Twelve days of negotiations ended after diplomats from scores of nations delivered speeches embracing the accord. It requires signatories not to use cluster bombs, to destroy existing stockpiles within eight years, and to fund programs that clear old battlefields of dud bombs.
"What do 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and 2004's Southeast Asian tsunami — not to mention countless earthquakes, floods and pretty much any kind of havoc global warming might cause — have in common? If you are a normal person, you might say "untold human suffering." But that wouldn't make you a very good neocon. In her new book, The Shock Doctrine, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein rips apart the big lies and secret agendas of the Bush administration to show how the opportunists at the helm of American power have used misery and disaster as a cover for extending U.S. economic hegemony, abrogating human rights and shredding our own Constitution. It's a chilling, important book, and anyone who wants to understand how the world really works — not to mention how the war on terrorism has made the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney extremely wealthy men — should read it immediately.
What are the most profound changes the U.S. faces in the next twenty years?
If we just draw all these lines into the future, we can see more disasters, more inequality. We could have a fully privatized response to climate change, with a small group of people buying their way out for a couple of generations. Our world could look more like Baghdad — a green zone guarded by Blackwater and everything provided by Halliburton and then just a raging red zone outside.
How do you think this happened so quickly? Just a few years ago, Americans seemed to fundamentally believe that the government worked.
Well, part of it is the amazing success of the propaganda campaign around the idea that all progressive ideas have already been tried and failed. There's a level of shame about defending anything in the public domain. None of this could have happened without September 11th. This is the thesis of my book: that an atmosphere of crisis provides the cover not to have a debate.
In one eye-opening chapter of the book, you show how deeply Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were invested in the companies that the administration was handing out contracts to. Why hasn't this been treated as a national scandal?
We talk about Bush and Cheney grabbing power and hoarding it in the executive branch. But they didn't just hold onto it, they gave it to their friends. This is who these people are — they are disaster capitalists. Look at Giuliani — he's another one. As soon as he could, he starts a company to profit off of 9/11.
What will be the lasting effect of the Bush administration?
People haven't fully grasped the revolutionary nature of the Bush years. They are leaving a hollow shell to their successors. It's like what happens in Third World governments, where the reformers take over the presidential palace, only to realize that the power lies elsewhere. That's what's going to happen to whoever comes in after the Bush administration. They will find out how much power resides in this parallel contractor economy.
The state won't have the ability to just cancel those contracts?
The state doesn't even have the ability to oversee those contracts. This is one of their clever tricks — they privatize the war on terror and then say everything about this war is classified, so we don't even know what we have contracted out. Maybe you catch glimpses of it — the Abu Ghraib scandal breaks, and we find that some of the key people are contractors. We caught another glimpse of it when it became clear that the State Department can't function without Blackwater.
What have been your impressions of the presidential race so far?
What's been amazing is the extent to which money is running. It's never been this overt: The media reports on campaigns as if they're a corporation with third-quarter profits and that is more important than anything else. This has been the subtext before, but it has never been the main story. People know it, and then they become even more cynical. They don't understand, and neither do I, how you translate really wanting something, and telling pollsters that you want it, into voting for politicians who actually get it. And yet that gets described as voter apathy."