A Tale Of Two Storms: Myanmar And New Orleans

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Published on Black Commentator, by Bill Fletcher Jr., 22 May, 2008.

Sometimes you hear things that are so unbelievable that you wonder whether it was all in your imagination. That is precisely the way that i felt in listening to comments by the Bush administration on the disastrous cyclone that hit the south Asian nation of Myanmar (Burma).

Don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of the military junta that runs Myanmar and has both repressed its people and served the multinational corporations. I am sickened by their anemic approach in responding to the disaster, one in which it is now estimated that at least 127,000 people may be dead. Yet in listening to the Bush administration and their rants against the Myanmar junta’s approach to the disaster, one could get the impression that there had never been something called the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Consider, for just a moment, the Bush rhetoric; in fact, just consider one piece of it. President Bush criticizes the Myanmar junta for its failure to allow into the country foreign aid workers to help with disaster recovery. While this criticism appears to be absolutely correct, it ignores an interesting fact: in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster the governments of both Cuba and Venezuela offered badly needed assistance. The Bush administration, under those circumstances, either ignored the offers or turned them down. In fact, the Cuban government had experienced personnel on standby prepared to fly to the Gulf Coast (note: Cuba has a great deal of experience with hurricanes) …

… The respective disasters, being tied directly to bankrupt economic policies and political establishments, need to be challenged as political and economic disasters. This means that the continuing problems faced by the Gulf Coast and its residents (present and evacuees) as a result of the Katrina disaster must be challenged by a mobilization for political power on the part of those who have been disenfranchised (especially, but not exclusively, African Americans) and a demand for fundamentally different economic priorities.

When the Black Radical Congress (blackradicalcongress.org) convenes in St. Louis [June 20-22], they, along with other Black activists around the country need to consider our collective failure to respond en masse to the Katrina disaster and the implications for what should now take place. My guess is that there are activists across Myanmar (Burma) who are grappling with similar issues and pondering how they can challenge those who turned a natural disaster into a political, economic and humanitarian catastrophe.

We probably have much to learn from one another. (full text).

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