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Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005



How Natural Are These Disasters?

By Demo

The recent increase in the number of natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, etc have probably been due to global warming, though, there is no yet a scientific prove of this. While it could be argued that these disasters are natural and therefore, not be preventable, most of them are man-made and of course, preventable with their accompanied damages contained or drastically minimized.

In the first instance, hurricane Katrina was widely predicted before hand but the corrupt and pro-profit US imperialism ignored all the warnings. For instance, from 2001 to 2005, government spending on projects to protect New Orleans from flooding was cut to $82 million from $147 million. In June 2004 in particular, Al-Naomi, project manager of the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for maintaining flood defences requested for just $2 million for an "urgent" work but the US imperialism claimed that there was no money to fund projects that will minimize damages from eventual disaster! Meanwhile, same government gave billions of dollars as a cooperate bailout to United Airlines and spends $5.6 billion monthly in a senseless and unwinable Iraqi war and occupation which has claimed 2,000 US solders and over 100,000 Iraqis. More importantly, the flood barriers (levees) in New Orleans were built to withstand only a level 3 hurricane. Katrina was a level 4 and the maximum is level 5.

The poor, the sick, mostly African-Americans were mostly hit by this disaster. US, the richest and mightiest military power on earth could not mobilise emergency aid, for days, for over 50,000 people who were trapped at the overflowing Superdome and Convention Centre desperately in need of food, water etc. Again, 30% of the National Guards who are mostly experienced and trained in handling natural disaster have been deployed to Iraq with about 50% of their equipment. The Mexican Gulf region has also been hit by another hurricane, Rita, which has flooded and devastated Texas and New Orleans and consequently led to complete shutdown of regional oil and gas production.

In a similar development, a earthquake tremor spreads its catastrophe across South East Asia in October 7, 2005 with worst damage at Pakistani occupied Kashmir where over 300,000 Kashmiris, including the injured, waiting for help which was not coming. At least, 21,000 died, many of them primary and secondary school children attending classes when their school buildings collapsed on them. The earthquake victims are mostly children, women and young people as most men were at work. The emergency workers like civil defence and fire fighters who could have intervened hardly exist due to lack of funds by the state while the state of hospitals are nothing to write home about. While only 1.7% of the budget is allotted to health, 45% is earmarked for defence! Again, Musharraf government was beforehand warned of this disaster with no precaution taken.

The most repulsive aspect of these tragedies is that profit is being made from people's misery. Transport fare was increased by over 600% for people who desperately needed transport. In Pakistan, state run train was transporting relatives of the affected victims free to their homes while private trains were charging 4 times the original fare.

The lesson of these disasters and their handlings is a further demonstration of the fact that capitalism is incapable of planning for the society and delivering better living condition for the mass majority of the people. What it represents and protects is the profit and interest of the few at the expense of mass majority. In September 2004 for instance, a level 5 Hurricane with 160 mile per hour winds tattered a small Island in Cuba, destroying over 20,000 houses but without a single life lost. It was not a miracle. The disaster was foreseen and the government had made adequate preparation for it. So, as soon as the hurricane alarm sounded, Cuba's leaders swung into action. People were evacuated to new location with their properties. Even animals were evacuated. The idea of looting or violent does not arise in this kind of situation. But because capitalism means profit of a very few first at the expense of the welfare of the majority, despite hurricane Katrina prediction, US imperialism did not prepare or make provision for it. Therefore, capitalism is a failure for humanity. There is an urgent need for a replacement of this system of profit with the one that plans democratically, on the resources of the society for the benefit of everybody where natural disaster could be prevented or its effects minimized with prompt and efficient response to the victims. There is a need for a system where every man wishes and aspirations could be fulfilled. That system is socialism.




Socialist Democracy Nov - Dec 2005