A long article but well worth the read. - fc
The Perfect Storm and the Feral City
By Tom Engelhardt
The headline was: "Direct hit in New Orleans could mean a modern Atlantis," and the first paragraph of the story read: "More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out Tuesday as [the] 140-mph hurricane churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge this below-sea-level city in what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years." That was USA Today and the only catch was -- the piece had been written on September 14, 2004 as Hurricane Ivan seemed to be barreling toward New Orleans.
New Orleans is not the only toxic sludge pool in sight. Let's not forget the toxic sludge pool of Bush administration policy which came so clearly into view as Katrina ripped the scrim off our society, revealing an Iraqi-style reality here at home. Unlike conquered and occupied Iraq, the strip-mining of this country in recent years has taken place largely out of sight. While Baghdad was turned into some kind of dead zone of insecurity, lack of electricity, lack of gas, lack of jobs, lack of just about everything a human being in a modern city has come to expect, American cities -- until last week -- stood seemingly untouched in what was still proudly called "the world's last superpower." But just out of sight, the coring, gutting, and dismantling of the civilian governmental support system of the United States, that famed "safety net," was well underway. Bush administration proponents and conservative ideologues had long talked about "starving the beast"; but, until Katrina hit, it remained for many Americans at best a kind of political figure of speech.
Now we know for real. The beast has been starved; or rather, the beasts have been fed and the much-maligned part of the state that protected its citizens with something other than guns has been starved. What Katrina's course through Mississippi and Louisiana revealed was the real meaning of starvation. It seems we no longer have the capacity for a full-scale civilian response to a major disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security and led by an incompetent who had been fired from his previous job as head of the International Arabian Horse Association, has had "its ties to state emergency programs… weakened, and… has reduced spending on disaster preparation." In the same way, we now know that the Army Corps of Engineers was financially reined in on crucial levee work in New Orleans. Much of this sort of thing was done under the guise of preparing for, or fighting, or funding the war on terror at home and abroad. Many pundits, for instance, have remarked on the obvious fact -- which had previously worried the governors of many states -- that significant chunks of the National Guard and, just as important for disaster relief, its heavy equipment are to be found in Iraq, not here to be called upon in an emergency. (And when the avian flu, or the next health disaster, suddenly hits our country, consider it a guarantee -- the media will again be filled with the same sort of shock about the civilian response to the crisis, because our public health system has also been gutted and de-funded under the guise of the war on terrorism.)
· bush administration
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