Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Cultists of the "Free" Market Have Driven Us to Ruin

You say "ideology," while I say "mythology."
A major impediment to swift and consequent government action to contain the impact of the banking crisis has been the dominance of Thatcherite ideology as an almost religious dogma that permeates even Labour, where Brown's predecessor as prime minister, Blair, was portrayed as a Labour version of Thatcher. The ideological absurdity of the situation was underscored recently when the Conservative opposition offered broad support for measures, even though their concern over soaring borrowing led them to oppose the government's ฃ20 billion [sic] fiscal stimulus designed to keep the economy moving. [Retrieved Tueday 27 January 2009 from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KA27Dj05.html Death agony of Thatcher era By F William Engdahl in Asia Times Online].

Jim Hightower: Alan Greenspan Is a "Quasi-Religious Nut"

Why was Greenspan so insistent on no regulation? Because he is the hardest of hardcore laissez-faire ideologues, holding a blazing disdain for government. An avowed worshiper of libertarian novelist Ayn Rand, he views public oversight of business as an evil force that deters the creativity of smart elites. He is so psyched by his religious-like faith in the "free market" that he fervently believes in what he considers to be the innate good will and moral superiority of investors and bankers. He asserts that these self-interested individuals can simply be trusted to do the right thing, and that government should not second-guess their decisions.

Even the faith of snake handlers is not as devout as Greenspan's. Unfortunately, however, he was able to hitch our nation's economic well-being to his own absurdist ideological fancy. The guy who was lionized as the smartest, most- stable economic thinker in the land essentially turns out to have been a quasi-religious nut.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, author of the bestselling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. We’ll come back to her speech at the University of Chicago in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to Naomi Klein, bestselling author of The Shock Doctrine, talking at the University of Chicago on Wednesday about the current economic crisis and the legacy of Milton Friedman.

    NAOMI KLEIN: This process of measuring an elegant perfect, beautiful, inspiring ideology against a messy reality is a painful process, and it’s a process that anyone who has tried to free themselves from the confines of fundamentalist thinking, from ideological constraints, has faced. My grandparents, for instance, were pretty hardcore Marxists. In the ’30s and ’40s, they believed fervently in the dream of egalitarianism that the Soviet Union represented. They had their illusions shattered by the reality of gulags, of extreme repression, hypocrisy, Stalin’s pact with Hitler.

    I bring this up, because the left has been held accountable for the crimes committed in the name of its extreme ideologies, and I believe that it’s actually been a very healthy process for the left, one that isn’t over, that is continuing. But I think that the process of having to examine the unacceptable compromises that were made in the name of hard ideology, that they are paying off in the way the left today is being reborn and re-imagined.

    You know, the most left-wing place on the planet at the moment is, interestingly enough, the first place where Chicago School ideology made that leap from the textbook into the real world, and that’s Latin America. And that happened for a very specific reason, as you know. This—in the 1950s, there was great concern at the State Department about the fact that Latin America, then as now, as it seems to do, was moving to the left. There was concern about what they called the “pink economists,” the rise of developmentalism, import substitution, and, of course, socialism. And, of course, this was a concern because it greatly affected American and European interests, because the crux of the argument of import substitution was that countries like Chile and Argentina, Guatemala, should stop exporting their raw natural resources to the north and then importing expensive processed goods to the south, that it didn’t make economic sense, that they should use the same tools of protectionism, of state supports, that built the economies of Europe and North America. That was that crazy radical idea, and it was unacceptable.

    So, this plan was cooked up—it was between the head of USAID’s Chile office and the head of the University of Chicago’s Economics Department—to try to change the debate in Latin America, starting in Chile, because that’s where developmentalism had gained its deepest roots. And the idea was to bring a group of Chilean students to the University of Chicago to study under a group of economists who were considered so extreme that they were on the margins of the discussion in the United States, which, of course, at the time, in the 1950s, was fully in the grips of Keynesianism. But the idea was that there would be—this would be a battle to the—a counterbalance to the emergence of left-wing ideas in Latin America, that they would go home and counterbalance the pink economists.

    And so, the Chicago Boys were born. And it was considered a success, and the Ford Foundation got in on the funding. And hundreds and hundreds of Latin American students, on full scholarships, came to the University of Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s to study here to try to engage in what Juan Gabriel Valdes, Chile’s foreign minister after the dictatorship finally ended, described as a project of deliberate ideological transfer, taking these extreme-right ideas, that were seen as marginal even in the United States, and transplanting them to Latin America. That was his phrase—that is his phrase.

    But today, we see that these ideas are reemerging in Latin America. They were suppressed with force, overthrown with military coups, and then Chile and Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil all became, to varying degrees, laboratories for the ideas that were taught in the classrooms of the University of Chicago. But now, because there was never a democratic consent for this, the ideas are reemerging.

    But one of the things that’s interesting about the new left in Latin America is that democracy is at the very center. And, you know, the first thing that Rafael Correa did when he was elected president of Ecuador, for instance—well, the first thing he did was give an interview. They said, “What can we expect of your economic program?” He said, “Well, let’s put it this way: I’m no fan of Milton Friedman’s.” And then he called a constituent assembly. He created an incredibly open political process to rewrite the country’s constitution. And that’s what happened in Bolivia, and that’s what’s happened in many Latin American countries, because democracy is being put at the center of these projects, because there has been a learning process of looking at the mistakes that the left has made in the past, the ends-justify-the-means mistakes.

    So, I think all ideologies should be held accountable for the crimes committed in their names. I think it makes us better. Now, of course, there are still those on the far left who will insist that all of those crimes were just an aberration—Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot; reality is annoying—and they retreat into their sacred texts. We all know who I’m talking about.

    But lately, particularly just in the past few months, I have noticed something similar happening on the far libertarian right, at places like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation. It’s a kind of a panic, and it comes from the fact that the Bush administration adapted—adopted so much of their rhetoric, the fusing of free markets and free people, the championing of so many of their pet policies. But, of course, Bush is the worst thing that has ever happened to believers in this ideology, because while parroting the talking points of Friedmanism, he has overseen an explosion of crony capitalism, that they treat governing as a conveyor belt or an ATM machine, where private corporations make withdrawals of the government in the form of no-bid contracts and then pay back government in the form of campaign contributions. And we’re seeing this more and more. The Bush administration is a nightmare for these guys—the explosion of the debt and now, of course, these massive bailouts.

    So, what we see from the ideologues of the far right—by far right, I mean the far economic right—frantically distancing themselves and retreating to their sacred texts: The Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, Free to Choose. So that’s why I’ve taken to calling them right-wing Trotskyists, because they have this—and mostly because it annoys them, but also because they have the same sort of frozen-in-time quality. You know, it’s not, you know, 1917, but it’s definitely 1982. Now, the left-wing Trots don’t have very much money, as you know. They make their money selling newspapers outside of events like this. The right-wing Trots have a lot of money. They build think tanks in Washington, D.C., and they want to build a $200 million Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago.

    Now, this brings up an interesting point. It’s an interesting point about the think tanks, in general, which has to do with the fact that it does seem to take so much corporate welfare to keep these ideas alive, which would seem to be a contradiction of the core principle of free market ideology—I mean, and particularly now, in the context of the Milton Friedman Institute. I mean, I could see it in the ’90s, but now, is the world really clamoring for this? Is there really a demand that you are supplying here? Really?

    I think this points to a larger issue, and this comes up—has come up for me again and again in talking about this ideology, this ideological campaign. You know, is it—is it really fueled by true belief, and—or is it just fueled by greed? Because it’s not—the thoughts are so very profitable. So they are distinctive in that way, distinctive from other ideologies. And, of course, you know, certainly we know that religion has been a great economic partner in imperialism. I mean, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. But this is a question that comes up a lot. And I think it’s very difficult to answer, and it’s clear, certainly at this school, that much of it is fueled by belief, by true belief, by falling in love with those elegant systems.

    But I think we also need to look particularly at this moment, who this ideology benefits directly economically, keeping it alive in this moment, and how, even in this moment, when everybody is saying, you know, this is the end of market fundamentalism, because we’re seeing this betrayal of the basic tenets of the non-interventionist government by the Bush administration—you know, I believe this is a myth and that the ideology has just gone dormant, because it’s ceased to be useful. But it will come roaring back, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that.

    But, you know, I was interested that yesterday the Heritage Foundation, which has always been a staunch Friedmanite think tank, that they came out in favor of the bailout. They came out in favor of the bailout; they said it was vital. And what’s interesting about that is, of course, the bailout is creating a crisis in the economic—in the public sphere. It’s taking a private crisis, a crisis on Wall Street, which of course isn’t restricted to Wall Street, and it will affect everyone, but it is moving it, moving those bad debts, onto the public books.

    And now the Bush administration has already left the next administration, whoever it is, with an economic crisis on their hands, but with this proposed transfer, they’re dramatically increasing that crisis. So, we can count, I would argue, on the Heritage Foundation refinding their faith, refinding their faith when it becomes necessary and useful to once again argue that the way to revive the American economy is to cut taxes, cut regulation, to stimulate the economy—and, by the way, we can’t afford Social Security; we’re going to have to privatize it, because we’ve got this terrible debt and deficit on our hands. So, the ideology is far from dead, and what we are, I think, seeing with this proposed monument to Friedmanism is really a way of entrenching it and making sure that it is always available to come back, to come roaring back.

    So, I said I would talk a little bit about Friedmanism and the links to the current crisis. And, you know, it’s pretty direct. Milton Friedman is pretty much accepted as the godfather of deregulation. And this was—this ideology was the rationale for turning the financial sector into the casino that we see today. You know, Milton Friedman was clear about this. He believed that “history took a wrong turn,” and that’s a quote; it’s a quote from a letter he wrote to Augusto Pinochet. He said, “History took a wrong turn in your country, as well as mine.” And he was referring to the responses to the Great Depression. In Chile, it was the rise of import substitution and developmentalism. But in the United States, he was of course referring to the New Deal.

    And I think that the Chicago School of Economics is properly understood as a counterrevolution against the New Deal, against regulations like Glass-Steagall, that was put in place in 1934 after having seen people lose their life savings to the market crash, and it was a firewall, a very simple, sensible law that said if you want to be an investment bank, if you want to gamble, gamble with your investors’ money, but the government isn’t going to help you because it’s your own risk. You can fail. And if you want to be a commercial bank, then we will help you. We will offer insurance to make sure that those savings are safe, but you have to restrict the risks that you take. You cannot gamble. You cannot be an investment bank. And a firewall was put up between investment banks and consumer banks.

    And now we look at the way in which this crisis is supposedly being solved, and what we see, actually, is a wave of mergers in the banking sector, a wave of mergers with the banks getting bigger and bigger until ultimately—you know, the Financial Times was predicting today that eventually the United States will have three big banks, just like Japan does. That’s where it’s heading. And, of course, all of those banks will be too big to fail. So they all have this implicit guarantee; it’s not just Fannie and Freddie. It’s any function that is too important to fail has this implicit guarantee.

    Phil Gramm is the person, you know, on the legislative side who did the most to create the legislative context for what we’re seeing right now in the financial sector. You know, I think everyone knows that Phil Gramm, most famously, recently is the one who said that America was in a mental recession and a bunch of whiners and all of that. And so, he’s not officially an adviser to McCain, but there is talk that if he were to win the elections, he would be Treasury Secretary. You know, I point—I bring him up because Phil Gramm was a Milton Friedman fanatic. I think you know this. In 1999, the same year that he led the charge to strike down Glass-Steagall, he also—Phil Gramm—pressed Congress to get the Medal of Honor for Friedman. When he ran in the—when he made his 1996 presidential run, McCain was the co-chair of his campaign. Phil Gramm was asked, “If you had to rely on a single person as your foremost economic policy adviser, who would it be?” And he replied, “Dr. Milton Friedman.” So we see the connections between deregulation and Friedmanism.

    I also think there’s something else at play in the kind of politicians that are attracted to this particular ideology. You know, Reagan was the first really to embrace it, and Nixon was the great disappointment to Friedman. I’m sure you all know that. You know, he writes in his memoir that when Nixon was elected, he was euphoric. I mean, he couldn’t imagine an American president more closely aligned ideologically than Richard Nixon. But Richard Nixon insisted on governing, and he wanted to win elections, and he imposed wage and price controls. And Milton Friedman sort of had a bit of a temper tantrum and declared him the most socialist president in modern American history. But, you know, it was—so it was really Reagan who campaigned, you know, with his copy of Capitalism and Freedom on the campaign trail, who was the first person to really put Friedmanism into practice.

    And I raise this because, you know, one of the things that we hear about McCain is that he doesn’t really know about economics, and so I think that makes us inclined not to take his economic ideas seriously, not to think he would be a really serious economic force. I think just the opposite. And I think if you look at his campaign platform, you see just the opposite. He wants to privatize Social Security. He is saying that in the first 100 days they’ll look at every single government program, and they will either reform it or shut it down if it is not serving taxpayers. I mean, they are talking about a sort of hundred-day economic shock therapy period. And I think it’s the fact that he doesn’t know about economics, and that Sarah Palin, I suspect, knows a little less, that actually makes them so dangerous.

    And I don’t—you know, I don’t think it is—not to be too flippant—I’m sure that I’ve, you know, offended everyone, so I may as well just say bad things about Ronald Reagan—but I do think that, you know, that it isn’t a coincidence that, you know, a movie star president champions these ideas, or a body-builder governor, you know, who says, “Dr. Friedman changed my life”—I don’t know if you’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introductions to Freedom to Choose, but they’re good. You should. YouTube them. But the appeal of these ideas, I think, to politicians who are actually in over their head on economics—and, by the way, this goes for military dictators, too, like Pinochet—who get control over a country and are totally clueless about how to run an economy, is that it lets them off the hook completely. It says government is the problem, not the solution. Leave it to the market. Laissez-faire. Don’t do anything. Just undo. Get out of the way. Leave it to us.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein is author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, speaking at the University of Chicago against the naming of the economics institute there after its most famous economist, Milton Friedman.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today is Naomi Klein. She took the world by storm with her first book, No Logo. Now she is back with The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Naomi, you’re talking about Milton Friedman. Expand it to the “Chicago School.”

NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So the influence of Milton Friedman comes from his role in really being the popularizer of what’s known as the “Chicago School of Economics.” He taught at the University of Chicago. He studied, actually, at the University of Chicago, and then he went on to be a professor there. He was mentored by one of the most radical free-market economists of our time, Friedrich von Hayek, who also taught for a time at the University of Chicago.

And the Chicago School of Economics really stands for this counterrevolution against the welfare state. In the 1950s, Harvard and Yale and the Ivy League schools tended to be dominated by Keynesian economists, people like the late John Kenneth Galbraith, who believe strongly that after the Great Depression, it was crucial that economics serve as a moderating force of the market, that it soften its edges. And this was really the birth of the New Deal, the welfare state, all of those things that actually make the market less brutal, whether it’s some kind of public healthcare system, unemployment insurance, welfare and so on. This was actually—the post-war period was a period of tremendous economic growth and prosperity in this country and around the world, but it really did eat into the profit margins of the wealthiest people in the United States, because this was the period where the middle class really grew and exploded.

So the importance of the University of Chicago Economics Department is that it really was a tool for Wall Street, who funded the University of Chicago very, very heavily. Walter Wriston, the head of Citibank, was very close friends with Milton Friedman, and the University of Chicago became kind of ground zero for this counterrevolution against Keynesianism and the New Deal to dismantle the New Deal. So in the ‘50s and ’60s, it was seen as very, very marginal in the United States, because big government and the welfare state and all of these things that have become sort of dirty words in our lexicon thanks to the Chicago School—they didn’t have access to the halls of power.

But that began to change. It began to change when Nixon was elected, because Nixon was very close with Milton Friedman, although Nixon decided not to embrace these policies domestically, because he realized he would lose the next election. And this is where I think you first see the incompatibility of these free-market policies with a democracy, with peace, because when Nixon was elected, Friedman was brought in as an adviser—he hired a whole bunch of Chicago School economists. And Milton Friedman writes in his memoirs that he thought, you know, finally their time had come. They were being brought in from the margins, and this sort of revolutionary group of these counterrevolutionaries were finally going to dismantle the welfare state in the USA. And what actually happened is that Nixon, you know, looked around, looked at the polls and realized that if he did what Milton Friedman was advising, he would absolutely lose the next election. And so, he did the worst thing possible, according to the Chicago School, which is impose wage and price controls.

And the irony is that two key Chicago School figures, Donald Rumsfeld, who had studied with Friedman as a sort of—I guess he kind of audited his courses; he wasn’t enrolled as a student, but he describes this time as studying at the feet of geniuses, and he describes himself as the “young pup” at the University of Chicago—and George Shultz were the two people who imposed wage and price controls under Nixon and when Nixon declared, “We’re all Keynesians now.” So for Friedman this was a terrible betrayal, and it also made him think that maybe you couldn’t impose these policies in a democracy. And, you know, Nixon famously said, “We’re all Keynesians now,” but the catch was he wouldn’t impose these policies at home, because it would have cost him the next election, and Nixon was reelected with a 60% margin after he imposed wage and price controls. But he unleashed the school on Latin America and turned Chile, under Augusto Pinochet, into a laboratory for these radical ideas, which were not compatible with democracy in the United States but were infinitely possible under a dictatorship in Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in Chile.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think Democracy Now! viewers and listeners know this chapter in history, which was that after Salvador Allende was elected, a democratic socialist was elected, in 1970, there was a plot to overthrow him. Nixon famously said, “Make the economy scream.” And the plot had many elements, an embargo and so on, and finally the support for Pinochet’s coup on September 11, 1973. And we often hear about the Chicago Boys in Chile, but we don’t hear that many details about who they actually were.

And so, what I do in the book is I retell this chapter of history, but, for me, the economic agenda of the Pinochet government is much more front and center, because I think we do know the human rights abuses, we know about Pinochet rounding up people, taking them to stadiums, the summary executions, the torture. We know a little bit less about the economic program that he pushed in in the window of opportunity that opened up after the shock of that coup. And this is where it fits into the shock doctrine thesis.

I think if you look at Chile—and this is why I spend some time in the book looking at it and examining it—we see Iraq. We see Iraq today. We see so many similarities between the intersection of a manufactured crisis and the imposition of radical economic shock therapy right afterward. So I’m thinking about the sort of parallels between Paul Bremer’s period in Iraq, when he went into Baghdad with the city still burning and just—you know, I came on the show at the time talking about how he had torn up the whole economic architecture of the country and turned it into this laboratory for the most radical free-market policies possible.

Well, in Chile, on September 11, 1973, while the tanks were rolling in the streets of Santiago, while the presidential palace was burning and Salvador Allende lay dead, there was a group of so-called “Chicago Boys,” who were Chilean economists who had been brought to the University of Chicago to study on full scholarship by the US government as part of a deliberate strategy to try to move Latin America to the right, after it had moved so far to the left. So this was a very ideological government-funded program, part of what Chile’s former foreign minister calls “a project of deliberate ideological transfer,” i.e. bringing these students to this very extreme school at the University of Chicago and indoctrinating them in a brand of economics that was marginal in the United States at the time and then sending them home as ideological warriors.

So this group of economists, who had failed to sway Chileans to their point of view when it was just part of, you know, an open debate, stayed up all night that night, on September 11, 1973, and they were photocopying a document called “the brick.” It’s known as “the brick.” And what it was was the economic program for Pinochet’s government. And it has these striking similarities, Amy, with George Bush’s 2000 election strategy—election platform. It talks about an ownership society, privatizing Social Security, charter schools, a flat tax. This is all straight out of Milton Friedman’s playbook. This document was on the desk of the generals on September the 12th, when they reported for work the day after the coup, and it was the program for Pinochet’s government.

So what I’m doing in the book is saying, you know, these two things are not coincidental. You know, when Pinochet died—he died the same—shortly before Milton Friedman—we heard—or, actually, he died shortly after Milton Friedman—we heard this narrative, you know, in places like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, of, “Of course, we disapprove of his human rights violations,” and this sort of, you know, shaking of fingers at the atrocities that we know about in Chile, “but on the economy he was terrific,” as if there was no connection between the free-market revolution that he was able to push through and the extraordinary human rights violations that took place at the same time. And what I’m doing in the book and what many Latin Americans do in their work is obviously connect the two and say it would have been impossible to push through this economic program without the extraordinary repression and the demolition of democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about shock in the sense of torture. It’s where you begin: “Blank is Beautiful.” Talk about that.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I start the book looking at the two laboratories for the shock doctrine. As I said, I look at different forms of shock. One is the economic shock, and another is body shock, shocks to people. And they aren’t always there, but they have been there at key junctures. This is the shock of torture.

So one of the laboratories for this doctrine was the University of Chicago in the 1950s, when all of these Latin American economists were trained to become economic shock therapists. Another one—and, you know, this isn’t some sort of grand conspiracy that it was all planned, but there was another school, which served as a different kind of shock laboratory, which was McGill University in the 1950s. McGill University was ground zero for the experiments that the CIA funded in order to understand how to—basically how to torture.

I mean, it was called “mind control” at the time or “brainwashing” at the time, but now we understand, thanks to the work of people like Alfred McCoy, who has been a guest on your program, that actually what was being researched in the 1950s under the MK-ULTRA program, when there were these experiments in extreme electroshock, LSD, PCP, extreme sensory deprivation, sensory overload, that actually what was being developed was the manual that we can now see at use in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. This is a manual for unmaking personalities, for total regression of personalities, and creating that window of opportunity where people are very suggestible, as we saw in the film. So McGill, in part because I think it was seen by the CIA as easier to perform these experiments outside the US—

AMY GOODMAN: McGill in Montreal.

NAOMI KLEIN: McGill in Montreal. At the time, the head of psychiatry was a man named Ewen Cameron. He was actually an American citizen. He was formerly head of the American Psychiatric Association, which I think is quite relevant to the debates going on right now about complicity in the psychiatric profession with current interrogation techniques. Ewen Cameron was head of the American Psychiatric Association. He moved to McGill to be head of psychiatry and to head up a hospital called the Allan Memorial Hospital, which was a psychiatric hospital.

He got funding from the CIA, and he turned the Allan Memorial Hospital into this extraordinary laboratory for what we now understand as alternative interrogation techniques. He dosed his patients with these odd cocktails of drugs, like LSD and PCP. He put them to sleep, sort of into a comatose state for up to a month. He put some of his patients into extreme sensory deprivation, and the point was to make them lose track of time and space.

And what Ewen Cameron believed, or at least what he said he believed, was that all mental illness was taught later in life, that these were patterns that set in later in life. He was a behavioral psychologist. And so, rather than getting at the root of those problems and trying to understand them, he believed that the way to treat mental illness was to take adult patients and reduce them to a childlike state. And it’s been well known—it was well known at the time—that one of the side effects of electroshock therapy was memory loss. And this was something that was seen, actually, by most doctors as a problem, because patients were treated, they may have reported some positive results, but they forgot all kinds of things about their life. Ewen Cameron looked at this research and thought, “Aha, this is good,” because he believed that it was the patterns that—because he believed that it was the patterns that were set in later in life, that if he could take his patients back to an infantile state, before they even had language, before they knew who they were, then he could essentially re-mother them, and he could turn them into healthy people. So this is the idea that caught the attention of the CIA, this idea of deliberately inducing extreme regression.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the woman you visited in the nursing home who had gone through this.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. I start the book with a profile of a woman name Gail Kastner. Gail Kastner was one of Ewen Cameron’s patients. And I read about her because she successfully sued the Canadian government, which was also funding Ewen Cameron. I read about her lawsuit, that she had just won an important victory: she had gotten a settlement, because she had been used as a guinea pig in these experiments without her knowledge.

So I called her, actually just got her number from the phone book. And she was very, very reticent to talk at first. She said she hated journalists, and it was very difficult for her to talk about it, because she would relive all these experiences. And I said, well—she said, “What do you want to talk to me about?” And I said, “Well, I just got back from Iraq”—and this was 2004—“and I feel like something that was done to you, the philosophy of what was done to you, has something to do with what I saw in Iraq, which was this desire to wipe clean a country and to start over from scratch. And I even think that some of what we’re seeing at Guantanamo with this attempt to regress prisoners through sensory deprivation and remake them is also related to what happened to you.” And there was this long pause. And she said, “OK, come and see me.”

So I flew to Montreal, and we spent the day talking, and she shared her story with me. She talks about her electric dreams, which is, she doesn’t have very many memories of what happened to her in this period, because she underwent such extraordinary shock and it did wipe out her memory. She regressed to the point where she sucked her thumb, urinated on the floor, didn’t know who she was, and she didn’t have any memory of this, any memory at all that she had ever been hospitalized. She only realized it, I think, twenty years later, when she read an article about a group of fellow patients who had successfully sued the CIA. And she picked out a few lines in the newspaper articles—regression, loss of language—and she thought, “Wait a minute, this sounds like me. This sounds like what I’ve heard about myself.” And so, she went and she asked her family, “Was I ever at the Allan Memorial Hospital?” And at first they denied it, and then they admitted it. She requested her file, and she read that, yes, she had been admitted by Dr. Ewen Cameron, and she saw all of these extraordinary treatments that had been done to her.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, but when we come back, we’re going to move from shocking the individual, shocking the body, to shocking the body politic, whether in Chile or in Iraq. We’re talking to Naomi Klein. Her book is being released today. It’s called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Stay with us.

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