Jackson has even said that the crushing hell of the Superdome,
where 20,000 people took refuge, was reminiscent of "the
hull of a slave ship".
"Afro-American leaders should instead be asking some
hard questions about the behaviour of many of their own
"A young US black man is more likely to go to jail than
college, while 70 per cent of black children are brought up
by lone mothers. All this is not George Bush's fault, as some
have been claiming.
Black communities have to take responsibility
for their own lives, instead of opting for permanent victimhood."
"Amid scenes of apocalyptic devastation caused by Hurricane
Katrina, the death toll may rise to over 10,000. Throughout
the Mississippi delta, the fabric of society has been torn
apart. But instead of invoking sympathy this catastrophe has
led to a repugnant outbreak of Americabashing in Britain,
especially among Left-wing voices in the media.
In the coverage of the unfolding horror there has been a
gloatingtone of condescension, a vicious delight in the struggle
of the US authorities to cope with the scale of the destruction.
"Humbling of a superpower", screamed one headline.
The BBC's website rejoiced over the end of the US's "home
spun myth about invulnerability". George Bush's large
army of British critics has lined up to prattle on about Iraq,
federal budget cuts, the Christian Right and racism, demonstrating
barely a moment of compassion for a nation in shock. Grotesquely,
Bush has been turned into a scapegoat for the calamity.
One self-satisfied columnist even
expressed the hope that a voodoo witch-doctor from New Orleans
might put a curse on the President.
This hysterical, ideologically driven inhumanity reminds me
of the dark days after 9/11 when too many Britons preferred
to score points about US foreign policy rather than show solidarity
with a people under the scourge of murderous terrorism. IN
RECENT days it has been common here to talk about "the
shaming of America".
In all the smug condemnation of the US government, what has
been missing has been any recognition of the logistical nightmare
of trying to help hundreds of thousands of people across a
vast region, much of it under water. In many places the essential
infrastructure of roads and electricity no longer exists.
The idea that America, simply because of its wealth, should
be able to resolve such problems in a matter of hours is just
So is the glib talk about lack of planning. No one can plan
for an entire city like New Orleans being flooded so heavily
and suddenly. In the last desperate days before the hurricane
struck all the city could do was to urge its citizens to leave
? and 200,000 chose not to. Similarly, it is nonsense to believe
that chaos might have been averted if more of the National
Guard had been in America rather than Iraq. In fact just 10
per cent of the guard is in Iraq, with more than 750,000 men
still based in the US.
But perhaps the most
repellent argument is that the US government's response has
been driven by anti-black racism.
It has been widely alleged that if the disaster had occurred
in a mainly white area, rather than around New Orleans where
67 per cent of the population is black, the state and federal
machinery would have reacted much more quickly. Jesse Jackson
has even said that the crushing hell of the Superdome, where
20,000 people took refuge, was reminiscent of "the hull
of a slave ship".
Afro-American leaders should instead be
asking some hard questions about the behaviour of many of
their own people. The knee-jerk accusation of racism cannot
hide the truth that the humanitarian effort has been cruelly
hampered by the brutal anarchy that has descended on the region.
Rescue helicopters have been shot at, snipers fired at hospitals,
medical supplies buses have been hijacked and children raped,
and looting has been rife.
Because of the breakdown in law and order the police and military
have been diverted into combating mass criminality.
"I cannot believe how my own people are acting, "
said one black New Orleans resident with a sense of shame.
BUT THE absence of the normal codes of civilisation existed
in New Orleans long before Katrina. This was a city riven
by poverty, drug-taking and violence, with a murderrate 10
times the US average.
have to take responsibility for their own lives, instead of
opting for permanent victimhood.
America has been such a phenomenal success story over the
last two centuries because its society is built on freedom,
personal responsibility and patriotism. But when those values
disappear and the vacuum is filled by lawlessness and savagery,
it is impossible for any civic institution to function, no
matter how compassionate its instincts."