The Hightower Report

Bush; and FEMA Strikes Again

BUSH

Out of the question. Don't be silly. Never was a factor.

Such are the absolutes that George W., Cheney, Rummy, and other Bushites have employed whenever anyone has suggested that their real reason for invading and occupying Iraq was a crude item spelled o-i-l. But now that Bush & Co.'s oil-soaked regime has only a few months to go, a new honesty and an urgency is creeping out about their true intentions.

First came the news that the Iraqi government will give no-bid contracts to ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and a handful of other Western oil giants, allowing them to enter the rich oil fields of Iraq. They are to develop the productive capacity of the fields, which will give them a favored position for winning lucrative long-term licenses to privatize Iraq's massive oil reserves. It's a process that shuts out China, Russia ... and even oil ventures that would be Iraqi-owned. This is Big Oil's fantasy come true.

But wait; the Iraqi people themselves hate the very idea of Western control of their oil wealth. How are the oil barons going to get away with this invasion of Iraq's sovereignty? Enter honest revelation No. 2.

For years Bush himself has been vociferously denying that his regime wants to build permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq – bases with thousands of ground troops. But – hello – there is now a rush by the White House to cut a far-reaching deal with the Iraqi government to station U.S. soldiers on dozens of military bases there indefinitely. As part of the deal, Bush is insisting that our soldiers be immune from Iraqi law, be free to fight battles without Iraqi permission, and be allowed to detain anyone in Iraq who might threaten our "interests."

Bush has called Iraq a war for "freedom." And now we see it – he's using our soldiers to free Big Oil to grab all it can. What a disgrace.

FEMA STRIKES AGAIN

Martha Kegel thought she'd seen it all – the horror of the flooding of New Orleans, the callousness and incompetence of George W.'s response, the scandal of people still left homeless three years after the storm. Then she learned something that truly shocked her.

Kegel heads a nonprofit group called Unity of Greater New Orleans, striving on a meager budget to help the displaced set up households. So she was stunned to hear that Bush's Federal Emergency Management Agency had recently given away 85 million dollars' worth of bedding, kitchen equipment, clothing, mops and brooms, cleansers, first-aid kits, and other family necessities. "These are exactly the items that we are desperately seeking donations of right now – basic kitchen [and] household supplies," said an exasperated Kegel.

It turns out that FEMA had such essentials sitting in warehouses for the past two years. But astonishingly, the perpetually clueless officials at FEMA decided this year that the supplies were no longer needed in the storm-wracked area. "We determined that they were excess to FEMA's needs," an agency spokesman curtly told CNN reporters. "Therefore, they are being excessed from FEMA's inventory."

One hundred and twenty-one truckloads of FEMA's "excess," so desperately needed by hard-hit families in the Crescent City, have been doled out instead to the Homeland Security Department, the U.S. Air Force, and other agencies. As for the people of New Orleans, FEMA claims ignorance, saying its officials simply didn't know that there was still a need there.

Excuse me, but this is our nation's emergency agency. It has an $8.02 billion annual budget. Aren't these officials supposed to know? Besides, Kegel says that FEMA did know, because her group told the agency's officials again and again that it was in urgent need of such supplies – but no one mentioned that tons of them were stored away uselessly in a FEMA warehouse.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Iraq, oil, Martha Kegel, New Orleans, Katrina, FEMA

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