Foreign Aid Money for Katrina Relief Rejected or Unused

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that $$$hundreds of millions of $$$ in hurricane relief after Katrina has gone unused.

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services — such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships — were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

“Could not handle them” my ass. As we’ve shown time and again, the Bush Administration had no desire to “handle them”, no desire in fact to do anything that would help the refugees or bring them home. Tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Katrina refugees still languish in FEMA trailer parks from Louisiana to Texas to Arkansas, reconstruction of the poorer neighborhoods is all but at a standstill while HUD refuses to either spend appropriated money or release it to be spent by Gulf state govts and Bush refuses to sign the waiver that would let those state govts do it themselves, and now we find out that not only did the Bushies turn down help offered by Europe, but the help they deigned to accept has been rotting away in banks and warehouses while the Administration claims it “can’t afford” any more aid.

We have proved over and over again that this inaction on the part of the Bush Admin is deliberate. It can’t be an accident, an oversight, a mistake, or incompetence. It has to be policy. There is no other rational explanation.

The Bush Admin has been using incompetence as an excuse for everything from Alberto’s desecration of the Constitution to Rove’s politicization of every govt agency and dept to the neocon’s attempt to turn Iraq into a free-market zone of untrammeled capitalism to corruption throughout its govt and in Iraq. It’s applying the same excuse to Katrina and it’s time we stopped buying it.

As Eric Martin wrote in March of the mess at Walter Reed:

The [Bush Administration’s] fiscal policy has centered around the goal of redistributing money to the wealthiest Americans through a series of multi-trillion dollar tax cuts, and it has been wildly successful. Credit where due. There have been some unfortunate side effects necessitated by this massive diversion of resources, such as underfunding the VA/military hospital system, but this was anticipated and not the result of “incompetence.” Similarly, we should recognize that the widespread problems with this health care system won’t go away without a restructuring of fiscal priorities. Holding a certain number of military officials accountable, and working to streamline the bureacratic processes that are contributing to some of the problems, are worthwhile goals but not nearly sufficient to rectify the situation.

The question is the same as it has been for the past few years: which priority does the Bush administration value more, and where will it dedicate the resources. It has the means to deliver, quite competently, on its intentions in either direction.

Eric is absolutely right: the Bush Admin isn’t incompetent. It’s doing precisely what it wants to do. The results make it look incompetent because they are not the results any normal, sane, thinking person would consider desirable, but they are the results aimed for – and achieved – by the Bushies.

Nobody before the past few months wanted to believe that we were suffering under a govt without conscience or pity, a govt whose single goal was to kill every one of its roles unconnected with enabling the corporatocracy to rip off the Treasury – and the country – without restrictions or building an empire nobody wanted, and to create a one-party nation akin to dictatorship by stealing and/or rigging elections, disenfranchising vulnerable groups who might vote against them, and covertly turning govt employees into partisan political operatives.

But with the revelations around what’s happened to the Justice Dept – especially the Civil Rights Div – and the illegal political meetings in more than 20 govt agencies before the election, with new knowledge of the “voter fraud” scam the Pubs used every bit of pressure and influence to push and the RNC email system used to hide what they were doing from the press and Congress, and innumerable other investigations proving that BushCo had no compunctions or even second thoughts about turning the govt into an outlying RNC camp and corporate theft enabler, the notion that any of this was the result of incompetence has become thoroughly discredited.

New Orleans was a Democratic city with a large black population so the Bush Admin delayed aid, tried to force Gov Kathleen Blanco to let them declare martial law, moved black and poor refugees to other states and then abandoned them, held (and is still holding) up $$$billions$$$ in reconstruction and relief – $800Mil in foreign aid alone – and shows zero signs, despite widespread and vehement criticism, that it has any intention of changing its “strategy”.

Which strategy is easy to state because it’s so obvious and has been since the weeks – days, really – immediately after Katrina passed by.

They want to force a New Orleans that will be rich, white, and Republican by destroying the New Orleans that was poorer, blacker, and Democratic.

Everything they’ve done has been aimed at producing that result and, once again, they’re getting what they want. That’s competence. How else to explain their refusal of $$$tens of millions$$$ more in help offered by foreign govts?

And of course they’re getting a lot of help from the press’ conservative publishers and editors. Just yesterday our old friend Fred Hiatt, editorial writer for the Post, supported HUD’s decision to leave the refugees in trailers by blaming HUD’s refusal to re-build housing in NO on a lawsuit that wants to force an end to that refusal and delay.

TWENTY MONTHS after Hurricane Katrina, public housing residents of New Orleans remain scattered across the country. Many want to go home. They should be able to. But returning to the same squalid and dangerous housing projects that were isolated cauldrons of dysfunction and pathology is neither just nor humane. Katrina changed everything in the Crescent City, and its public housing must change, too. That’s what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make happen. But a lawsuit filed by the Advancement Project, a Washington-based civil rights organization, against federal, state and city officials is holding things up.

***

The Advancement Project lawsuit claims “defendants’ inaction and needless delay in repairing and reopening New Orleans’ public housing development are based on racial animus and a clear intention to prohibit the return of many low-income African-American families.” It demands a halt to HUD’s planned demolition of troubled projects and a right of return for everyone to their old apartments in public housing.

Hiatt even includes statements in his editorial from HUD Sec Alphonso Brown and LA Pub Rep Richard Baker that pretty much give the game away.

Unfortunately, comments by HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson (New Orleans “is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again”), Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) (“We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did”) and New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas (“We don’t need soap-opera watchers all day”) served to fuel the conspiracy theories underpinning the lawsuit. They also roiled long-troubled racial waters in New Orleans.

“Conspiracy theories”?! Is he kidding? They’re not “theories” any more. The evidence of a Pub conspiracy to “whiten” and Republicanize NO is reaching the point of being overwhelming. We’re way past “conspiracy theories” and approaching “criminal conspiracy” territory.

The facts are that if Bush had waived the 10% match for hurricane relief as he did for his brother after Andrew, if HUD had released the reconstruction money a year ago that it’s still hanging onto, and if the foreign aid money had been released and put into play, we wouldn’t even be talking about this and the Advancement Project lawsuit wouldn’t exist.

Mr Hiatt’s certainty that HUD will suddenly start moving if the lawsuit goes away is belied by the fact that it didn’t move in the year before the lawsuit was filed. His faith is touching but entirely misplaced. Like Iraq and the horribly underfunded VA/military hospital system, either the courts or Congress intervene or else nothing is going to improve until Bush is out of office.

Mr Hiatt, like too many others, doesn’t realize that it’s all being done on purpose.

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