So far, the most revealing part of the New Orleans tragedy has been Bush’s reaction to the claims of “widespread looting” throughout the city. Aside from the fact that most of these people were either foraging for food and water for their families or, as the mayor of New Orleans said, drug-addicts looking for a “fix”, Bush used the charges to promote himself as a tough-talking straight shooter with a low threshold for lawlessness.
“I think there should be zero tolerance for people breaking the law during an emergency such as this,” Bush boomed on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Louisiana’s Governor Kathleen Blanco echoed Bush’s sentiments by deploying National Guardsman to the city and adding, “These troops are battle tested. They have M-16s that are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot to kill and I expect they will.”
Wow, talk about blaming the victims!
Would Bush and Blanco really kill a man for pilfering diapers and bottled water for his family?
Bush’s “law and order” approach to the tragedy is consistent with his utter lack of sympathy for the victims of this colossal disaster. As always, he simply reiterates the private property dogma that underscores his ideological worldview and disregards his role as “compassionate conservative.”
Bush is a firm believer that looting should limited to the class of carpetbaggers and war criminals to which he belongs. He has no problem with the “no-bid” contracts and war-profiteering that has plagued Iraqi debacle from Day One. The $9 billion of purloined Iraqi oil revenue never even drew a raised eyebrow from our benighted leader, but the notion that that corruption might be extended democratically to everyone regardless of class -- now that’s the REAL crime as Bush sees it.
The vast looting and destruction in New Orleans is an object lesson to the ruling class and one that ultimately benefits revolutionaries, antiwar activists and civil libertarians. The people in power need to grasp the ephemeral character of society; there’s nothing permanent about it. Social order is a transitory phenomenon that papers over the primordial swamp of human rage, desire and barbarity. When we peel back the outer layer of society, we see those same dark forces at work: a cauldron of competing emotions and shadowy cravings. Those forces are now in play on the streets of New Orleans, along with the even more elemental drive to survive.
What bothers men like Bush is the prospect that everyone may partake in the same nihilistic revelry that he and his confreres have enjoyed for so long. It is the anarchy of unrestrained greed that puts a shiver in his spine, the selfishness that infects every man’s heart. And, yet, this is the true face of present day America: a lawless, twisted waif unleashing waves of terror across the globe, feeding the burgeoning coffers of its privileged few.
Why not uncork the bottle and let everyone take part in the festivities?
As the poet Yates said,
tide is loosed
Now, the Bush-dimmed tide has been loosed in New Orleans and the city folk are enjoying the same evil pleasures as their Washington doppelgangers.
What’s good for Bush is good for everyone isn’t it?
And, let’s not forget the sage observations of Donald Rumsfeld who said of looting in Iraq, “Yes, people are ransacking hospitals, burning down buildings and fighting each other in the streets, but it’s not that bad. Stuff happens.” (Pentagon briefing, April 11, 2003)
Yes, and now stuff is happening in New Orleans and everywhere else haunted by the Bush specter.
The roving gangs of looters are like a giant mirror hung in front of the White House reflecting the anarchic soul inside. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Falluja, these are the sordid images beamed back from the glass. These are the Bush legacy and, now, they are America’s too.
Bush can’t have it both ways. He cannot destroy the law and then pretend it still exists for the poor and helpless.
The looters in New Orleans are the offspring of the Bush political ethos, a no-holds-barred culture of violence, thievery and impunity. They are his blood progeny and his rightful heirs.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* New Orleans and the System that
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