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News :: Human Rights
Repression and military occupation deepen in New Orleans
06 Sep 2005
The U. S. government has characterized the offer by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to provide cheap fuel to the people of New Orleans, along with food and other necessities, as “counter-productive.’
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Hip-hop artist blasts Bush administration as
Repression and military occupation deepen in New Orleans

By Larry Hales

Sept. 3 — President Bush announced today that he plans to send an additional 7,000 combat troops and 10,000 more National Guard to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, bringing the Guard total to 40,000.

The city is looking more and more like occupied Haiti with the arrival today of hundreds more heavily armed troops, whose main role is to repress a thoroughly frustrated, angry Black population. Tens of thousands have been suffering from starvation along with lack of water, housing, clothing, health care and other human needs denied by the government since the hurricane and subsequent flooding of New Orleans.

After the flood, tens of thousands were stranded for days at the Louisiana Superdome and the Convention Center, which became unfit for people to live. The dome officials refused to turn on the air conditioning and toilets did not flush. Survivors were housed alongside dead bodies.

The major evacuations did not begin until late Thursday, Sept. 1. Food and water did not arrive in a major way until the next day. As of this morning, thousands were still stuck at the Convention Center, on an overpass near Interstate 10 and in their homes or on rooftops waiting to be rescued.

Poor people continue to die, as they´ve had to watch buses pass them by in unbearable heat and humidity. But for those with money, it was a different story.

"At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled up so some 700 guests and employees from the [Hyatt Regency] hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line—much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the Superdome since last Sunday." (USA Today, Sept. 3) The tourists were clean, shaved, had recently eaten and were mostly white.

There are now more than 220,000 refugees from Louisiana in Texas alone, according to the New Orleans television station WWL-TV.

To date, at least 60 countries have offered aid to the hurricane victims. Cuban president Fidel Castro announced yesterday that 1,100 Cuban doctors were prepared to go to New Orleans and other parts of the delta to help with the overwhelming health needs. At this writing, the U.S. State Department has not given these doctors the green light to enter the country.

The U. S. government has characterized the offer by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to provide cheap fuel to the people of New Orleans, along with food and other necessities, as “counter-productive.’

Rapper West accuses Bush of racism

The Grammy-winning hip hop artist Kanye West is being lambasted by the media for what many people of color already understand. After performing for a Hurricane Relief concert aired on NBC and its affiliates last night, West refused to read the benign script that was prepared by corporate media writers. He instead told a national audience that “George Bush doesn't care about Black people. ... America is set up to help the poor, the Black people, the less well-off as slow as possible.’ West´s statements were poignant and heart-felt. The anger and hurt of what has happened in the delta was clearly shown on his face.

Immediately, the network switched away from the African American rapper to another performer, and apologized for the remarks. Not only did the network distance itself from West's statement, but his remarks were edited out of the West Coast showing of the relief concert.

This is to be expected from the corporate media. Their aim is to censor heroic statements like West's to try to divert people away from wanting to understand the truth of how this disaster could happen. But the images don´t lie. Although the business-controlled media have been trying to demonize victims of this administration's criminal negligence, calling them “looters’ and “hoodlums,’ their poison is contradicted by the realities of what has happened, especially when someone like Kanye West speaks.

Hurricane disaster waiting to happen

The negligence and callous disregard for human life can be seen in the events even before Hurricane Katrina hit, as well as since. One need only look at the statements and actions of government officials.

The most glaring is this: Hurricane Katrina was much weaker when it hit Florida, yet it killed 11 people there. By the time it approached the Gulf Coast, it was a category 5 storm—the most destructive level. The Army Corp of Engineers and Louisiana State University created models of what would happen if a category 4 or 5 hurricane hit the area, and found that thousands would be killed; New Orleans would be virtually destroyed and flooded.

In an October 2001 Scientific American article, Mark Fischetti wrote: "A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive re-engineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city. ... New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen.’

The Bush administration´s answer was to pull money away from efforts to strengthen the levees and reestablish the coastal marsh. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, La., admitted as much: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president´s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can´t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us." (Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004).

With all the predictions, with the hurricane at category 5 and lumbering toward the Gulf Coast, President Bush was on vacation in Crawford, Texas, where he had been for weeks. He was busy ignoring the vociferous calls from Camp Caseys there and around the country to “Bring the troops home’ from the other imperialist disaster in Iraq.

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans ordered people to evacuate the city if they had the means, and so did Kathleen Blanco, Louisiana's governor. At least 20 percent of the people remained, however, with no means to escape. Over 27 percent of the people of New Orleans live below the poverty line. Thousands were initially turned away from the Superdome, and those who were let inside were told that they would need their own food and water because the Dome had none.

Kanye West´s words illuminate the truth of what has happened in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. They shine more light on the nature of the Bush administration and this capitalist system.

The truth is that workers, especially the poor and people of color, are left to fend for themselves in great times of need—this is the true anarchy that capitalism creates. And, when people begin to try to take the necessities of life, then, as West puts it, "They've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco proved West's point when she said, "These troops are battle-tested. They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. ... These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."

In a state where a "former" Klansman, David Duke, got a majority of the white vote when he ran for governor in 1992, the reports that armed white vigilantes have been roaming the streets, threatening the lives of Black people who may be liberating food, are very believable.

-- 30 --

Union labor donated
See also:
http://www.workes.org

This work is in the public domain
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