Is the West "sleeping through" the Pakistani earthquake disaster? (1) Why do the responses to recent natural disasters in the U.S.A. and, often, around the world seem so limited?
Consider this, from William Blum's "Anti-Empire Report" of October 18, 2005. (2)
“Look at the US government's preparation for the invasion of Iraq. For almost a full year the bases were set up, the airfields laid out, the tanks moved into place, the army hospitals readied for the wounded in Germany, the body bags inventoried, hundreds of thousands of military and civilian personnel assigned their spots and their duties, money being printed round the clock upon request, every ‘t’ crossed, every ‘i’ dotted, little left to chance ... and look at the preparation for a hurricane hitting New Orleans, which was beyond the ‘if’ stage, waiting only for the ‘when’. The empire has its priorities.”
A German journalist speaking on US radio (KQED-FM San Francisco, 19 October 2005) noted that Germans viewed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a demonstration that America's vast new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, had “failed miserably.” A similar view has been expressed by Pakistanis regarding the Pakistani Army's response to the October 8 earthquake, critics contending that the Army fussed over Kashmir border defenses for days before really engaging in relief work.
In fairness, it appears that the Pakistani soldiers involved in relief efforts are doing their best and have every desire to help. The failings are not those of individual performance, but are structural. It also happens that the 8 October earthquake has caused a very large catastrophe, one that would strain the best emergency preparations that could have been devised in ideal circumstances.
Is it “failure” or “misinterpretation”?
The view that the Department of Homeland Security failed during and after Hurricane Katrina is no doubt based on an incorrect understanding of its name.
Hurricane Katrina proved that protection and rescue of the American public are NOT functions of the Department of Homeland Security. This department is the domestic component of the Iraq War, which is the immediate activity in the program to control world oil reserves -- the energy and financial basis of the American Empire. What is the task of the domestic component? Control of the population; the Department of Homeland Security is the Praetorian Guard of the elite capitalist management class, protecting them from the national population. Now, does the name make sense?
So it is in Pakistan. The Army may defend Pakistanis from invasion and attack should that occur, and it may set out to rescue victims of natural disasters, but one has to conclude that their primary mission is to protect the Pakistani elite “from threats foreign and domestic.” Thus, it will always be difficult to have the assets in manpower, supplies and equipment of security agencies like the Pakistani Army or the US Department of Homeland Security pre-positioned throughout their respective nations waiting to respond quickly and adequately to disasters, which we know will occur.
Planning for earthquake relief in Pakistan or San Francisco or China, and hurricanes and flooding in New Orleans, Florida or Cuba can be done with as much forethought and allocation of resources as was carried out to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, or the ongoing campaign in Kashmir. One can easily imagine a national network of depots stockpiling food, medicines, tents, bedding, emergency communications gear, fuel, vehicles and heavy equipment; and being centers of training and assembly for emergency response personnel.
Relief efforts will always be inadequate where such planning is absent, and when the security forces are entrenched elsewhere in wars of acquisition.
The nature of emergency planning is a reflection of the degree of social solidarity within a nation. Where the greater value is placed upon the bond between people, as in Cuba, emergency planning will be comprehensive and effective. Where the emphasis is placed upon protecting a class structure, which may include a racist component within a primary focus on protecting wealth, then in the aftermath of a natural disaster you will see the genocide of the poor, the flushing away of the waste population to elite economics.
Is there anything to learn here? Consider these two possible lessons.
Perhaps if we see earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods as being naturally produced war zones within our country, we can be induced to provision, staff and deploy an appropriate army -- let's call it the National Guard -- to quickly contain the “conflict” against our normal level of social harmony (think optimistically here), and to “defeat” this invasion as quickly as possible by rescuing our people and repairing the physical damage. The vast resources needed for this type of army could be had simply by eliminating the imperialist program.
Obviously, a social and political revolution would be needed to implement this last suggestion. Since over 80% (I think 98%) of the US population would benefit from such a revolution, it could actually be carried out.
As Cuba is an example of these two lessons, it is no wonder the U.S. government carries on such a vindictive and relentless assault against it. Indulge in forbidden thoughts: imagine a U.S.A. like Cuba, with free health care from cradle to grave, and free education from kindergarten through graduate school. (3)
So, it seems less that “the West is ‘sleeping through’ Pakistan's earthquake disaster” and much more that “the empire has its priorities.”
As a last comment on imperial bureaucracy, the appointment of John Bolton as the US Ambassador to the United Nations is a clear indication that the U.N. is intended to be the administrator of the colonies -- to echo a characterization by John Pilger. The imperialists want the U.N. to act internationally in a capacity similar to that of the DOHS domestically: to protect the world's patricians and their holdings from the envy of proletarians and the desperation of the unwanted.
Manuel García, Jr. is a working physicist and amateur poet. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2005 Kashmir Earthquake, Wikipedia.
Other Articles by Manuel Garcia, Jr.