Making It Plain About New Orleans

When hip hop artist Kayne West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” NBC cameras cut away. “They’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us,” West said. In America, telling simple and obvious truths is going too far. Censors for NBC switched to a comic.

America has no mercy for peoples of color. It bombs them without pity in Iraq–wiping out access to water, to health care. The deaths of over half a million Iraqi children–due strictly to US backed sanctions – was considered “worth it” by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

President Bush thought seizing Iraq’s oil fields was worth the sacrifice of the city of New Orleans.

In order to help finance the war, Bush cut spending in 2004 for repair and upgrading of the levee and pump system that protected the city from massive flooding–even though just such a disaster was rated among the top three devastating potentials facing the US in the short term. The city, which has been called a “repository of the deep scars of the American colonization” and slavery, is 67 percent black. Those stranded in the city were, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly Black.

Let’s make it plain, as Malcolm X used to say.

Bush consciously decided that sacrificing the lives of African people in New Orleans was worth the price–that the descendants of America’s former slaves were expendable in the face of the empire’s gluttony for oil and global supremacy. The city and its poor inhabitants are casualties of war.

Having made such a decision, it must have been hard for Bush to turn back, to put up a front, to pretend suddenly that the lives of Black children matter any more than the lives of Iraqi children. In fact, he couldn’t do it, any more than Albright could say Iraqi children mattered to her and keep a straight face.

Black children had to die so that Iraqi children might die, and Iraqi children had to die because Exxon and the Empire need oil. The logic was airtight.

The emperor could only play golf while Black children drowned, while they died of dehydration, hunger, shock and lack of medicines. Just like in Iraq.

During his belated visit the President evaded the worst-hit areas of the city, but to hear Bush tell it, things were “not going exactly right”.

Trying to act the part of a truly sober adult he later assured us “I understand the devastation requires more than one day’s attention.” In a typical Bush-ism he called the situation “worse than imaginable.” But before leaving the city he couldn’t resist a joke, reminiscing about having come to New Orleans and drinking “occasionally too much.” Perhaps he’d drunk one too many “Hurricanes.”

The President admitted his response to the devastation had been “unacceptable.” Asked what he meant Bush said, “Well, I’m talking about the fact that we don’t have enough security in New Orleans yet.”

A Washington Times op-ed made the point clearly; “This horror will not subside with the flood. The government must treat the battlefield of Katrina as it would any other field of engagement: Protect and provide for the innocent and eliminate the enemy, and do it now, before we lose New Orleans… If looters fire on the troops, the troops should answer with suppressing fire. If the United States can project power anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, it can defend New Orleans and the coast of Mississippi.”

It’s not Black children that matter–it’s having soldiers on the ground to kill those who might feed them, to kill those who dare to survive in the absence of any help from “above.”

In this scenario it’s not the hurricane or the endless delays in aid and the Black deaths they caused that are destroying the city–the “horror” is people trying to feed their babies and themselves, people trying–literally–not to die of thirst after days with no water. These are the enemy, just as other hungry people, the people of Central America and Viet Nam, were the enemy–and for the same reasons.

As troops arrived on Friday, they were told to point their guns downward, to avoid any comparison with Iraq. But the Army Times called the crisis in New Orleans an “insurgency,” and the comparison to Iraq is just the comparison we must make, and make plainly.

The war in the streets of Baghdad gave rise to the deaths of thousands in New Orleans and to the destruction of the city. In both cases peoples of color are regarded–and being dealt with – as America’s enemy. “This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones told the Army Times “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

Bush and the system that gave rise to him bear responsibility, direct responsibility, for every single death in New Orleans–without exception. And their plan is to crush people of color who refuse to lie down and die in the interest of Empire.

Just like in Iraq.

Bush and Co. not only allowed the desperation and chaos in New Orleans to develop–they created it. The pressing and deeply disturbing question is “why”?

RAFAEL RENTERIA is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.
He can be contacted at Renteria@RadioJustice.net





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