Naomi Klein on Haiti: Predictable Garbage

Although I’m loath to use tragedy to score political points, I always have to wonder what those who rail against “neo-liberal global capitalism” think when they see billions of dollars in humanitarian aid flow from around the globe into disaster areas, such as what is happening now in Haiti.*

Naturally, I sated my curiosity by seeing what Naomi Klein, author of the thoroughly debunked anti-capitalism polemic The Shock Doctrine had to say. Naturally, it was something stupid.

Klein warns of her dreaded bogeyman, “disaster capitalism,” taking root in Haiti and takes the Heritage Foundation to task for having the temerity to suggest that the situation might actually present an opportunity to reform the poorest country in the western hemisphere:

Readers of the The Shock Doctrine know that the Heritage Foundation has been one of the leading advocates of exploiting disasters to push through their unpopular pro-corporate policies. From this document, they’re at it again, not even waiting one day to use the devastating earthquake in Haiti to push for their so-called reforms. The following quote was hastily yanked by the Heritage Foundation and replaced with a more diplomatic quote, but their first instinct is revealing:

“In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”

Yes, how dare we try and foist the horrors of corporatism on the Haitian people. How dare we interfere in an economy where 225,000 children have been forced into slavery and where 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. The nerve.

Certainly some of the Heritage Foundation’s points, such as using U.S. military presence for drug interdiction (oh-so predictably Heritage) are worth criticizing, but is it really out of line to suggest that “the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti?”

*Just Papa Friedman spreading some more global misery, I presume?


7 Responses to “Naomi Klein on Haiti: Predictable Garbage”

  1. 1 Chris
    January 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Well, I think there are some salient points…especially about ensuring that we don’t saddle Haiti with more debt (a major reason it has been a shithole since Napoleon lost it). In other words, have fewer ties to the assistance and better outcomes will be expedited. Given Haiti’s proximity to the U.S. it’s not something we can easily ignore and Heritage is right to call that out. Klein’s style of criticism is good though because it forces us to think of better solutions.

    Let’s not forget that the U.S. and others exploited the living hell out of Haiti while it was being run by ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. Our past policies, in other words, contributed to the depravation (misspelling intended) of Haiti. So, forgive Klein if she doesn’t see our riding in like knights in shining grocery bags as some sort of heroic effort.

    ‘We’ fucked Haiti for a long time and now the earthquake has served as a sort of final act on what Haiti was (if ‘we’ actually find solutions for this mess). In other words, if you create the catastrophe or had a major role in it, you should walk softly while carrying a big fucking steak.

  2. 2 Vincent
    January 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Klein’s style of criticism is good…

    I think her style of criticism is fundamentally dishonest. It’s not that she’s looking at American interest in Haiti (which, while I’m no authority on the subject, I understand to be substantially more nuanced than the simple tale of “exploitation” you’re weaving) with a jaundiced eye toward “knight in shining armor” rhetoric. It’s that she insists on seeing capital as the Angel of Death and the United States as its herald.

    Presumably, Klein believes that we should simply fill an oil tanker up with dollar bills, ground it on some Haitian beach, and wash our hands of the matter, letting local organizers to rebuild their fine country in whatever way they see fit, free of the perfidious influence of capital and neoliberalism.

    Actually, maybe that’s a fabulous idea. After all, that way “we” won’t then have to flog ourselves in guilt over what happens next and Naomi Klein and her ilk can have another Caribbean island to use as a laboratory to test out their theories of an economy based on “resistance” to neoliberalism. Cuba’s looking a bit rusty these days. Better to start fresh.

  3. 3 Mario Savio
    January 28, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I’m in full agreement with Chris, while I’m still studying the subject, it’s very clear from looking at history that the United States has indeed raped and pillaged disaster zones to meet its own ends. I’m not sure but I heard the rice they send to places as aid is often surplus to requirement, often to rice farmers who cannot sell their own rice. (not sure how the aid is going in Haiti but saw some people outside the presidential palace, which had collapsed, who had received zero aid, just having seen US troops walking around providing ‘security’. Not to say that there hasn’t been any aid…

    But your pontificating about this subject, and your focus on attacking Klein in the typical manner of a weasel-like coward stewing in the juices of his own hateful, misguided blog, shows pretty clearly to me you have…

    A: an agenda to either distort the reality of the situation and ignore the true context and history of events, or simply you are unaware of them.

    B: a conceited, egotistical attitude.

    C: Have actually proved Klein right about the stance of these policies and ideas.

    “Cuba’s looking a bit rusty these days. Better to start fresh.”

    But of course, we shouldn’t give the people of Haiti any say when we start a fresh, should we. Anyone who goes against our little game plan? We’ll say they were terrorists and guerilla leaders perhaps – just make them dissapear? So long as we keep the price of bananas down at the local Wall-mart and ASDA.

    We could have an intellectual debate about the murder of these people as though they were fish in a barrel, but to be honest, if you have actually taken the trouble to dedicate a blog to your hate filled, irrational and distorted view of the world, where you maintain the illusion that the influence of the US world wide isn’t becoming unstable, unreliable and rejected. People will write history, and it’s fairly obvious to see when someone’s mouth is only moving with Friedman’s hand up their ass. I wish you luck in realizing what you probably already know and try to hide from, I wish that you will find peace, because as much as you desire to distance yourself from the people of Haiti, from people ‘like me’ and perhaps Chris, you can’t. We’re all related, all in this together, and have to find ways we can live together. These ideas will produce endless war and misery. I have no hatred for you, just your misguided ideas. And to those, from me and the people of Haiti.

    Fuck you. Just until you see what’s right in front of you.


  4. 4 Vincent
    January 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Fuck you.

    That’s about the level of discourse one tends to expect from one of Klein’s acolytes.

  5. 5 Chris
    January 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that I realized Vincent’s take on Klein (and presumably CJ’s) is that she’s one-dimensional and avoids discussing certain things that may water down the arguments that she wants to make.

    In agreeing with the fact that the US has had a role in Haiti’s history, I’m not laying the blame for it all at the US’ feet. I’m just looking to acknowledge our role and how it does fit into the general failure that Haiti has experienced over the time period where we’ve had more involvement there.

    The factors at play are, of course, far more diverse than merely U.S. intervention though.

    My point about Klein’s criticism is that it serves as a bit of a foil for her counterparts on the other side of the spectrum. Without her framing the other side of the debate, it might be harder to find the middle for some people.

    I’m not sure. In any case, just chiming in.

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