Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Real Defining Moment in America Was Hurricane Katrina and not 9/11

by Karemah Akifah Saleh, Iqra Newspaper

This picture was taken of a home which was flooded almost to the ceiling. The walls had to be removed because of the mold damage. Iqra Newspaper 2006

Iqra Newspaper 2006

The terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been labeled the defining moment in American history, and President George Bush’s presidency. Not a day has passed without an article in a newspaper, a discussion on talk radio or on network news mentioned something linked to 9/11, whether it is terrorism (which is often a code word for “Islamic Extremism”), Al Quaeda, Iran, Iraq, or Osama Bin Laden. The propaganda machine is always turning in order to create a fear in the public’s eyes to justify this unpopular war.
Countless laws were rubber stamped through Congress with little if any debate in the name of 9/11. We went to war on false pretenses, which promoted a new wave of xenophobia and more foolish laws. Why has this nation ignored so many important issues of the day, and has not devoted even a fraction of attention towards the events on August 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina, the nation’s worst disaster of all time.
Hurricane Katrina was clearly this nation’s most defining moment for many reasons. This storm uncovered many hidden flaws from the local, state and the federal government. It opened Pandora’s Box, exposing many dysfunctional aspects of this nation. Americans were not willing to face the total inability of the government to deal with a national crisis, from the state of Louisiana to the President.
Remember the images of utter chaos in New Orleans, the helpless trapped in hospitals, the poorest and most unprepared forced to go to the Super Dome at the very last moment, desperate cries for help with hundreds lining up around the New Orleans Convention Center begging for water, and some of the most shameful neglect of the elderly. Dead bodies remaining on the streets for weeks, elderly left to fend for themselves dying a miserable death in the sweltering heat of a semi tropical American city. The old and dead were found in wheel chairs, also, half naked babies in the most unsanitary condition imaginable. Days and days passed with out any real intervention from the government. No water, no way out, no hope. This was not a scene most would expect to see from the richest, most powerful nation in the world. This was not a Hollywood production. This was real. Surely this injustice could not happen in America – a nation that talks so much about freedom.
Two major precedents occurred during the chaos of Katrina. There were three direct violations of the constitution. The city was transformed into a complete police state like never before in modern times. There was also a violation of the “Posse Comitatus Act' Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 1385, which states:
"'Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

In layman’s terms, the military is prohibited from direct involvement in law enforcement. U.S. law and policy limits the military's role in domestic affairs. Military can not run around the streets playing rambo with citizens.

No less than 3 constitutional rights were violated.

While thugs scoured the city streets breaking into houses, businesses and committing crimes, the military were busy removing guns from the homes of many law abiding citizens. A direct violation of the United States Constitution:

2nd Amendment:
… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

3rd Amendment :
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

4th Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…..

Instead of the media digging deep, challenging these direct breaches of the United States constitutions, or trying to find answers, and asking tough questions, holding leaders accountable for this tragedy spinning so violently out of control, much of the media decided to spin stories about looters, and George Bush’s trip to the Gulf South, as if he was a hero coming to save the day. Let us not forget Momma Bush’s comment which could have been taken from a cheap old Racist Southern novel, “Back on the Southern Plantation” (fictitious). She said (mainly directed at towards the thousands of African Americans stranded in the Astro Dome) “so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them,” As if it was a Sunday picnic at the park. What she failed to realize as many, citizens finding shelter in the Superdome, Convention Center, Reliant Stadium or newly formed FEMA Camps were not allowed to leave the premises.
, Most of the New Orleans residents felt abandoned by their leaders. Mayor Nagin received hardly any national attention until he went on the radio blasting the federal government for their slothfulness. Many residents questioned how the government of the richest nation in the world could so quickly give billions to Israel without flinching and deploy troops to fight an unjustified war in Iraq in super sonic speed. But when it came to Hurricane Katrina relief, suddenly not even the most basic supplies could be sent to the much needed citizens in the Big Easy (New Orleans), however they did not waste time turning New Orleans into a Police State and sweeping the disenfranchised African American population from the land.

Where were the priorities of leaders from the City to the Federal government all of those years? New Orleans’ vulnerability to a massive flood was well documented since Hurricane Betsy. Those responsible for protecting the city in government failed New Orleans, failed the Gulf Coast and America, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. And let us not forget the useless Levy Board. Where was the help?
This government maintained a continuous flow of billions of dollars into rebuilding Iraq (which the Neo Con Zionist Zombies destroyed in the first place) to which much went to no bid contractors and constructing military bases. Just imagine the impact of rebuilding the Gulf South, using this money to create the most technically advanced levy systems in the world, modernizing New Orleans infrastructures (i.e. 100 year old pumping stations) building quality educational facilities with 21 Century standards, repairing the streets which were in horrendous condition even before Hurricane Katrina, repairing the vanishing coast line……modernizing the highway system…
Some leaders went on record questioning the need to rebuild New Orleans, a city with one of the busiest ports in this nation,” Louisiana has the hardest working wetlands in America, a watery world of bayous, marshes, and barrier islands that either produces or transports more than a third of the nation's oil and a quarter of its natural gas, and ranks second only to Alaska in commercial fish landings.” (National

How can 1,900 square miles of wetlands disappear from the Louisiana coast since the 1930’s and continues to recede at a rate of about 24 square miles per year without little action from Congress? The Oil/gas pipelines have been a direct detriment to the marsh land, which is known as a buffer zone protecting the city against massive title waves. Not enough was done to protect New Orleans and the gulf coast.
Instead of prioritizing this ongoing crisis Governor Blanco (the state’s governor) and Mayor Nagin were affixed with keeping the Saints Football team in New Orleans, and doing everything possible to get a good deal, but a fraction of an effort was made making a good deal for the state, the people, and the generations to come in one of the nation’s unique states and cities.
The scientific community was blatantly ignored – until the last hour when Mayor Nagin insisted on an evacuation at the very last minute, illustrating what could happen if the storm hit, offering little leadership and a tight plan of last resort. Why did they ignore all of the warning? Why did President Bush and his Congress ignore legislature for dealing with this problem?
A year has passed and change is happening at a snails pace in New Orleans. Part of the money promised has not trickled down to the citizens who really could make a difference in the rebuilding process. Every citizen of America is advised to visit this city, and see the present day shameful condition. Most New Orleans citizens still remain scattered across the United States. Crime has made a comeback, and not one single leader has been held accountable for this most shameful defining moment in American’s history. Every community should have a clear cut plan in the case of a national disaster.

Author’s post notes:
This article only scratches the surface of what went wrong in the case of Hurricane Katrina. There were many other horrible events not mentioned because of breadth of the problem. I am considering doing a 3 part series exploring other issues.

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