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  Katrina and the Neocons' Iraqi War: Wake-up Calls?

COMMENTARY:

Katrina and the Neocons' Iraqi War: Wake-up Calls?

by William Hughes

Is there a message here from Katrina for America? Can we use this time of tragedy to reflect and take an honest look at ourselves? Will people ever start to notice just how vulnerable we are as a nation, not only to natural disasters, but to man-made economic and political ones as well?
On Aug. 29, 2005, the central Gulf Coast of the US endured a merciless assault from a Category 4 hurricane dubbed Katrina. Taking devastating hits were New Orleans, Louisiana; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Mobile, Alabama. The property damage inflicted by the storm is estimated to be between $16 and $25 billion. Flood surges dumped all kinds of pollutants, chemicals and human waste on impacted areas, with New Orleans, one of the great cities of the South, brought to a total standstill. At least 100 people were reported dead and tens of thousands more were left homeless by the killer storm. Over 5,000,000 residents in the Gulf Coast area are presently without electricity. It could take six to eight weeks or longer for the power companies to restore service to the customers affected.

Is there a message here from Katrina for America? Can we use this time of tragedy to reflect and take an honest look at ourselves? Will people ever start to notice just how vulnerable we are as a nation, not only to natural disasters, but to man-made economic and political ones as well?

On the economic front, did you know that 8,000 US companies, worth a total of $1.3 trillion, were sold to foreign interests (e.g. Chrysler, Amoco and Arco Oil) in the last 10 years? Many of our major industries are now controlled by foreign companies. In addition, we have lost four million high-paying manufacturing jobs in the last ten years. Also, 99% of the US federal deficit was financed by foreign investors in 2004. From 1998 to 2004, foreign countries have spent $620 million in Washington, DC lobbying for free trade, tax incentives and contracts. Do you get the feeling the American people are being royally shafted by the special interests? If so, you’re right.

Will America ever become conscious, too, of the massive suffering that we as a country have imposed on the innocent peoples of Iraq? Shouldn’t we ponder what exactly this means for our relationship with the Muslim world, not only with respect to the possibility of increased terrorism, but also to the alarming rise in the price of energy? The toll from the man-made Iraq War has reached the level of a mega-catastrophe. Iraq, a nation of 22 million souls, and its ancient cities, like Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul, have been reduced mostly to rubble by the US’s invasion and occupation. Water, gasoline, food, medical supplies and electricity are always in need there, while dangerous radioactive depleted uranium dust saturates the country. As many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have been killed so far in the conflict.

And just how did we get into the Iraqi mess? The Iraq War was the brainchild of Paul Wolfowitz. At the time of the invasion—March 20, 2003—he was the Deputy Secretary of Defense and one of the highest ranking members of the Bush-Cheney administration. Today, he is in charge of the World Bank. By common consent, Wolfowitz, a zealot and Neocon, has been deemed the prime “architect” of that unjust and immoral blood-stained war.

When the Louisiana National Guard was called out in the aftermath of the storm, only 65% were able to answer the call. Why? Bush had sent the rest of them to Iraq.

There are all kinds of ramifications of the Iraqi War, and some have hit home because of the Katrina disaster. When the Louisiana National Guard, in the aftermath of the storm, was called out to protect property and life, only 65% of its personnel were able to answer the call! Why? The Bush-Cheney gang had sent the rest of them to Iraq based on a war policy that we now know is nothing but a pack of lies. Some of the members of that Guard are on their second tour of duty in the Iraqi hellhole. Of the 1,877 American military personnel that have died in Iraq, 47 were from the state of Louisiana and five called the city of New Orleans home. The Iraq War itself has cost this nation $190.8 billion, with no end in sight.

The Army Corps of Engineers sought $150 million for additional flood and hurricane protection for New Orleans—a request that fell on the deaf ears of the Bush-Cheney administration.

And then there is what the Bush-Cheney administration didn’t do to help the people of the central Gulf Coast region. As late as Feb. 7, 2005, the US Army Corps of Engineers had identified and documented a strong need for additional flood and hurricane protection—in the range of $150 million—for the New Orleans region. The funds sought were to be used for “widening drainage canals, flood-proofing bridges and building pumping stations in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.” (Deon Roberts, New Orleans City Business, “Bush’s Budget for New Orleans District,” 02/07/05.) The Corps’ justified request, however, fell on the deaf ears of the Bush-Cheney administration, which insisted on diverting more of our nation’s resources on the unwinnable Iraq War and other ill-advised schemes.

Another result of Katrina is that the price of gasoline immediately jumped five cents a gallon at the pump. Consumers can also expect natural gas prices to be 20% higher than they were last fall, since the hurricane-battered central Gulf Coast is one of the leading areas for the production and distribution of both oil and gas. The dysfunctional energy ploys of the Bush-Cheney gang are a big part of this problem, too. Question: what man-made incident, more than any other, has helped to destabilize today's international oil market? Try the US invasion of Iraq!

I believe that Katrina and the Iraqi War are wake-up calls for America. It’s time for all of us to take a good look at our country and see where we have been and where we are headed. Thanks to self-defeating economic policies, we are no longer competitive as a nation. We are only a “free market” for others, like the Plutocratic elite, to exploit. Our manufacturing base is fast disappearing and our trade deficits are transferring billions of dollars of US assets to foreign control. Our national debt now stands at $7.9 trillion! The Iraq War, too, inspired by the Neocons, has only made us more enemies. It has also led to the destabilization of the price of oil.

Finally, the Bush-Cheney administration’s gross incompetence has also shown how vulnerable we are to monopolized energy market forces and to the future “Enronization" of America. It’s time for the people to wake up and to take their country back before it is too late. By ancient right, the Republic belongs to the people—but only if they have the the courage and the vision to take the political action that is necessary to restore and sustain it.


Copyright William Hughes, 2005. William Hughes, a Baltimore attorney, is the author of Saying ‘’No" to the War Party (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at liamhughes@comcast.net.


Copyright © 2005 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on September 1, 2005.

 
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