Morning Report 9/26/05
Which Gulf is Bigger?

Persian Gulf or Gulf of Mexico? Or the growing racial, class, and economic gulfs?

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Benjamin M. Cossel (top), Jorge A. Rodriguez/Army

Displaced by gulf storms: Bottom, Louisiana National Guard soldiers in Baghdad climb a staircase to the top of a house. Top, an Ohio National Guard soldier in New Orleans emerges onto a roof.

Because parents all over America are particularly worried these days, one quote stands out amid the past weekend of rallies:

    "Our sons are there to try and defeat these evil ideologues. If we don't stand up for this country, then who will?"

Finally, large numbers of people are standing up to George W. Bush and his idiot/ideologue handlers.

But then I realized that that parent was talking about "evil ideologues" in Iraq, not D.C. And he was talking to 1,000 people at a pro-war rally Sunday, the day after 100 times that many were saying practically the same words about the Bush White House.

Obviously, there's a huge gulf somewhere. It's so confusing. How do you distinguish between the gulfs of the Bush regime's two-front war? Or the growing gulfs between rich and poor in America? Or the racial gulf ripped open to public view by Hurricane Katrina?

For a moment, just take the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Mexico. Both are being reduced to rubble, while at the same time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is busy spending millions to shore them up.

Halliburton's HQ is in one gulf; its profit center is in the other gulf. Both gulfs are under further — continual — threat. Massive numbers of poor people of color have been displaced in both gulfs.

You've read plenty about that problem in our gulf. But at the same time, the Bush regime's major assault in Nineveh province in western Iraq has also made hundreds of thousands of people homeless. The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reported earlier this month:

    More than half of the 200,000 or so residents of Tal Afar have fled the city in the past year as sectarian and insurgent violence has flared. U.S. and Iraqi officials consider the city a logistics hub for insurgents operating across northern Iraq.

Ah, but we're rebuilding both Gulf regions. So far, the Persian Gulf is still getting the bulk of the money, materials, time, energy, and blood. Most of the blood. Practically all of it.

Halliburton is cleaning up in both places, but here's an even more serious problem: In the Persian Gulf, our officials aren't likely to be around to see all the nice new schools and hospitals we're building be put to use. We'll be kicked out any day now. In the Gulf of Mexico, on the other hand, the ruling class will love the new New Orleans. But the people who used to live in New Orleans may not be around to live in the rebuilt city, let alone enjoy it. Naomi Klein warned Saturday in the Guardian (U.K.) about the "ethnic cleansing" likely to occur in the former (and, in reality, current) slave city. After she interviewed a local Babbitt, Mark Drennen, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc., she wrote:

    Drennen was in an expansive mood, pumped up by signs from Washington that the corporations he represents were about to receive a package of tax breaks, subsidies, and relaxed regulations so generous that it would make the job of a lobbyist virtually obsolete.

    Listening to Drennen enthuse about the opportunities opened up by the storm, I was struck by his reference to African-Americans in New Orleans as "the minority community." At 67% of the population, they are the clear majority; whites like Drennen make up 27%. It was, no doubt, a simple verbal slip, but I couldn't help feeling that it was also a glimpse into the desired demographics of the new and improved city being imagined by its white elite. "I honestly don't know, and I don't think anyone knows, how they are going to fit in," Drennen said of the city's unemployed.

    New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so dramatic that some evacuees describe it as ethnic cleansing.

Strong words, but she backs it up:

    Before the mayor, Ray Nagin, called for a second evacuation, the people streaming back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it is simple geography — a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest: the French Quarter is 90% white; the Garden District, 89%; Audubon, 86%; neighbouring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65%.

    Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American populations, but in all the billions allocated for reconstruction there is no budget for transportation from the far-flung shelters where those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may not be able to return.


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