Failing at War, Peace and Dignity
By Dan La Botz
09/03/05 "Counterpunch" -- -- Hurricane Katrina's blow to New Orleans and the failure of the government to respond have shown the United States to be a failed state.
The George W. Bush administration focused all of its resources on war and the Department of Homeland Security, yet when a major American city was attacked, albeit by the forces of nature, the government failed to respond leaving at least hundreds, probably thousands, to die, others to suffer in illness and injury, and many more thirsty and hungry. No security in the homeland: a failed state.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), apparently without any management, delayed response until the emergency had overwhelmed the city. No emergency management: a failed state.
The National Guard and the military were called out to preserve order only when ordered had devolved into chaos. Chaos: a failed state.
The Lid is Off
Hurricane Katrina blew off the façade of American society. It pulled back the curtain to reveal the millions who live in poverty, mostly African American in New Orleans, but in other cities Latino, Native American, and white. The most apparent failure of the state has been in emergency response, but far greater has been the failure to create a stable existence, a decent society for millions.
What we see in New Orleans today we might have see as well if there had been a tsunami in Los Angeles or tornadoes in Chicago. Every American city harbors millions of people with high rates of unemployment, low incomes, poor housing, no health insurance, low levels of education. In the United States 25 percent of our children are raised in poverty. Nearly 50 million people have no health insurance.
When millions live like that: failed state.
Failed at War and Peace
The Bush administration's priorities have been foreign war and globalization, the agenda of U.S. corporations. The warwrong the beginningfailed. It brought destruction to Baghdad and other cities of Iraq, killed 100,000 civilians, and so far nearly 2,000 U.S. troops, and has not brought about either the rule of law or democracy.
What the war did do was divert resources from the United States that might have gone into building highways, houses and school; developing alternative energy sources; supporting free public education form K to Ph.D. as many nations have.
We have had a government for the rich. We call that a failed state.
A Failed Economy
President Bush has argued that our economy is a success. But it is not. We have had a failed economy. We have had now for the last few years, some would say for the last few decades, a "jobless recovery". We have an economy that produces profit, accumulates profit, pays dividends, enriches shareholders, invests abroad, and grows in wealth. Yet it has failed to provide jobs and wages for its citizens.
Wages and income for American families have stagnated while costs for everything, but especially for higher education have risen. We have an economy that cannot produce jobs that pay a living wage. We have wages that cannot pay for our standard of living.
Now we will have $3.19 per gallon gas. Then $5.00 a gallon gas. Then, who knows All of this was predictable, was predicted. Now we have had the storm that has brought it all on faster, what was coming on any way, what has now hit us.
Jobless recovery. If you cannot create an economy that allows people to live and thrive, you are a failed state.
From Rogue State to Failed State
The United States, the failed state, is so because it was first a rogue state. The United States failed to sign the Kyoto Treaty, the International Court of Justice treaty, or the land mines treaty. The United States violated international law with its wars in Iraq and Iran, and with its unsuccessful coup d,état in Venezuela. What has happened over time has been that the general distortion of ethics and values in foreign policy has also seeped into domestic policy.
The United States has treated the United Nations with contempt, ridiculed France, and abused Venezuela. Interestingly the U.N., the European Union, Venezuela and even Cuba have offered to help in any way they can: sending aid, loaning oil, providing doctors.
No Political Alternative
Unfortunately, and this is characteristic of failed states, there is no political alternative. When the state has failed, it is because the existing political parties had failedall of them. Throughout the last 25 years of war and peace Democrats and Republicans, Carter and Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, have pursued the same fundamental policies. Both parties have acted to deregulate the economy and to dismantle social welfare programs.
The Democrats launched these policies with the deregulation of airlines and trucking, the Republicans deepened them with dramatic federal budget cuts for social services. Both parties carried these policies abroad with the WTO and the IMF, with NAFTA and CAFTA. The Republicans carried war to Afghanistan and Iraq, with the Democrats holding up the flag, passing the ammunition, and saluting.
Failed parties: failed state.
What to Do with a Failed State
What does one do with a failed state. You start over.
Reform is not the answer. Reform is what you do to make something work. Do we want to make the system we have work? Well, think about who it works for. It works for the corporations, the military, the wealthy, the politicians. It does not work for the people of the United States at large, certainly not for working people and the poor. Above all it does not work for black people.
The alternative to reform is reconstruction. Sometimes you rehab. Sometimes you have to tear down and start over, build better. We need to start over. We need to start now.
We need a new radical political movement to do it, one prepared to reject reform for the total reconstruction of our society. A real reconstruction of our society would start with the poor people of New Orleans, with their needs. They and all who are like them should come first. If we make a society where they can live and thrive, then we all will.
Dan La Botz teaches history and Latin American studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He edits Mexican Labor News and Analysis, and is the author of several books on labor in Mexico, Indonesia, and the United States. He can be reached at:
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