New Orleans war zone – 20,000 National Guards, and US army helicopter fired on

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THE United States ruling class, running the world’s number one super-power and presiding over the richest nation on Earth, was yesterday shown to be completely unprepared, unready and unable to defend the lives and homes of its citizens in one of its major cities, New Orleans.

The hurricane had actually declined from force five to four, and had also veered to the East before it hit the city.

Nevertheless, the damage was gigantic, leaving New Orleans and the Louisiana and Mississippi regions resembling Haiti two years ago, after it was hit by a similar hurricane.

At that time everybody contrasted Haiti with Cuba. In the former country there were thousands of dead. In the latter country, where the government had consciously prepared in advance to meet the crisis, there was not a single death!

Yesterday the whole of the Americas was in a state of shock that US capitalism had not prepared for such a crisis, in a part of the US where major storms are the norm, and that its leaders have been reduced to contemplating the permanent evacuation of the historic city of New Orleans.

In fact, the New Orleans media had been warning for months that money that should have been used to strengthen the city’s flood defences was diverted to finance the continuing war and occupation of Iraq, placing New Orleans and its citizens in danger.

Five million people are now without food, clean water, and electricity. Entire areas are under flood water. The hospitals are closed. Millions of poor Americans who did not have the cash to get away to higher ground are suffering, and class relations have been strained to breaking point.

There is widespread ‘looting’ taking place as people expropriate food for their families. In reply, the ruling class have rushed up to 20,000 National Guardsmen, armed to the teeth, into New Orleans where the police have declared martial law in several areas. A further 10,000 national Guardsmen are mobilised throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

However, the evacuation of the city had to be halted after a US army helicopter, seeking to land by the New Orleans Superdome, was fired on from the ground and had to leave the area rapidly.

‘I surmise there are people in New Orleans who won’t be able to get back to their homes for months, if ever,’ said Michael Brown, the Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, admitting to the gravity of the crisis.

Katrina’s effect on oil supplies and gas prices spread nationwide, prompting the White House to tap the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve as some drivers in Atlanta, Georgia, faced prices above $5 a gallon.

While the workers and the poor of Louisiana and Mississippi are struggling to keep their heads above the waters and to avoid disease and hunger, the US working class as a whole has much to reflect on.

They have an administration that has handed hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich, and then spent $200 billion on an imperialist war in Iraq, at the same time as it has completely neglected its duty to safeguard the city and inhabitants of New Orleans from destruction.

The same administration has presided over a 12 per cent increase in the productivity of labour, and a fall in the value of wages.

It has brought in measures to end overtime payments for millions of workers, and is campaigning to privatise social security. Meanwhile millions of workers’ jobs are being exported out of the United States.

They will conclude that not content with ruining Iraq, Bush is ruining the US as well, and that it is high time for Bush and the capitalist order that he represents to go!