BTS 9/12/2005: Hurricane Katrina - The Perfect Convergence of Everything That's Wrong; Why They Don't Hate Us

Listen: Ben Ehrenreich / Shakoor Al-Jawani - Salaam Al-Maryati / Mark Levine

On tonight’s program we examine what the response to the Gulf Coast catastrophe and the anniversary of 9/11 tell us about the state of the state.

Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans have brought our society face to face with the reality of the condition of life in the US – and that is that 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina -- the two greatest disasters to hit the US since the bombing of Pearl Harbor coincide with the worst presidency in over a century – since Rutherford B Hayes took office in a crooked political deal after the deadlocked 1876 election ended post-Civil War Reconstruction and restored unchallenged white supremacy across the south.

The cynicism, incompetence and sheer racism of the Bush administration’s response to the Gulf Coast catastrophe brings together everything the critics of the system have been writing for the last century: the role of the state/government; military presence as the response, how race and class intersect with the neglect of infrastructure and the neoliberal notion of a minimal state -- and these combine with a total absence of leadership on all sides. Where are the Democrats? Where are the Labor and Community leaders? Who is stepping up to organize mass protest? In the absence of this kind of leadership, the population turns to charities and self-help organizations to get through and help where the state is absent. Does this vindicate the Republican ethos that the state doesn’t need to get involved?

Shakoor Aljuwani and Ben Ehrenreich have been in New Orleans and Texas following the story on the ground. You can read Ben Ehrenreich’s dispatches in the LA Weekly. Shakoor Aljuwani brings his immense community organizing skills and has been talking to people on the frontline.

Later in the program we welcome Mark LeVine, author of Why They Don’t Hate Us and Salam al- Maryati from the Muslim Public Affairs Council to preview a forum being held tonight at the Levantine Cultural Center in Culver City at 7:30 on Mark Levine’s new book, which our own Jon Wiener says proposes a different way of thinking about “us” and “them” in the Middle East – not a clash of civilizations but a call for historical understanding and the creation of an axis of empathy. Stay tuned to hear Mark LeVine and Salam Al-Maryati and join us in Culver City tonight at 7:30. I’ll be moderating.

Read More for info on tonight's guests.

1. Hurricane Katrina: Shakoor Aljuwani and Ben Ehrenreich join us with their stories from the front and their analysis of the response.

Shakoor Aljuwani has been on the program before as one of the heroes of the community I like to highlight – in this instance as the head of United Neighborhoods in Buffalo, (now United Neighborhoods International) where Shakoor brought together 600 block clubs, youth organizations and more to show how grass roots engagement can make a difference. Shakoor has spent the last week and a half with Ben Ehrenreich, freelance writer whose dispatches from New Orleans are in the LA Weekly, on what is left of the streets of New Orleans, following evacuees to Houston, Texas.

2. The Axis of People: Why They don’t hate Us?

Yesterday marked the 4th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – and the beginning of President Bush’s military response first in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. Short on theory and long on slogans, for Bush it boiled down to “They hate us.” They hate our freedoms. In the last four years a plethora of books have been written about the clash of civilizations, the clash of fundamentalisms and the clash of barbarisms. Tonight a public forum sponsored by the “Axis of People” features Mark LeVine’s new book, “Why They don’t hate Us,” with Mark Levine, Jodie Evans, myself moderating, and, Salam al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Affairs Council.

Mark LeVine is a scholar, musician and activist with well over a decade of experience living and working in the Middle East, from Morocco to Iraq. As an guitarist and 'oudist he has worked with Mick Jagger, Ozomatli, world music artist Hassan Hakmoun and blues and jazz greats Dr. John and Johnny Copeland. As an activist he has worked with various groups within the global peace and justice movements. As a journalist he has written widely in the US and European press, including Le Monde, the Christian Science Monitor, Middle East Report, and Asia Times. As a scholar he has held positions at the International Center for Advanced Studies at New York University, the Society for Humanities at Cornell University, and the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. LeVine is presently Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, Culture and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Irvine. His other books include Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation (co-editor, Perceval Press, 2003), Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (University of California Press, 2004) and Religion, Social Practice, and Contested Hegemonies: Reconstructing Muslim Public Spheres, (co-editor, Palgrave Press, 2005).

Salam Al-Marayati was born in Baghdad and came to the U.S. as a young child. He is the director and one of the founders of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a public service agency aimed at disseminating accurate information about Islam to the American public. He also served as a Board member of the American committee to Save Bosnia,. And is a commissioner of the Human Relations Commission in Los Angeles, a commission formed to improve access to city government, reduce discrimination, and promote respect, tolerance and justice. He has written extensively on Islam, human rights, democracy, Middle East politics, the Balkan Crisis, and the Transcaucus conflict. His articles and interviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The LA Daily News, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today.