Monday, April 18, 2005

Fables of the Reconstruction 

Via Singularity:
Three months after the tsunami hit Aceh, the New York Times reported that "almost nothing seems to have been done to begin repairs and rebuilding". The dispatch could have come from Iraq, where, as the Los Angeles Times has reported, all Bechtel's allegedly rebuilt water plants have started to break down, one more in a litany of reconstruction screw-ups. It could have come from Afghanistan, where President Karzai blasted "corrupt, wasteful and unaccountable" foreign contractors for "squandering the precious resources that Afghanistan received in aid".

But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its purpose. According to Guttal: "It's not reconstruction at all - it's about reshaping everything." The stories of corruption and incompetence mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. On this front, the reconstruction industry works so efficiently that the privatisations and land grabs are usually locked in before local people know what hit them. Herman Kumara, of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo, Sri Lanka, sent an email to colleagues around the world warning that Sri Lanka is facing "a second tsunami of corporate globalisation and militarisation ... We see this as a plan... to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations ... with military assistance from the US marines."

Continue reading: Disaster Capitalism

In other famous tales of corruption and incompetence...

Dr. Barry, Ph.D. (with a certificate in Bullshit Management) tosses us a flowery bedtime story too. And it comes with miracles!, and Ronald Reagan!, and exported jugfulls of Dr. Milty's famed "Chicago School" of Moonshine homebrew, and wondrous privatization toys, and the graceful suites of murderous thieving dictators, and....:
In 1975, General Pinochet says, "Well, geez, I'm a military dictator, what do I do now? I don't know anything about running this economy." And someone says, "General Pinochet, there are 10 economists here at Catholic University." All 10 were educated at the University of Chicago under Dr. Milton Friedman, eight of them Chileans, two of them Americans. They've got some ideas. They not only privatized Chile, but on November 4, 1980, the same day that President Reagan won election as President, they privatized Social Security. Now they've had over a dozen years of experience at this thing. The average Chilean will have over $1 million in their retirement account when they retire.


The economies in Latin and South America are taking off like a rocket involving 375 million people. This will be one of the economic miracles of the world, all based on privatization. And, here's the linkage. Freedom is the mainspring of economic progress. Private property is the prerequisite to economic freedom. The whole world is privatizing. ~ By E. Barry Asmus, Ph.D., Sr. Policy Advisor, National Center for Policy Analysis (July, 1997)

Well geez, can't ya just smell the ambrosia in the air! Sweet elixir of bunkum! No shortage of coconut flakes in that recipe. Fast forward about 3 months...:
November 14, 1997, from Riggs Chairman, Joseph Albritton, after a visit with Pinochet at the Lo Curo Military Club in Santiago:

Dear General Pinochet:

I am pleased to report the business relationship between Riggs and the Chilean Military is prospering. I am also grateful for our thriving personal friendship, which you have demonstrated through your gracious hospitality and stalwart support of the Riggs. …You have rid Chile from the threat of totalitarian government and an archaic economic system based on state-owned property and centralized planning. We in the United States and the rest of the western hemisphere owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude and I am confident your legacy will have been to provide a more prosperous and safer world for your children and grandchildren. …Warmest personal regards

October 31, 1997, Allbritton's wife Barbara, wrote a similar thank you letter:

My dear General Pinochet:

It was a great pleasure and honor to be with you on Wednesday at tea at the Military Club. You were so very gracious to allow us this time with you and I was extremely pleased to have this appointment to meet and be with your son Marco Antonio. …The elegant lapis lazuli box you so kindly gave to me shall be used and displayed with a great deal of pride and pleasure. It shall be a reminder of this special time we spent with you during our trip to Santiago.

With appreciation and respect for you and all you have done for our world.

Pinochet was not the only Chilean general to receive such sweet, flowery letters. General Ricardo Izurieta, as an attaché at the Chilean embassy in Washington and then as Pinochet's successor as commander-in-chief, also received them. In the mid 1990's, the Senate report shows, Izurieta played the role of an intermediary between Pinochet and Riggs officials. In November, 1995, for example, Uzurieta relayed an invitation to Allbritton to come to Vina Del Mar and attend the Horse Derby there with General Pinochet. After he became commander-in-chief Izurieta forcefully played a role in obtaining Pinochet's release from London. But just before Pinochet's return to Chile, Izurieta met with a Riggs delegation, led by Chairman Allbritton, and showed them extensive hospitality. Soon, Allbritton would write yet another glowing note: "Where do I begin to thank you? You graced our suite with the sweet smell of beautiful flowers and Chilean wine. You gave us your time on the very eve of the General's return."

Feel like puking on your keyboard do ya?

Well, read all about the Riggs Bank scandals, Chairman Joe, Gen. Pinochet and Barbara's elegant lapis lazuli box and other "economic miracles of the world" here, via the National Security Archives at George Washington University:CHILE DECLASSIFIED: LETTERS TO AUGUSTO, By Peter Kornbluh, March 15 2005.

"Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust." ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1812


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