My readers know I am a critic of the Bush Administration. (I must say that my opposition to Bush began with the United States Supreme Court decision that put him into office.)
However, I am not one to connect all bad news to Bush. He does a good enough job of that, himself. He has done it again with the Arizona fires.
How? Bush visited the area Tuesday, but did not set foot on the White Mountain Apache territory where sixty percent of the fires burn. Little emergency aid has been sent to White River, the seat of the tribal government.
In addition to this, while the Apaches lose their forests, the homes, their timber industry, their tourism, their entire economy, Bush astoundingly blamed environmental groups for contributing to the fires.
Bush could have been a hero and done something to help these people. Instead, he has used the event to make a nasty political slur. Sierra Club Director Carl Pope noted that this was "a disturbing display of cynical politics."
Bush's Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told CNN that efforts to manage forests by selective burning have been stopped by environmentalists in courts.
Veneman should have checked her facts. According to one local Apache man, "We were burning out underbrush last year until residents of Phoenix complained that the smoke was drifting into the city."
Thus, it was well-off Phoenix residents (who continue to water their lawns during the drought), not environmental groups, who stopped the controlled burning.
Furthermore, Sierra Club Director Carl Pope stated that these fires are the result of "nearly a century of fire suppression that removed the natural role fire plays in healthy forests, and extreme multi-year drought and decades of commercial logging that removed large, fire-resistant trees."
Arizona is not the only state in danger. Colorado and California are burning, too. Extreme fire conditions exist in Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, as well. There were fires last year in the Everglades in Florida. New York is also suffering from a drought.
A CNN video news report stated that the FBI is investigating the Arizona fires. While the Chediski area fire is known to have been started by a white woman who, lost in the wilderness, lighted an illegal fire to attract attention, and the Colorado fire is known to have been started by a white government employee, local Native Americans have been the brunt of racial slurs and threats by local whites, apparently on the basis of a rumor that a Cibecue teenager started the Red Dust Rodeo Grounds fire.
However, these fires mean economic ruin to the Apache people. The Hon Dah Resort and Casino, which brings in more than $130 million a year, is now closed during its busiest season. The Sun Rise Ski Resort, which attracts tourists year round, is also endangered. Another source of income is hunting permits valued at approximately $15,000 each. About 30,000 people have been evacuated and over 400 homes destroyed.
Has anyone noticed how many disasters have occurred since Bush came to power?
If that is a coincidence, it is a mighty big one. Many Native Americans, who often prefer to be called First Peoples, feel that these disasters are signs. First Peoples believe that if you care for the Earth, it will care for you.
It is high time that America stop bombing overseas, stop drilling at home, and pay attention to the ground burning under our feet.