Published in The Nation
I just got off the phone with my friends Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," and her husband Avi Lewis, host of al Jazeera English's popular program Fault Lines
. They are traveling around the devastated US Gulf reporting on the horrific disaster caused by BP's massive oil spill. They described to me a run in that they just had with the private security company Wackenhut, which apparently has been hired to do the perimeter security for the "Deepwater Horizon Unified Command."
The "Unified Command" is run jointly by BP and several US government agencies including the US Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security.
Wackenhut, of course, is the notorious private security company that operates in the US and around the globe. It recently became part of the huge British mercenary network G4S. Most recently, Wackenhut gained global infamy for the conduct of guards from its subsidiary Armor Group after it was revealed by whistleblowers
that the company created a "Lord of the Flies environment" at the embassy "in which guards and supervisors are 'peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks... [drunken] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity." According to the Project on Government Oversight
, "Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion, with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted, or even fired. The result is an environment that is dangerous and volatile. Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically."
In other words, Wackenhut is the perfect choice to "guard" the joint BP-US government-US military operation in the Gulf.
Lewis told me that for two weeks his crew has attempted to interview officials from the Unified Command's Joint Information Center. "We had been shut down or dodged for 2 weeks of official requests," he said. Finally, Lewis and Klein, who is on assignment for The Guardian, decided to go to the information center in person "to try to nail something down."
When they pulled up to the front gate, they were greeted by a private security guard working for Wackenhut, the massive security company. "We said we were media and he said, 'No no no. You're going to have to turn around and go back," recalls Lewis. Klein added, "The Wackenhut guard said we couldn't come in without permission, but wouldn't tell us who we needed permission from. When we didn't leave, he radioed for back up and a Wackenhut truck arrived to escort us off the grounds." Here's a photo of the Wackenhut guard stopping them:
Klein, who spent extensive time in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina documenting the widespread disaster profiteering and privatization that endures to this day said the fact that Wackenhut is guarding a joint operation of the US government and BP is not surprising given what is happening in the Gulf right now. "The whole Gulf Coast is a corporate oil state," she told me. "It's like BP broke it, so now they own the entire Gulf Coast." She added: "We might accept the premise that BP is best positionioned to know how to fix the blow up at 5,000 feet, but that also seems to mean they think they should control media access and the entire clean up of a massive national emergency. BP is in charge of everything. We were on the water in open seas the day before the Wackenhut incident and a boat pulls up next to us and asked if we worked for BP and we said, "No," and they said, 'You can't be here.'" It is completely sci-fi. It's a corporate state."