You are herecontent / We've Got to Turn Things Around
We've Got to Turn Things Around
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism
Statement September 3, 2005
When earlier this year people in our country began to tell pollsters they did not feel the country was moving in the right direction they had no idea where we might end up. And then disaster struck; now it has become painfully clear.
The tragedy of New Orleans didn't have to happen.
The Bush Administration's policies before disaster struck and its response to its consequences has caused the death of thousands of people and unimaginable suffering, especially among the sick, the old and the very young. It has demonstrated utter disregard for the welfare and the fate of millions of people in the storm ravaged area - most of whom are disadvantaged African American working people.
The country was not moving in the right direction last November when after studying the effects of Hurricane Ivan three months earlier, scientists warned that had that storm not veered away from New Orleans it would have resulted in a major disaster. And nothing of significance was done.
The country was not moving in the right direction when the Bush Administration proposed - and Congress went along with - cutting the budget allocations for heading off such a catastrophe as that which has befallen that city. And the money went to cover the cost of the unjustified war in Iraq.
The country was not moving in the right direction when people in the various states began to rightfully complain that the Pentagon's slight-of-hand misuse of the National Guard troops to fight that war was endangering our ability to handle potential disasters here at home. And the Louisiana Guard was not fully prepared to rescue and protect the people of the beleaguered city.
There was a time, when Hurricane Katrina was only threatening to strike New Orleans, that critical steps could have been taken that would have avoided the death and destruction that has visited that city and other communities in a three state area. But no action was taken; those in authority evidently choose to ride it out. Then the levees broke - the very occurrence the money earlier diverted to the war was intended to prevent.
'I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees,' says President George W. Bush. 'Now we're having to deal with it, and will.' That simply is not true. People in a position to know have warned of that danger for years and their warnings have gone ignored. When later the President took time away from his vacation to fly high over the city in Air Force One consequences weren't being dealt with very well. As the days have passed, thousands of women, men and children have lost their lives, floating face down in the surging waters that had before been restrained by levees separating the city from Lake Ponchatrain.
Meanwhile, the increasingly desperate people of New Orleans, especially the African Americans who make up the majority of the population and the poor who lacked the means or opportunity to flee when the belated evacuation order was given, made it clear they felt abandoned, left to fend for themselves. Had they not been poor and mostly black, they rightfully said, rescue and aid would have come sooner and been more effective. At the same time, across the country people have stared at their television screens outraged and appalled at what they were witnessing. And asking: how can the wealthiest country in the world, one that can launch invasions of other countries half way around the world, fail to protect the safety of its residents?
New Orleans would not have become the nightmare it is now were the country moving in the right direction. But government - at all levels - has been moving in the wrong direction for quite a while. With the coming of the Bush Administration, the pace has accelerated with more and more attention being paid to the interest of the powerful, well-to-do amongst us and riding roughshod over the interest of working people and the poor.
It would be a grave error to conclude that we're safe now that this episode is over. An earthquake in California or another major terror attack could still happen and unless we change direction and get our priorities straight, we won't be any more prepared for the next disaster than we were for this one.
We've also got to get our direction right in the world. A government that defies world public opinion and launches wars for oil wells imperils our security. A government that gives tax breaks to the rich and cuts benefits to the vulnerable renders us ever less secure. A government that defies world opinion and refuses to recognize the reality of global warming bequeaths to future generations the threat of unceasing and horrendous natural calamities.
The present situation in our country demands a rapid reversal of national priorities. The occupation of Iraq must end and the troops withdrawn. The billions of dollars being expended there should be redirected to a program designed to house the homeless and feed the hungry in the stricken areas. A project should be set in motion to rebuild the entire Gulf area.
All unemployed African American youth, especially the people who are victims of the disaster, should be hired for jobs at prevailing wages in every sphere of work to help with rescue, relief and restoration. An emergency Marshall Plan is needed now.
The monopoly oil companies which have shamelessly exploited the tragedy to gouge billions from the nation's working people cannot be allowed to continue profiting from the suffering. Instead they should be forced to reduce the price of oil and other petroleum products and immediately have imposed upon them a levy on their profits in order to fund the massive rebuilding that is needed.
There is much to be done at once to aid the people of New Orleans and help that magnificent storied city to begin to recover. The numerous aid campaigns that have been launched deserve the support and contributions of all of us.
Progressives should join with others in urgently pressing the Federal government to take further emergency measures. Among them we suggest:
The state of Louisiana should be considered an Emergency area for the whole country with the states being mobilized to lend assistance.
Military bases in the Gulf region and, if necessary, across the country should be opened to all the victims in need of housing and medical attention.
National Guard troops currently serving outside the country should be rotated back to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to help with relief and reconstruction efforts.
And, finally, as we stand in the aftermath of one of the most damaging natural disasters in US history, we've got to make every effort we can, to make sure that blame is laid where it should be and that not another drop of this unbearable weight be borne on backs that could not have made a real difference. Those in power who ignored warnings and shortchanged our security or delayed the steps which would have mitigated the death and destruction we are witnessing must be held accountable.
Committees of Correspondence 545 - 8th Avenue - 14th Floor NE New York, NY 10018