In a sordid slime, harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom--and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich--
Our god is marching on. ~Mark Twain
While recently watching George Bush's carefully orchestrated performance from New Orleans' French Quarter a week late and a billion dollars short, I was struck by the confused desperation in his eyes, and I was overcome with sympathy. Not at the spectacle of an out-of-touch derelict engineer racing to catch the presidential train as it careened crazily out of the station, but for the vulnerable and abandoned Americans whose very survival depends upon his empty platitudes and promises.
In Bush's multiple photo-op visits to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf area -- including one released of him with his nose pressed to the window on his initial "flyover" visit -- he's been ludicrously stage-managed -- soaring nonsensical speeches, floodlights, cathedrals shimmering in the background, hugging female black victims brought to him for a camera shot, jouncing around in the back of a truck, rigidly sandwiched between a mayor and a governor and refusing to speak to either...This is Karl Rove's idea of a "hands-on" kind of guy, sleeves rolled up, hard at work. Bush doing his job. Protecting the American people. 'Cause that's, like, you know, his job. Protecting the American people. Did I mention his sleeves were rolled up?
That does it. No more flowery prose. No more screaming into the wind for Americans to wake up before it's too late. No more succumbing to an attack of the vapours while daubing my eyes with a scented handkerchief and plaintively wailing, "when is enough -- enough?" The reality is the panting war profiteers who control Bush will never have enough. Their greed is ravenous, insatiable; it devours everything in its path. They have no intention of giving up the power and profits for which they have worked so hard -- waited so long -- to achieve. Not now. Not ever. They plan to take it with them when they go. The war machine Dwight Eisenhower warned us about is cranked up and running, but it is not freedom they're spreading. It is fascism.
The miserly response to Katrina should serve as a wake-up call to those Americans who can still think. Fascism is on the march and, when this administration threw down the gauntlet in New Orleans, it declared open war on this nation's poorer citizens, most of whom were Black.
White Americans swallowed the spin that FEMA's disaster brigades, widely heralded for their immediate response to even a spring shower blowing over the Florida coast, suddenly became so incompetent when Katrina hit Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, they couldn't even figure out how to use the telephone or deliver a bag of ice.
The reality is that FEMA worked perfectly -- a planned exercise of bureacratic incompetency in order to expand Bush's powers to declare martial law in the next disaster. It was a well-oiled machine that thwarted every attempt to get help to those who were too old, too ill or too poor to leave. Looking back at FEMA's success in orchestrating "Operation Ethnic Cleansing," I have to agree with Bush -- Brownie did, indeed, do a heckuva job... For example:
FEMA refused the addition of hundreds of assistance personnel and dozens of vehicles, as well as food and water offered by Chicago's Mayor Daley. It also refused to let the Red Cross deliver food; in fact told the agency to leave and not come back. Renita Hosler, Red Cross spokesperson, said they were "at the table every single day" asking for access, but were kept out by the uniformed military.
FEMA refused to use the facilities of the USS Bataan, a 600-bed hospital ship that just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina made landfall. The USS Bataan is an 844-foot ship, complete with helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It has the capacity to make its own water -- up to 100,000 gallons a day -- but this service was also refused. Another state-of-the-art mobile hospital from the University of North Carolina -- a convoy that included two 53-foot trailers, 100 surgeons and paramedics, food, water and medicines -- was forced to park in a gravel lot 70 miles north of New Orleans. They were marrooned there for several days, frustrated by news that people were dying and that disease was becoming more widespread because of contaminated water.
Vice President Dick Cheney directed officials at the Southern Pines Electric Power Association, not once but twice, to restore gasoline and diesel fuel pipelines before restoring much needed power to rural hospitals. Amtrak's offer to help evacuate the sick and elderly from hospitals and the detention center was rebuffed, and three trailer trucks loaded with water from WalMart were turned away. Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, south of New Orleans, told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" that FEMA officials also prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and they cut the parish's emergency communications line, which was restored, but Broussard said the Parish sheriff was forced to post armed guards to protect it from FEMA.
On its own website, FEMA ordered First Responders not to respond "unless dispatched" because "self-dispatching volunteer assistance could significantly complicate the response and recovery effort." To emphasize the order, FEMA blocked a 500-boat citizen flotilla loaded with aid, and slapped Germany in the face by turning back a German government plane loaded with 15 tons of food.
All things considered, it looks like FEMA's response to Katrina was a catastrophic success. The only thing Bush and his racist cohorts didn't take into account was the universal shock that met his unconcerned efforts to flush poverty and crime down the toilet -- the outrage at remarks of Baton Rouge Republican Richard Baker, who chortled that God had finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans, and of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who suggested we could save money by just bulldozing the area and moving on...
The looting going on in New Orleans is being done by Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root and the Shaw Group, both clients of lobbyist and former FEMA head Joe Allbaugh, and by Bechtel, whose CEO is on Bush's Export Council. Bush immediately rescended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act which requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area. The body snatching is being done by the same funeral-gate firm that Bush was involved with in Texas -- Kenyon -- a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.
Hurricane Katrina ripped the mask from the Bush administration and, for a brief moment, exposed the sheer evil, and the bigotry, racism and greed that lies just beneath the surface. Those who dared to look upon the face of Bush's god cannot go home again. They know that the reality these greedy monsters create for us is one of relentless, non-stop chaos.