to as one of Obama’s Chicago Boys, I was talking about Ken Griffin, who is a Chicago hedge fund manager who used to be a Bush campaign pioneer, was a Republican, and has switched to Obama, basically because he’s run the numbers and he believes Obama is going to win.
But I think what we have to understand is, with all the Wall Street money coming to Obama, with the weapons money coming to Obama, with the hedge fund money coming to Obama, these players have leverage. They can go to the Republicans. And so, what’s the leverage of the antiwar movement? You know, what’s the leverage of the grassroots supporters of Obama who have given him their trust, because they want change so badly on the environment, in Iraq, on domestic economic policy?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, isn’t the alternative, McCain says a hundred years in Iraq?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, that’s the alternative. And I think, you know, this is part of the problem of this two-party system. And, you know, I saw Ralph Nader recently, and he said, “You know, progressives and liberals don’t know how to play poker. There has to be somewhere to go.” And, you know, I think that’s part of it. But I don’t think it’s just about third parties. It’s also about having independent movements that provide conditional support to candidates and not this sort of blank check, rock star, we’ll support you no matter what.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, of course, people do have some place else to go, which is—we’ve seen it over and over—the American people have made it very clear: stay home.
NAOMI KLEIN: Stay home. That’s true, and that’s a credible threat. But I think Obama needs to hear a much more conditional, much more critical, much more demanding kind of support from his base, because his base is far to the left of the types of policies that we’re seeing and that we’re talking about here, whether it’s the mortgage crisis, whether it’s NAFTA, or whether it’s Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Food crisis now around the world.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, this is—you know, this is another example of how the shock doctrine, the strategy that I document in the book of using a crisis, using a situation of desperation, often a situation where developing countries need foreign aid, because they’re facing a disaster, to leverage very, very unpopular pro-corporate policies. Now, you know in the book the examples that I give are, for instance, how the tsunami in Asia was used and the fact that countries like Sri Lanka needed aid, and in that moment you had international lenders coming in and saying, “Oh, well, we’ll give you aid, but we want you to privatize your water, your electricity system, hand the coastline over to resorts.”
Well, we’re seeing a version of this. We’re seeing a version of disaster capitalism in the context of the food crisis, where you have that same desperation, you have a need for aid, for debt forgiveness, for new policies, and now we’re hearing another sort of echo chamber response from the World Bank, from the US State Department, from the agribusiness companies, and that refrain is, the cause of the food crisis is that too many of these countries don’t allow genetically modified foods, and genetically modified crops can feed the world and solve the food crisis, so trying to use this crisis to break through a legislative barrier that exists for good reason, just as domestically in the United States the oil crisis is being used by the Bush administration to try to break through the bans on offshore oil, on ANWR.
So now we have this other talking point that we’re hearing again and again, which is genetically modified foods can feed the world. There is no scientific evidence for this. Quite the opposite. Genetically modified seeds do not increase yields for crops. They increase profits for agribusiness companies. They simplify farming. But they don’t increase yields, and in many cases they decrease yields.
AMY GOODMAN: Because?
NAOMI KLEIN: Because this is actually not what they’re genetically modified to do. I mean, if you think about Roundup Ready, I mean, what it’s genetically modified to do is be compatible—
AMY GOODMAN: You mean the soy and the fertilizer?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, to be compatible with Monsanto’s [herbicide]. It’s not about increasing crop yields. And they haven’t actually figured out the technology for how to increase crop yields.
One of the things that I find really worrying is that companies—and similar to the oil crisis, Amy, we’re seeing record profits from Monsanto, from Cargill, from all the big players, in the context of the food crisis. We’re also seeing something else, which is that these companies are buying up hundreds of patents on seeds that they claim are “climate-ready.” “Climate-ready” is—we’ve heard about Roundup Ready, which means they’re ready for roundup [herbicide]; now, the new phrase is “climate ready,” which means they’re ready for climate change, which means that these seeds apparently can grow in the context of drought, can grow in the context of highly salinated earth because there’s been a flood. And Monsanto and Syngenta, other of these big biotech companies, have bought up hundreds of these patents.
And this is worrying on many levels. I think it’s worrying, because, once again, we’re seeing a disincentive to actually get us out of a future of climate chaos, because we see ways to profit. But then, when we look at how aggressively we know a company like Monsanto protects its patents, when it comes to their Roundup Ready seeds, the suing of small farmers, the surveillance of farmers—there was an incredible story recently in Vanity Fair about the heavy-handed legal tactics and use of private security, just harassing farmers who dare to save their seeds from one growing season to the next, breaking Monsanto’s patent. So if they really are developing seeds that are climate ready and they’re also patenting them and buying them up, then really what we’re seeing is not a future of feeding the world, but once again a future of a kind of climate apartheid, where it becomes less accessible and more expensive to have the crops that will grow in this future.
And so, I think people need to identify this right away, and the discussion needs to be about the right to food, about food being a human right. This is far too important to allow players like Monsanto to privatize the future of the crops that can grow within a context of climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we only have five minutes, and I really want to get to the piece you did in Rolling Stone—you just returned from China—“China’s All-Seeing Eye.” “With the help of US defense contractors, China is building the prototype for a high-tech police state. It is ready for export.” Tell us what you found?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, yeah, I was in China a couple months ago, and the piece came out recently, and you can read it still on the Rolling Stone website. And I concentrated on the Pearl River Delta, on the city of Shenzhen. And, you know, this is the part of China that is really the—I guess the sweatshop to the world, their workshop to the world. This is where probably half of everything most us own is made. Hundreds of thousands of factories, a lot of technology, a lot of garments. It is now a new kind—it’s always been a laboratory for this manufacturing model, for the globalization manufacturing model, and it was born as a laboratory. The city of Shenzhen didn’t exist in 1980. It was a collection of fishing villages. And now it’s a city of more than 12 million people.
And there’s a new experiment happening in Shenzhen, where a high-tech police state is being built. And there are hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras, of surveillance cameras, in the city. There are plans to have two million cameras in the city of Shenzhen and to network them, which is the key, so that they’re all part of the same network. They can be monitored from a centralized police location. And it isn’t just the cameras on the streets. It’s cameras in internet cafes, cameras in private restaurants, so a total convergence between the private and the public when it comes to putting the people under surveillance.
And the money for building this high-tech police state—and it includes also biometric IDs, facial recognition software. It’s sort of the future that has already been imagined in multiple sort of science fiction films, but that we actually don’t yet have in North America yet, because there are still some civil liberties and privacy protections that prevent all of the technologies from being networked together to create this all-seeing eye. In China, you have the perfect situation, because you have a government that actually makes no claims for the rights to privacy of its citizens. And so, corporations like General Electric, Honeywell, have been flocking to China, and they’ve been delighted that, first of all, they’ve been able to get contracts—
AMY GOODMAN: And General Electric, which owns NBC.
NAOMI KLEIN: Which owns NBC. A lot of the contracts have been issued in the name of Olympic security. Olympic security is—you know, we know the Olympics are always massive corporate welfare endeavors, with new stadiums, new infrastructure. Well, now, in the post-9/11 context, Olympics are also huge business for the security industry. The Olympics provides the excuse for massive new investments in cameras on public transit, checkpoints and subways, biometric identification cards. And we’re seeing this in Vancouver, which has the 2010 Olympic Games. But in China, it’s completely out of control.
Just to put this in context, the estimate is that China is spending $13 billion in the name of security for the Olympics. And let’s remember, all of these toys that are being sold to the Chinese government by companies like General Electric are staying after the Olympics and to be used against the domestic population. So it gets installed in the name of protecting the athletes, protecting the foreign dignitaries, but it stays and is able to be used against the local population, and I think in violation of the sanctions policies that were passed after the Tiananmen Square massacre, which actually made it illegal for American companies to sell police equipment to the Chinese government, precisely because it can be used to repress the population. But now, because it’s being packaged as antiterrorism security in the context of an international event, they’ve sort of found a backdoor way into it. But, yeah, once again, to put it in context, Amy—and I know we’re running out of time—$13 billion for Olympic security in Beijing this summer. The first Olympics after 9/11 were in Athens, and they spent $1.5 billion. So, since Athens, the increase in security spending has gone from $1.5 billion to $13 billion.
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about Police State 2.0 not looking good from the outside, but on the inside it appears to have passed the first major test.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. And that was a reference to the ways in which these technologies were used in Tibet during the crackdown against protesters in riots. What we saw is that the Chinese government really let the riots get out of hand in Lhasa. And what they did is they just concentrated on filming. So there was a lot of violence, and the CCTV cameras that had been installed in Lhasa—
AMY GOODMAN: Closed-circuit TV.
NAOMI KLEIN: The closed-circuit TV cameras. Also the police and military did a lot of their own filming. And then they cut together this sort of “Tibetans Gone Wild” videos, and that’s what passed for journalism, because, of course, they kept the foreign journalists out of Lhasa, and so it was just the surveillance footage that they showed to the world to try to turn public opinion against the Tibetans.
But more than that, we also saw the ways in which the internet companies cooperated with the Chinese government. So they used the surveillance cameras to extract photographs and made a most-wanted list of twenty-one Tibetans who they wanted to arrest, and then those wanted lists were posted on all of the portals in China, including briefly Yahoo’s portal and MSN’s portal.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean? They posted them, and then…?
NAOMI KLEIN: And then they took them down, because, of course, there’s been a lot of controversy about American companies, like Google and Yahoo and Microsoft, cooperating with the Chinese government to go after dissidents and so on. So they’ve been called before Congress on this. It’s been a public relations disaster for Yahoo. And this was another example of that kind of cooperation.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we move into the Olympics, we’re going to have you back, Naomi. Thank you so much for being here. Her book is called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, just out in paperback.