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(DV) Random: Zero Tolerance -- Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers







Zero Tolerance: Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers
by Jack Random
September 1, 2005

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“I have zero tolerance for lawlessness.” 

-- George W. Bush

Take 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 Hurricane Katrina.

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 administration.

On the third day of hell, the president gets tough: “I have zero tolerance for lawlessness.”

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 clean fuels.

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 very beginning.

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 disaster struck?

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 people.

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:

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