Saturday, September 10, 2005
Subject:Iraq Dispatches: Alternative Radio Broadcast
Dahr Jamail - Dateline: Baghdad
All journalists have perspectives that color and shape their
reporting. Many factors influence not just what questions get asked
but what issues get reported on in the first place. It takes much
more work to remain objective when some of the people journalists
cover are similar to them in terms of class and culture while others
are very different. For embedded reporters in a war zone, there are
further complications. They travel, eat, sleep and are protected by
the soldiers they are with. There is literally no distance between
the journalists and the troops thus their vision can easily be
blurred. This has been a particular problem with reporting in Iraq.
Dahr Jamail, an American, saw these problems of perspective clouding
the reporting about the war in the U.S. media. He decided to do
something about it. He went to Iraq where he reports outside the
bubble of American control. His articles appear in The Guardian and
The Nation. He also posts his dispatches on his own widely read
This interview with David Barsamian will be broadcast on Alternative Radio. You may listen to it on your local station, or stream it from the internet from that station at the time of broadcast.
Date & Time: Tuesday, Sept 13, 1400-1459ET
**Read Dahr's near-daily log from Iraq.**
To Subscribe to Dahr Jamail's Iraq_Dispatches mailing list, click on here:
They Shoot News Anchors, Don’t They?
Submitted by editor4 on September 9, 2005 - 2:22pm.
By NIKKI FINKE
Source: LA Weekly
For the first 120 hours after Hurricane Katrina, TV journalists were let off their leashes by their mogul owners, the result of a rare conjoining of flawless timing (summer’s biggest vacation week) and foulest tragedy (America’s worst natural disaster).
No one could have anticipated that, suddenly, TV’s two prettiest-boy anchors would be boldly and tearfully (CNN’s Anderson Cooper and FNC’s Shep Smith, to their immense credit) relating horror whenever and wherever they found it, no matter if the fault lay with Mother Nature or President Dubya. The impact was felt immediately. The depth of their reporting, along with that of other TV newscasters who were similarly unashamed to show their outrage, bested almost anything written by the most talented and experienced newspaper reporters. And the rawness of that televised despair spurred a still-new generation of Internet blogs and Web magazines to abandon their potty-mouthed snarking for long enough to start snarling at the proliferation of government lies and lying liars who tell them. (Wonkette, Gawker, Boing Boing, Sploid, and TVNewser all deserve immense kudos. But it was Slate’s Jack Shafer, the best media critic in the business, who first asked why there was no mention of race or class in TV’s Katrina coverage, prompting CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to plow new ground with unprecedented candor: “You see these poor individuals... almost all of them are so poor, and so black...”)
All of a sudden, broadcasters, and the Web media who shadow them, narrated disturbing images of the poor, the minority, the aged, the sick and the dead, and discussed complex issues like poverty, race, class, infirmity and ecology, that never make it on the air — in this Swift Boat/gay marriage/Michael Jackson media-sideshow era.
So began a perfect storm of controversy.
Contrary to the scripture so often quoted in these areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, the TV newscasters knew the truth, but the truth did not set them free. And the truth telling soon turned to backslapping. Lost amid all the self-congratulation by broadcasters once the crisis point had been passed was the fact that TV journalists went back to business-as-usual by the weekend. Their choke chains had been yanked by no-longer-inattentive parent-company bosses who, fearful of any FCC regulatory fallout from fingering Dubya for the FEMA fuckups, decided yet again to sacrifice community need for corporate greed.
Now comes the real test of pathos vs. profit: whether the TV newscasters will spend the fresh reservoir of truth and trust earned with the public to challenge FEMA’s attempt to perpetrate a campaign of mass deception. That’s the only way to describe what Reuters says is the agency’s attempt to block the news media from photographing the dead — officials have readied 25,000 body bags — as they are recovered from flooded New Orleans. Yet again, as it did with the coffins coming home from the Iraqi War and its violent aftermath, the Bush administration wants to hide from the public the lethal consequences of its flawed programs and policies.
Slate’s Shafer termed what happened during Katrina as “The Rebellion of the Talking Heads.” Now, they must rattle Bush’s cage but also battle their own bosses, who no doubt will seek to comply with every Dubya directive no matter how wrong and reprehensible. The TV newscasters have access to the microphones, and the moguls have licensed the airwaves. Why can’t Katrina’s dead have at least the last word, even if it’s just the sight of a body bag or coffin?
Already, Katrina’s wake is being sanitized and spun into a web of deceit by the Bush administration and disseminated with the help of the Big Media boy’s club (see the New York Times’ story on how Karl Rove spent the weekend conjuring up ways to shift blame). Only CNN appears not to have thoroughly read the proverbial memo — at least not yet.
So, as early as Saturday, certainly by Sunday, inevitably by Monday, and no later than Tuesday, the images and issues were heavily weighted once again to the powerbrokers and the predictable. The angry black guys were gone and the lying white guys were back hogging all the TV airtime. So many Congressional Republicans lined up on air to denounce the “blame-Bush game” — all the while decrying the Louisiana Democrats-in-charge — that it could have been conga night at the Chevy Chase Country Club.
And the attitudes of some TV personalities did a dramatic 180.
At MSNBC, right-winger Joe Scarborough had exorcised his newfound empathy and once again embraced the dark side of his personality. For a few days, he’d looked genuinely disgusted by the death and destruction that went unrelieved around him in Biloxi, even daring to demand answers from Bush on down. But Scarborough was back to his left-baiting self within short order.
Inside FNC’s studio, conservative crank Sean Hannity had been rendered somewhat speechless by the tragedy. Yet by Friday, he was back in full voice, barking at Geraldo Rivera (who was days late arriving in New Orleans to start scooping up starving babies) and Shep Smith (who was still staking out that I-10 bridge and sympathizing with its thousands of refugees) to keep “perspective.” The Mississippi-bred Smith boomed back in his baritone, “This is perspective!”
FNC’s Bill O’Reilly, who spent last month verbally abusing the grieving mother of a dead Iraqi war soldier, then whiled away the early days of Katrina’s aftermath giving lip to New Orleans’ looters and shooters and then basically blamed the hurricane’s poorest victims for expecting any government help at all. “First, the huge, bureaucratic government will never be able to protect you. If you rely on government for anything, anything, you’re going to be disappointed, no matter who the president is,” he scolded. And, “If you don’t get educated, if you don’t develop a skill, and force yourself to work hard, you’ll most likely be poor. And sooner or later, you’ll be standing on a symbolic rooftop waiting for help.
“Chances are that help will not be quick in coming.”
By the weekend, FNC downplayed the dismal and played up the hopeful, alternating its “things are going great” mantra with laundry lists of arriving military hardware, division transfers and other boots-on-the-ground matters.
Contrast that with CNN, not just the only network to report nearly 24/7 while FNC and MSNBC went into snooze mode with recycled shows, but also the only network, both on air and on its Web site, to compare and contrast the wildly contradictory statements by federal, state and local officials, sometimes within hours, but often within minutes of each other. The candor paid off strategically for CNN, which regained some of the ratings it had lost to FNC.
It was CNN, for instance, that posted the first full transcript of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s profanity- and passion-filled Sept. 2 interview on local radio. It was also CNN that exposed the gruesome nature of conditions at the Superdome, the Convention Center, and the hospital corridors.
A heart-wrenching online blog was kept by CNN staffers, while on air, Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, and Tom Foreman all held officials’ feet to the fire, from Bush on down. Cooper’s best moment came when, fed up with Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu’s blatant brownnosing of fellow officials, he fired back that it was hard to hear politicians thanking each other when rats were gnawing dead bodies in the streets. (Nominating Cooper for “Secretary of Take No Shit,” Wonkette.com congratulated: “We were sort of waiting for an anchor to go native, and Cooper does it in the best possible way.”)
CNN’s resident curmudgeon, Jack Cafferty, expectedly opined that he’d never seen anything as “bungled” as the Katrina aid operation. Even CNN’s eye-candy anchors went from saccharine to sarcastic in the bat of an eyelash.
Daryn Kagan described as “odd” that “the president [was] finally making it to the Gulf Coast after five days and then spending a big chunk of time — when he could be out seeing the damage — getting a briefing that, frankly, he could have gotten back at the White House.” Paula Zahn chided FEMA jackass Mike Brown (formerly head of the Arabian Horse Association): “Sir, you’re not telling me you just learned that the folks at the Convention Center didn’t have food and water until today, are you?”
By comparison, CNN’s Headline News talk star Nancy Grace looked like an insensitive shrew when, on Monday night, she cut off CNN correspondent Deborah Feyerick in the middle of her description of one nursing home that evacuated 35 people, and left 35 others to drown in their beds. “Oh,” was Grace’s only response, before stopping to play a video clip of the mayor. Of course, a day later, The New York Times fleshed out this story.
But the fix still wasn’t in at CNN as late as Tuesday night, when political correspondent Ed Henry was given expanded air time to report on that closed-door session between House members and Cabinet secretaries in charge of directing Katrina relief. Henry countered claims by House Majority Leader Tom Delay that local officials and not the feds were to blame, with the juicy nugget that a Republican congressman had stood up in that secret confab and screeched, “All of you deserve failing grades. The response was a disaster.”
In contrast to CNN, NBC deserves an “F” for its Katrina about-face.
It wasn’t enough that the network had the audacity to edit its news transcripts so its bosses wouldn’t look bad. It wasn’t enough that the network hardly let NBC photojournalist Tony Zumbado show any grisly footage. It wasn’t just that the network edited out Kanye West’s “Bush doesn't care about blacks” rant (Mike Myers’ deer-caught-in-headlights expression was priceless) for the West Coast feed of its televised fund-raiser. It wasn’t just that inexplicable hire Rita Cosby looked ridiculous reporting from Aruba instead of New Orleans for the first few days of Katrina. It wasn’t just that MSNBC’s executive producer, Rick Kaplan, was put in charge of the network’s Katrina fund-raiser at the height of the crisis. It wasn’t just that Meet the Press host Tim Russert cut off Jefferson Parrish’s Andre Broussard during one of TV’s most moving and memorable outpourings of emotion. It wasn’t just that Russert, to fill up airtime, let Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour praise Bush’s response ad nauseum without once reading back his sharp criticism of the feds days earlier.
It wasn’t just that Hardball’s hardbrained Chris Matthews chided viewers and guests alike not to talk about who’s to blame. (Unless you think it’s Blanco or Nagin. Interesting how Barbour’s state was also dehydrated and starving, but nobody on TV news blamed him, since he just happens to be a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.) It wasn’t just that Don Imus decried Dubya’s “disgusting performance” at the start of his MSNBC TV show (simulcast on the Viacom/CBS-owned Infinity radio network) and then turned over just 24 hours later, directing blame at Mayor Nagin.
None of this is surprising since MSNBC is owned by NBC, which in turn is owned by General Electric, which let its network and cable news cheerlead the run-up to the Iraqi War without ever bothering to tell viewers it had billions in contracts pending.
If the Big Media boys increasingly look like they’re doing everything possible to prop W’s presidency, they are. GE’s No. 1 and No. 2, Jeffrey Immelt and Bob Wright, are avowed Republicans, as are Viacom’s Sumner Redstone (CBS), Time-Warner’s Dick Parsons (CNN) and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch (FNC).
Supporting the Bush administration can be good for corporate coffers, in the form of government contracts, billion-dollar tax breaks and getting the feds to provide special security favors. (For more on this, see my previous story, “When Might Turns Right: Golly GE, Why Big Media Is Pro-Bush, http://www.laweekly.com/ink/04/45/deadline-finke.php)
Meanwhile, the situation is about to get worse. Already, incoming Disney CEO Bob Iger has tried repeatedly to dismantle Nightline. And CBS chairman Les Moonves wants to reinvent TV news to be more like entertainment shows — as if it’s not that way already — hosted by even prettier people. Surely they can’t be counted on to go up against the Bush administration on the body-bagging issue. Forget Murdoch and Immelt, too. And Parsons is iffy at best.
Unless the newscasters themselves keep rebelling and keep trying to show the truth, it won’t be long before TV news will be taken out in a coffin, too.
Aftermath: Govt. "Abandons" Restrictions On Coverage Of Victim Recovery
Following up on yesterday's lawsuit: "Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans," CNN.com says.
>"Joint Task Force Katrina 'has no plans to bar, impede or prevent news media from their news gathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts,' said Col. Christian E. deGraff, representing the task force."
LINK TO CNN'S STORY:
Katrina Rips Bush A New One
Submitted by editor on September 8, 2005 - 2:32pm.
By MARK JURKOWITZ
Source: Boston Phoenix
Hurricane Katrina did not simply destroy physical infrastructure, social fabric, and countless lives on America’s Gulf Coast. It blew away the ground rules that had defined post-9/11 American politics and protected the most polarizing administration in recent history — one that failed to articulate a coherent domestic agenda, tossed gasoline on the smoldering culture wars, and dragged the country into a divisive and very likely disastrous war in Iraq.
All the elements that George W. Bush and Karl Rove had exploited for political gain — a timid and kowtowing mainstream media, a deafening silence about America’s growing underclass, the fear that criticizing the White House in the era of Al Qaeda was tantamount to treason, and Bush’s can-do, cowboy image — were shattered by the same winds and rains that savaged casinos in Biloxi and homes in Jefferson Parish.
What emerged from the rubble — with the nation’s collective psyche now a toxic stew of shock, shame, fear, and anger — were the hard truths about our society’s frightening inequities and our government’s horrifying incompetence.
• Rapper Kanye West, appearing during a NBC concert/fundraiser, stared straight into the camera and declared that "George Bush doesn’t care about black people."
• Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard openly sobbed during a television interview in which he declared that the "bureaucracy has committed murder here in the Greater New Orleans area."
• A grim-faced Tim Russert, appearing barely to conceal his fury, opened a Meet the Press interview with Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff by demanding: "Are you, or anyone who reports to you, contemplating resignation?"
• Reporting from New Orleans, Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera stiff-armed bloviating Bill O’Reilly’s efforts to shift responsibility away from the White House by declaring: "This is Dante’s Inferno, Bill. There is no way to sugarcoat it. This is the worst thing I’ve seen in a civilized nation."
THIS IS ABOUT RACE AND CLASS
In an interview with Fox News, Chertoff warned that "we need to prepare the country for what’s coming. It is going to be about as ugly a scene as you can imagine." He was referring to the many rotting corpses that will be unearthed when New Orleans is drained of floodwater. But he could have also been speaking about the much deeper national trauma to come.
Yes, the cameras will be on hand for the grisly scenes when the dead are finally found. And survivors will eventually tell their wrenching tales of death and delay on the TV newsmagazines. But there will also be shocks to the economy. There will be serious political implications for the White House. And there will be what columnist David Brooks, quoting historian John Barry, called the "human storm," a social backlash to Katrina that will highlight the yawning chasms and simmering resentments of race and class.
What happened in New Orleans, when a largely minority underclass was trapped in a drowning city to suffer, die, and, on occasion, engage in criminal violence, not only reinforced the notion that our society is deeply divided by color and money. It sent the inescapable message that the third world exists right here in 21st-century America.
Jesse Jackson drove that point home with blunt-force trauma when he assessed the scene in New Orleans and declared that "it looks like Africans in the hull of a slave ship." Musician and New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis eloquently, albeit more subtly, raised the specter of different treatment for different classes when he said that "we hear a lot of words, but we don’t see a lot of action."
There were some smaller race-based brushfires that leapt up from the ruins of the storm in the media. A controversy erupted over two photographs, one that described a black youth with groceries as a looter and another of two lighter-skinned people described has having found groceries. There was a debate over the use of the word "refugee" to describe the displaced residents, with some arguing that the word connotes second-class status. But those battles only direct our attention to the overriding issue, illustrated by statistics from a New York Times story on racial disparity in New Orleans: 35 percent of the city’s black residents — almost 110,000 people — lived in poverty, according to the 2000 census. More than half of the impoverished black households in that city did not have an automobile — and thus had little hope of escape from Katrina.
Surveying the displaced poor who have been shipped off to the Houston Superdome, Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren put it succinctly. "The rich people are lucky," she said. "These people aren’t."
THE MEDIA GETS ITS BARK BACK
The nation’s mainstream media has had a rough couple of years. They had been battered into near submission by a tight-lipped and contemptuous Bush administration that created its own phony news vehicles to circumvent them. The press’s dismal failure to scrutinize the White House’s faulty WMD rationale for going to war in Iraq has already elicited mea culpas from outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
And yet, what appeared to start out as another overhyped TV story about extreme weather has turned into one of journalism’s finest moments in recent memory. Down in the hell of New Orleans — where reporters risked life and limb and were literally shocked by what they saw — they finally found the courage to believe their own eyes. CNN’s usually mild-mannered morning anchor Soledad O’Brien roasted FEMA director Mike Brown, who claimed not to know of the despair at New Orleans’s Morial Convention Center until he heard news reports.
"How is it possible we’re getting better intel than you’re getting?" O’Brien snapped. "I don’t understand how FEMA cannot have this information.... In Banda Aceh in Indonesia, they got food dropped two days after the tsunami struck."
During Bush’s photo-op visit to the region last week, he ran into the kind of questioning that explains why he rarely holds news conferences. "There are a lot of people wondering why you weren’t fixing the problems yesterday or the day before and why the richest country on earth can’t get food and water to those people that need it," one questioner asserted, leaving the president to say that on the one hand he was "satisfied with the response," but on the other that he was "not satisfied with all the results."
In the days to come, tougher questions will be asked as journalists switch from chronicling the scope of the disaster to piecing together how it happened. (The new issue of Newsweek describes a "strange paralysis" that set in at the White House, which wasted time in lengthy debates over "who was in charge.") Even more important than the answers they find is the fact that journalists now smell blood in the waters of Bush’s troubled second term.
"This is different" than 9/11, said USA Today’s Susan Page on the Fox News Sunday show. "People will be more willing to criticize him. I think this [the Katrina fallout] takes over the rest of the administration."
Now reportedly in the hands of Karl Rove, White House efforts at damage control will likely take several forms. One will include a compassion campaign, a smoother version of his father’s infamous "Message: I care," theme from the 1992 election. The other will feature surrogates, who will deflect blame onto other officials — most likely local and regional ones. Any serious postmortem is likely to find fatal shortcomings at all levels of government, including state and city. But Bush himself will have to face several layers of damning questions in the aftermath of Katrina.
The first concerns his belated and inappropriate response to the events unfolding on every television screen last week. Bush’s remarks on ABC’s Good Morning America that "I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," have already come back to haunt him.... His first journey to the area, during which he uttered the immortal words, "Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job," about the largely clueless FEMA director, struck the wrong emotional chord and was viewed as a public-relations failure.
The administration will be asked to explain its failure to heed dire warnings about New Orleans and its refusal to allocate funds to protect against the kind of havoc wrought by Katrina. That will trigger even larger debates about Bush’s priorities and his decision to pour human and financial resources into a war in Iraq that is losing the support of the American people. And finally, Katrina raises legitimate questions about the administration’s ability to protect us from and react to a terrorist attack, the linchpin of the Bush presidency.
"As a test of the homeland-security system, this was a failure," declared former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of the many critics of the government’s response to Katrina to have emerged from the right flank of the political spectrum.
Once the bodies are found and buried, expect some high-profile stagecraft in Washington. Noisy congressional hearings seem very likely. Despite this White House’s preference for loyalty over competence, someone’s head is likely to roll, with FEMA chief Brown’s the most obvious candidate. And Bush’s next decision on how to fill the new Supreme Court vacancy will have to also take into account the post-Katrina political calculus.
Even before the fallout from the storm, the American public was souring on Bush’s stewardship. A late-August Gallup survey found 52 percent of the respondents critical of his handling of foreign affairs; 59 percent disapproving of the situation in Iraq; 60 percent saying he is doing a bad job on the economy; and 76 percent upset with his handling of rising gas prices. Until now, he had somehow managed to remain largely unaccountable for those problems. But Katrina may well prove to be the tipping point.
"I think he’s really undermined his credibility at this point, and it really saddles him with the kind of problems that Johnson and Nixon faced," historian Robert Dallek, referring to two presidents who suffered disastrous second terms, told the New York Times.
Thanks to the forces unleashed and exposed by a hurricane’s fury — a torrent of bipartisan criticism, a newly emboldened media, and the ugly truth about race and class in this country — Bush will finally have to pay the overdue bill for a legacy of failed policies and costly mistakes.
- Mark Jurkowitz can be reached at email@example.com.
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Project Censored presents the 10 biggest stories the mainstream media ignored over the past year
Submitted by editor on September 9, 2005 - 2:44pm.
By Camille T. Taiara
Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian
JUST FOUR DAYS before the 2004 presidential election, a prestigious British medical journal published the results of a rigorous study by Dr. Les Roberts, a widely respected researcher. Roberts concluded that close to 100,000 people had died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Most were noncombatant civilians. Many were children.
But that news didn't make the front pages of the major newspapers. It wasn't on the network news. So most voters knew little or nothing about the brutal civilian impact of President George W. Bush's war when they went to the polls.
That's just one of the big stories the mainstream news media ignored, blacked out, or underreported over the past year, according to Project Censored, a media watchdog group based at California's Sonoma State University.
Every year project researchers scour the media looking for news that never really made the news, publishing the results in a book, this year titled Censored 2006. Of course, as Project Censored staffers painstakingly explain every year, their "censored" stories aren't literally censored, per se. Most can be found on the Internet, if you know where to look. And some have even received some ink in the mainstream press. "Censorship," explains project director Peter Phillips, "is any interference with the free flow of information in society." The stories highlighted by Project Censored simply haven't received the kind of attention they warrant, and therefore haven't made it into the greater public consciousness.
"If there were a real democratic press, these are the kind of stories they would do," says Sut Jhally, professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts and executive director of the Media Education Foundation.
The stories the researchers identify involve corporate misdeeds and governmental abuses that have been underreported if not altogether ignored, says Jhally, who helped judge Project Censored's top picks. For the most part, he adds, "stories that affect the powerful don't get reported by the corporate media."
Can a story really be "censored" in the Internet age, when information from millions of sources whips around the world in a matter of seconds? When a single obscure journal article can be distributed and discussed on hundreds of blogs and Web sites? When partisans from all sides dissect the mainstream media on the Web every day? Absolutely, Jhally says.
"The Internet is a great place to go if you already know that the mainstream media is heavily biased" and you actively search out sites on the outer limits of the Web, he notes. "Otherwise, it's just another place where they try to sell you stuff. The challenge for a democratic society is how to get vital information not only at the margins but at the center of our culture."
Not every article or source Project Censored has cited over the years is completely credible; at least one this year is pretty shaky (see sidebar).
But most of the stories that made the project's top 10 were published by more reliable sources and included only verifiable information. And Project Censored's overall findings provide valuable insights into the kinds of issues the mainstream media should be paying closer attention to.
1. Bush administration moves to eliminate open government
To read the this, and the other 9 important articles ignored by the mainstream media, please click here.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Tomdispatch Interview: Howard Zinn, The Outer Limits of Empire
by Tom Engelhardt
[Note to Tomdispatch readers: You have to be careful these days about predicting the obvious. In my last piece, Iraq in America, I wrote, "…don't hold your breath about either the Pentagon's or the administration's nation-building skills in the U.S. (But count on ‘reconstruction' contracts going to Halliburton.)" Well, as readers were quick to inform me, I was already behind the times. The first contract -- to repair Katrina storm damage at Gulf Coast naval facilities -- had already been issued to our Vice President's former company. In fact, as National Guards and other troops finally poured into New Orleans, the Iraq-in-America parallels only grew. There was the FEMA attempt to prevent the taking of news photos of dead bodies -- think of those bodies coming home to Dover Air Force Base from Iraq -- and the Army Times piece that referred to "the insurgency" in New Orleans, not to speak of GIs in that city and Iraq who noted eerie resonances between the two situations, or the Louisiana National Guardsman who referred to potential snipers in New Orleans as "terrorists." And let's not forget all those "private security contractors that specialize in supporting military ! operations in war-torn countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan" now heading for the Big Easy to protect businesses and private residences. Talk about the war coming home...
Then I suggested that the administration's initial moves in the Katrina crisis -- easing pollution standards for gas blends and bolstering the Pentagon's new Northcom command -- did little more than forward their usual agenda. No sooner had I written that than David Rogers and John J. Fialka of the Wall Street Journal reported ("Hurricane Reorders Capitol Hill," September 8) on Republicans in Congress weighing in with plans to ease yet more pollution standards, pursue further tax cuts "to ease the price squeeze," and (doh!) allow "exploration for oil and gas along the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska." Talk about bulldogs in a storm!
In any case, with an urge not to let this site grow either predictable or obvious, and armed with two cheap tape recorders and a reasonable amount of nerve, I'm launching a new feature: the Tomdispatch interview. I often have the feeling that between brief quotes in the newspapers and the normal 12-second comments by "newsmakers" on TV, we seldom hear voices speaking directly to us for long. I also like the idea of watching people think aloud about matters that concern us all. And then, for me, there's just the pleasure of talking to a Howard Zinn. Tom]
The Outer Limits of Empire:
A Tomdispatch Interview with Howard Zinn
He's tall and thin, with a shock of white hair. A bombardier in the great war against fascism and an antiwar veteran of America's wars ever since, he's best known as the author of the pathbreaking A People's History of the United States, and as an expert on the unexpected voices of resistance that have so regularly made themselves heard throughout our history. At 83 (though he looks a decade younger), he is also a veteran of a rugged century and yet there's nothing backward looking about him. His voice is quiet and he clearly takes himself with a grain of salt, chuckling wryly on occasion at his own comments. From time to time, when a thought pleases him and his well-used face lights up or breaks out in a bona fide grin, he looks positively boyish.
We sit down on the back porch of the small coffee shop, alone, on a vacation morning. He has a croissant and coffee in front of him. I suggest that perhaps we should start after breakfast, but he assures me that there's no particular contradiction between eating and talking and so, as a novice interviewer, I awkwardly turn on my two tape recorders – one of which, on pause, will still miss several minutes of our conversation (our equivalent, we joke, of Nixon's infamous 18-minute gap). In preparation, he pushes aside his half-eaten breakfast, never to touch it again, and we begin.
Tomdispatch: You and Anthony Arnove just came out with a new book, Voices of a People's History of the United States, featuring American voices of resistance from our earliest moments to late last night. Now, we have a striking new voice of resistance, Cindy Sheehan. I was wondering what you made of her?
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Peacemakers: What Kind of Extremist Will You Be?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Cindy Sheehan
Early morning, April 04, a shot rings out in the Memphis sky,
Free at last, they asked for your life,
But they could not take your pride.
In the name of love, one more in the name of love.
-- U2: Pride (In the name of love)
Most everyone who is reading this knows what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 04, 1968. Some of you may even know what happened to my son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan on April 04, 2004. If you don't know, Dr King and Casey were murdered by the same malevolent entities: People and ideologies that say that we have to be mortally afraid of the "ism" du jour and we, as Americans who have the "moral high-ground" in the world can send our innocent children to invade innocent countries and kill innocent people to fight the "ists" that go with the "isms."
In Vietnam we were fighting the evil Communists and in Iraq we are fighting the evil terrorists. Our war against Communism out-stayed its welcome in the 1980's and the military industrial war complex was running out of excuses to build bombs, tanks, bullets, ships, submarines, and soldiers; so in 2001, our leaders who serve the war machine had to switch our enemy of the state to terrorism.
Dr. King had the temerity to challenge the war machine and war racketeers on April 04, 1967 in his famous speech on Vietnam...and he paid for that bit of inspired, courageous, honesty with his life exactly one year later. Casey had the naïve gall to join the US Army thinking he would be making the world a better, safer place... and he paid for that kind of immature (but honest) patriotic mistake with his wonderful life.
Casey was a brave and honorable man who we were told volunteered to go on the mission that killed him to save the lives of his buddies. He was shot in the back of the head and died a little while later in a medic's station while a medic was trying to hold his brains in while the doctors tried to keep him breathing. We have heard many wildly disparate stories of Casey's last few minutes on earth, I don't know if we will ever know the truth. One thing I do know, however, is that like Dr. King, Casey's murder will be to advance the cause for peace and in the name of love.
I am wholly and completely convinced that this aggression on Iraq is illegal, immoral and appallingly unnecessary. I am also convinced that one drop of blood was one drop of blood too much to be shed for this abomination in Iraq. Now oceans of blood -- both Iraqi and American -- have been spilled for ruinous and disturbing policies of very bad people in our government who have based their reasons for invasion and occupation on their twisted imaginations and their seemingly bottomless lust for power, profits, chaos and confusion.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this from the Birmingham Jail in 1963 and it is so relevant today:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
I must regretfully admit that before my son was killed, I didn't publicly speak out against the invasion/occupation of Iraq. I didn't shout out and say: "Stop! Stop this insane rush to an invasion that has no basis in reality -- don't invade a country based on cherry-picked, prefabricated intelligence and contemptible scare tactics!"
I didn't stand up and scream: "Congress, don't you dare abrogate your constitutional rights and responsibilities! Do not, under ANY circumstances give the keys to our country to power-drunk, irresponsible and reckless maniacs!"
When George threateningly stated in his disordered and defiant headlong rush to disaster: "If you're not for us, you're against us," I will regret forever not calling him on the phone and screaming: "I am SO against you and your repulsive policies, you self-important man. I am against killing innocent people and I am against you telling me it's unpatriotic to be against you and your murderous philosophy!"
Why, oh why, was I silent when the cowardly and capricious arm-chair warriors of the Pentagon sent my son and over a million other brave young Americans to an atrocious excuse (that never should have been fought in the first place) for a war without the proper equipment, armor, training, supplies, or planning? I should have boldly strode up the Pentagon and said: "Look here, Donald, not only do you not go to war with the Army you 'have,' you make sure our precious life blood is well protected if you do send them off to fight and how about not sending our kids to die in the sand or soil of another country UNLESS it is absolutely necessary to defend our own sand and soil?"
If I had broken the bonds of my slavery to silence sooner, would Casey (and scores of others) still be alive? I don't know. There were and still are so many good people working for peace and justice and they have been for so many years. One thing I do know, however, is that no matter how much I scream and cry and rail against God, country, and humanity, I cannot bring Casey back. But, I have not shut up since Casey was killed, nor will I be silent until every last one of our nation's sons and daughters are brought back from this morally repugnant and ill-fated war!! Nor, will I give up when this occupation is finished. I will continue fighting for the children of the world and make sure a tragedy of historic proportions like this never happens again. If I can save even one mother here or there from the pain and agony I'm going through, then it will have been so immensely worth it.
I encourage and challenge every citizen of the world to do one small thing for peace each day. Even if it is to nag your elected officials to demand the keys of our country back from the all but convicted felons, liars and self-proclaimed pro-life hypocrites who have them now.
Casey and Dr. King were both violently killed on April 04 in different years and during different wars...two wars that are really just two different sides of the same coin. I want their deaths to mean something. I want them to count for peace and justice, not violence and hatred.
I can feel my son's presence urging me on to save his buddies. I can hear him whispering in my ear and in my dreams: "Mom, finish my mission. Bring my buddies home alive" I can hear Dr. King's words similarly challenging me to action: "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be?"
Well, Casey, my son, my hero. Well, Dr. King, the hero of millions, I pledge to be the kind of extremist who works for peace with justice and who will never take "No" for an answer. I will strive to hold the bad people in our government accountable for all of the heartache and emptiness they have caused our world by their deliberate lies and deceptions and by their misuse of power and their abuse of our nation's precious human resources. I will be the kind of extremist who believes that our country can be taken back from the corporatocracy and unethical war profiteers that have control of it now. I will be the kind of extremist who believes that the people of Iraq can rebuild their own country without the dangerous "help" of the American military presence and I will be the kind of extremist who strives to bring our kids home from the Middle East immediately.
If there ever was a time in our nation's history that required the passion and compassion of extremists, it is now: This very minute.
What kind of extremist will you be?
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Check out www.BringThemHomeNowTour.org for more info and how you can be involved.
Learn more about Cindy at http://www.meetwithCindy.com or about Gold Star Families for Peace at http://www.gsfp.org.
Fight Ignorance: Read BuzzFlash.com
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
In Biloxi, helping hands are private groups
A hard-hit city in Mississippi finds that - even 10 days after Katrina - public agencies are not providing much relief.
By Sara B. Miller and Amanda Paulson | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
BILOXI, MISS. - Here in Biloxi, Miss., where barges that once housed floating casinos now sit awkwardly on land and segments of porches are all that remain of stately houses, small acts of kindness are going on all over town.
At the Lighthouse Apostolic Holiness Church in east Biloxi, Betty Kelley spent Monday and Tuesday cooking stews and chicken in 30-gallon vats for hungry residents. "No one was coming in to help us. We had to do it all on our own," says Ms. Kelley. "All they have been saying is they want a hot meal."
Across the Gulf Coast region, similar scenes are playing out: small churches and private individuals trying to meet whatever needs they perceive wherever they see them. The parents of one Biloxi resident were offered food, shelter, and a cellphone by a stranger they met at a Louisiana gas station.
Deep appreciation of such acts, though, is matched by sharp criticism of the official response among many hit by Katrina. Private aid is not enough to suffice at times like these, they say, and government must play a role that is more urgent than what people here say they've seen thus far.
Disasters on the scale of Katrina always require a response from both. Nonprofits like the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, and even small churches and local groups, may be more agile and better at filling specific gaps than are big government bureaucracies, experts say. But no private organization can even begin to coordinate the rescue, evacuation, shelter, and care for hundreds of thousands of people, they add. Charities simply don't have the same resources: While the Red Cross has received more than $400 million in donations in response to Katrina - and corporations have contributed at least $37 million - the government has released $10 billion.
"You're really working on different scales," says Christoph Gorder of Americares, a Connecticut-based group active in Katrina relief efforts.
"Help even on the smallest level of neighbors giving to neighbors is extremely effective and extremely needed in the immediate aftermath. It's very difficult for the government to address" those individual needs, Mr. Gorder adds. "We're great in America at taking responsibility as private citizens to do whatever we can. But we expect the government to take an active role and coordinate the big picture."
Among people here, frustration is rising with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in particular. Though complaints aren't always related to FEMA's areas of responsibility, there's a pervasive sense - among some disaster experts as well - that the agency has not performed up to par.
"You'd assume FEMA would have the capacity and structure to respond to these events in an expedient manner. That's the whole purpose of FEMA," says Havidán Rodríguez, director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, noting Katrina is the first test for FEMA under its reorganization within the Department of Homeland Security. "This was the first opportunity the Department of Homeland Security had to show it was well-equipped and prepared, and obviously that was not the case."
One troubling aspect of the response, say Professor Rodríguez and others, was the apparent lack of communication - a basic requirement for disaster response - in the first days after Katrina. In a noted example, FEMA chief Michael Brown told reporters he had no idea that the thousands of people at the New Orleans Convention Center were desperate, though images of the center had been playing all day on television. Local officials and law enforcement officers complained of being unable to communicate.
Amid the initial confusion, some private citizens rushed to fill the vacuum. "It's a joke how long it has taken to get help down here," says Todd Schweizer, one of nine men from Florida who drove to Biloxi with 2,000 hamburgers, 2,000 hotdogs, and an enormous grill. The men, who work for a trash-collection business, also brought diapers, dog food, and water - $25,000 worth of products, says Mr. Schweizer, the company's owner. "These folks need our help."
Locals estimate that 90 percent of Biloxi residents have damaged homes or have lost all their property. But help from the state or federal governments has been slow, say city officials.
Councilman Bill Stallworth, who represents east Biloxi's Ward 2, says people have been calling in, asking for mattress vouchers, brooms, buckets, and mops. His district has only four portable toilets. "It is 10 days later, and there is still not a peep," he says. "Most are still living in unsafe housing, exposed to the weather. FEMA has been missing in action."
Linn, a Biloxi resident who didn't want to give his last name because he works for the city, says his house is moulding and his three cars are destroyed. FEMA told him he can collect $3,000 for the cars, but the agency hasn't said when. Though he's told there are places he can get information, he has no way to get around. "Everyone I talk to says FEMA tells them the same thing: 'I'll call you back,' " he says on his way to ask the police if he can borrow a bicycle.
That is changing. Two Public Health Service workers visited a church to ask if the pastor needed anything. The Air Force passed out crates of water, and the Salvation Army Emergency Canteen drove by.
Huge support has come from Southeast churches, says Eric Dickey, a former Biloxi city councilor. "All the churches are working to bring back normalcy," says Mr. Dickey, who unloads a box of shrimp from a pickup truck. "If we band together, it can trickle down to the people who have been missed by the national effort."
The Christian Science Monitor
Iraq Dispatches: 'A Letter to the Prime Minister',another 'must see' documentary
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
A Letter to the Prime Minister
*Jo Wilding's Diary From Iraq*
To purchase the video, please visit:
Or click here:
Falluja April 2004 A documentary by Japanese independent journalist
Toshikuni Doi http://www.alettertotheprimeminister.co.uk/ "A Letter to the Prime Minister' serves as an important and hard hitting documentary which chronicles the journey of British activist Jo Wilding in Iraq before, during and after the Anglo-American invasion. Director Julia
Guest offers up exclusive footage from Baghdad showing the desperate
plight of the hospitals under the genocidal sanctions, then moves on to
show how Iraqi civilians paid the price of the failed 'Shock and Awe'
"Narrated as a letter to Tony Blair, this film challenges the legality
of the invasion and stands as evidence of countless war crimes for which
Bush and Blair are responsible."
/"I personally travelled with Guest and Wilding into Fallujah during the
April, 2004 siege-this film offers rare and exclusive footage of the
deliberate targeting of civilians and medical workers during that
massacre, as well as up close and personal views of the effects of the
heavy-handed tactics of collective punishment by the US military on an
/"As both a testimony to the plight of the Iraqi people under
occupation, a glimpse of what really happened in Fallujah during the
April siege, as well as the remarkable work of Jo Wilding, who has been
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with the 'One Thousand Women
for Peace Group,' this film is a must see. Watching it brought me right
back to the devastating scenes from the heart of Fallujah."/ -Dahr Jamail
More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
Subject: Iraq Dispatches: Doctors for Iraq Press Release concerning New US Attack near Mosul
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
If you live in the US, please read this in light of what you are
witnessing regarding New Orleans. The following is the latest press
release from "Doctors for Iraq" Society:
HUNDREDS OF CIVILIANS ARE FORCED TO FLEE AS US/IRAQI FORCES ATTACK
TALLAFA, NORTH-WESTERN IRAQ. DOCTORS FOR IRAQ WARNS OF MEDICAL
Doctors for Iraq is deeply concerned at the fate of hundreds of
civilians trying to flee the sieged town of Tallafa, 80 km from Mousel
City. Thousands of residents from the town have been told to leave the
area by US/ Iraqi forces who have been attacking the area for the past
three- four days.
Eyewitnesses report that heavy bombs were dropped on targets in the town
a few days ago and on Monday 5^th September the US army has been firing
missiles onto the town from aircraft. The entire town is under siege and
in preparation for a new military attack. .
^Doctors for Iraq has received reports that at least twenty civilians
have been killed in the attack. It is impossible to check these reports
^US / IRAQI forces have forced frightened civilians to leave the sieged
town and and women and children are making their way to a refugee camp
set up outside the Tallafa.
^Civilians have told Doctors for Iraq that many young men aged between
20- 35 are being stopped and detained at checkpoints and are being taken
to a US military building near an airport.
^It is not known how many men have been detained and why they are being
held. It is impossible for Doctors For Iraq to check this reports as
media and health workers are being prevented form entering the area.
^What is known is that during the military siege of Falluja in 2004 young
men were also prevented from leaving the city and were detained by US/
^Doctors inside the town are concerned about the lack of medicine and
health care facilities for people who are being forced to flee their homes.
^Tallafa's medical infrastructure has been badly damaged by the ongoing
military attacks on the area over the past few weeks. Doctors and
medical convoys are unable to enter the sieged town and assist the
^Doctors for Iraq is particularly concerned about the fate of the
refugees. There is concern about the lack of clean drinking water for
displaced civilians and the threat of disease is very real as hygiene
conditions in the area are very poor.
*Doctors for Iraq is calling for :
^A complete and immediate *END *to the military attack on the town so
all civilians can be evacuated safely
^For the US/ IRAQI military to uphold the Geneva Convention and allow
doctors and medical supplies into the town.
^For international human rights organisations to carry out an immediate
investigation into allegations that young men are being detained by the
military and reports of civilian deaths during the attack.
^For more information contact:
^Dr. Salam Ismael ^firstname.lastname@example.org_ :
More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
September 6, 2005
On Saturday September 3, award-winning filmmaker Gloria La Riva,
internationally-acclaimed photographer Bill Hackwell and A.N.S.W.E.R.
Youth & Student Coordinator Caneisha Mills, a senior at Howard
University, arrived in New Orleans.
The following is an eyewitness report of the crisis in the area
written on Sunday, September 4.
While 80 percent of New Orleans was submerged in water, Algiers is one of the few districts that have been spared the worst of the flooding as it sits higher than most of the city. An historic district established in 1719, Algiers is on the west bank of the Mississippi river, across from the French Quarter. Probably 15% of the residents still remain behind, most of them determined to stay in their homes. The majority of homes are still intact, although many have suffered damage. While their houses survived, the peoples' chance of survival seemed very bleak since there was no electricity or disbursement of food, water or other supplies.
We arrived in the Algiers district of New Orleans after getting through seven checkpoints. We quickly learned that the current media reports that relief and aid have finally arrived to New Orleans are as false as all earlier reports that also had as their origin government sources. The people in the Algiers area have received nothing or next to nothing since the Hurricane struck. Left without any way to escape, people are now struggling to survive in the aftermath. Now they are being told they have to abandon their homes, even though they want to stay. They are not being given what they need to stay and survive, and are being told they must leave.
"Imagine being in a city, poor, without any money and all of a sudden you are told to leave and you don't even have a bicycle," stated Malik Rahim, a community activist in the Algiers section of New Orleans. "90% of the people don't even have cars."
One woman told us it was not possible for her to evacuate. She said, "I can't leave. I don't have a car and I have nine children." She and her husband are getting by with the help of several men in the community who are joining resources to provide for their neighbors.
The government claims that people can get water, but residents have to travel at least 17 miles to the nearest water and ice distribution center. Only one case of water is available per family. Countless people have no way to drive.
While the government is touting the deployment of personnel to the area, there is a huge military and police presence but none of it to provide services. All of them, north and south of the river, are stationed in front of private buildings and abandoned stores, protecting private property.
The goods that the government personnel are bringing in are for their own forces. They are not distributing provisions to people who desperately need them.
Not one of them has delivered water to Algiers or gone to the houses to see if sick or elderly people need help. There is no door-to-door survey to see who was injured.
The overwhelming majority of people who have stayed in Algiers are Black but some are white. One man in his late 50s in Algiers pointed across the street to a 10-acre grassy lot. It looks like a beautiful park. He said, "I had my daughter call FEMA. I told them I want to donate this land to the people in need. They could set up 100 tractor trailers with aid, they could set up tents. No one has ever called me back." He is clearly angry.
Although some of the residents do express fear of burglaries into houses, acts of heroism, sacrifice and solidarity are evident everywhere.
Steve, a white man in his 40s, knocks on Malik's front door. He tells us, "Malik has kept this neighborhood together. We don't know what we'd do without his help." He has come in because he needs to use the phone. Malik's street is the only one with phones still working.
Malik and three of his friends have been delivering food, water and ice to those in need three times a day, searching everywhere for goods.
There is a strong suspicion among the residents that the government has another agenda in the deliberately forced removal of people from Algiers, even though this particular neighborhood is not under water and is intact.
Algiers is full of quaint, historic French-style houses, with a high real estate value, and the residents know that the government and real estate forces would like to lay their hands on their neighborhood to push forward gentrification which is already evident.
DOWNTOWN NEW ORLEANS
Although entry is prohibited into downtown New Orleans north and east of the Mississippi, we were able to get in on Sunday.
The Superdome is still surrounded by water and all types of military helicopters, army trucks, etc are coming in and out of the area; however, most of the people who survived have already left. On US-90, the only road out of New Orleans, convoys of National Guard troops are pouring into the city, too late for many. According to an emergency issue of The Times-Picayune, 16,000 National Guard troops now occupy the city.
Thousands of troops are in New Orleans but water is premium and still not available. One African American couple we met looking for water told us, "We have four kids. When they told us to leave before the hurricane we couldn't. We have no car and no money."
Undoubtedly it is similar in the other states that got the direct hit of Katrina, Mississippi and Alabama. On the radio we hear reports of completely demolished towns. What differentiates the rest of the Gulf coast from New Orleans is that the many thousands of deaths in New Orleans were absolutely preventable and occurred after the hurricane.
On everyone's lips is the cutting in federal funds to strengthen the levees of Lake Pontchartrain. Two reporters from New York tell us they just came from the New Orleans airport emergency hospital that was set up. We made our way to the airport.
NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The New Orleans International Airport was converted into an emergency hospital center. Thousands of people were evacuated there to get supplies and food, and for transportation that would take them out of the city. Many people arrived with only one or two bags, their entire lives reduced to a few belongings.
Some people did not want to leave their homes, but say they were forced to do so. For example, one white woman and her husband were forced to evacuate. She said, "The military told us that we had one minute to evacuate. We said that we weren't ready and he said they can't force us to leave but if we don't leave anybody left would be arrested ... but it was the end of the month. The two of us have been living for a couple of months on $600 a month and rent is $550. At the end of the month, we only had $20 and 1/8 of a tank of gas. There was no way we could leave."
When it became apparent that nobody was coming back to pick them up, the couple walked five miles to the airport to see if they could get help.
Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, doctors, nurses and community organizations came from as far as San Diego, California and Kentucky to provide support during the crisis. None of them were dispersed into the community. When we arrived at the airport on Sunday, September 4, there were approximately 20 medical people for every one patient while people in regions such as Algiers and the 9th ward were left to fend for themselves.
The majority of people in New Orleans blame the local and national government for the catastrophe. One young Black man said, "The government abandoned us ... [it's] pre-meditated murder."
Another said, "Why would you [the government] protect a building ... instead of rescuing people that have been without food or water for three or four days? It seems like that was the plan. ... We couldn't starve them out, the hurricane didn't kill them, it seems planned."
As we drive to Baton Rouge tonight to visit evacuated people, we hear on local radio that possibly 10,000 people have died in the flooded areas of New Orleans. Tonight in one announcement, we hear the names of some of the missing people still being searched for, a 90-year-old woman named Lisa, a man 102 years old, two women 82 and 85 years old. The elderly, the most vulnerable, left to their own devices.
Bodies are lying everywhere, and hidden in attics and apartments. The announcer describes how one body, rotting after days in the sun, was surrounded by a wall fashioned from fallen bricks by survivors, and given a provisional burial to give her some dignity. Written on the sheet covering her is, "Here lies Vera, God Help Us."
At a Red Cross shelter outside of Baton Rouge, we meet Emmanuel, who can't find his wife and three sons after the floods. His story is shocking but not unusual. His home is near the 17th Street Canal, where the Pontchartrain levee broke through.
"I stayed behind to rescue my neighbors while I sent my wife and kids to dry land," he says. It is difficult for him to relate what happened. He had a small boat so he went from house to house picking up neighbors. While doing so, he encountered many bodies in the water.
"My best friend's body was floating by in the water. One mother whose baby drowned tied her baby to a fence so she could bury him after she returned." Because troops kept driving by him and others without helping them, he had to walk 30 miles north until he was picked up.
The people of New Orleans did not have to die; their lives did not have to be destroyed. This conduct of the government is a crime of the highest magnitude. There is not a single adjective that is adequate.
Negligence, incompetence, callous disregard while all are true, none are sufficient.
Those who manage a system that always and everywhere puts the needs of business and private property ahead of the people, that always find money to fund wars that benefit the rich of this country rather than meeting people's needs should be held responsible and accountable. The real problem however, is not with the managers of the system, but with the system itself. They call it the free market. It is the economic and social system of plutocracy, the system of modern capitalism, of, by, and for the rich that in words declares itself to be of, by and for the people. The reality, however, can now been seen in the streets of New Orleans.
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
National Office in Washington DC: 202-544-3389
New York City: 212-533-0417
Los Angeles: 323-464-1636
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
September 1, 2005
"The river rose all day,
The river rose all night.
Some people got lost in the flood,
Some people got away all right.
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemine:
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.
They're trying to wash us away,
They're trying to wash us away…."
-- Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927
The destruction of New Orleans represents a confluence of many of the most pernicious trends in American politics and culture: poverty, racism, militarism, elitist greed, environmental abuse, public corruption and the decay of democracy at every level.
Much of this is embodied in the odd phrasing that even the most circumspect mainstream media sources have been using to describe the hardest-hit victims of the storm and its devastating aftermath: "those who chose to stay behind." Instantly, the situation has been framed with language to flatter the prejudices of the comfortable and deny the reality of the most vulnerable.
It is obvious that the vast majority of those who failed to evacuate are poor: they had nowhere else to go, no way to get there, no means to sustain themselves and their families on strange ground. While there were certainly people who stayed behind by choice, most stayed behind because they had no choice. They were trapped by their poverty - and many have paid the price with their lives.
Yet across the media spectrum, the faint hint of disapproval drips from the affluent observers, the clear implication that the victims were just too lazy and shiftless to get out of harm's way. There is simply no understanding - not even an attempt at understanding - the destitution, the isolation, the immobility of the poor and the sick and the broken among us.
This is from the "respectable" media; the great right-wing echo chamber was even less restrained, of course, leaping straight into giddy convulsions of racism at the first reports of looting in the devastated city. In the pinched-gonad squeals of Rush Limbaugh and his fellow hatemongers, the hard-right media immediately conjured up images of wild-eyed darkies rampaging through the streets in an orgy of violence and thievery.
Not that the mainstreamers ignored the racist angle. There was the already infamous juxtaposition of captions for wire service photos, where depictions of essentially the same scene - desperate people wading through flood waters, clutching plastic bags full of groceries - were given markedly different spins. In one picture, a white couple are described as struggling along after finding bread and soda at a grocery store. But beneath an almost identical photo of a young black man with a bag of groceries, we are told that a "looter" wades through the streets after robbing a grocery store.
Almost all of the early "looting" was like this: desperate people - of all colors - stranded by the floodwaters broke into abandoned stores and carried off food, clean water, medicine, clothes. Perhaps they should have left a check on the counter, but then again - what exactly was going to happen to all those perishables and consumer goods, sitting around in fetid, diseased water for weeks on end? (The mayor now says it could be up to 16 weeks before people can return to their homes and businesses.) Obviously, most if not all of it would have been thrown away or written off in any case. Later, of course, there was more organized looting by criminal gangs, the type of lawless element - of every hue, in every society - whose chief victims are, of course, the poor and vulnerable. These criminal operations were quickly conflated with the earlier pilferage to paint a single seamless picture of the American media's favorite horror story: Black Folk Gone Wild.
But here again another question was left unasked: Where were the resources - the money, manpower, materiel, transport - that could have removed all those forced to stay behind, and given them someplace safe and sustaining to take shelter? Where, indeed, were the resources that could have bolstered the city's defenses and shored up its levees? Where were the National Guard troops that could have secured the streets and directed survivors to food and aid? Where were the public resources - the physical manifestation of the citizenry's commitment to the common good - that could have greatly mitigated the brutal effects of this natural disaster?
"President Coolidge came down here in a railroad train,
With a little fat man with a notebook in his hand.
The president say, "Little fat man, isn't it a shame
What the river has done to this poor cracker's land?"
Well, we all know what happened to those vital resources. They had been cut back, stripped down, gutted, pilfered - looted - to pay for a war of aggression, to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest, safest, most protected Americans, to gorge the coffers of a small number of private and corporate fortunes, while letting the public sector - the common good - wither and die on the vine. These were all specific actions of the Bush Administration - including the devastating budget cuts on projects specifically designed to bolster New Orleans' defenses against a catastrophic hurricane. Bush even cut money for strengthening the very levees that broke and delivered the deathblow to the city. All this, in the face of specific warnings of what would happen if these measures were neglected: the city would go down "under 20 feet of water," one expert predicted just a few weeks ago.
But Bush said there was no money for this kind of folderol anymore. The federal budget had been busted by his tax cuts and his war. And this was a deliberate policy: as Bush's mentor Grover Norquist famously put it, the whole Bushist ethos was to starve the federal government of funds, shrinking it down so "we can drown it in the bathtub." As it turned out, the bathtub wasn't quite big enough -- so they drowned it in the streets of New Orleans instead.
But as culpable, criminal and loathsome as the Bush Administration is, it is only the apotheosis of an overarching trend in American society that has been gathering force for decades: the destruction of the idea of a common good, a public sector whose benefits and responsibilities are shared by all, and directed by the consent of the governed. For more than 30 years, the corporate Right has waged a relentless and highly focused campaign against the common good, seeking to atomize individuals into isolated "consumer units" whose political energies - kept deliberately underinformed by the ubiquitous corporate media - can be diverted into emotionalized "hot button" issues (gay marriage, school prayer, intelligent design, flag burning, welfare queens, drugs, porn, abortion, teen sex, commie subversion, terrorist threats, etc., etc.) that never threaten Big Money's bottom line.
Again deliberately, with smear, spin and sham, they have sought - and succeeded - in poisoning the well of the democratic process, turning it into a tabloid melee where only "character counts" while the rapacious policies of Big Money's bought-and-sold candidates are completely ignored. As Big Money solidified its ascendancy over government, pouring billions - over and under the table - into campaign coffers, politicians could ignore larger and larger swathes of the people. If you can't hook yourself up to a well-funded, coffer-filling interest group, if you can't hire a big-time Beltway player to lobby your cause and get you "a seat at the table," then your voice goes unheard, your concerns are shunted aside. (Apart from a few cynical gestures around election-time, of course.) The poor, the sick, the weak, the vulnerable have become invisible - in the media, in the corporate boardroom, "at the table" of the power players in national, state and local governments. The increasingly marginalized and unstable middle class is also fading from the consciousness of the rulers, whose servicing of the elite gets more brazen and frantic all the time.
When unbridled commercial development of delicately balanced environments like the Mississippi Delta is bruited "at the table," whose voice is heard? Not the poor, who, as we have seen this week, will overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the overstressed environment. And not the middle class, who might opt for the security of safer, saner development policies to protect their hard-won homes and businesses. No, the only voice that matters is that of the developers themselves, and the elite investors who stand behind them.
They're trying to wash us away"
The destruction of New Orleans was a work of nature - but a nature that has been worked upon by human hands and human policies. As global climate change continues its deadly symbiosis with unbridled commercial development for elite profit, we will see more such destruction, far more, on an even more devastating scale. As the harsh, aggressive militarism and brutal corporate ethos that Bush has injected into the mainstream of American society continues to spread its poison, we will see fewer and fewer resources available to nurture the common good. As the political process becomes more and more corrupt, ever more a creation of elite puppetmasters and their craven bagmen, we will see the poor and the weak and even the middle class driven further and further into the low ground of society, where every passing storm - economic, political, natural - will threaten their homes, their livelihoods, their very existence.
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away
They're trying to wash us away"
Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
** This powerful, poignant article was reprinted with the kind permission of the author, Chris Floyd. To read more of his excellent, penetrating, prescient articles, please go to http://www.chris-floyd.com --- Annamarie
Tomgram: Bill McKibben on Planet New Orleans
Last week, I took a six-hour drive south to New York City on a day when New Orleans had just gone under water and the President was stumbling to address the nation. The headlines on the morning paper I tossed in the front seat next to me read: "New Orleans Is Inundated As 2 Levees Fail; Much of Gulf Coast Is Crippled; Toll Rises."
I began my day by pulling into a local gas station where I found myself paying $2.67 a gallon for regular unleaded -- in two pit stops that day, I would pour over fifty bucks into the tank of my recently purchased 2003 Subaru Outback. Regretting that I didn't have a Prius, I still felt like a low-level lottery winner, like the last customer to stumble upon a bargain that would never again exist. (Twenty-four hours later, my wife would report that the same station had the same gas for $2.93 -- up 22 cents and rising like mercury on a hot day.)
There's nothing like six hours alone in a car to focus the brain -- especially a brain beginning to think that, not so many years down the road, being alone in a car, eating energy all by yourself might be considered the ultimate luxury. While distant New Orleans was being transformed into the city of our nightmares, I glided past a settled world at 65 miles an hour (except for the normal bottlenecks at Providence and New Haven). All of it, the rest-stops, McDonalds, billboard ads, urban skylines, lakes dotted with ducks and swans, water tanks, roadside multiplexes, and even the road kill, still held the calm of stability and the known. And yet in New Orleans that known was already long gone, swept away in a day or two with everything that makes our civilization click -- telephones, televisions, computers, water, electricity, gas, jobs, family photos, food, clothes -- you name it, gone in the roaring flicker of a single great storm and the human-made catastrophe that foll! owed. (If global warming fears are correct, of course, even that storm was, in part, human-made.) What Todd Gitlin has called "the torrent" (of images) that is the essence of our civilization had been wiped away in a wide swathe of the southeastern United States by a literal torrent.
Have you ever felt you were in two moments at once? It was surprisingly eerie, really. There I was, watching a world I knew well go by, no different than ever, and I felt as if I were slipping effortlessly through some future Pompeii, a landscape that will sooner or later be under water (or the equivalent) and so unimaginable to our children's children.
I'm 61 years old. My friend's 88 year-old mother was evacuated from New Orleans to Houston as Katrina approached, 16 hours-plus bumper-to-bumper, city-to-city -- and she had it easy; at least she had a car to get out and the financial means as well as the support system to remain out. Her daughter and I had just been talking about the possibility that she might never return to the world she had known all her life. She's a remarkable woman and a trooper. I wondered how I might react. Not well, I fear. It's hard indeed, if you're not there (perhaps even if you are), imagining this world, your world, underwater.
All the obvious phrases were wandering through my brain -- "fiddling while Rome burns...," "après moi, le deluge..." -- and what I was thinking as well was that, if we don't begin to prepare soon for what we know is coming, if we don't do something to mitigate it, we or our children or their children are going to end up abandoning lives as precipitously, and in at least as much chaos, as the inhabitants of New Orleans.
Between the ever more horrific news reports and the stumbling, slurring comments of our Great Leader who was promising that ice (yes, ice by the ton) was on the way, I happened to be listening to Cole Porter songs on the car CD (one of the many modern technologies I can barely handle and yet that, like the computer, the cell phone, the vcr, and the car, are inextricably wound into and bound up with my life). Porter's fabulous lyrics -- those oysters down in Oyster Bay just kept doing it again and again as I hit the repeat button -- left me nostalgic for what was truly lovely in the world we might, one of these unexpected days or weeks or years, simply be leaving behind. What a world of horror and wonder, all bound together and so unbearably easy (as anyone who has lived through an urban blackout knows) to unravel.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Independent World Television
Après Moi, le Deluge
The leader of the most powerful country on earth, with an unquestioned faith in his divine right to rule and the absolute power of the centralized state, was the namesake for Louisiana.
When he died in 1715, Louis XIV had built France into the dominant power in Europe, but he bankrupted the nation, forcing him to levy high taxes on the peasantry while the nobility paid none at all. Most people lived in poverty while the King built an empire.
During the empire's demise, his great great grandson Louis XV ruled France and its possessions, which included the colonial city of New Orleans. He lived for indulgence and luxury as his people descended further into despair. It is said near his end he uttered the words "Après moi, le deluge." After me come the floods.
Centuries later, the people of New Orleans met those floods, as contemporary rulers -- political and economic -- abandoned them to their fate. The words "Après moi, le deluge " have come to epitomize the psychology of those who ruin people and the earth with no thought for tomorrow, and the destruction of New Orleans will stand as the naked exposure of a fading American dream.
"Guardians of freedom and the American way of life," say the recruitment ads for the National Guard. For the 38% of New Orleans residents who lived in poverty and at least 37 million others across the nation who suffer in grim conditions, the fantasy of the "American way of life" vanished long ago. The reality is a growing gap between rich and poor, under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
And unfortunately for the people of New Orleans, too many of their National Guardsmen, instead of helping evacuate citizens at their time of need, had been sent away to bring "freedom and the American way of life" to Iraq.
Of course, that fantasy is also collapsing as the truth is starting to seep through to the American public of the thousands of civilian deaths, the collapse of infrastructure, the developing civil war, the strength of the insurgency, and the creation of conditions for the unleashing of Al Qaeda's fanatic reign of terror against the Iraqi people.
Other mythologies remain intact, like the success story of the liberation of Afghanistan, where life expectancy is just 44.5 years, one in five children die before they reach the age of five and where violence against women remains near Taliban times.
The UN estimates that every year 400,000 Afghans are affected by natural disasters, with little done to prevent them or help the people afterwards. Here the citizens of New Orleans share a new kinship with Afghans.
Perhaps the fact that most of the people who were abandoned to the flood were of African descent may give them a new sense of solidarity with the estimated 85 million Africans that the UN says will die of HIV and other diseases over the next two decades. Millions of people abandoned by the rich, industrialized world.
But not only African-Americans felt abandoned in New Orleans.
In one of those rare moments when television's barrier between viewer and real world breaks down, we saw one of the most gut-wrenching moments of Katrina coverage when Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, broke down in tears on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"The aftermath of Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in US history," he said. "It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."
Mr. Broussard continued: "The guy who runs emergency management... he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a nursing home. Every day she called him and said, â€˜Are you coming son? Is anybody coming?' And he kept saying â€˜Yeah, Mom, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' And she drowned on Friday night.... Nobody's coming to get us.... The Secretary's promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake shut up and send us somebody."
Mr. Broussard broke down sobbing, his face buried in his hands. The moment was raw, unfiltered, and powerful. The words "bureaucracy has committed murder here in greater New Orleans" ripping through the rhetoric and evasion by President Bush and Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security.
Why can't there be television with this honesty every night?
The rest of the article -- along with your comments -- continues on the IWTnews blog at:
Monday, September 05, 2005
Iraq Dispatches: U.S. Influence 'Too Much', by Dahr Jamail** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com **
U.S. Influence 'Too Much'
Inter Press Service
*London, Sep 5 (IPS) -* U.S. influence in the process of drafting a
constitution for Iraq is excessive and "highly inappropriate", a United
Nations official says.
"It is a matter of public record that in the final weeks of the process
the newly arrived U.S. ambassador (Zalmay Khalizad) took an extremely
hands-on role," Justin Alexander, legal affairs officer for the office
of constitutional support with the United Nations Assistance Mission to
Iraq (UNAMI) told IPS. "Even going so far as to circulate at least one
Alexander, who oversaw the recent proceedings in Baghdad added: "This
involvement was highly inappropriate for a country with 140,000 soldiers
Zaid al-Ali, a legal expert who also oversaw the drafting process in
Baghdad, made a similar case at a meeting at the International
Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies in London.
"There are three ways in which the occupation intervened in the context
of Iraq's constitution-writing process," he said. "Firstly, the
occupation authorities selected and affected the makeup of the
commission that was charged with drafting Iraq's transitional law, and
its permanent constitution. Second, the occupation determined the limits
and parameters within which the constitution was to be drafted. Third,
the occupation authorities intervened directly in order to safeguard its
interests in the context of the constitutional negotiations."
Al-Ali said it was significant that one article in the draft
constitution on foreign military bases was dropped from the final
version. "One article contained in a previous draft provided that
setting up foreign military bases in Iraq was to be forbidden, and that
the only way in which this could be deviated from would have been by a
two-thirds majority vote in Parliament."
Al-Ali said "this article was dropped from the final draft of the
An alliance including the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars and the
large movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said it rejected the draft
and a "political process which had been led by occupiers and their
The group said in a media statement: "We consider this draft as a next
step of this process which does not represent the peoples' will." The
alliance also expressed "major suspicions about the honesty of the next
referendum, which will take place under occupation and with neither
international nor Arabic and Islamic supervision."
Dr. Marinos Diamantides, senior lecturer in law at the University of
London, said the entire drafting process could be illegal under
"One could argue the entire process is against the law," Diamantides
told IPS. "According to the 1907 Convention (the convention for the
pacific settlement of disputes), the occupying power has a duty to
maintain the legal system of the country it occupies. This is the first
time ever that an occupying power has dismantled the internal law system
of the country it occupies."
He also pointed out that ironically the Sunnis now have power to derail
the upcoming referendum vote by a two-thirds vote in three provinces.
That power was originally intended to give Kurds power to veto the
When Iraq's Kurdish and Shia dominated parliament recently approved the
draft, Sunnis immediately began campaigning for a 'no' vote in the
upcoming October referendum. If the draft were to pass the referendum,
it would be followed two months later by election for a government.
At least four provinces are predominantly Sunni, and Sunni clerics have
urged their followers to reject the draft if it does not meet Sunni demands.
Adding further complexity to the already muddled situation, former UN
humanitarian coordinator in Iraq during the sanctions Denis Halliday
believes that even the United Nations has no place in occupied Iraq.
"The UN doesn't have a position in Iraq today," Halliday told IPS. "Once
the invasion took place, the UN became collaborators with the enemy (the
Halliday, who had resigned from his UN post in protest against
"genocidal sanctions" added: "This lesson should have been learned in
August, 2003 when our office in Baghdad was blown up, as we were
collaborators. The UN has simply become a tool of the U.S., and Iraqis
can no longer distinguish between the U.S. and the UN."
Justin Alexander said Iraq might need a new constitution. "If Iraq
creates a progressive and effective constitution and laws to implement
the constitution, then this could benefit Iraqis. But in the absence of
mutual reconciliation and an end to the occupation this is all futile."
More writing, photos and commentary at http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com
** All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq dispatches are reprinted on this site unabridged, in their entirety, with the kind permission of Dahr Jamail. ---- Annamarie
Refugees flee at last, only to wander the South
By: Mark Coultan, Herald Correspondent in Baton Rouge
September 5, 2005
Soon New Orleans will be left to the dead.
At last, the evacuation of the city's desperate residents is working. The cavalry is arriving in the form of 7000 active-duty troops and 13,000 from the National Guard, as President George Bush gets the message in no uncertain terms: the victims of Hurricane Katrina can wait no longer.
The city's Superdome and convention centre were all but emptied yesterday, with more than 19,000 leaving the centre. Buses are streaming out of New Orleans, dispersing a tide of refugees across the southern states.
Many get on board without knowing where they are going. They might end up in shelters in Louisiana, Texas or Arkansas. More than 2000 sick people were flown even further away.
As America and the world tried to comprehend how the superpower took so long to rescue its people, the Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, offered this explanation: "It was as if an atomic bomb was dropped on New Orleans."
The shell-shocked authorities simply were not prepared.
"This is probably the worst catastrophe or set of catastrophes ... in the history of the country," Mr Chertoff said.
It had "exceeded the foresight of the planners and maybe anybody's foresight".
Hurricane Katrina has already given Mr Bush some hindsight. Accepting that emergency relief was inadequate, he sent in the 82nd Airborne Division, crack paratroopers who are usually the shock troops in war. Convoys kilometres long drove into the city.
Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, a Republican, suggested the death toll could be 10,000 but admitted that was not based on any solid figures. "I hope and I pray we don't get near that."
Hurricane Katrina has ripped families apart.
At the River Centre in Baton Rouge, now home to 5000 people, Red Cross workers had a list of 28 children whose parents were looking for them; they had found only one.
In the rush to evacuate, some parents had sent their children out of the city with relatives, neighbours or friends. Some mothers were separated from newborn babies who became stranded in the city's maternity wards.
After the worst of human nature was on show in the days after the hurricane, the best is now coming out. At a rest stop for refugees in Alexandria, Louisiana, people were dropping off clothes, shoes, toiletries and medicines.
Authorities were preparing to provide morgues, as the city coroner's office was under water.
Anxiety mingled with relief on the streets of surrounding cities. Keisel Walker burst into tears when she saw her brother, George Bailey. "Thank Jesus, thank Jesus," she said, her arms wrapped around him as her five children stood on the street corner.
In the 38-degree heat, Kevin Bowden and his wife, Valencia, are living on a couple of square metres of concrete floor in Baton Rouge's River Centre, with their seven-month-old baby, Kevin jnr, and relative Valerie Sumas. They had driven all over southern Louisiana looking for a place to stay, finally being taken by a motel. They want to thank the manager and show her card - reading "Michele Barrett" - for giving them two nights without charge.
They are sure their house is gone. They lived near the 17th Street canal, close to where the levee bank broke. With only the clothes they could fit into the boot of their car, they have no idea what they will do next.
Jefferson Parish, near New Orleans, will allow residents to return on Monday but only to retrieve essential supplies.
The parish president said:
"They are not going to like what they see. But mother nature beat the hell out of us."
People would find Jefferson Parish a "three-day holiday in hell".
Sydney Morning Herald