Saturday, September 24, 2005

Divine retribution?

pv vivekanand
Christian evangelists and many ordinary Americans say Katrina and Rita are divine retribution to the aggressive US policies, particularly the invasion of Iraq, and Washington's almost unlimited support for Israel's brutality, arrogance, intrasigence and stubbornness against the Palestinian independence struggle. This is the impression one gets from the thousands of messages flying across the Internet.
Anti-war activists agree and assert that the Bush administration was damaged badly as a result of Katrina and Rita because it had lied through its teeth to justify the invasion of Iraq, produced false witnesses and testimonies and broke God's commandments for the sake of global dominance, control of oil and Israeli interests.
Other say Hurricane Katrina particularly targeted New Orleans because of what they see as the debauchery of life there, including the free-wheeling gay and lesbian movements as well as the abortionists there.
Hardline Jews contend that God punished the US for pressuring Israel into withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, and there is more to come.
Many others say that the real targets of God's wrath are the neoconservatives behind President George W Bush. Their political and bureaucratic careers are poised to collapse when the nation takes account of Katrina and Rita sooner or later, and few would be able to escape the net.
Critics note that Katrina and Rita targeted some of the most economically sensitive areas of the US; the Gulf Coast which has America's largest seaport and is the country's key route for imports and exports, and Texas, which houses the country's oil resources. Some 20 oil refineries are located in the path of Rita, and if they are damaged, then the cost of a gallon of patrol would rise to upto $5, thus fuelling public resentment against the government.
The argument of divine retribution becomes all the more significant beause Texas is Bush's homestate.
Salon magazine took particular pleasure in pointing out that Bush himself used the pulpit at a national prayer service to shed personal responsibility for New Orleans by pointing his finger at God. 
However, it all falls back into politics, and particularly the Middle East.
British Member of Parliament George Galloway, who was targeted by the neocons for political elimination because of his criticism of the war against Iraq, seemed to have summarised the feeling of many when he said after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans:
"The scenes from the stricken city almost defy belief. Many, many thousands of people left to die in what is the richest, most powerful country on Earth. This obscenity is as far from a natural disaster as George Bush and the US elite are from the suffering masses of New Orleans. The images of Bush luxuriating at his ranch and of his secretary of state shopping for $7,000 shoes while disaster swamped the US Gulf Coast will haunt this administration.
"In the most terrible way imaginable they show to the whole world that it is not only the lives of people in Baghdad, Fallujah and Palestine that Bush holds cheap. It is also his own citizens — the black and poor people left behind with no food, water or shelter. This is not simply manslaughter through incompetence, though the White House's incompetence abounds. It is murder — for Bush was warned four years ago of the threat to New Orleans, as surely as he was warned of the disaster that would come of his war on Iraq. ...
"His is the America of Halliburton, the M-16 rifle, the cluster bomb, the gated communities of the rich and of the billionaires he grew up with in Texas. There is another America. It is the land of the poor of Louisiana, it is the land of the young men and women economically conscripted into the military. It is the land of the glorious multiethnic mix that was New Orleans, it is the land of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and of great struggles for justice."
It might indeed be rhetoric, but it is the kind of language most Americans understand without difficulty, particularly now that the shortcomings of the Bush administration in handling the hurricane crisis have been exposed to the American public.
Adding fuel to the fire was an assertion by a tabloid quoting a doctor that raised questions about the president's personal life.
The National Inquirer, a tabloid better known for devoting its front pages to gossip about celebrity divorces, quoed Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, as saying that Bush is drinking again.
“I do think that Bush is drinking again. Alcoholics who are not in any programme, like the president, have a hard time when stress gets to be great," Dr Frank was quoted as saying. "I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening.”
Frank is described as a highly-respected psychiatrist at George Washington University and his book about the president’s problems has been praised by other psychiatric experts.
White House rumours about the president’s drinking began circulating last year in the West Wing along with questions about possible abuse of prescription drugs. They report wide mood swings, cancelled meetings and an ever-decreasing number of aides with direct access to Bush.
Bush had admitted to be an alcoholic earlier but he said he quit drinking without help from any organised programme.
The president's problems do not end there.
A massive anti-war demonstration was taking place in Washington on Saturday with organisers expecting more than 100,000 marchers amid growing public concern about the course of the Iraq war.
Cindy Sheehan, who lost her 24-year old son in Iraq and whose protests have galvanised the anti-war movement, was leading the protesters.
Sheehan, who camped outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas for 25 days demanding a meeting with the president that was never granted, organised peace caravans driving through the US before converging on Washington on Saturday.
The movement has triggered intense debate across the US about the war and how the administration misled the US Congress and people that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the US and therefore he had to be ousted through invasion and occupation of Iraq.
It is not simply Sheehan who motivated the anti-war movement into taking the cause against war to the streets of America. There has been a marked change in the approach of many (non-corporate) television channels, radios and newspapers in their coverage of the Iraq war and vivid images from Iraq are now brought home to the Americans unlike the first year of the war when only "positive" news were broadcast by most channels.
Whether Americans are now concerned about the deception of the administration that set the ground for the war, they are now asking for a timetable for calling the American troops home from Iraq, something the administration is unable or is not willing to provide (mainly because ending the US military presence in Iraq is not in the schedule during the Bush administration's term in office).
The anti-administration build-up is growing, and it would only gather strength, given the almost impossible situations facing Bush at home and in Iraq. The president could do with a major diversion somewhere and his critics are speculating what it would be.