WE all saw the Katrina disaster, and what it did to New Orleans, destroying whole areas of the city and making them uninhabitable to this day.
Responsible for the disaster was the combination of Bush’s privatisation policies, where he handed essential services over to voluntary organisations and charities, while his administration made an all out effort to conquer Iraq, with all resources reserved for that venture.
This meant that the essential maintenance work that New Orleans flood defences needed was ignored, and that once Katrina breached the levees, the city was allowed to sink beneath the water, while the rescue efforts of the US government would have put a ‘third world regime’ to shame. The fact is that the Bush administration had reduced New Orleans flood defences and rescue services to ‘third world’ levels in order to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into the war with Iraq.
What has happened in the west country, the midlands and Yorkshire with this summer’s floods carries the same stamp on it as the New Orleans disaster.
First of all, you have had governments allowing the building of very large numbers of houses on lands that are historically known to be flood plains – some of which have experienced major flooding in recent years – all to enrich the bosses.
Then you have had governments reducing the expenditures on both coastal and flood plain defences.
Coastlines and cliffs being eroded by the sea and houses and former villages toppling into the brine are now a common everyday sight along the whole length of the eastern coast.
Now the flooding of major towns and cities is being accepted as a fact of life, with no preparations being made to meet or prevent such events – since this would be ultra expensive. The government thinks it is more provident to allow the destruction of tens of thousands of people’s homes as living quarters for a number of years than to spend the money needed to control flooding.
In fact, all available monies are being rushed to aid the army in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is being destroyed by the greed of a ruling class desperate to grab the gas and oil of the Caspian Sea region.
Yesterday’s ‘Sunday Telegraph’ quoted the Foreign Office as saying that ‘British troops were losing the battle for “hearts and minds” because of rising civilian casualties and war damage’.
The FO official continued: ‘The next 18 months will be crucial. . . . We are losing the consent of the Afghan people and that is a serious concern. There is a real risk that Nato might win the battle but lose the war.’
In a memo, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, training commitments and leave meant that only a single battalion of 500 troops would be available in the event of an emergency.
He wrote: ‘We now have almost no capability to react to the unexpected.’ Meanwhile, the midlands has been allowed to sink beneath the waters of forecasted flooding.
The future is going to see both Labour and the Tories voting for colossal new expenditures to fight the Afghan and Iraq wars while a good portion of the urban and rural housing stock is defenceless!
The trade unions cannot stand by and watch this happen. They must demand the immediate withdrawal of the British army from Iraq and Central Asia and the expenditure of the necessary billions on coastal and flood plain defences and housing renovation in Britain.
Neither Labour nor the Tories will be prepared to carry out this programme.
This is why the trade unions must bring down the Brown government, to bring in a workers government that will carry out a socialist programme to nationalise the banks and the major industries, to finance a programme for flood and coastal defences, plus a building programme to house the homeless.