Why does the weather hate us?

September 12, 2011

Shouldn't "homeland security" mean protection from floods, asks Danny Katch?

THIS ISN'T what America was supposed to look like 10 years later. By now, we were supposed to be celebrating a decade of benevolent ass-whooping: Afghanistan and Iraq. Then Syria and Iran. Maybe France. Bush was going to have flowers and chocolates thrown at his feet--not shoes thrown at his head.

Back then, Republicans and Democrats came together to launch a global "war on terror." Evildoers were confidently warned that America's leaders were prepared to fight (or send others to fight) for generations to come.

Ten years later, America appears to the world like a mad Shakespearean king: arrogant yet bewildered at what has gone wrong, still covered in the blood of Falluja and Kandahar, dementedly looking for more wars, even as the economic realm lies in ruins.

Adding to the theatricality of the moment, the country has been ravaged by hurricanes and droughts, wildfires and tornadoes. In Washington and New York City, the 10th anniversary of being attacked arrived after a very different type of assault from Hurricane Irene, which submerged entire villages across the Northeast. Before that was a record heat wave. Which came after the epic blizzard last winter.

George W. Bush
George W. Bush (Eric Draper)

So on 9/11, many Americans were asking: Why does the weather hate us?

Shakespeare would have attributed these disasters to divine retribution. Michele Bachmann said the same thing, which proves that the difference between a genius and an idiot is about 400 years.

If there's a cosmic message at work here, the messenger isn't God, but physics.

George Bush and Dick Cheney used September 11 to wage war on the Muslim world because it happens to sit on top of the planet's largest reserves of oil and gas, which are well known for a few things: They heat up the atmosphere. They are rapidly running out. And they make boatloads of money for a few people.

You might think this last point is least important and that therefore we should plan a future without fossil fuels. Which is why you're not qualified to be a member of the American ruling class.

If you were, you'd understand that making money is always the top priority. Not only that, the dwindling supply of oil and gas is actually a great chance to cash in and put the squeeze on rivals as fuel supplies go down and prices go up--as long as you control the sources in the Middle East and Central Asia.

But wait, what about that first point--global warming, melting polar caps, a grim future of worldwide catastrophic storms and food shortages? Fuck it if it doesn't show up on next quarter's balance sheet.

The military campaign for world domination ended up going nowhere but the same can't be said for the temperature of the planet. Bush claimed we were fighting "the terrorists" over there so that we don't have to fight them here. But the oil and gas we've been fighting for over there is now on the attack here, there and everywhere, heating the earth and flooding shorelines.

IN THE face of these new threats, the "war on terror" keeps us trapped in a 9/11 Groundhog Day. As the planet spins toward an uncertain future, the agencies in charge of our safety have returned to the Middle Ages, searching for witches in our midst--Muslims with magical powers to kill us all with a shampoo bottle.

"Homeland security" doesn't include protection from wildfires and floods--or even weapons of mass destruction if they happen to be unleashed by giant corporations.

Dick Cheney's bogus mushroom cloud helped launch the war on Iraq. Yet a very real nuclear mushroom cloud from the Fukushima meltdown may have caused a spike in newborn deaths in the Pacific Northwest. This was a 1950s horror movie-type event, and yet you probably didn't even hear about it, much less have to hear a bunch of country music revenge songs about it.

The corporations destroying our planet have diabolical schemes that rival the corniest Hollywood villains: "You see, Mr. Bond. My new machine will dig a hole into the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and then send millions of gallons of toxic sludge right at the people of Louisiana. Mwa ha ha!!"

Let's be clear that corporations are different from terrorists. There is a moral distinction between those who murder innocents to gain power and those with massive power who pocket a few extra million by refusing to implement basic safeguards that prevent the deaths of innocents.

But wouldn't those safeguards cost jobs? That was Obama's excuse for rejecting his own environmental agency's plan to save 12,000 lives a year by reducing smog.

I'm not an industrial engineer, but I'm pretty sure that in order to refine or replace old polluting machinery, a company would have to hire workers, not fire them. In fact, any serious plan to halt climate change by shifting our economy to renewable energy would create tens of millions of jobs for engineers, constructions workers and their teachers.

It's such an obvious solution, and yet we're no closer to it that we were 10 years ago. Apparently it's going to take a different type of storm to blow American politics off the "war on terror" course.

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