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04 September 2005

a bitter political pill, the end of a myth

Pat's Pub said

Just a few days before Katherine hit New Orleans, the US Embassy in Berne, Seitzerland donated a cheque of 50'000 USD to local flood victims (a quarter close to the embassy including the local Zoo was severely damaged)

Today the Swiss guvmint confirmed that they have agreed to send First Aid to New Orleans.
Now I don't mind that, those people need our help.

But what I have a hard time with is that King George II and the other Pinheads were constantly bragging how supercool and powerful America is, that they have Everything Under Control and that Old Europe is just a piece of

And now they gladly accept our help.

Just imagine this disaster would have happened a year ago, before the election...


DespicableTeacher said...

This whole thing makes me sick. ( New Orleans I mean). Sick, ashamed and angry. Like Pat's pub I wonder what the election would have been like if this had occurred before.

It seems after all, America is not as powerful and strong as it seems...


There is a political myth in America -- and we note that many myths have some grain or bedrock of ancient or old truth to them -- that America has never needed any help from any other nation. America, our cherished political myth goes, has only GIVEN help to many other nations.

There are two parts to this myth, the Military Help, and the Charitable Help.

Each 4th of July, all Americans are encouraged to remember certain parts of the history of how we became a sovereign nation by our revolution against Britain.

Sadly, each year, Americans are encouraged to forget that there would be no America, that we could not have defeated the most powerful Army and Navy in the world, if it had not been for the military aid and money we received from France during the reign of Louis XVI. (The King's secret agent in getting money and weapons to the American rebels was Beaumarchais, author of the comedies "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro.")

In particular since France loudly opposed and condemned the American war in Iraq, Americans have been actively encouraged to forget that without Help from another nation, there would be no America, and the 4th of July would be the anniversary of the hanging of the rebel traitors George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc. Our National Anthem today would be "God Save the Queen."

Specifically, the British army commanded by Lord Cornwallis was forced to surrender to the American Rebels under Washington when the French Navy blocked off all chance of escape in Virginia in October 1781. After that, Britain threw in the towel and began negotiating a peace treaty that recognized our sovereignty.

So the part of the Myth that says America only helps other nations militarily, and has never needed any other nation's help -- much of that Myth is greatly assisted by Intentional Forgetting.

But as recently as World War II, I would hate to "replay" that war against Germany (and Japan and Italy) without the military sacrifices of the Soviet Union, America's ally. During the Cold War -- roughly 1947 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Americans were actively encouraged to forget the assistance and sacrifice of the Soviet Union in World War II.

Of just charity -- food, money, medical help, disaster relief, the American Peace Corps -- Americans have been educated politically to believe that it has always been a One-Way Street: We give to other nations, but we never have needed to accept anything, and we never have accepted anything, from any other nation.

One of the great centerpieces of the Myth is the Marshall Plan, named for President Truman's Secretary of State at the end of World War II, (Army 5-star General) George C. Marshall. The Myth -- surely 95 percent of Americans who know what the Marshall Plan was believe it -- is that Western Europe was in total collapse in 1945, and the USA spent $$$billions to rebuild the economies and infrastructures of Germany, Italy, etc.

1. out of the goodness of our charitable, generous, forgiving American hearts and

2. to prevent their voters from "going Communist."

Probably as many Americans are convinced the USA sent a similar economic miracle to Japan after it surrendered.

Until this Hurricane Katrina, Americans (through their politicians and their media) have been accustomed to


but the USA has NEVER taken a bag of rice or a dollar from any other nation. The USA's governments (federal and state) and domestic economy and homegrown agriculture have always been enough to take care of ourselves.

The question, of course, also needs to consider how well the USA takes care of its own people even when there is no hurricane -- how well we give food, medical care and education to our own citizens when things are at their best and most prosperous. This is a carpet nobody likes to look under, this is a dark closet nobody likes to shine a flashlight in.

Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia -- the section of the USA smashed by Katrina -- have historically Third World levels of poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality. This region is America's Bangladesh. (Also Florida, whose governor is George Bush's brother Jeb.)

And those lost in this historical poverty are largely (though not entirely) black -- the people whose ancestors ran that region's agricultural economy as slaves abducted from Africa before the US Civil War (1861-1865).

There are a lot of stupid reasons to die, but Life and Death based on who owns a car that can drive 100 miles north, or who can afford bus fare or airplane fare -- this is tragicomic, despicable, shameful, horrible. A car is supposed to be a fun luxury, or a piece of reliable transportation to get you to and from work.

Not having a car is not supposed to be a Death Sentence. But the way the New Orleans "Evacuation Plan" worked -- if you had a car, you lived, if you didn't have a car or $50 for the bus -- tough shit, buddy, you die.

The whole point of the billion-dollar weather satellites is to give people down below a revolutionary period of warning time -- a window of days in which to evacuate -- in advance of a tropical storm (hurricane in Atlantic, Taifun or Cyclone in Pacific). Technologically, that should be enough to save every life in the path of a storm like Katrina.

But it turns out it's not a technological or scientific problem. It's a social problem. It's a racial problem. It's an economic problem.

A lot of people said they couldn't flee north because "the evacuation plan" would have made them have to pay for a motel room for a week or several weeks before they could return home. Maybe they had the crummy old car and a tank of (superexpensive) gasoline, maybe they had the $50 bus fare -- but they couldn't begin to pay for the motel room for their family. Large shelters safely far from the hurricane were just never part of the government's Disaster Plan. They were an afterthought. They were set up in Texas -- now my Massachusetts is setting up a shelter on an Army base for a few thousand Katrina victims -- AFTER the hurricane struck.

Everyone feels good about themselves when they give a dollar to a beggar on the sidewalk. The more you give, and the longer you do it, the better you feel about yourself.

It's an unbelievably bitter pill for American politics -- not just President Bush -- when the most powerful economy on Earth, the greatest bounty and breadbasket, has to publicly acknowledge that we need help from other countries. Now it's the American standing on the sidewalk with his hand out asking for a dollar, asking for a piece of bread.

It's going to be a Humbling Experience. America is not used to Humbling Experiences. Political America does not like Humbling Experiences. We like it better when everybody else on Earth is humbled. We love to see GIFT FROM THE USA on the big bags of rice. We'll eat rice from overseas -- we're starving right now -- but we won't like seeing GIFT FROM SWITZERLAND or GIFT FROM TURKEY on the bag.

Of the specific question: How will this affect Bush's political situation? This is the sound of his political legacy being flushed down the toilet: FWOOOOOOOOOOSH! This is how he will be remembered after 2008.


Friday 2 September 2005


By BARRY SCHWEID, Associated Press Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON -- In a turnabout, the United States is now on the receiving end of help from around the world as some two dozen countries offer post-hurricane assistance.

Venezuela, a target of frequent criticism by the Bush administration, offered humanitarian aid and fuel. Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. pledged a $1 million donation for hurricane aid.

The United Nations informed U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton it was prepared to support the relief effort "in any way possible." Under Secretary-General Jan Egeland said his office had offered the services of the U.N.'s disaster assistance and coordination teams to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent a letter to President Bush offering hundreds of doctors, nurses, technicians and other experts in trauma, natural disasters and public health.

"We also offer field hospitals, medical kits and equipment for temporary housing, reinforcement for hospitals, or any assistance that you may require," Sharon wrote.

He said the teams and equipment could be ready in 24 hours.

With offers from the four corners of the globe pouring in, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has decided "no offer that can help alleviate the suffering of the people in the afflicted area will be refused," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.

However, in Moscow, a Russian official said the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency had rejected a Russian offer to dispatch rescue teams and other aid.

On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to Bush and said Russia was prepared to help if asked.

Boats, aircraft, tents, blankets, generators, cash assistance and medical teams have been offered to the U.S. government in Washington or in embassies overseas.

Offers have been received from Russia, Japan, Canada, France, Honduras, Germany, Venezuela, Jamaica, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, China, South Korea, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, NATO and the Organization of American States, the spokesman said.

Also, the Singapore embassy said the Southeast Asian country was sending three Chinook helicopters with 38 air force personnel from military exercises in Texas, to Louisiana to support relief efforts by the Texas National Guard.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, in China on a state visit, sent messages of sympathy to Washington while her government contributed $25,000 through the American Red Cross.

Still, Bush told ABC-TV: "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

"You know," he said, "we would love help, but we're going to take care of our own business as well, and there's no doubt in my mind we'll succeed. And there's no doubt in my mind, as I sit here talking to you, that New Orleans is going to rise up again as a great city."

Historically, the United States provides assistance to other countries experiencing earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

Germany, which was rebuilt after World War II largely by the U.S. Marshall Plan, offered its help in a telephone call to Rice.

"The German Government is prepared to do all that is humanly possible," the German embassy said. In his call, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer assured Rice of Germany's solidarity with its American friends in a difficult time, the embassy said.

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon called Wednesday at the State Department to offer condolences and assistance. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid, about $2.2 billion a year.

"The hearts and prayers of Israel's people are with the people of the United States and the many millions who are suffering in the regional devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina," the Israeli embassy said in a statement.

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