From a coup in 1973 to the crash in 2008, disaster capitalists use violence and intimidation to achieve their radical goals. And yes, it counts as terrorism.
Investigative journalist Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, posits that
“[t]he shock doctrine, like all doctrines, is a philosophy of power. It’s a philosophy about how to achieve your political and economic goals. And this is a philosophy that holds that the best way, the best time, to push through radical free-market ideas is in the aftermath of a major shock.
Now, that shock could be an economic meltdown. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a terrorist attack. It could be a war. But the idea […] is that these crises, these disasters, these shocks soften up whole societies. They discombobulate them. People lose their bearings. And a window opens up, just like the window in the interrogation chamber. And in that window, you can push through what economists call economic shock therapy.”
This dynamic is, in fact, what we see taking place in nations across the globe. Oligarchs, vulture capitalists, corporations, titans of finance and so on, all have threatened world markets with destruction if there isn’t a continuance of their failed fiscal policies.
Much noise is made about al-Qaeda and other supposed terrorist groups, and yet the radicalized corporatists and uber-capitalists and their unholy war on the economies of the world isn’t called terrorism, but that’s exactly what is.
Pinochet sheds green, then blood
In the documentary film based on Klein’s bestseller, we learn the story of Chile and the violent overthrow of democratically-elected President Salvador Allende. Before one shot was fired — before one drop of blood was shed — there was war taking place in Chile, but it was a war between economic ideologies.
After Allende, a democratic socialist, was elected, the Nixon administration began a plot to undermine and destroy his presidency. The means by which this would be accomplished would be a full frontal assault on the conservatives’ monster-under-the-bed of socialism – Nixon famously said, “Make the economy scream.”
Pinochet’s human rights abuses, his herding of people into stadiums, the summary executions and the torture — all are well documented. What we know little about, however, is the economic agenda that was the gateway to the Chilean dictator’s acquisition of power.
While the CIA was training soldiers of various South American totalitarian regimes in the ways of torture through the School of the Americas, Milton Friedman, right-wing godfather of American uber-capitalism, was educating economists from the same countries in the not-so-sweet art of radical free-market theory.
From his perch as the head of the University of Chicago’s School of Economics, Friedman influenced a group called the “Chicago Boys,” Chilean economists who had been brought to the University of Chicago to study – on full scholarship from the U.S. government – as part of a deliberate strategy to try to move Latin America to the right, after a wave of popular elections had moved the region to the left.
This was an ideological, government-funded program, part of what Chile’s ex-foreign minister pronounced “a project of deliberate ideological transfer.” In other words, by bringing those students to the radical school at the University of Chicago and indoctrinating them in a brand of economics that was, at the time, marginal in the United States, they were able send back to Chile ideological foot-soldiers of radical free-market ideology.
So when this group of economists failed to swing Chileans to their point of view – Chilean voters instead preferred Allende’s socialist platform – on September 11, 1973, a democratically-elected president lay in a pool of his own blood and the era of Friedman in Chile began.
“Ownership society,” privatized social safety-net programs and education, and a flat tax were the new fiscal laws of the land. If this sounds just like the economic policies pushed by American conservative, that’s because that’s what they are.
This was and is the textbook definition of economic terrorism. When uber-capitalists could not win the debate on the merits of their argument, they resorted to violence; what could not be achieved by popular vote was gained by aggression.
A financial nuclear weapon in the hands of economic terrorists
One of the tools of economic terrorism used to help bring down the economies of the world was — and remains — credit default swaps (CDS). Essentially, they are a form of insurance to hedge against the risk of default on debt – or rather, that’s what they’re supposed to be.
Instead of using CDSs to hedge their risk, much of the CDS market was simply a Wall Street shell game: a mock-insurance that allowed Wall Street to pretend it had reduced its risk – and thus permitting Big Finance to over-leverage their balance sheets to the potentially market-crashing level of 30:1.
What has to be understood is that CDSs were never intended to be a “hedge against risk.” The credit default swap market is roughly $60 trillion in size – that’s as large as the entire global economy. So the drain on the economy, in regard to credit default swaps, comes when investors are guaranteed — with little risk to them, practically speaking — to get exponentially more than what was actually invested.
What makes the CDS market even more threatening is that it is virtually unregulated, a ripe economic weapon that can and has been used to manipulate the market. In other words, it operates in the shadows; because of this deplorable lack of transparency, it is unpredictable.
And isn’t that what terrorism is: the feeling of impending harm; the uncertainty of when and where an attack may take place?
Vultures hovering over Africa
In his book Vulture’s Picnic, investigative journalist Greg Palast tells the story of how vulture capitalists, including a top funder of the Republican Party, have demanded African nations pay over half a billion dollars for old debts — for which the investors paid only a few million. These predatory investors attack desperately poor nations. This practice is outlawed throughout most of the world, but not in the United States.
In a Guardian and BBC investigation, Palast followed the story of Peter Grossman, who’s been awarded $100 million against one of Africa’s most poverty-stricken nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo, for a debt he purchased for just $3.3 million – under dubious circumstances.
Part of this economic extortion of the DRC includes the blocking of $100 million in aid, needed by the country to help combat cholera. A UNICEF director of the clear water project in the Congo said that $100 million could save the lives of 200,000 children. Grossman and the radicalized sect of vulture capitalists seem unfazed by such inconsequential things as the slow, agonizing death of children.
The absence of IEDs and suicide bombers is construed by some as the absence of terrorism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Does it matter if death and destruction occur by a sudden explosion instead of by starvation and disease following the denial — because of greed — of help and much-needed assistance?
William Black, former bank regulator, had this to say:
“Here’s what we know. The Wall Street Journal just ran an op-ed saying, don’t allow the federal government to help the states. That tells you that’s what they’re scared of. It would be economically brilliant, it would be politically brilliant, to bring back the revenue sharing provisions, which are, after all, a Republican idea, and make the Republicans make the call that they want a financial holocaust throughout America, and they want us to slip back into a recession.”
Of particular importance is the phrase financial holocaust, because that indicates a deliberate plan for a campaign of terror – via the economy – on the American people to forward a radical agenda.
And yet, there are huge differences in how we deal with economic terrorists versus individuals we suspect of being connected to an extremist Islamic group. One can be detained without charge for years; the other, even when the evidence warrants it, is not even indicted for a crime. One is attacked by dystopian drones, their countries threatened with invasion and occupation; the other is threatened rewarded with subsidies, bonuses and nine-figure bank accounts.
One is demonized and reviled by the American masses — and sometimes, rightly so. Yet the other is sought after for campaign contributions by both major political parties — and the gratitude that they get for payments received is a system that both excuses and enables their radical agenda.
To the homeowner whose mortgage is underwater and is in danger of foreclosure, to the worker whose promised pension has been eviscerated, and to the millions of Americans and others around the world who have seen austerity all but destroy social safety-net programs, who is more of threat: al-Qaeda or al-Oligarch?
To cite Shakespeare, terrorism by any other name – or any other form – would smell as sickening.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.