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Maelstroms Near and Far

High Water Everywhere

by RON JACOBS

I’m sitting in my house in Asheville, NC, watching the storm clouds gather. It’s the very beginning of the eastern edge of Hurricane Katrina that I’m looking at. The sky is completely gray, but the rain is still not visible. The forecasters predict three to four inches of rain over the next day or so. Bob Dylan’s song for Charley Patton-High Water..–just came on the radio, appropriately. In the delta lands of the Mississippi River, nature is taking its revenge on one of the country’s most toxic regions. Oil prices will go up. Of course, it doesn’t take a hurricane (or a war) for that to happen. Those things just provide an easy rationale for the corporate shills who occasionally explain the rapacity of energy costs. I wonder if we’ll see an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico before this is all over.

he fact that I am a few hundred miles to the east of the eye of the storm provides me with a luxury that those in Katrina’s center don’t have. Not only can I sit at my computer and muse about its effects, I can take my time making whatever preparations I might need to make just so I don’t have to go out in the pouring rain. Things look a lot different from here than they do to an evacuee heading out of the area on US 10.

Much of the world has been watching the storm raging in Iraq for years. Like me and Katrina, they have the luxury of being far from that storm’s center. Consequently, things look a lot different. For those who agree with the war as much as Bush and Blair claim to, there is no hurricane. Indeed, there is not even a storm, just a bit of an occasional mist falling in certain areas. Nothing that an emergency poncho that looks like a constitution can’t cure. For others in the world who see the situation a bit different, there is a storm, but certainly not a hurricane. In fact, the death and destruction in those countries is what the local weatherman might call a serious thunderstorm. You know, one where you should have a flashlight handy and keep the pets and children inside. Oh yeh, stay away from open fields and trees just in case the lightning gets bad. For these folks, they just want the people in the storm-hit areas to relax and let the US military come in and make everything better, just like they did after Hurricane Andrew back in1992. Don’t worry, they say to the victims of Desert Storm/Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military will be accompanied by a number of private agencies interested in making money from your misery. That’s what makes the American way so wonderful. Everything can be bought and sold.

Then there’s the naysayers like me. Ain’t no glass half full in my mind. That Desert Storm was as bad as Hurricane Andrew, but this Iraqi Freedom thing is the real thing. It’s a serious hurricane complete with shock and awe and everything else that real wars include. You might be able to take away a peoples’ home. You might even be able to destroy their town and their fields. But you can’t strip away their sense of being and give them an umbrella when the storm is ravaging around them-killing their children and their spouse. No you can’t give them an umbrella when they’re standing in the wake of the flood, even if you call that umbrella a constitution. Not even if you give them one you call an election. Once the storm has done its damage, umbrellas don’t work. Neither do the military’s guns that they brought in to keep order. Like the poet says: "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose." It seems to me that there are a lot of Iraqis who would agree. Especially those who don’t live in those fine houses in the Green Zone. (By the way, is it called green because that’s the color of the US dollar?)

It’s not my intention with this analogy to imply that, like a hurricane, there is little we can do but get out of the way, because that is ceratinly not the case. In the never-ending wave of destruction and misery that Iraq has become synonymous with, the cause is not some unseen fury called nature or god. It is the policies of an empire so full of itself that it behaves as if it were god. Like any god, those who run the empire are determined to get their way. It is up to those of us who understand this to insure that they don’t. Only then will the Iraqi maelstrom subside.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: ron05401@yahoo.com