The Guardian 7 September, 2005

Criminal lack of response to Katrina

Communist Party USA statement demands full federal support for Katrina victims

Hurricane Katrina has inflicted an immense and unspeakable tragedy on the people of the Gulf Coast. The situation grows worse by the hour. The Mayor of New Orleans estimates that thousands have died and as many as 100,000 may still be trapped in the flooded city. Without food or drinkable water, time is running out for these men, women and children. The Communist Party, USA expresses its fullest sympathy and solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of the hurricane, especially the infants, children and seniors, who are the most vulnerable.

Five days into the crisis and the Bush Administration is going in slow motion. We, along with national organisations and local government, demand that the Bush Administration throw the full weight of the Federal Government behind rescue and recovery efforts.

The television images beamed to the world make it clear that it is the African Americans of New Orleans who are bearing the brunt of this catastrophe. It will be a racist, anti-working class crime if Bush fails to deploy enough federal resources to save them and their homes. It will take months before the levees are repaired, New Orleans is pumped out and 500,000 residents can return to their city.

Millions more across the Gulf region — many working class, from every race and walk of life — are homeless, unemployed, in need of medical attention, running out of money, food, water and time due to the disaster.

What did President George W Bush do? He was slow to return from his month-long vacation, making an aerial tour of the devastation on Wednesday. Then he convened a Rose Garden news conference and offered up a laundry list of the bags of ice, blankets, and cots he has ordered sent to the victims. He pleaded for cash donations from individuals. The White House later announced that former Presidents George Bush, Sr and Bill Clinton would spearhead a drive for private donations.

Putting the responsibility of solving this crisis situation onto individuals is a cop-out. Bush wants to dodge demands for federal aid to rebuild the shattered lives, homes, and jobs of the victims.

Bush has made only vague allusions to federal funds. What a contrast to his ruthless arm-twisting to ram through Congress $200 billion for the continued occupation of Iraq. Much of that money flowed into the coffers of Halliburton and other military corporations with crony ties to Bush and Dick Cheney.

We demand a massive infusion of no-strings-attached federal aid to rebuild the homes and lives of all the hurricane victims.

National Guard units now needed in the Gulf Coast states are badly depleted because so many soldiers are and so much equipment is deployed in Iraq. We demand that these soldiers be brought home. Now! Assign them to assist the people in rebuilding the Gulf Coast. This calamity has brought home an inescapable truth: We cannot afford George W Bush’s atrocious war in Iraq.

Could this tragedy have been avoided? The US Congress, at Bush’s request, slashed $70 million from the US Army Corps of Engineers budget for strengthening the levees that protect New Orleans. For years, engineers have warned that a breach in the levees is a "disaster waiting to happen". Bush and Congress turned a deaf ear. They needed that money to pay for the occupation of Iraq. They needed that money to pay for Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

Environmental degradation along the coast and malign neglect of rural and urban communities of colour turned a natural disaster into a man-made catastrophe.

We demand that Congress reverse Bush’s tax cuts and slash the insane $500 billion Pentagon weapons budget. Use those revenues to rebuild New Orleans and other impoverished cities and towns across our nation.

We condemn corporate price gouging at the gas pump and in all sales and services in the region. Gas prices should be rolled-back at once. Corporations have done very well in recent years due to the policies of the Bush Administration. It is time for them to pay for the cleanup and reconstruction of the region. No sweetheart deals for rebuilding from Katrina!

Emphasis should be put on rescuing the victims and immediately providing food and shelter. We call for the repeal of the shoot-to-kill order on looters, many who are looking for food, water, medicine and diapers in a city with no available stores or aid.

There could be more devastating storms in the six weeks remaining in the hurricane season. Global warming is heating up the south Atlantic and the Caribbean making for ever more ferocious hurricanes.

Yet our know-nothing President vetoed the Kyoto Agreement aimed at curbing global warming, calling it "unproven science". Bush is bought and paid for by the energy conglomerates that reap enormous profits from the burning of fossil fuels.

His recently approved Energy Act guarantees that millions more tons of greenhouse gases will be pumped into the biosphere. It’s time to say enough! We demand that the US immediately ratify the Kyoto Agreement and implement an energy program that reduces greenhouse gases.

We applaud the efforts of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and the [peak union body] AFL-CIO and other organisations that have mobilised to send material aid to the region. The efforts of hundreds of individual volunteers, aid and rescue workers, and courageous neighbours saved countless lives.

We stand with the suffering people of the Gulf Coast and join with the people of the world in offering assistance. Yet personal generosity is not enough. Only the federal government has the resources to end and reverse this tragedy. The best way to help is to force George W Bush to provide the federal assistance owed to the victims.

Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives. Demand that they speak out. Call the White House. Demand full federal funding to reconstruct the Gulf Coast states and to rebuild New Orleans! And let’s turnout everyone we can to join the September 24 anti-war march on Washington.

Bring the National Guard home!

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