The New Orleans Aftermath and an Ugly Glimpse of the Future

Posted by unknown - October 10, 2005 (entry 367)

By Steve Lendman

The most important and lasting story of New Orleans is not the catastrophe wrought by nature, important as that is. It's the planned and now being implemented one brought to that city and its benighted majority poor and mainly black population by the combined and complicit federal, state and local governments beholden to corporate interests. The overwhelming destruction and human misery and death caused by a natural phenomenon has quickly metamorphosed into an extraordinary golden opportunity for business profit and predation. The brazen and out of control Bush administration has taken full advantage by rewarding its corporate cronies well with lucrative contracts for what they and the major media call "rebuilding." What's really happening is something much different and well concealed that should be exposed as a national scandal. It's exploitive predatory disaster capitalism that's an unexpected "windfall" [excuse the pun] for the usual corporate "favorites" - Halliburton [of course, always first chosen], Bechtel, and the oil, chemical and all other corporations that will benefit from redevelopment contracts plus those to receive large federal subsidy handouts [above the large ones already gotten] . And, of course, all this will be funded, as it always is, mostly by middle and low income taxpayers who receive only the bill and none of the benefits.

To enhance corporate profits even further, the Bush administration has suspended Davis-Bacon Act law which guarantees that prevailing wage rates be paid on all federally funded or assisted construction projects. This will enable contractors to pay poverty wages and be able to employ immigrant or undocumented workers [rather than the now displaced and unemployed New Orleans poor black population] least able or likely to protest. In addition, to assure all evacuated neighborhoods remain that way, even after flood waters recede, as well as to protect local business interests and upper income people remaining or returning and corporate contractors coming in to redevelop, paramilitary "hired guns", some fresh from Iraq, have been hired with license to shoot to kill with impunity anyone "perceived" to be a threat. New Orleans has now become our Baghdad [without the car bombings and strong resistance committed to end the illegal occupation] or "hostile Indian country" for the scattered poor black and Latino residents remaining. And if that weren't enough, environmental regulations have also been suspended in an area desperately needing remediation and already well qualified to be designated a superfund site or toxic waste dump [but never will be].

To make all this happen, according to plan, New Orleans was left extremely unprepared for a natural catastrophe sure to come eventually. There were deliberate and punitive federal budget cuts, an attitude of extreme arrogance and neglect of the majority poor and most vulnerable population that would pay the price, and a flippant disregard for the irrefutable truth about and threat from global warming - a threat confirmed by the most reputable climate scientists including a recent study by an MIT scientist showing that overall hurricane intensity today is 50% greater than in 1970. The price being paid is very high. Poor blacks mainly were assaulted when in desperation they tried to get food and other basic necessities from stores unable to be open, they were routinely arrested, shot and killed in cold blood, and finally "ethnically cleansed" en masse to distant locations where they were treated with disdain. Now most of their neighborhoods [those most wanted for "redevelopment"] have been or will be "appropriated" by the state and city, and these people won't be allowed to return to them. Probably they'll be dispersed to other "ghetto" locations in New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana and other states. Perhaps the most blatant and galling example of arrogance and indifference to the massive human suffering and loss was demonstrated by the Bush family matriarch - Barbara Bush - on the Larry King show when she callously dismissed the great tragedy the displaced people in the Houston Astrodome had endured by saying how lucky these deprived people were to be where they could be cared for better than they were able to do it for themselves before the storm. George Galloway, the British MP, said it best that Mrs. Bush will now go down in history as a modern day Marie Antoinette [the French Queen and wife of King Louis XVI] who when told the French peasants had no bread suggested they eat cake instead. The French Revolution followed in the wake of that arrogance and misrule, just as we had our own shortly before it because of foreign misrule here and a desire for freedom. At some point, as has happened so often in the past elsewhere, oppressed people here may once again rise up to throw off their oppressors.

New Orleans after the natural catastrophe is not an isolated once in a multi-generation event. It's only the most current example of exploitation of the poor and disadvantaged [mainly people of color] that's been ongoing since Columbus [the first western genocidist] arrived over 500 years ago. The only difference in New Orleans is that the development and rebuilding there will be on a much greater scale. In other cities, like my own in Chicago, it's always ongoing. It's called "gentrification" to build upscale residential apartments, condominiums or homes for the privileged or "slum clearance" to build a new super sports stadium or arena or other new corporate development projects. In all cases, it's predatory capitalism supported and/or financed by government for the rich and at the expense of the most disadvantaged and least powerful.

What's happening now in New Orleans and other US cities is also happening around the world. In New Orleans it's "predatory disaster capitalism", in Baghdad it's "conquest and occupation capitalism", and in Haiti it's "coup d'etat and return the poor Haitians to serfdom capitalism" [enforced by "neutral" UN peacekeepers]. And those along with Afghanistan are only the most visible examples of what has and is now happening in developing countries everywhere affected or dominated by US directed policies and actions. Disaster profiteering at home is possible as opportunities present themselves. Its conquest and occupation equivalent abroad is only the alternative chosen after all other less extreme choices have been tried and failed to succeed. In our own cities, "redevelopment" for the betterment of the community is an easy sell [except to those people affected], while abroad similar "development" aid through World Bank and IMF [onerous] loans to developing nations claim to be promoting economic growth which will reduce poverty but, in fact, benefit only US or western corporate interests and an elite few in recipient countries while causing extreme deprivation and increased poverty in the greater population. In both instances, corporate interests and those in power benefit at the expense of the most deprived and defenseless. The result for the mass population is always catastrophic. In this country, it becomes a race to the bottom as wages stagnate or fall, low paid service jobs replace higher paid manufacturing ones and essential social services are reduced or denied. In the developing countries it's far worse and includes the theft of their land and resources and ability to earn even a minimally acceptable living as well as denial of basic needs like essential health care, education and clean water - resulting in mass deprivation, disease and death.

The rise of the extreme neoconservative right and philosophy and practice of so-called "free market neoliberalism" at home and abroad combined with growing and dangerous militarism especially since the 1980s now threatens the security and welfare of people everywhere. At home it's apparent in federal, state and local budget cuts in all categories of social needs, corporate downsizing and exporting of the best high-paying jobs, the slow destruction of organized labor, an even more extreme and dangerous ecological neglect and destruction, an intensified militarization and frequent use of it to wage foreign wars of conquest and police state control here at home, and an overall fundamentalist Christian, military and corporate takeover of the country and systematic disregard of our basic and most cherished constitutional rights. There's a word for that type governance, and it's not a pleasant one. It's called fascism, and if we're not quite there yet, it's surely in sight.In a nation like ours where almost from birth and surely from pre-school on we're all "assaulted" and programmed to accept the so-called "American way" or "American exceptionalism" as the best of all possible worlds. The dominant corporate media suppress and sanitize all our news and information and act merely as complicit transmission agents for the state and their own corporate interests. And throughout our school years from early on through the doctoral level, we're taught only acceptable doctrine. Throughout our history as a nation, the real story of war and endless conflict, imperial expansion and conquest, and oppression of the most defenseless is never taught and has never stopped. The way we treated black people as slaves, slaughtered our native peoples by the millions and stole their land and resources {both glaring examples of genocide on the most massive scale but never so labeled] are still repeated today in different forms. Instead of slavery, we now have the world's largest gulag prison system {mostly for blacks and other people of color ] and impoverished ghettos. And instead of Indian wars of conquest and mass slaughter, we have bantustan-like reservations on the most inhospitable lands and even greater poverty, disease, hopelessness and cultural genocide. In New Orleans today, the beat merely goes on, and it's the same business as usual story. But let's be very clear what all this really means. What's happening now in its most extreme form in New Orleans [unreported in the mass media and concealed from the public] is what will happen all across the country tomorrow unless enough dedicated good people can find a way to stop it before it's too late - and the time left is very short. If we who care fail, "America the beautiful" will only exist for the privileged few and no one else.

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