TOPICS: Katrina: Bush doesn’t care as blacks die

President Bush is not a strong leader. There’s something wrong with him and it comes from two places. First, a lack of concern for poor people, poor black people. Second, like his father, he’s probably not even aware that these people exist. Even if he knew they existed and even if he were concerned, I’m not sure he would know what to do.

If this hurricane had struck a white neighbourhood, his response would have been a lot stronger. If you can call Dick Cheney and say: “We’re going to Iraq’’, and Cheney can say: “I can get Halliburton and move thousands of troops overnight so that we can wage an offensive in the desert, you mean to tell me that there aren’t people there who could say: “We know how to solve this, Mr President; we’ll help you?” The response to 9/11 was strong and people knew what to do. And now look at the stark difference.

In New Orleans, there was a criminal lack of preparation. We have known about the weakness of the levee for a long time; we’ve known that hurricanes would increase in number and intensity for a long time; we knew this hurricane would gain strength after it passed the east coast of Florida and moved across Florida to the west coast and then into the Gulf; we knew that evacuations should have come a lot earlier; we knew that New Orleans is below sea level. The population in those areas is poor and largely black, and race and class are huge issues since the conservative takeover of US politics. The urban policy of this administration is terrible, but this has been going on for a long time, so it’s not just this particular Bush. It’s the conservative backlash.

Racism had become subtle and amorphous. You’d hear about it in the law suits, you’d see it in the change of the judges, you’d see it in the backlash against affirm-ative action. It was cloaked under Clarence Thomas and upfront people, puppets like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, who hide a multitude of sins in the administration, but black people were catching big hell, and poor people were catching big hell. This dramatises it, this lifts it up and says: “See? There were many of us who’ve been trying to say, this is the reality.’’

The last person who was able to really lift us out of the trickbag of race was Martin Luther King.

He said: “Look, poor black people and poor white people, we’re all catching hell, so let’s get together in this poor people’s campaign and march up to our government and say you can no longer fool us by turning us on each other.’’ I am shocked and I am not shocked by what is happening now. It is instructive to a lot of people that we really have not been concerned about the poor and certainly about the blacks in this nation. When you look at who is in control of the politics, when you look at who the appeal has been to from the conservatives, you see that whole racial element coming up again. Louisiana is pulling the sheath off the nation. — The Guardian