Time for Straight Talk, Straight Answers

“Don’t play the blame game.” That’s the Republicans new mantra. That’s their way of sidetracking the obvious complicity of the Bush Administration in this government’s abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina’s destructive swathe through the Gulf Coast.

Bush has even called for a major investigation – which wastes more tax dollars, since no one has the decency to stand up and say they made mistakes. The government would rather waste time, energy, and money (ours, not theirs) to see if those mistakes can be unearthed by those who weren’t even there, or buried under the mountain of information that is generated in such investigations (remember the 9/11 report, which articulated clear negligence on the part of US intelligence agencies and the Bush Administration, although no one faced prosecution or serious accountability).

The American people, however, know what happened (remember Lincoln’s adage – “you can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”).

We know that FEMA was cut 44 percent from its proposed budget earlier this year. We know that millions in levee repairs in New Orleans were routed to the Iraq War and other Bush priorities (for example, an island of 50 people in Alaska received more than $500 million to construct a bridge, although these people already have ferries to transport them).

We know that federal officials denied or failed to respond to assistance from other cities and relief agencies (Chicago, for example, had truckloads of food, supplies, equipment, and manpower ready to go, but were not given the okay). We know that people were routed into the Superdome and the Convention Center without a plan to get them supplies, facilities, or protection (there were reports of suicides, people beaten and killed, a child raped and murdered, babies with slit throats, and more – although most of these have yet to be substantiated).

We know that Bush – after weeks of vacation – attended photo-op events in Southern California during the worse of the storm’s assault – and Condoleeza Rice was seen shopping in New York City during her vacation until called back to Washington DC after about a week (only to make a statement that the Bush Administration did not hate black people, as if this alone can assuage the reality of what we saw).

We know that countries like Venezuela and Cuba – long attacked by the government and the media as enemies of “American freedom” – were prepared to send doctors, oil, equipment, and funds, yet the Bush Administration has still not allowed this to happen (although people on the Gulf Coast badly need doctors – people died after the storm because of lack of doctors).

I can go on and on – we can get these stories and more on the daily reports from news sources (some reporters have awakened and righteously challenged the government’s inept response and tired excuses).

We don’t need any more investigations – unless it’s to seriously lay bare what actually happened, where the flaws existed, who’s responsible, and what affirmative steps will be taken to guarantee this will never happen again.

Something the people of the Gulf Coast and the rest of the country have long deserved. A straight story. True accountability. Real changes.

Yeah, right.

While stories of looting, rapes, and beatings were oft repeated (under such distress, some people go crazy, some decide that people’s lives are more important than property, and, some – mind you, this was still a minority – just don’t give a damn), other stories told of heroic acts: a six-year-old leading six other children younger than him (including a baby in his arms), all holding hands, among evacuees lost after rescue teams placed them on a highway; a man who used a leaking aluminum boat to save 200 people; how others, including strangers, united in teams at a second-floor of a school to get food and supplies until they could be saved; how millions of people, probably without much means themselves, offered their homes, their cars, their time, and money to immediately help those in the disaster zones; how cooperation, caring, and real planning can and has always worked when most needed.

Take Cuba again – last year Hurricane Ivan threatened to destroy a major portion of the country and kill tens of thousands. Through careful planning and social cooperation, 1.5 million people were evacuated to higher ground. No lives were lost when Ivan finally hit.

We deserve at least this much – with much more resources at our disposal.

Capitalism is at the root of the madness we’re seeing: Where police are forced to shoot and ward off looters, and letting food rot, instead of opening up the stores and handing them to the people who need it. Where those with means were allowed to leave New Orleans, leaving those who didn’t have means to fend for themselves. Where buses that have been used to transport tens of thousands to Houston’s Astrodome and other locations were unavailable for the poor before the storm hit. And where close to $60 billion dollars has been allocated so far by the government, when only millions were required to prepare New Orleans and most of the Gulf Coast for the inevitable hurricanes everyone predicted.

Yes, now the government, corporations, cities, other countries, relief agencies, churches, and people with very little to begin with, are providing aid in an amazing outpouring of immense magnitude.

But what about before the storms hit? Before another 9/11? When people most need the help not to be poor, neglected, and abandoned?

It’s time to ask the truly hard questions. It’s time to clarify the possible and powerful ways to go beyond the needs of a few rich capitalists who dictate who lives and dies in this country. The fact is – most of those people didn’t have to die. The fact is it’s within our power to do something about it. The fact is capitalism is the biggest block to true human freedom, protection, and well-being on earth. If we learn anything at all, we should learn that we, the people, organized, conscious, and imaginative, can do better.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.