6 September 2005 | Draft
Acts of God vs Acts of al-Qaida
Hurricane Katrina as a message to Bible Belt America?
- / -
"Act of God"?
"Acts of Satan"?
"Acts of al-Qaida"?
Link of al-Qaida to Hurricane Katrina
"Twinning" New Orleans with Fallujah
Comprehending the delayed response
Struggle against extremism
This is an exploration of the possibility that Hurricane Katrina was a direct
consequence of God's anger at the presumption of the Reverend Pat Robertson
in calling for the assassination of the duly elected president of a neighbouring
country. The question is whether God is happy with the evangelical presumption
of a uniquely privileged understanding of the Will of God -- or whether God
considers that ever more damaging hurricanes are the only way to help evangelicals
in the Bible Belt reach an understanding they so persistently avoid.
formed over the Bahamas on 24 August 2005; the U.S. National Hurricane Center
(NHC) had issued a statement on 23 August saying that Tropical Depression
Twelve had formed over the southeastern Bahamas -- presumably in process of
formation on 22 August.
Katrina made several distinct landfalls in Bible Belt USA:
- first landfall: 25 August 2005, Miami, Florida as a Category 1 hurricane
on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, causing major flooding. Maximum sustained
windspeeds reached 175 mph as it moved offshore; however, the system subsequently
regained strength becoming a Category 5 hurricane, the fourth most intense
storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin,
- second landfall: 29 August 2005, near Grand Isle, Louisiana, as a
Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph.
- third landfall: south of Buras-Triumph, Louisiana at approximately
6:10 a.m, with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph.
- fourth landfall: A final landfall was made at the Louisiana-Mississippi
border at 10 a.m.
Evangelical call for assassination: On the same day as the formation
of Katrina, Reverend Pat
Robertson, speaking to 7 million viewers of the evangelical Christian
Broadcasting Network on 23 August 2005 [more]
called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez:
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has
come to exercise that ability... It's a whole lot easier to have some of the
covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." [more
Reverend Robertson, a former US Presidential candidate, is founder of the Christian
Coalition of America -- a prime supporter of George Bush. They reportedly
describe each other as "good friends". Neither George Bush nor the
US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, condemned such incitement with any
vigour -- they called the comment "inappropriate". Robertson subsequently
attempted vainly to deny that he called for the assassination [more].
But, most intriguing was the extremely muted media "outcry" in comparison
with what would be the reaction to such a statement by an Islamic cleric. On
24 August, for example, CNN endeavoured -- most inappropriately -- to make a
joke of the incitement to assassination.
It has also been curious to note the ways in which evangelicals attempt to
deny that the Reverend Robertson is speaking in their name. However they do
not appear to have protested -- other than against non-evangelical protestors.
The dynamic recalls the vain attempts of Muslim communities to claim that radical
clerics were not speaking in their name -- "not in my name". It is
no surprise that Muslims were subsequently profiled and targetted -- notably
with the support of evangelicals -- or that evangelicals will be in their turn.
Castro - Chavez encounter: President Hugo Chavez travelled to Cuba to
meet President Fidel Castro on 22 August, the day before Reverend Pat
Robertson made his comments on 23 August 2005, [more].
Chavez later stated that President Bush will be to blame if anything happens
after a call for his death [more].
One American commentator named them the "Axis
of Subversion". On 29 August, Chavez announced he would lodge a complaint
at the United Nations, in that for failing to act against Robertson, the USA
was "giving protection to a terrorist, who is demanding the assassination
of a legitimate president" [more].
Pro-War speech by President Bush: President Bush, Commander-in-Chief
of the United States Armed Forces, took a break from his five-week summer vacation
on 22 August 2005 to address the National Convention of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars of the United States in Salt Lake City. He defended the
invasion of Iraq and vowed the war would go on [more].
He notably said, with no sense of irony: "Our enemies have no regard for
human life. They're trying to hijack a great religion to justify a dark vision
that rejects freedom and tolerance and dissent." Still without any sense
of irony after Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Fallujah, Bush ended his speech
I want to thank you for your bravery and your decency. May God bless this
nation's veterans, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
UK Anti-terrorist legislation: In the UK draconian new anti-terrorist
legislative measures were announced on 22nd August 2005, focusing notably
on incitement by radical (Islamic) clerics. No mention was made of incitement
to violence by radical Christian clerics. Tony Blair was reportedly on holiday
in the Caribbean at the time -- close to the zone of formation of Katrina. It
is however difficult to know how the incitement of Reverend Robertson is to
be compared with that of Islamic clerics under UK legislation. Clearly there
should be no question of Pat Robertson travelling to other countries to incite
evangelical followers in this way. One commentator suggested that Robertson
had effectively issued a fatwa against Chavez, which it might be expected
that his evangelical followers in Venezuela would feel fully justified in endeavouring
to act upon (cf Leigh Saavedra. Pat
Robertson declares fatwah on Chavez Countercurrents.org 24 August,
"Act of God"?
As noted above, immediately following the comments of evangelist Reverend Robertson
and George Bush, Hurricane Katrina increased in force to an unusually high degree
and proceeded to cause unprecedented damage to Bible Belt states of the USA.
The Bible Belt is an area
including a number of midwestern and southern states in the United States in
which fervent Evangelical
Protestantism is a pervasive part of the culture -- where a majority of
people are fundamentalists [more].
Although no exact boundaries of the Bible Belt are defined, it is generally
considered to cover much of the area stretching from Texas north to Kansas,
east to Virginia (where Robertson was born), and south to northern Florida.
It should be noted that these evangelical states, prime supporters of the Bush
regime through the Christian Coalition of America are precisely those states
that received most damage from Hurricane Katrina: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky.
Initial estimates indicate that Hurricane Katrina may cost the insurance industry
some US$ 25-26 billion -- to say nothing of the damage to uninsured homes and
It is expected to be one of costliest ever for insurers -- topping Hurricane
Andrew in 1992 at a cost of US$22 billion (2004 prices), itself possibly
an indication of God's post-facto disapproval of the Gulf
War (1990-1). In 2004, the four hurricanes that hit the USA resulted in
insurance claims of US$28 billion. These figures are to be compared with the
cost of 9/11 to insurers, namely US$20 billion. [more]
However the coastal Bible Belt states are home to some of the poorest in the
USA -- those most likely to be uninsured and for whom the real costs will go
unassessed. Risk Management Solutions predicted
that the storm and its aftermath would cause more than US$100 billion of economic
losses (Financial Times, 3 September 2005).
It should be quite clear that Hurricane Katrina is defined by the hard-nosed
insurance industry as an "Act of God". It will be one of the most
expensive "Acts of God" to which the insurance industry has had to
respond -- whether or not it can successfully disclaim much responsibility and
force the government somehow to help rebuild everything at public expense. As
cynics have always said, it is natural disasters like Katrina that cause the
insurance industry to "get religion" -- to the point of resolving
the intractable theological challenge of reconciling "Acts of God"
with "Acts of Allah" [more].
However, to the extent that the industry does have responsibility, it might
however feel somewhat justified -- certainly through any of its Christian CEOs
and shareholders -- in asking questions about whether the evangelical-supported
policies of Bush will not evoke even further destructive "Acts of God".
The industry could well insist that Bush listens more effectively to God and
gains a better understanding of His Will.
The insurance industry has a vested interest in recognizing the divine origin
of natural catastrophe because contracts state that "acts of God" may be a basis
for delay or failure to fulfill a policy obligation. Many insurance policies
exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God. It may become clear what proportion
of commitments associated with Katrina are avoided through recourse to such
interpretations -- the godless dimensions of Katrina -- and therefore fall on
There is however an interesting twist that might be used by policy-holders
against the "Acts of God" disclaimer. As noted by Sidney Blumenthal
comes home to roost, The Guardian, 2 September 2005): "...
the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina may not entirely be the result of an
act of nature". Despite the claim by George Bush, in defending the delayed
federal response, that "no one anticipated the breach of the levees"
it was precisely because the consequences had been long predicted by flood specialists
that the evacuation of New Orleans had in fact been ordered (Financial Times,
3 September 2005).
A five-day simulation (of "Hurricane Pam"), involving 40 federal,
state and local organizations, was undertaken in July 2004 to assess capacity
to deal with destruction of half a million buildings in the New Orleans area
and evacuation of a million residents (Why
did help take so long to arrive?, 3 September 2005). The Louisiana Corps
of Engineers had indicated a need for US$18 billion to shore up the levees and
improve flood control in New Orleans. But federal funds to address the possibility
had been withdrawn or witheld by 2003 (a reduction of 50% since 2001), with
a further 20% reduction proposed for 2006 -- giving priority to Iraq and homeland
security. Flood-controlling wetlands had also been opened to developers -- dangerously
increasing vulnerability to flooding.
For Paul Soglin, former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, and past chair of the
committee on urban economics for the National Conference of Mayors: "A rightwing
government that strangles public expenditures for public works is largely responsible
for what happened in New Orleans."
Such deliberate negligence could indeed be the basis for a massive class action
suit. The federal authorities would then have to vigourously defend the divine
nature of the action -- with the necessarily enthusiastic support of the insurance
industry. Unfortunately for Bible Belt evangelicals anxious to ensure payment,
they would have to prove that God had nothing to do with the damage from Hurricane
Curiously, as noted below, the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina is
celebrated by some Christian fundamentalists as a welcome "Act of God"
against sinful New Orleans. This could all prove very confusing for those who
believe that America is continually and specially blessed by God.
It is particularly interesting that the insurance industry fully accepts the
implication that hurricanes are "Acts of God". They are not "Acts
of Satan" as some might otherwise wish to call them. The Bible Belt evangelicals
are therefore dealing directly with a message from God to them, not to others
elsewhere. Perhaps, if they disagree, they could petition for a change in insurance
legislation to reframe "Acts of God" as "Acts of Satan"
-- or perhaps as "Acts of al-Qaida".
"Acts of Satan"?
There are however some difficulties with the notion of "Acts of Satan":
- According to one Bible Belt interpretation, they are understood to be "anything
that is contrary to God's will. Period. It's not about motivation. It's not
about the resume of the offender. It's all about the outcome and it's effect
on the coming of God's Kingdom". (John Frederick Fiedler, Get Behind
Me, Satan, First United Methodist Church, Dallas, September 2002)
- Many people believe that disasters are "Acts of God" from birth defects
and loss of babies, handicaps, disabilities, and violent deaths, to wars,
hurricanes, floods, droughts, plagues and diseases of all sorts: whereas they
are frequently "Acts of Satan" [more]
- Suffering and death are natural results of sin and, therefore, are no more
God's will than is sin. Instead of stating in our insurance policies that
disasters are "acts of God," it would be better to say they are "acts of Satan."
(Gordon Bietz, At
a Time of Tragedy, 3 December 2004)
- As noted by Ralph D. Winter (U.S.
Center for World Mission, January-February 1998): "Acts of Satan?
Mike Huckabee, the governor of Arkansas, refused to sign a bill referring
to tornados as 'acts of God'. I wonder, had he been thinking about Job
1:19 which attributes a tragically destructive 'great wind' to the 'power'
(v. 12) which God allowed Satan to exercise? Would the legislature change
the wording to 'acts of Satan?' Some Evangelicals oppose his refusal. They
think it is better to attribute good and bad things to God".
- According to Ira Chernus (Pearl
Harbor Myth Poses Dangers, 2001): "This German-Japanese foe was
widely depicted as the devil incarnate. Once German and Japanese actions were
transformed into acts of Satan, we had no reason to ask about the historical
causes or motives of those actions. In myth and folklore, the devil does evil
because it is his nature; he can do nothing else. Today, the Pearl Harbor
myth encourages us to view some Muslims as agents of the devil, doing evil
for evil's sake, as if their own history and the world's history had nothing
to do with it".
- As the editor of a newsletter, Samuele Bacchiocchi (God
and Tsunami: What is the Lord Telling Us? Endtime Issues Newsletter
#125): "...several subscribers have attempted to prove to me that natural
disasters are 'acts of Satan' allowed by God. The implication seems to be
that there is an agreement between God and Satan about the time, the place,
and the extent in which Satan is allowed to carry out his destructive activities.
As we shall see, this view poses some problems that need to be resolved".
If indeed an "Act of Satan" is "anything contrary to God's will",
as suggested above, then:
- either Hurricane Katrina was instigated against God's will, and therefore
is an "Act of Satan" which calls for careful interpretation by Bible
Belt evangelicals as to why God allowed Satan to get the upper hand in dealing
with people of God
- or Hurricane Katrina was instigated in fulfillment of God's will
and then indeed the Bible Belt evangelicals need to consider very carefully
what God is endeavouring to communicate to them in particular
Further difficulties are associated with "Acts of Satan" in that
the actions of the evangelical-supported US military in Iraq and Afghanistan
are perceived there to be "Acts of Satan" -- and not acts undertaken
by the US military with the special blessing that God reserves for the American
| I call'd the devil, and he came,
And with wonder his form did I closely scan;
He is not ugly, and is not lame,
But really a handsome and charming man.
A man in the prime of life is the devil,
Obliging, a man of the world, and civil;
A diplomatist too, well skill'd in debate,
He talks quite glibly of church and state.
(cited by Amos Oz, The
Devil's Progress, 2005)
"Acts of al-Qaida"?
Much is currently made of any form of non-state-supported bombing as being
necessarily in some way an "Act of al-Qaida". It is interesting to
compare understandings of the existence "God" (and the nature of credible
proof for God's existence), with understandings of "al-Qaida" (and
the nature of credible proof for al-Qaida's existence). Both have become to
a large extent acts of faith. Both are subject to special provision in insurance
policies. Curiously, the similarity of these "escape clauses" could
lead to an interpretation of "Acts of al-Qaida" as being equivalent
to "Acts of God" and "Acts of Allah" -- at least for the
As argued elsewhere (Cui
Bono: Groupthink vs Thinking the Unthinkable? Reframing the suffocating consensus
in response to 7/7, 2005), "al-Qaida" is a name that some
terrorism experts claim was imposed by Western officials on to disparate radical
Islamic groups to give their amorphous enemy a degree of conventional coherence
-- and by doing so blew Osama bin Laden's power and reach "out of proportion".
Whilst concerned about the threat of terror, they argue that we should "debunk
the myth of al-Qaeda" (cf Brendan O'Neill, Does
al-Qaeda exist? Not in the way that we think, say some terrorism experts,
28 November 2003; Adam Dolnik and Kimberly A McCloud, Debunk
the myth of al-Qaeda, Christian Science Monitor, 23 May 2002).
Adam Curtis presented in 2004 a series of BBC documentaries entitled The
Power of Nightmares that showed how the fantasy image of the "al-Qaida
organization" was created, arguing that the real threat came not from a
network but from individuals and groups linked only by an idea (The
making of the terror myth, The Guardian, 15 October 2004).
Now he argues:
For three years they told us breathlessly about a terrifying global
network. Now, suddenly, it has gone away and been replaced by "an evil ideology"
that inspires young, angry Muslim males in our own society. (Creating
Islamist Phantoms, The Guardian, 30 August 2005)
Unfortunately hundreds, if not thousands, of suspects have been systematically
tortured with the tacit approval of evangelical Christians -- whether in the
countries of the Coalition of the Willing or in client states willing to assist
the leaders of the Coalition in their policy of torture by proxy through "rendition".
The objective has been to get them to admit to their links with what amounts
to a phantom organization. At a peak of pain suspects are naturally willing
to say anything -- and they do indeed admit to such links -- who would not?
This "shoddy intelligence" is transferred back to western intelligence
This reinforces the outdated belief of those intelligence agencies in the existence
of the "al-Qaida organization" -- and their ability to draft political
statements to the media to that effect. No scrap of hard evidence is offered
to authenticate pronouncements by "al-Qaida spokespersons". Is there
any difference from the attitude and practices of the interrogators of the Inquisition
in vainly seeking analogous links of suspects with "Satan"? This too
finally reinforced the interrogators in their priestly belief in the existence
of Satan -- as a result of agonizing experience they had instigated as Christians.
It is a sad irony of history that it was the Protestant founders of America
that fled Europe for that reason.
| "Listen and pay heed to My words for the time of the whirlwind of the
Lord is at hand. Those who have sown by the wind are about to harvest the
whirlwind of My wrath for My fierce anger is going forth kindled with fire...
The time for playing games with your Lord is over!"
Harley Hickling, Reaping
The Whirlwind, 2000
Given the special connection of the USA with God, notably through the doctrine
of Manifest Destiny,
and through the special access to God claimed by George W Bush on behalf of
the American people, the key question is whether God's Will is being heard by
evangelical Christians. Correct interpretation of the Will of God is vital when
the world's superpower shifts from "reality-based" (or "evidence-based")
governance to "faith-based governance" (cf Future
Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003). It has been a problem for
priests down the ages. The question is how does God help people to understand
that his Will is being misunderstood? The Bible has many examples of
God's use of natural disasters to demonstrate extreme wrath.
If Hurricane Katrina is a direct message from God (and not from Satan or al-Qaida),
various individuals and groups must be understood as having misunderstood God's
- Reverend Pat Robertson would seem to have got it wrong in calling for the
assassination of President Hugo Chavez.
- George Bush would seem to have got it wrong in so strongly justifying further
sustained warfare in Iraq to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
- Tony Blair would seem to have got it wrong in framing his new legislation
-- now to be faced with a problem of how he defines as acceptable calls for
assassination by Christian evangelicals (perhaps he too could define such
calls from Christians as "inappropriate", and reserve the full force
of the law for action against clerics of other faiths inciting people in that
- The Christian evangelicals, at least in the Bible Belt, would seem to have
got it wrong in buying into the agenda of the Christian Coalition of America
and supporting a new Bush Presidency.
Some Christian fundamentalists have however suggested an alternative interpretation
of the disastrous impact on sinful New Orleans -- although it was not clear
how this explanation accounted for the damage to neighbouring Bible Belt states.
Also it would seem to have been poorly timed by God to "take out"
the maximum number of sinners, if that was the intention. The interpretation
is clarified in a press release from Repent
America titled Hurricane
Katrina destroys New Orleans days before "Southern Decadence"
-- the 34th annual week of celebration scheduled, coincidentally, from
31 August 2005:
"Southern Decadence" has a
history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals
engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars.... However, Hurricane
Katrina has put an end to the annual celebration of sin....[that] brought
in "125,000 revelers" to New Orleans last year.... "Although the loss of lives
is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent
America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,'
New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration
of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge," he
continued. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate
in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God,"
Hurricane Katrina may also be interpreted as a very explicit warning from God
regarding any future US nuclear attack on Iran -- which many now view as likely
[more]. The consequent
spread of radioactive dust might have unforeseen consequences.
For they sow to the wind, And they reap the
Link of al-Qaida to Hurricane Katrina
There is presumably a strong case for the US intelligence community to examine
possible links between al-Qaida and Hurricane Katrina. It is after all clear
that al-Qaida had lured a key unit of the Lousiana National Guard to Iraq in
response to Iraq's proven link to al-Qaida and responsibility for 9/11 -- thus
preventing the National Guard from providing support in the Katrina disaster.
Therefore, from an intelligence perspective, al-Qaida is clearly responsible
for significant aspects of the disaster in New Orleans. A video recording "from
an al-Qaida spokesperson" will shortly be prepared claiming such responsibility
in the name of Allah. Such links provides a new focus for interrogation under
torture -- to eliminate any doubts regarding this belief.
The key question is whether al-Qaida has the technology to cause a hurricane
to form -- perhaps some breakthrough in weather modification technology as foreseen
by Nikolai Tesla (cf Weather
Control: Greats Floods of 1993 Caused by US/Russian Weather Control?;
Modification, Terrorism, Biological and Chemical Warfare). Evidence
exists for its use in changing the direction of hurricanes [more].
Perhaps Hurricane Katrina was the result of a US experiment by HAARP (High
frequency Active Auroral Research Program) that went wrong. Or, conceivably,
it worked just fine. For example, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, Yuri
Poses Global Threat, January 2003) indicated that weather disasters
in Europe during 2002 were caused by an advanced weapon which could trigger
a global catastrophe. Maybe al-Qaida has a counterpart to HAARP?
A bill is under consideration to create a Weather
Modification Board in the USA starting October 2005. This is consistent
with a long-term US strategy -- in pursuit of "Full Spectrum Dominance"
-- to engage in weather warfare [more].
As noted by Bob Fitrakis (Weather
Warfare, 2004), this was publicly articulated in 1997 by Arnold A. Barnes,
Jr. of John Hopkins University and Senior Scientist at Phillips Laboratory in
an address on "The Army After Next, How Will We Test? Weather Modification."
Barnes referred to a document subsequently named as Weather
As A Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025 (1996). That study
envisaged a program that included: precipitation enhancement (or avoidance),
storm enhancement (or modification), and precipitation denial -- presumably
"hurricane formation" would be one aspect.
If the 10 years of subsequent development of this technology by the USA or
its opponents, resulted in the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, there are
wider questions to be asked:
- Were Castro and Chavez able to use their own breakthrough in weather technology
to form and direct the hurricane towards the USA?
- Was the hurricane formed by the USA as a weather attack on Cuba, only to
be successfully deflected by Castro-Chavez to the USA?
- Was the hurricane indeed the result of a failed US experiment?
- Was the hurricane damage the result of a successful initiative of the same
kind as 9/11 -- as envisaged by conspiracy theorists?
But in the absence of proof regarding use of weather modification technology,
it is possible that the western media could be persuaded to frame Castro and
Chavez as having gathered together from 22 August in some new high power voodoo
ceremony -- using powerful weather shamans to gather and focus meteorological
energy -- a deliberate vehicle for an "Act of Satan" (as imaginatively
explored with a dust storm in the 1999 movie The
Mummy). But if this was the case, what was God doing in the meanwhile?
"Twinning" New Orleans with Fallujah
It is possible that God is extremely unhappy about the engagement policies
of Coalition troops in Iraq -- of which a major example is undoubtedly the undocumented
destructiveness vented upon Falluja,
with uncounted numbers of dead, notably due to the use of thermobaric
weapons (cf James Dunnigan, The
Lessons of Fallujah, 19 August 2005). Given the deliberate effort to
avoid exposing those responsible for the slaughter in Fallujah to the effects
of their actions, is God obliged to seek other ways to bring such matters to
their attention? Is it possible that God considers that evangelicals have such
difficulty in hearing His Will on these matters that, reluctantly, the only
way to get their attention is to "bring Falluja to the Bible Belt"
to assist their meditation?
There is tremendous historical irony to any perversely macabre "twinning"
of New Orleans and Fallujah in the light of the disasters they respectively
suffered. The population of New Orleans, according to the census of 2000, was
486,674. An estimate of the population of Fallujah in 500,000 was 2003. In each
case some 80% of the population left their cities before the disaster -- but
many had nowhere to go. In the case of New Orleans, presumably as with Fallujah,
the poor who suffered most are likely to have the hardest task in rebuilding
their lives. Curiously, in the land of the free, it was mainly blacks, the poor,
the old and the sick who were obliged to stay behind in New Orleans -- and await
relief and security efforts by whites.
In the light of the American attack, it has been suggested that Fallujah will
be described as the new Guernica
-- the Basque capital that resisted the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in
1937. Pepe Escobar (From
Guernica to Fallujah, Asia Times, 2 December 2004) notes:
Fallujah in 2004 was resisting the dictator Iyad Allawi, the US-installed
interim premier. Franco asked Nazi Germany - which supported him - to bomb
Guernica, just as Allawi "asked" the Pentagon to bomb Fallujah.
Guernica had no air force and no anti-aircraft guns to defend itself - just
like Fallujah. In Guernica - as in Fallujah - there was no distinction between
civilians and guerrillas: the order was to "kill them all"...Marine
commanders said on the record that Fallujah was the house of Satan....
This view would accord with that of evangelicals who, as noted above, also saw
New Orleans as a wicked city of sin worthy of an "Act of God" because
of the annual Southern Decadence celebration of iniquity. Escobar's description
Fallujah has been reduced to rubble, and thousands of civilians have
died.... More than 15,000 refugee families may be living in sordid makeshift
shelters around Fallujah - not to mention the upwards of 200,000 residents who
escaped the city before it was leveled.... The defining image of Fallujah -
for Iraqis, for the Arab world, for 1.3 billion Muslims - is the summary execution
of a wounded, defenseless Iraqi man inside a mosque by a marine. This execution,
caught on tape, suggests "special" rules of engagement were applying.
There is however a strange inversion. Little of what occurred in Fallujah was
made known to the world through the media (cf Rahul Mahajan, Report
from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to Save It, CommonDreams.org,
12 April 2004; Fallujah
families reveal horror in the city, Al Jazeera Magazine, 16
November 2004). The American population had no comprehension of it. The perpetrators
had every justification for being deeply ashamed and systematically prohibiting
any such media coverage.
The disaster faced by the citizens of New Orleans has however been widely and
extensively communicated. It finally gives Americans some real sense of what
was experienced in Fallujah at the hands of their evangelical-supported military:
rotting dead bodies in the street, families forced to live like animals, no
water, no electricity, no food, no sanitation, exposure to disease, no medical
services, no shelter, no public assistance -- plus extensive looting, violence,
rape, sniper fire, and the psychological trauma of broken lives and missing
Commentators repeatedly describe the situation as "mind-boggling".
Those left behind were forced to endure appalling degradation and gang violence
in official shelters that military authorities feared to enter. The scale of
the refugee problem, with as many as half a million homeless, also overwhelmed
authorities -- who seemed to have considered that the refugee problem was not
a part of emergency managageent, until the media persuaded them to the contrary.
A CNN commentator described it as like a "lawless deadly war zone".
It is useful to remember that that is also how it was in Fallujah -- a reason
for the subsequent high levels of psychological trauma amongst those who perpetrated
it. There is no mention of the scale of the refugee problem relating to Fallujah.
The irony in New Orleans was the similar paucity of official assistance, whether
in the form of security, emergency supplies, shelter, or evacuation -- and the
incomprehensible delay in making them available. In a further irony, there was
probably far more government "air support" in Fallujah than was initially
made available in New Orleans. But, as in Fallujah, snipers fired on military
helicopters in New Orleans -- making it clear that amongst the civilians present
there were "insurgents" exploiting the situation -- presumably "foreign
agents" of al-Qaida, fomenting civil unrest. Such a situation in New Orleans
called for "zero tolerance" -- a "shoot-to-kill" response
-- by security forces when their ground forces finally arrived in armoured cars.
The rules of engagement seem to have been similar to those in Fallujah. For
commentators, and those in distress, the fearfulness of the military was strange
to observe -- echoes of Fallujah? When American forces entered downtown New
Orleans in armoured vehicles, their standard rules of engagement had to be specifically
countermanded to point their weapons down, rather than at the American refugees
in distress (at least while the camera was tracking them). The posture of whites
with rifles "overseeing" disadvantaged blacks is of course iconic
in the Bible Belt states (cf Gary Younge, Left
to sink or swim, The Guardian, 5 September 2005).
History may note the parallel between:
- Condolezza Rice's affirmation (4 September 2005) that "Nobody, especially
the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race." [more],
- Colin Powell's affirmations, with the aid of an anthrax vial at the UN Security
Council (5 February 2003), regarding the justification for intervention in
The racial issue so evident to TV audiences around the world, was reportedly
aggravated on the ground by white guardsmen observing with indifference the
condition of those in need of help or protection -- and even laughing at them.
Reuters, for example, reported that during the visit of Vice President Dick
Cheney to the disaster area, he greeted the guardsmen and ignored the blacks
in distress nearby. Allegedly whites were evacuated from major hotels, leaving
blacks. When elite army forces finally arrived to occupy a city virtually emptied
of its inhabitants, the parallel with the military priority in Iraq of guarding
property was also striking -- even though it was real estate rather than oil
Unfortunately the major political lesson for the American administration, as
with Fallujah, will be to ensure the exclusion of the media from future disaster
areas to avoid disseminating politically damaging images. The excuse, rather
than "national security", will be "impeding the rescue operation"
-- but, as in Fallujah, it will be framed as for the journalists' own security.
Comprehending the delayed response
The flooding tragedy, due to lack of maintenance of the levees, was a direct
the result of the earlier transfer of the necessary funding to George Bush's
budget for homeland security and the war in Iraq (Why
city's defences were down, The Guardian, 1 September 2005).
Ironically the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA), whose budget has been reduced since 9/11 to deal with terrorists, is
directed by a close Bush friend, Michael Brown -- previously a rule enforcer
for the International Arabian Horse Association. FEMA is overseen by the newly
created Department of Homeland Security, headed by Michael Chertoff. Despite
the delays and the dead, Chertoff stated: "We are extremely pleased with
the response of every element of the federal government, all of our federal
partners, to this terrible tragedy." (cf Why
did help take so long to arrive?, 3 September 2005). How is this attitude
to be reconciled with "homeland security"?
The day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, George Bush was playing
golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting
the disaster site.
Possibly more American lives were lost in New Orleans, than in Iraq, as a result
of transferring Louisiana troops to Iraq to protect American lives and homes
-- in pursuit of George Bush's deep understanding of God's Will and the priorities
of homeland security, for which he was elected with the notable support of the
Christian Coalition of Reverend Robertson.
|"I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too
hard to watch... Bush doesn't care about black people. It's been five days
[waiting for help] because most of the people are black. America is set
up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible."
Rapper Kanye West, on a live NBC television special to raise funds for the
As noted by the former editor of the New York Times, Howard Raines (I'm
just glad I saw it, The Guardian, 1 September 2005):
The performance of George Bush during this past week has been outrageous.
Almost as unbelievable as Katrina itself is the fact that the leader of the
free world has been outshone by the elected leaders of a region renowned for
governmental ineptitude. Louisiana's anguished governor... climbed into a
helicopter at the first possible moment to survey what may become the worst
weather-related disaster in American history. She might even have been able
to stop the looting in New Orleans if the 141st
Field Artillery of the Louisiana Army National Guard had not been in Iraq
for the past 11 months. They are among thousands of Southern guardsmen who
could have been federalised by the stroke of a pen had they not been deployed
in a phony war.
In the case of Guernica, Franco denied there had been any massacre and blamed
the local population -- just as Allawi and the Pentagon have denied any responsibility
for civilian deaths in Fallujah and insist that it was the "insurgents"
that were guilty. Had any civilians been killed -- God forbid -- their deaths
would have been framed as "collateral damage", unfortunate but acceptable,
as military chaplains would have explained. In the case of those innocent in
the eyes of God in New Orleans, one might ask what was God's policy on "collateral
damage" in the course of his "Act of God" intervention through
Hurricane Katrina. As with Guernica and Fallujah, the Bush administration has
been quick to defend itself -- by blaming the locals (Julian Borger, Bush
team tries to pin blame on local officials, 5 September 2005).
As the response to the disastrous situation in New Orleans progressed, it became
clear that "news management" policies were increasingly framing the
media realeases to conceal the chaotic disaster response and the federal incompetence
associated with the delays. All issues were "being addressed" -- "help
was on its way" -- whether or not there was any truth to the announcements.
Priority had to be given to the protection of reputations rather than to the
saving of lives. When George Bush finally arrived on site, his staged walkabout
-- hugging a child -- recalled images of tyrants in the past, rated scandalously
cynical at the time. It had qualities similar to his visit to troops in Baghdad
in 2003 on Thanksgiving -- bearing a plastic turkey for a photo-opportunity
of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era, 2003)
Security forces focused on protection of property from those seeking food and
water for the dying, framing them as looters meriting a "shoot-to-kill"
policy. Media coverage was criticized for creating a sympathetic image of white
people fleeing, and black people caught up in a shoplifting orgy. There were
moments of total contradiction between the images on CNN and the voice-over
from official declarations, notably responses with respect to security, looting
and the arrival of long-promised vital assistance (cf Dan Froomkin, The
Gulf Between Rhetoric and Reality, The Washington Post, 2 September
2005). As might be expected, the Republican governors of Alabama and Mississippi
rated the federal government's relief efforts as "great".
It would however be no surprise to learn that, like in Fallujah, there would
be strong resistance to "counting bodies" of the locals -- however
carefully the health of the heroic rescuers is documented. The true total number
might of course be classified for reasons of national security. There was of
course no question that resources had been inappropriately allocated to Iraq,
thus reducing the effectiveness of the response in New Orleans.
Local rage was best articulated by the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, who
called for a moratorium on disaster press conferences and photo opportunities
-- delayed until there was some evidence that the long-promised assistance was
finally arriving -- when it was "too dogone late". He declared:
You mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people
that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't
figure out a way to authorize the resources we need? Come on, man!
For Nagin, in a desperate SOS: "God is looking down on this... and they
are going to pay". To Bush he said: "Fix this goddam crisis"
(as headlined in the Financial Times, 3 September 2005). Ironically,
Christian faith-based organizations, like the PICO
network, encouraged by the Bush administration to take over community support
as federal support was progressively reduced, noted: "We are watching catastrophic
failure by public officials to respond to those most vulnerable".
Many commentators have subsequently asked why Cuba is so much better prepared
for Gulf hurricane strikes? It would be a great irony if, as a consequence,
the black population of the USA converted massively to the Nation
of Islam in order to obtain better protection from future "Acts of
God" than is available under evangelical Christians. Cynics have suggested
that, under free market principles, emergency preparedness might be fruitfully
outsourced by Louisiana to Cubans.
As with Fallujah, only occasional commentators ventured to refer to the racial/ethnic
dimensions of the response to the crisis and the effective framing of those
who suffered most. Some 63% of the population of New Orleans was black -- and
it had been such people who had not had the resources or transportation to leave
the city, let alone having anywhere to go. Of the city's residents 20% had no
access to a car. Those in the National Guard who might have responded with earlier
assistance were primarily white -- reflecting the historical polarization and
prejudices of Bible Belt society. As noted by CNN, there was the possibility
that "people may be dying because of the colour of their skin". As
a description of the USA, The Financial Times (3 September 2005) noted
that "the disaster has starkly exposed exposed its racial divisions and
economic inequality". A representative of the Congressional
Black Caucus, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, expressed her "outrage"
at the response of the Republican authorities -- who exemplified such attitudes.
| "We cannot sow the wind of economic exploitation without reaping
the whirlwind of social and political chaos. Our economic choices have consequences,
as Israel's elites learned belatedly through the experience of exile. Those
consequences, however, are not simply social and political; they are also
spiritual. The decisions we make as employers, workers, consumers, investors,
and voters reflect either faithfulness or betrayal of God. They either enhance
or inhibit our capacity to receive the true riches that are our inheritance
as children of God."
John Kirkley. Faithful
in a Little, 1996
Despite an ability to respond with pinpoint accuracy to incoming missile threats
within minutes, how then to understand the critical three-day delay required
for the world's superpower to respond to a disaster for its people, or even
to decide on the nature of the appropriate response. A variety of reasons could
therefore be envisaged:
- many, who would normally have been swiftly mobilized to help in evacuation,
were on duty in Iraq.
- helicopters to lift people to safety and bring in security forces and vital
supplies were not available -- they were in Iraq -- or "misplaced",
as queried by Michael Moore (Vacation
is Over... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush, 2
- much of the relevant heavy equipment of the Louisiana National Guard, including
generators, high-water and other vehicles was in Iraq.
- presumably satellites capable of providing detailed imagery to assist the
evolving crisis were targetted on the Middle East
- those capable of ensuring effective "command and control" on the
ground were also in Iraq.
- individuals in the chain of command may have been encouraged to delay or
withhold vital relief for as long as possible to complete the destruction:
- due to perceptions framed by ubiquitous racist, supremacist beliefs
and traditional southern attitudes to "black trash", possibly
associated with Christian fundamentalism [more]
- due to perceptions by fundamentalist Christians that sinful New Orleans
merited complete cleaning out, thus assisting God in the righteous anger
delivered through Katrina
- due to perceived need to test viability of emergency and homeland security
plans in anticipation of future crises -- on a segment of the population
rated as expendable
The style of response, despite years of emergency scenario planning, suggests
the existence of a deliberate, large-scale policy of population "triage"
reminiscent of crimes against humanity in other countries. The deliberate major
reduction in funding for levee reinforcement suggests a deliberate policy to
increase the vulnerability of New Orleans to such destruction in pursuit of
Is this some curious exercise in anticipating evangelical rapture? The whites
fleeing in their SUVs to safe havens echoes the fantasies of "beaming up"
to heaven, whilst the blacks are cast in the sinful role of the "left
behind", as in the end times novels of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
The Jesus is God Ministries celebrated
the justice of the divine retribution on Louisiana with a poem entitled "The
Perfect Storm" (3 September 2005) -- a descriptive phrase curiously
echoed by Michael Chertoff on CNN (5 September 2005) [more].
It hopefully titled another piece Will California Taste the Wrath of God
Next? (2 September 2005). The obsession of such a worldview with the sinfulness
of homosexuality contrasts strangely with the indifference of that mindset to
the extent to which male-dominated institutions are engaged in "inappropriate"
relationships, to the point of being illegitimately "in bed with one another":
the "military-industry complex", church and state, academia and defence
research, etc. One might query the coincidental similarities between:
- the focus on terrorism by government as a justification for restriction
of civil rights, despite the consequent severe defects in the ability of "homeland
security" to respond to disasters
- the use of the Katrina disaster as a justification and cover for controversial
directives of considerable benefit to the oil industry, notably the Department
of Homeland Security's waiver (3 September 2005) of the Jones
Act of 1920 forbidding non-U.S. ships from hauling cargo between American
- the benefits received by Reverend Pat Robertson's Operation
Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation from Hurricane
Katrina, despite his call for the assassination of President Chavez; the organization
is promoted as a priority donor on the websites of both FEMA and CNN
Is it similar thinking that now constrains official USA response to the suffering
of peoples and the planet? How should such sympathies be distinguished from
those of radical Islamic clerics, presented as the prime catalyst terrorism?
Struggle against extremism
Given the new policy of Bush and Blair, dating from late July 2005, to replace
the "war on terror" by a "struggle against extremism", there
is a strong case for looking at Hurricane Katrina as a prime example of the
kind extremism it is hoped to eliminate (cf Norms
in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting
out" extremism? 2005). Maybe there is a case for exploring whether God
is indeed, by nature, an extremist -- worthy of "rooting out", to
employ Tony Blair's terminology.
Some have asked whether God was indeed a terrorist -- given the terrifying
effects of "Acts of God" (cf Is
God a Terrorist: Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing?
2004). Following Hurricane Katrina, the case can surely be made that God is
the prime terrorist of the planet Earth -- with a a proven (as opposed to hypothetical)
arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that continues to proliferate -- aided
and abetted by George Bush's policy on climate change. Spokespersons for "al-Qaida"
have repeatedly made the point that they are acting in the name of "Allah"
(a.k.a. "God"). This is clearly somebody who consequently needs to
be "taken out", in the words of the Reverend Robertson, in order to
protect American interests, and ensure an uninterrupted oil supply. Furthermore
a close look should clearly be taken at Bible Belt evangelicals for their continuing
capacity to harbour knowingly a prime terrorist suspect who seemingly (as a
kind of "double agent") also controls the whole "al-Qaida organization".
On the other hand, doing the "cross thing" for Christians, for example,
should surely also be interpreted as extremism by God -- worthy of condemnation.
In physical terms, there is of course a problem in undertaking such "rooting
out" in that major hurricanes tend to release destructive energy many times
that released by the US at Hiroshima -- as noted by Mississippi's Governor,
the former head of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour: "It looks
like Hiroshima is what it looks like". Such extremism is beyond anything a superpower
is currently capable of containing.
Concern with "climate change" may also be understood as giving inappropriate
credence to a degree of extremism on the part of God, justifying every repressive
measure against scientists investigating it (Republicans
accused of witch-hunt against climate change scientists, The Guardian,
30 August 2005). There is some irony that this invasive investigation should
be announced whilst Kartrina was perpetrating maximal damage on the Bible Belt
states. (see also Banished
Whistle-Blowers, The New York Times, 1 September 2005). The attitude
is reminiscent of that of the Thai governement which forced the head of the
Thai meteorological office to retire in 1998 -- accused of scaremongering and
jeopardising the tourist industry -- for having warned that the coast was dangerously
vulnerable to the effects of tsunami. After tens of thousands of deaths in the
tsunami of 2004, he was reinstated in 2005 as minister in charge of the Thai
disaster warning office.
The number of hurricanes forecast for 2005 has increased [more].
None commented on the possibility that the next might be on the same scale as
Katrina -- and in the same area. Future hurricanes may be even more damaging
if God's extremism in indulging in climate change continues to be denied, and
sea temperatures continue to rise. The destructive power of hurricanes is now
estimated to have doubled over the past 30 years (Global
Warming Making Hurricanes Stronger, 31 July 2005; Is
Global Warming Causing More Devastating Hurricanes Worldwide? Democracy
Now, 29 August 2005). Katrina's real name is "global warming"
-- as explained by Ross Gelbspan (Katrina's
real name, The Boston Globe, 30 August 2005). He documents the
extent to which public utilities and oil companies have paid millions to prevent
American public awareness of this.
What of the extreme denial demonstrated by the evangelical-supported Republican
policies that refused so evidently to strengthen dykes as recommended by numerous
studies over decades? What does that imply for the other more problematic urgent
issues, similarly ignored by that same extremist mindset, despite numerous reports
on them. How should that extremism be "rooted out" and "struggled
Extremism is also evident in the leadership failure relating to Hurriance Katrina.
The leader writer, under the title The
week Bush failed America: New Orleans deserved better (The Observer,
London, 4 September 2005) noted:
The conclusion that there has been a monumental failure of leadership is
unavoidable. President Bush did not promptly cut short his holiday. He did
not offer early reassurance and comfort to the American people, nor, when
he did address the nation, did he convince anyone that he had an adequate
understanding of the situation or had prepared a muscular response.
But given that the difficulties were in part based on a faith-based (and supported)
strategy against terrorism epitomized by Iraq, in order to protect the homeland,
the writer continued:
The evidence that the US would be unable to respond to a major terrorist
attack is being broadcast nonstop from New Orleans on America's news channels:
no co-ordination between local, state and federal authorities; inadequate
and chaotic evacuation plans; the failure to fund the appropriate agencies;
delays in deploying the necessary resources in men and material; and the absence
of leadership that can give people hope at a time of national tragedy.
If this reflects on the capacity of the world's superpower, it also frames
reflection on the final part of the 1,000-page Volcker Report on management
at the UN as epitomized by the Iraq oil-for food scandal -- which the same paper
indicates as identifying "a culture of mismanagement, lack of oversight
and incompetence throughout the body" under the direction of its Secretary-Gerneral
Kofi Annan, also a man of faith [more].
The capacity of the world system to respond to global crises, and crises of
crises, is not encouraging, despite the faith-based commitments and reassurances
of its leaders. It might justifiably be said that the international community
indulges in a degree of negligence in relation to its responsibilities that
could be characterized as criminally extremist.
But in this respect, God is of course also understood to have a variety of
non-physical ways of acting. These may exceed to a very high degree the capacity
of the western media to reframe the challenge of Katrina in support of the Bush-Blair
historical error -- and their taking the name of the Lord in vain.
Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury,
a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts,
Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation,
and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform
Eric S. Blake, et al. The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States
Tropical Cyclones From 1851 to 2004. [text]
Glenn Garvin. Reaping the Whirlwind [Hurricane Andrew]. Reason, January
Jerry D. Jarrell, et al.:
- The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States
Hurricanes from 1900 to 2000. Miami, NOAA/NWS/ Tropical Prediction Center [text],
NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS TPC-I. [text]
- Costliest U.S. Hurricanes 1900-2004 (unadjusted). NOAA Technical Memorandum
NWS TPC-1 [text]
- Strategic Briefing for the Messiah: Based on professional insights from
preemptive news and image management, 1999 [text]
- Strategic Briefing for Satan: Based on professional insights from preemptive
news and image management, 1999 [text]
National Hurricane Center:
- The Deadliest Atlantic Tropical Cyclones 1492-1996. NOAA/ National Weather
- U.S. Hurricane Strikes by Decade. NOAA/ National Weather Service [text]
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Billion Dollar U.S. Weather
National Climatic Data Center - January 12, 2005 [text]
National Weather Service. Estimated annual deaths and damages (in current
and constant 1992 dollars) related to floods in the United States 1903-1994.
(Note 1993 and 1994 in current dollars only, dollars adjusted for inflation
using a Construction Consumer Price Index). [text]
Michael Oard. Hurricanes are "Acts of Man", not "Acts of God".
Answers in Genesis, 2004 [text]
Jonathan O'Toole. God is Angry with Florida. Christian Gallery News Service,
18 September 2004) [text]
Geoff Olson. "Act of God" needs some 'splaining [text]
Hanna Schmuck. "An Act of Allah": Religious Explanations for Floods in
Bangladesh as Survival Strategy. International Journal of Mass Emergencies
and Disasters, Vol. 18, No. 1 (March 2000): pp. 85-96. [abstract]
Theodore Steinberg. Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster
in America. Oxford University Press, 2000 [text]
Larry Wood. Florida's Killer Tornadoes. Bible Doctrine News, 1998 [text]
Bible Topics. Eight Major "Acts Of God" That Coincided With The Timing of US Pressure
On Israel To Give Up Land [text]
Understanding Your Risk: A Comparison of Droughts, Floods, and Hurricanes in
the United States [text]
Why does God allow natural disasters, i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis?