Thursday, September 01, 2005

Catastrophe

I'm watching CNN, cycling footage of thousands and thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center, without food or water for two days, ankle-deep in shit, dead bodies lying in the street and propped in wheelchairs around them, screaming at the camera for somebody to help them.

The government is pulling out rescue teams because of the 'security situation'. Evacuation efforts were halted because someone fired shots at a helicopter. The President has announced a zero-tolerance policy for looting. White House Spokesscumbag Scott McClellan, asked at the latest press briefing whether that policy applied to people who were desperate to get food and water to survive, and said, 'You heard the President. It's a zero-tolerance policy. The National Guard is distributing food and water, these people have ways to get food and there is no excuse for acting unlawfully.' They are saying out loud that property is more important than people's lives. And they are lying. The people outside the convention center, where they've been sent to wait for evacuation buses that never arrive, have been in one place for two days waiting for food, and no food has been given. WHAT ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO DO?

They're holding a press briefing with Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Director and Attorney General Gonzales, and all they can talk about is 'security'. They keep citing the number of police and National Guard they're bringing in, not to rescue or feed the stranded thousands but to maintain order. We're being told how lucky it is that the National Guard is exempt from the Posse Comitatus restriction on military forces being involved in law enforcement. Security, not saving lives, is the explicit order of the day.

This didn't happen. This was done. There is no 'natural' about this disaster. The hurricane passed New Orleans by. This happened because the levees were fucked, and that was publicly declared and remedy funding requested and denied two years ago. And when they broke, as it was known they would, the fucking government waited two days to act. How much more clear could they make it that they just don't fucking care?

This has to change things. CNN is showing dead bodies on television for (to my knowledge) the first time ever. People are being shown on camera, sitting outside the convention center dying. The press are actually bringing themselves to ask, over and over, how this can have happened like this, and what the government is doing to make it better. At some point, despite all the attempts to proscribe 'talking about politics' and 'pointing fingers', despite the fact that these are only poor black people taking the brunt, people in general will have to have seen enough needless, senseless, abandoned suffering in their back yards that they'll start to ask hard questions, and demand answers.

And maybe, if we're really lucky, to ask why billions of dollars are being spent every month to occupy Iraq, while we can't even afford to feed and rescue thousands of our own citizens from their drowned city, drowned in a catastrophe that could have been prevented if anyone cared.

Update: The mayor of New Orleans has just released a statement announcing 'This is a desperate SOS. We're out of resources at the Convention Center, and don't anticipate getting help for 15-20,000 people.' The promised buses are not in fact coming to the rescue. So they're 'allowing those people to march' out of New Orleans 'to find relief'. How the fuck all those old people and wheelchair-bound people and teenage mothers with babies are supposed to march out of New Orleans is beyond my ken, as is what kind of 'relief' they're expected to 'find' (without looting, of course) when they get there. And the government's holding press conferences saying 'Be patient. We have resources and we'll get them to you.' A thousand, million, infinite times fuck you.

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