“I have zero tolerance for lawlessness.”
-- George W. Bush
all the looting and price gouging in New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama and
greater Louisiana and it would not amount to a fraction of a percent of
the daily profit margin of the oil industry in the ongoing horror of
Our president rushes to Washington (canceling a photo-op in favor of a
fly-over) and immediately releases a portion of the strategic oil reserves
as a loan to beleaguered oil refineries, denied their daily crude from the
Gulf, and the DOW Industrial average rises 70 points.
Maybe it is not improper for the president to worry about the price of gas
but where is the National Guard? Where is Homeland Security? Where are the
legions of support personnel that are supposed to stand ready for the
crisis of a terrorist attack? Is this an indication of our preparedness?
What is wrong with this picture? New Orleans is drowning in a toxic
cesspool and we have no means of communication, no contingencies for mass
evacuation, inadequate provisions for food, shelter, drinkable water,
medical care, levee repair or security.
The levees have failed, the pumps are inoperable, fires burn out of
control, power cannot be restored, the death toll rises, disease and
infestation looms, and three days after the event the National Guard is
still en route.
Michael Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
appearing on all the news outlets, prefaced every interview with the
astounding claim that his gut told him the catastrophe would be extreme.
Consequently, he pulled all the assets of his agency back out of harm’s
way but he forgot that he would not be able to get them back in. Mr. Brown
may be a good and decent man but this is all too typical of this
On the third day of hell, the president gets tough: “I have zero tolerance
With all undue respect, Mr. President, you have a great deal of tolerance
for a vast array of lawlessness. You tolerate corporate crime: fraud, tax
evasion, no-bid contracts and cooking the books. You tolerate political
crime: disenfranchisement, election fraud, slander and outing intelligence
agents for political revenge. You tolerate international crime:
overthrowing democratic governments, torture, attacks on journalists, the
Geneva conventions and wars of aggression.
You tolerate the pharmaceutical industry’s malfeasance, trading thousands
of lives for arthritis relief. You tolerate intolerable labor standards
both here and abroad. You tolerate industrial waste, poisoning the air,
land and water, and contributing far more than your fair share to the
problem that precipitated this “act of god.”
In many ways, yours is the most tolerant administration in history.
During the west coast energy crisis, your first response was an offer to
tolerate suspension of environmental laws and, indeed, in the current
crisis, you are perfectly willing to tolerate unconscionable profits by
your corporate partners in the oil industry and suspend regulations on
What is exceptionally clear is that the response to this nightmare three
full days after the event is completely inadequate. What is increasingly
clear is that for all the vaunted planning and anticipation, the poor and
working people of New Orleans were left to fend for themselves from the
A mandatory evacuation was ordered by civil authorities but no provision
was made for the masses who had no transportation, no money for gas or
hotel rooms, and no relations in Mobile or Atlanta. Where were the
military transports, the helicopters, and the caravan of buses before
Where are they now? For god’s sake, where are they?
At some point, we must grow tired of the standard excuse (the same excuse
for the war): Mistakes were made but now we must move forward. Now we can
begin to understand why we will never “win” in Iraq. We have created the
problem (or allowed it to develop) and now we expect to be congratulated
for establishing order.
At some point, we must accept that these were not mistakes but deliberate
calculations of cost versus harm. The poor in the low-lying areas of New
Orleans were not worth the cost of evacuation. Indeed, for the last twenty
years, the city itself was not a high enough priority to buttress and
fortify the levees.
We have grown tired of the excuse that no one could have anticipated such
a disaster. It is reminiscent of Condoleezza Rice’s pronouncement that no
one could foresee planes flying into buildings. In both cases, the
disaster was fully anticipated yet virtually nothing was done to avert it.
We are supposed to be reassured that the president is back at the helm.
The White House calculates and recalculates priorities while the people of
New Orleans languish in intolerable conditions. The heat in the Deep South
is oppressive, stifling, punishing, and the water that surrounds them is
venomous and smells of death. The people have no drinking water, no food,
no power, no medicine, no medical facilities and no means of escape.
What did you expect to happen?
The people are boiling with rage and desperation yet we are supposed to
admire the president’s get tough, zero tolerance attitude.
Three days into the horror, we see nothing that even begins to compare to
the response amassed for the Indian Ocean tsunami and the White House is
still making plans, calculating priorities and preparing to establish
order in hell.
Here are the White House priorities: (1) the oil industry, (2) the
insurance industry, (3) banking and other corporate interests, and (4) the
Some complain that other nations have not rushed to our aid. Like me, they
might have assumed that the wealthiest nation on earth could take care of
its own. In a prior commentary, I expressed full confidence that our
government would respond appropriately to the breadth and depth of the
unfolding horror. Three days later, it is my sorry admission that I was
wrong. It is beyond belief how wrong I was.
Meantime, the people of New Orleans continue to wallow in unending horror
and former presidents Clinton and Bush are planning a reunion tour to
raise private funds where the government has fallen short.
Is this America?
Jack Random is
the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman
Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City
Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch,
the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others.
Visit his website:
The Perfect Storm by Chris Floyd
Waiting for the Outside World by Mike Ferner
They Are Dying at This Moment by Brandy Baker
Global Warming & Widespread Blackouts, Just as Deadly as Terrorism by
“Transformation”: How Rumsfeld Smashed the National Guard by Mike
The National Guard Belongs in New Orleans and Biloxi, Not Baghdad by
Other Articles by Jack
and the American Slug: Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
The Lie of a
Strong Economy (Beneath the Towers of Avarice)
Again: Major Party Turnabout
* The New War
Candidate: Major Paul Hackett for Congress
* Free Judy!
The Fine Art of Calling a Bluff
Blackmail: The Betrayal of Democracy in Haiti
* Blame the
Democrats & Move On: The Federalist Court
the Wind: The Inevitable End of the Iraqi Occupation
* London and
Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror
Miller: The Anti-Hero
Scherzo: The Last Waltz
* The Last
Throes: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Bush -- US Out Now!
* Recall the
* The Gates
of Hell: Occupied Iraq
* May Day:
The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
* The Papal
Aristocracy: Confessions of a Nonbeliever
* No Citizen
* A Marine
Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
Defense of Barry Bonds
Dan? Rather Not
Went to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun