Monday, August 28, 2006

Katrina In Retrospect

Katrina In Retrospect

“The masses of people in the US and around the world understood that Katrina was a natural occurrence. What is not so clearly understood is that the misery, suffering and deaths in New Orleans were a man made disaster. All of the misery and deaths could have been prevented, if we lived in a society that put the health and well-being of the people before profits. The US government, the state government and the local government refused to prepare for a category 5 hurricane like Katrina. The Clinton government and the Bush government cut the budget to improve the levee' system around New Orleans. Governor Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin had no plan to evacuate the more than 125,000 people that they knew had no means of getting out. Nor did they have any plans on how to recover from such a natural disaster. The US government knew from its own preparedness drills the consequences of a category 5 storm hitting New Orleans. The New Orleans Times Picayune had run a series exposing the consequences of not protecting the barrier islands and not fortifying the levees. The state and local government had 72 hours to evacuate the city, yet poor people were left to fend for themselves. Knowing what the government knew, what was not understandable was the lack of US government response to the natural disaster. Was not the US, the last remaining superpower, capable of mobilising its fleet of helicopters and ships to rescue people? Doesn't the US immediately send aid to other countries which are struck by disasters? Why let the workers and poor black people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, citizens of your own country, drown and starve?” Lessons from Hurricane Katrina Down with the Rule of the Capitalist Class!

As we approach the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting devastation, it behooves us to look back, debrief, learn the lessons and make the necessary adjustments in our strategy, lifestyles and political agenda. We now know what happened in New Orleans was not the result of the local, state and federal governments ignorance, ineptitude or unpreparedness. New Orleans is a city built on marshes from the Mississippi delta well below sea level surrounded by water on three sides. In 2002 The New Orleans Times Picayune the leading newspaper in the city published a five part series called Washing Away examining numerous scenarios involving hurricane management and emergency preparedness which predicted hundreds of thousand of New Orleans citizens would be left homeless and stranded during a category four or better hurricane. A major government agency, FEMA predicted in 2001 a category five hurricane hitting New Orleans would be so disastrous it was one of the top three potential threats facing the nation the other two were: an earthquake hitting San Francisco and a terrorist attack in New York. There were recent university and engineering studies which pointed out the city’s vulnerability to a major hurricane. All this information was available to the mayor, the governor and the Bu$h administration. They all dropped the ball What they did was not inept, it was criminal. “The flooding of New Orleans was not a problem of inadequate foresight. Over the course of many years, numerous reports from government agencies and news organizations predicted the flooding of New Orleans in the wake of a powerful hurricane. But various projects to protect the city from flooding were downsized, delayed, and underfunded. This reveals something already familiar to any student of politics: given conflicting priorities and limited resources, politicians generally will not invest money in forestalling disasters deemed unlikely or not imminent. If a crisis is not near at hand, our political system responds sluggishly, or not at all. While this tendency might appear to save taxpayer dollars, in fact, all it does is free up Congress to spend money on non-essential projects (like the pork in the recent transportation bill). Crises have a way of focusing the mind and concentrating the attention, however, and hopefully in the wake of Katrina our leaders will put a new priority on protecting our critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks and natural disasters.” The Lessons of Katrina Natural Horrors and Modern Technology
I watched Spike Lee’s documentary on Katrina on HBO last week and to his credit he included footage of the hurricane preparation video conference between FEMA head Michael Brown and George W. Bu$h. It is crucial the world sees this with their own eyes because the Bu$h administration lied saying they had no idea or information a category five hurricane was headed to the Gulf Coast. Just like he said he had no advanced warning of 9-11 when he did, Bu$h lied to justify his criminal inaction in the face of a major disaster! FEMA and Bu$h knew the hurricane would be a major one because the National Weather Service meteorological reports gave them plenty of time and warning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided satellite tracking of the storm plus military satellites are available to track storms and assist rescue and relief efforts during disasters. “9/16/2005 - LOS ANGELES AFB, Calif. -- Low-light imagery is being used to assist emergency management agencies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina through U.S. Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites. Agencies can assess damage and track repair progress by comparing 'lights at night' images taken before and after a disaster. This imagery provides data on human activity as indicated by city and industrial lights. DMSP satellites meet military requirements for worldwide space and terrestrial weather information. Through these satellites, military weather forecasters detect developing patterns of weather, track existing weather systems over remote areas and alert civil and military communities of anticipated hazards in space. Data from these satellites helps identify, locate and determine intensity of severe weather such as thunderstorms, hurricanes and typhoons. It can also be used to form 3-D cloud analyses, which are the basis for computer forecast models that meet unique military requirements. Additionally, space environmental data is used to assist high-frequency communications, over-the-horizon radar and spacecraft drag and re-entry tasks.”
The notion the Bu$h administration was caught off guard and unprepared is just not true. Their inaction was deliberate and the actions they took did not make evacuation, relief, search and rescue top priorities. The Bu$hites deliberately waited and allowed the situation to deteriorate as they wrangled with Governor Blanco for control over the National Guard. The Bu$hites always looking to expand their power base used the disaster as a test run for martial law, the lock down of a major urban area, population displacement, dispersal and relocation, FEMA even prevented truckloads of water, other critical supplies and volunteer first responders from other areas of the country from coming into the city!! When the troops came in they came with a war mentality, guns loaded viewing those trapped in the city as the enemy as opposed to fellow citizens needing help, search and rescue. Mercenaries and private security firms using armed personnel patrolled the streets amidst false reports of massive looting and disorder. “Broadcast media played an important role in alerting the residents of the Gulf Coast of the impending hurricane and its potential consequences. And during the height of the emergency, the media were essential to keeping the nation informed of the events in the region. This was a significant public service, and it may have saved lives. At the same time, much of the coverage of Katrina and its aftermath was grossly wrong. Many unsubstantiated rumors which have since been proven utterly false were taken at face value and reported for all the world to hear—stories of piled corpses, ten thousand dead, shootings, rapes, and murders. This reporting was outrageous and disgraceful. It could have cost lives by causing government officials and aid organizations to delay sending their personnel into areas erroneously considered too dangerous. What’s more, inaccurate reporting and knee-jerk opinionating gave a misleading sense of the federal response and led to distorted impressions of racism. This inflicted great harm on the already none-too-high international opinion of the United States, as the whole world watched American reporters confuse falsehood with fact for days on end.”
Now a year later the question remains, are Africans in AmeriKKKa better prepared today than we were a year ago to defend, secure, provide emergency assistance and aid to our people in every community? Have we begun to formulate and create local and national networks and agendas on how to deal with crises such as this? Hurricane Katrina tore the scabs off of the sores of class and race in AmeriKKKa. Katrina revealed the percolating indifference and deleterious effects of long time benign neglect on the underclass of a major AmeriKKKan city. The whole world saw how virulent racism is in AmeriKKKa. For us who live with it in a daily basis, the question is how do we organize to save ourselves because it is clear we cannot count on the US government to save us. That the biggest lesson we can learn from Hurricane Katrina.



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