A Nation Shamed, A People Betrayed
by Paul Robeson, Jr.
George W. Bush's response to the Katrina disaster that sowed death and destruction in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities has demonstrated to the American people his incompetence, arrogance, and callous disregard of human life. This President has forfeited the last vestiges of his credibility, legitimacy, and authority. He has been revealed not only as a lame duck but as a dead duck. Moreover, his entire administration stands politically naked as the most incompetent and corrupt political gang in modern U.S. history.
Having struck just prior to the fourth anniversary of 9/11, Katrina has also reminded the nation of the identical incompetence of this same President and his entire Administration before, during and after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The Federal response to Katrina confirms beyond doubt that the U.S. today is no better prepared for a terrorist attack today than it was before 9/11.
The reason is simple: President George W. Bush betrayed his oath of office by unconstitutionally launching two imperial wars and one domestic war in the name of a metaphorical "war on terror."
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- The Afghan and Iraq wars are aimed at controlling the oil resources of the Middle East and Central Asia from permanent military bases in puppet states.
- The domestic war is against the poor. Bush's aim is to eliminate the problem of poverty by eliminating the poor. His guide is Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's The Negro Lower Class, a secret January 3, 1969 memorandum to President-elect Richard Nixon. In it he wrote, "The Negro lower class must be dissolved.... I would estimate that they make up almost one-half the total Negro population."
The Democratic Party's response to this ongoing tragedy has also exposed the yawning and unbridgeable chasm between its neoliberal and progressive wings, as well as the irreparable split between the predominantly neoliberal top Democratic leadership and the predominantly progressive Democratic base. The muted response of the neoliberal wing to Katrina is consistent with its uncritical support of Bush's unilateralist foreign policy. It also reveals its well-concealed racism, its middle-class bias against the poor, and its ethical weakness.
It is high time for the progressive Democratic leadership minority to rally the Democratic base to take the Party back from the neoliberals. If they do not, then, as has already happened in the labor movement, it is virtually certain that a large number of progressive Democrats will leave the Democratic Party and create a new Progressive Party.
Regardless of what happens inside the Democratic Party, a new progressive coalition is forming at an accelerating rate throughout the nation. It consists of Blacks, Latinos, progressive labor, and progressive whites. The liberal coalition of the civil rights days has been dying for forty years, and its response to the New Orleans tragedy carries the sound of its death rattle.
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New York City's municipal elections will be affected most of all by the overpowering presence of human suffering in New Orleans and other Gulf-Coast cities, but it will also be influenced strongly by the remembrance of 9/11. The national and local failures of President Bush and Mayor Giuliani in 2001 have been starkly revealed in ugly detail by the 9/11 Commission Report and the sequestered on-site tape recordings that Mayor Bloomberg was compelled to release by court order.
Just as 9/11 exposed the failures of President Bush and Mayor Giuliani, so Katrina has exposed the complete bankruptcy of President Bush and the failure of Mayor Bloomberg. He, like Giuliani, has failed to make our city safer from terrorist attack, and failed to address the plight of working families and the poor. He, like his predecessor, has ignored the priorities of the 80 percent of New Yorkers with annual incomes below $75,000 while focusing almost exclusively on the priorities of the "middle class" made up of the 20 percent having annual incomes above $75,000. Moreover his administration is virtually lily-white.
Unlike 9/11, Katrina has revealed that the central issue in America is race and class combined. The colossal lie, perpetrated by the liberal-conservative elite, that the class problem will go away if only we solve the "race problem," has been dealt a death blow. The myth that "a rising tide lifts all boats" has been replaced by the painful reality that a rising tide lifts the yachts of the rich and swamps the rowboats of the poor.
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In the name of my field-slave ancestors, I accuse you, President George W. Bush of attempted partial urbanicide, accompanied by partial genocide. This is what you planned and attempted to do in New Orleans, and this is what the people of New Orleans, backed by their Democratic Mayor, their Democratic Governor of their State of Louisiana, and their National Guard prevented your hired racist Federal thugs, civilian, intelligence, and military, from doing.
This time you cannot hide from the American people. They will wash our soiled nation clean. They will indict you, impeach you, and drive you and your gang of political jackals from office in total disgrace. Then it will be up to you to meet your final judgement alone with the full human dignity that can be yours.
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In his Inaugural speech, President John F. Kennedy said: "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." In today's America, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" is still clinging to life, and President Abraham Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people" has not yet perished. It is time for the American people to complete the arduous journey from liberty to freedom.
Let us, in every city, town and hamlet of these United States, take back our beautiful and bountiful nation in the name of those who ordained our Constitution, and declare that all humanity is endowed by its Creator with the universal and inalienable rights of life, freedom, property, and the pursuit of happiness.