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A Bright Spot in Bush World
Amid the Miserable Failures on the Same Planet
By Cindy Sheehan
It has been one month and one week since I sat in a ditch in Crawford, Tx. I can hardly believe it when I think of it myself. So much has happened in that time, and really, so little.
I got to Camp Casey III in Covington, La today, after getting up at 3am to head for the airport. Now it is 3am the next day and we are driving in a car to try and find a hotel to sleep anywhere around Jackson, Miss. I was prepared to be shocked by what I saw in Louisiana, but I guess one can never really fully prepare for such devastation and tragedy. After living in a country your entire life it is so difficult to see such callous indifference on an immense scale. When I reflect on how the mother of the imbecile who is running our country said that the people who are in the Astrodome are happy to be there, it angers me beyond comparison. The people in LA who were displaced have nice, if modest homes that are perfectly fine. I wonder why the government made them leave at great expense and uproot families who have been living in their communities for generations.
After we arrived at Camp Casey III, we took the Veterans for Peace "Impeachment Tour Bus" into New Orleans after stopping at the distribution center to pick up some supplies in Covington. The stench and the destruction are unbelievable. I saw some hurricane zones in the panhandle of Florida last year that were pretty bad but that couldn't have prepared me for this.
I saw in the paper that George Bush said the recovery in the Gulf States would be "hard work." That's what he said about sending troops to Iraq and looking at the casualty reports everyday: "It's hard work." That man has never known a day of hard work in his life. The people on the ground in Covington scoffed at George's little junket to Louisiana yesterday. He stayed in the French Quarter and a Ward that weren't even damaged a bit. The VFP took me to the city of Algiers on the West Bank. The part of Algiers we went to was very poor and black. The people of Algiers know what hard work is.
Algiers had no flooding. All of the damage was from winds. There are trees knocked over and shingles off of roofs. There are signs blown over and there was a dead body lying on the ground for 2 weeks before someone finally came to get it. Even though Algiers came through Katrina relatively unscathed, our federal government tried to force (mostly successfully) the people out of the community. Malik Rahim, a new friend of ours and resident of Algiers, told us stories of the days after the hurricane. The government declared martial law, but there was no effective police presence to enforce it. Malik said the lawlessness was rampant. People were running out of food and water and they were being forced to go to the Superdome. They didn't want to go to the Superdome, because their homes were pretty intact: they wanted to stay and have food and water brought to them. A town of 76,000 people dwindled down to 3,000. The die hards were rewarded last Wednesday when the VFP rolled into town with food and water. The Camp Casey III people were the first ones to bring any relief to Algiers. The people who were supposed to look after its citizens, our government, failed them.
In Algiers, in the space of 2 short weeks, Malik and his community has opened a clinic which also doubles as a food and supply distribution center. We need more help in Algiers. Malik and the other dozens fine volunteers are planning on opening 2 more clinics in Algiers and Malik would dearly love someone to give him a flat bottomed boat so he can go to the flood drenched poor communities that still have not been helped and bring them food, supplies, and medical attention. Medical professionals are dearly needed. Malik has also set up a communications center in an apartment next to his house which is for the community to use. The aid that is being given in Algiers is completely driven by the needs of the community. They have a saying in Algiers: Not Charity, Solidarity.
The citizens of Algiers desperately needed help and hope before the hurricane. When I think of how many other poor neighborhoods are being decimated and made so desperate and hopeless by the failed policies of the Bush administration, it makes me so angry. But when I see what the people of Algiers are doing to help themselves and the people of America are doing to help them help themselves, it gives me hope. I think Algiers can be a model for all of our communities.
One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests.
The vast majority of people who were looting in New Orleans were doing so to feed their families or to get resources to get their families out of there. If I had a store with an inventory of insured belongings, and a tragedy happened, I would fling my doors open and tell everyone to take what they need: it is only stuff. When our fellow citizens are told to "shoot to kill" other fellow citizens because they want to stay alive, that is military and governmental fascism gone out of control. What I saw today in Algiers lifted up my spirits, but what I also saw today in Algiers frightened me terribly.
The people who are running the clinic in Algiers gave me a list of desperately needed supplies:
Blood pressure medication---properly packaged.
Allergy medication---properly packaged
Pens, paper, sharpies, index cards
Glucometers and test strips
Full O2 tanks
Power strips and extension cords
Non-DEET insect repellent
Mini bottles of Hand Sanitizer
A copy machine is urgently needed
People: Call: 512-297-1049
Send supplies to:
Fed Ex or UPS
Veterans for Peace Ch 116
C/O 645 Kimbro Dr.
Baton Rouge, La. 70808
Mark them: For the Medical Clinic in Algiers
The children in Algiers have also been out of school. Malik would like to open a school and they need school supplies and teachers.
I have a testimony from a Doctor that came to Louisiana to help that I will post tomorrow. The failure in every level of our government is criminal negligence. Tens of thousands of families in our country have been devastated because of the incompetence and callousness of our so-called leadership. America is stepping up to the plate to help Americans. America stepped up to the plate to hold George accountable for the abomination in Iraq. One thing George has taught us is that we are self-sufficient and we have a country that is worth fighting for and we are not going away.
I was told that Pat Boone was on a conservative radio talk show in San Francisco (yes they do exist) with Melanie Morgan (who has a vendetta against me) and he told the listeners that after we "stole the supplies" from the Red Cross, we gave them to the "enemies of America who are like the people who want to fly airplanes into our buildings." Boone says that we were giving them to enemies of America, because we were distributing the supplies from a Mosque. First of all, accusing me of stealing is slander, I think, and second of all: we were helping Americans. Just because their government abandoned them, we shouldn't feed them and give them medicine and supplies? I thought Pat Boone was supposed to be a Christian man? Thirdly, isn't Freedom of Religion one of our Constitutional guarantees?
It is a Christ-like principal to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. That's what is happening in Algiers and other places in Louisiana…but by the people of America, not the so-called "Christians" in charge. If George Bush truly listened to God and read the words of the Christ, Iraq and the devastation in New Orleans would have never happened.
I don't care if a human being is black, brown, white, yellow or pink. I don't care if a human being is Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or pagan. I don't care what flag a person salutes: if a human being is hungry, then it is up to another human being to feed him/her. George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power. The only way America will become more secure is if we have a new administration that cares about Americans even if they don't fall into the top two percent of the wealthiest.