Column No. 76 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - September 15, 2005

Much has been written of what will go down in American history as one of the worst disasters ever.  Since it may in the end result in the destruction through chemical and biological contamination of one of our nation’s few unique cities, of what we have known New Orleans to be, it may well be the worst disaster in our nation’s history.  (By the way, if this chemical and biological contamination had been the result of a terrorist attack, just imagine how different he reaction of the Bush Men to it would have been.) I do not call it a “natural” disaster because the bulk of the physical damage and virtually all of the loss of human life did not arise from natural causes.

The death and destruction clearly arose from a whole series of conscious decisions by the Bush Men that starved New Orleans of flood control money over the past four years, money that was repeatedly requested, would have dealt with, and most likely prevented the specific dike failures that resulted in the flooding.  (Please note my use of the term “Bush Men” as distinguished from “Bushmen.”  The latter describes an aboriginal tribe living in the Kalahari region of Southern Africa that I would not want to insult by perhaps indicating that they had anything in common in the way of morals, ethics, ideology, or policies, with those of the current controllers of the US Federal government.)  Coincident with these decisions were a whole series of other conscious ones by the Bush Men that lead to the further, and highly critical, destruction of the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta, opening vast tracts up to development.

Please note my name for the event.  It does not include the word “Katrina.”  Since the hurricane itself only swiped at New Orleans along its western side, if the dikes had not failed, by the end of that first week after the hurricane hit, New Orleans would have likely been a footnote to coverage of the areas of the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf coats that took the full force of its center.  But what occurred that was monstrous (in both senses of the term) was the Flood, Bush’s Flood indeed, and that is what I am calling it.

Much, much more will be written about The Great New Orleans Bush Flood of 2005, over a period of decades, including, should the US university system survive the current onslaught of Georgite crypto-theocratic-fascism against it, numerous doctoral dissertations.  In this first of what will become, knowing myself, another of my subject-specific series, I share with you a couple of comments, edited for reproduction, that first appeared on the Weblog http://planetmove.blogspot.com/ on which, as many of you know, I publish occasionally.  These pieces should be read in the context of the dates on which they appeared.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Dr. J.'s Short Short Shot No. 4: The Bush Base Revealed

If anyone had any doubts about what the primary Bush Base is, his response and the response of his Administration to the New Orleans tragedy/disaster should set the record straight. Folks, his primary base ain't the Christian Right. That is a Johnny-come-relatively-lately. It brings in votes, alright. It also provides a very convenient target for Bush opponents like myself to attack (and attack we do and rightly so). Further, having the Christian Right out in front as the apparent primary base provides a cover for the basic policies of the Party and the Administration that they cannot talk about openly. That primary long-time base of the modern Republican Party, lies elsewhere.  Like the Religious Right, it goes by the letters RR: Racist Right.

What Bush is doing and not doing in and for the New Orleans disaster/tragedy is an illustration that is as clear as clear can be that yes indeed, the "Southern Strategy," read "Race-Based Politics," that began without a name under Goldwater and then was named by Nixon in 1968, is at the heart of the policies of the Republican Party and indeed at the heart of that Party.

As is well-known, the overwhelming majority of the people who have been the most harmed in New Orleans, and are very seriously harmed, are black. The response of the Bush Administration to the overall tragedy has been pitiful. (Some Department of Homeland Security, huh?) But Bush has done one thing with firmness: he has sent in troops to deal with, not the flooding, not the destroyed infrastructure, not the massive rescue effort that is still needed, not clearing the increasing number of dead bodies that are appearing, not the emergency provision of water, food, and temporary sanitary facilities (I guess that there were no porta-potty contributors among the Bush Faithful) but what? The looting.

Bush is focusing on the looting that is being done by people who have no clean water to drink, no food to eat, no massive numbers of rescuers to take them to safe places where the basic necessities of life can be provided to them. But they are black, and scapegoating them the way this man and his Administration are doing makes for just wonderful politics with his primary base. And believe me, even though they have no strategy yet in place for dealing with the disaster, and may never have one, this strategy of scapegoating and implicit race-baiting was developed very early on.

On Tuesday, Aug. 30, the first day that the magnitude of the tragedy was beginning to become clear, I noted to myself that on its morning broadcast Fox "News" Channel, the jewel in the crown of the Georgite privatized Ministry of Propaganda, was devoting about half of its air time to the looting, with plenty of video of it. The word had gone out already folks. "This is how we are going to handle this. Another WMD, Weapon of Mass Distraction. And we've got a daily double, because at the same time we will be able to stir up the racism of our primary base with ease." I did say, "the word had gone out," meaning from Rove’s office. Well, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it actually started with Roger Ailes who runs Fox "News" and who every morning at about 5 AM sends out his daily briefing of what the shows are to stress, with the Bush Men picking it up from him. After all, Ailes was the director of communications for the master-of-racism-in-disguise, Ronald Reagan.

On the same day, Friday, September 02, 2005, I also posted the following, yes, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

Dr. J.'s Short Short Shot No. 5: FEMA and the Great New Orleans Flood

Mirabile dictu (loosely translated as "as amazing as that may seem"), the head of the US Federal Emergency management Administration, FEMA, took responsibility for the first four days of the overwhelming horror show that has been going on in New Orleans. Of course, because Katrina did not hit New Orleans head on, if the dikes had held the damage would have been substantial given that Katrina was a Category 4 hurricane, but those who were able to leave before it hit would already be coming back, the National Football League’s Saints-Giants game scheduled for Sept. 18 in the Superdome would still be the schedule, and those who stayed would simply be digging out of a rather large mess. But the dikes on Lake Pontchartrain did give way and The Great New Orleans Flood ensued, with all of its immediate horrible consequences for the people and the city, and its likely very serious long-term ones that will be with us as a nation for years. Amazingly enough the director of FEMA, a Bush Man, actually took responsibility, something Bush Men rarely do when something goes wrong.

This morning he said that FEMA was doing "everything possible to help those who chose to stay behind [emphasis added]." Now obviously, if people chose to stay behind, they had good, rational reasons for doing so, unlike those who left who just believed the warnings. And what might those rational reasons be? Well, the Bush Administration had for several years severely cut the funds that local authorities had been asking for to shore up the very dikes that broke. Obviously the reason they did that was because they were confident (an ill-placed confidence in retrospect, but who knew?) that the dikes would hold in any condition of wind and water and did not need to be repaired.

For what other reason might there have been not to spend the money that the local experts said was desperately needed? Quite obviously those who chose to stay behind had studied the controversy carefully and had come to the conclusion that if the Bush Administration, sworn to protect this country against hell or high water (they did use the term figuratively of course) at all costs, concluded that the money need not be spent, that was good enough reason for them to make the choice they did. And the FEMA director has now taken responsibility for the Bush Men's grave error in judgment. Although I am known not to be one who applauds anything the Bush Men ever do, in this situation, good for him, I say!

To be continued.