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3 September 2005
The Bagh Easy

Bush’s Homeland Security apparatus springs a leak

The t.v. images of looting, anarchy, and untended dead coming out of New Orleans look all too familiar. The city has become another Baghdad.

And that’s no coincidence. Both ugly scenes—as well as the forgotten devastation in Haiti following the overthrow of the pro-Aristide government by U.S. arms—result from Bush’s failures in leadership and perverse attitude toward government.

Just as in Baghdad, U.S. authorities did nothing to prevent looting, and civilians are faced with anarchy, shootings, and rapes. Just as in Baghdad, there appear to have been no plans for civil governance or infrastructure repair. Just as in Baghdad, electricity and drinking water are unavailable and the authorities have no clue how to restore them.

And, just as in Baghdad, the agonized faces are of dark-skinned people.

Despite its façade of European elegance, New Orleans has never been able to escape the curse of its location: the poverty, racism, and technological backwardness of the Deep South. To which Bush brings the heartless attitudes of upper-class Texas, where social services are condemned as a waste of white suburbanites’ tax money on a class of people born to wait their tables and fix their SUVs, where government’s main function is to lock up (and execute) the losers, where neglect serves as a soft instrument of slow genocide. If you think there aren’t Southerners, even in this 21st century, who would be glad to see the whole mass of po’ folks gathered at the Convention Center die off, then you probably haven’t visited the region lately or listened to its hate-spewing talk radio.

The Texan contempt for those who do not drive is manifest in disaster-response plans that only considered the evacuation of persons with cars—this in a city famously served by a streetcar system. Those who don’t own cars were deemed unfit for rescue, while the GOP’s famous contempt for trains was echoed in the lack of consideration of the possibility of evacuating inner-city people by rail. Didn’t take us up on the Federal Reserve–fueled incentives to finance a new car? Well, y’all can just drown!

Then there are those fundamentalists who will welcome this biblical-scale inundation as a sign of the Second Coming. I hope they haven’t been looking at:

And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
—Revelation 12:15–16, KJV

Think woman = New Orleans. earth = (earthen) levee, dragon/serpent = the sinuous Mississippi River, mouth = its gaping delta.

While we’re waiting for Jesus to intervene, we note the extent of American decline. It seems inconceivable that this rich and powerful country can’t organize the kind of food drop or medical intervention that we used to carry out in stricken parts of Africa. Or is the problem that the Mississippi Delta is another Heart of Darkness to Washington bureaucrats? It’s hard to imagine that a similar disaster in, say, Philadelphia or Cleveland would have been handled so badly. Then again, the National Guard and its equipment are busy in Iraq doing the Regular Army’s job, since Americans wanted revenge on the Arab world without sacrificing middle-class kids to the draft, and they believed they could simply seize a Middle East oil supply and have endless cheap gas for their behemoth vehicles. Laissez les bon temps roulez, eh? Unfortunately, the country has neither the money nor the troops to enforce such an imperial solution. Indeed, it apparently can’t restore order or prevent death from dehydration in a flooded mid-size city that is still reachable by road.

I mean, they can put a man on the moon, but— Oh, wait, look at that last Shuttle mission. They probably couldn’t put a man on the moon anymore, either.

Seems like maverick gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman might have managed this better. After all, he was with the Peace Corps in Borneo.

Much of Bush’s support has stemmed from the fact that he was raised a Southerner and could be presumed not to manifest the usual Eastern attitude toward places like the Gulf states, “flyover country” worthy of being ignored. Though Bush himself never needs to stand for election again, his party will pay for what is recognized as a colossal failure in the Delta. Jeb’s petulant comments about being unable to predict when Florida will get enough gas have probably tanked, so to speak, his chances to extend the dynasty another eight years.

If George W. Bush can be said to have crossed the Rubicon when he invaded Iraq, the current flooding evokes the image of another river, and it isn’t the Mississippi. His political future is just a-goin’ over Jordan. In the wake of our generation’s most horrific flood, Bush is washed up.

Turn over another new leaf:
24 August 2005
Kill a Commie for Christ

Who would Jesus assassinate?

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