Amid loud accusations that the Administration had left Hurricane Katrina victims to their fate, US President George W. Bush denied on September 12 that the delay in starting rescue and relief operations was because a majority of the victims were Black and poor.

New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, has 60 per cent Black population, whose median income per head is $31,000 compared to the local White population’s $41,000, which in turn is less than the national median income.

Virtually everybody who is anybody in the US – including Mr Bill Clinton, Michael Moore and Jesse Jackson – has indicted the government’s tardy response. Mr Jackson, on a visit to a relief camp (where virtually every victim was Black), remarked that the place looked like a slave ship coming in straight from Africa.

That is as polite an indictment as anyone could ever imagine. But an indictment nonetheless. Film maker Michael Moore was less polite in an open letter to “all who voted for George W. Bush”. Moore asked Bush voters, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Really? Didn’t he say that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us?” This is an important question because Mr Bush, a practising Christian, happens to be the darling of America’s Christian Right and a personal friend of virulently fanatical Christian religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Graham Jr.

The Moore letter goes on, “Hurricane Katrina came in and blew off the façade that we were a nation with liberty and justice for all. The wind howled and the water rose and what was revealed was that the poor in America shall be left to suffer and die while the President of the United States fiddles and tells them to eat cake.”

Moore lambasted Mr Bush for making Michael Brown the chief of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) although he never had any experience in emergency management. The FEMA chief’s “main qualification was that he ran horse shows”, Moore said. The next day Brown admitted that he did not have any worthwhile experiences in emergency management, and quit.

Katrina has exposed not only Mr Bush’s stance on the poor and the coloured, but the entire establishment’s attitude towards the underprivileged. One particularly disturbing report said that when a Black woman ran towards a White policeman for help, he whipped out his revolver and pointed it at her, ordering her to stop in her track. Racial prejudice, especially in the police and administration, runs counter to the basics of democracy, which America is out to teach the world.

Mr Bush has cut the taxes of the rich and allowed the poor to wallow in their own misery. This is what the Moore letter has to offer on that: “It would take another day before the President would do a flyover in his jumbo jet, peeking out the window at the misery 2500 feet below him as he flew back to his second home in DC. It would then be two more days before a trickle of federal aid and troops would arrive. This was no seven minutes in a sitting trance while children read ‘My Pet Goat’ to him. This was four days of doing nothing other than saying ‘Brownie (FEMA director Michael Brown), You’re doing a heck of a job!’ ”

Fine, Brownie is out. Mr Bush also is not doing too well for himself, desperately trying to cope with dismal job ratings rather than doing something substantial for the victims like quick rehabilitation and reconstruction.g


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