I've watched for a week now the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans and the US Gulf Coast. I have read a myriad of blogs, news articles and opinions. One of the more troubling themes emerging in the last few days of last week and over the weekend has been a "Now is not the time for recriminations" or "There will be plenty of time for blame later" or "Lets concentrate on rescuing and helping the victims, using Katrina for political cheap shots is improper" meme.
I would have agreed with this sentiment last Monday. After all, despite the seeming hyperbole coming out, only 55 people had been killed by the storm outright. It seemed at the time to be no worse than either of the other Category 5 hurricanes to make land-fall this summer so far. And nearly 80% of New Orleans had evacuated.
I might even have agreed Tuesday, when the levee broke, flooding the city. There would be plenty of time to question the wisdom of the Bush Administration's decision to cut 80% of the Army Corp of Engineer's budget for maintaining and upgrading these levees
. I mean, it has been known for years that they couldn't withstand the force of a category 4 or 5 hurricane
. Apparently, even "Mr. Bill" of Saturday Night Live fame, knew
. But again, helping the victims was the immediate priority.
By Wednesday, however, I simply could not agree. By then it was abundantly clear that Katrina was a huge natural disaster and that far more than the initial 55 were now dead. Reports of widespread looting, people stranded on roof tops, and the squalid conditions in the Superdome were coming out every hour. And yet, no National Guard or military presence in the city, since most of the Louisiana Guard were deployed in Iraq. Bush was still on vacation. The New Orleans police were being overwhelmed. Prominent journalists, such as CNN's Anderson Cooper,
that were on scene were openly wondering, live on air, "Where is the help?"
Ironically, the same Canadian government that was rightly and soundly criticized for being late with assistance during the Asian Tsunami, made an offer of assistance on Wednesday
. Our DART team was ready and Lt Gen. Hillier was preparing one of our naval vessels for assistance as well. For once it seems we were ready when needed. The US administration refused our help. The State of Louisiana requested British Columbia's Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (USAR
) and on Wednesday the left for Lafayette, LA. but were blocked by the US Department of Homeland Security. When they arrived, they could not operate because of the anarchy and lawlessness in the area. As the day closed, more people were dying in the areas of Louisiana and Mississippi left in Katrinas wake.
Where was the help?
By Thursday morning it was becoming abundantly clear something was going terribly wrong with the operations. Some of the few National Guard personnel where were on duty at the Superdome were openly commenting on the chaos and the seeming lack of planning
for Katrina. George Bush remained on vacation, despite the growing concern
from all quarters
that nothing was being done.
Again, where was the help?
By Friday, the situation had degenerated into almost circus-like proportions. Even Fox News, usually Bush cheerleaders
, could no longer stomach what was happening
. Reports that the Red Cross was not being allowed into the city
for fear people wouldn't leave, were coming out at the same time that check-points around the city were turning people back when they tried to evacuate themselves. Around this time we find out that Bush's flight into the area (and the end of his vacation) grounded all of the SAR helicopters of the Coast Guard ("security concerns") and that he engaged in engineered
photo ops, removing needed supplies and people from the rescue effort and the the attempts to repair the levee.
At last, the National Guard and other troops finally arrived evacuation about 42 000 people. Of course, there remained at least another 42 000 to be rescued
Over the weekend, more were rescued and the repairs seemed to get on track. Ray Nagin appeared on CNN indicating that the death toll could be as high as 10 000, perhaps more. Two New Orleans police officers committed suicide because of the stress. Scores of others are turned in their badges. Some victims were more victims than others, jumping the queue
for rescue and evacuation. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard nearly had a nervous breakdown on Meet the Press
because of the lack of repsonse and continuing difficultly he and others are facing.
And the attacks and counter-spin have already begun: it was the locals fault, it was the fault of those who did not leave, Aaron Broussard didn't do enough, Louisiana didn't declare and emergency (it did
, on August 26 and asked for federal help August 27, days before Katrina hit - FEMA agreed
). All of which are absurd or false.
Sorry, but after all that, with the Bush administration and Bush himself trying to make political hay with staged photo-ops, this is nothing but
People died and continue to die because of the actions (or lack thereof) of Bush and his administration.
Worse, this has shown that this administration has not done the job of protecting America that they claim. The rescue and emergency effort for Katrina was abysmal, with over 3 days notice of the impending disater, with pre-existing orders of a state of emergency and the acknowledgement of the federal department that is supposed to deal with these eventualities. How will the handle an unexpected disaster, like an earthquake, tsunami or large-scale terror attack? Al-Queda must be delighted - thanks to the actions and policies of the Bush administration.
So, no, I will not "shut the fuck up" about this, nor will I not "politicize" this tragedy. That has already been done. I will not sit by and be nice and polite simply so I don't hurt the feeling of the Bush fans an neo-cons in the crowd. Whether you like it or not, "The Emperor Has No Clothes!".
I feel I would do a great disservice to the thousands of people that died needlessly last week waiting for the rescue that never came, by remaining quiet and polite. They demand justice. We all should.
This is not a "Left vs Right" issue. There are a great many on the right, especially in the US, that are also levelling criticism. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is himself a life-long Republican. As Wes Clark
has said, this is an issue of leadership. Right now there is none.
And finding out that Haliburton is getting the contract for the cleanup
only makes this situation worse.
Tell me again why I
shouldn't politicize this, but Bush and his administration can?Update:
After a few exchanges with Andrew at BBG
, I think I need to make myself a bit more clear here:
I don't think that George W. Bush and his administration can take ALL the blame for what happened in the Gulf States, despite the fact that this post admittedly seems to suggest that. There are certainly state and local officials that will need to answer for their actions or inactions. I think everyone that needs "blame" in this should get it, no matter who they are.
I don't think that Bush "caused the disaster" either. That honour belongs to one Mother Nature, in all her awe and fury. That being said, the old saying says that "luck favours the prepared." In this case the lack of preparedness can certainly be traced back to the federal government and the Bush administration.
At the top of that list is FEMA, whose job it was to deal with just this kind of disaster. They failed in a spectacular fashion. The reason they failed may have something to do with bureaucracy, turf wars - federal\state and FEMA\DHS, funding and organizational changes or all of it combined. The head of FEMA was appointed by Bush and reports directly to him. The federal department tasked with keeping America safe and responding in a timely fashion to disasters of all kinds failed. And the reason they failed can be traced to who Bush appointed to head the department, how FEMA was broken apart when DHS was created, budget cuts and funding priorities that are closer to Baghdad than Biloxi.
Bush's lack of action during this past week was the difference between yet another hurricane with a lot of destruction and a relatively few (55) casualties and the major tragedy, with thousands dead, that it became. I'm am less concerned with what Bush did before August 29 than what he did after - which was nothing for 4 days. That inaction needlessly cost lives and Bush and his administration should be held accountable.
I would have been happy to "concetrate on helping the victims" if Bush and FEMA had been willing to do the same.
Instead we got belated, staged photo-ops.
I don't want Bush to get ALL the blame, I just want to ensure his role and the role that his administration and policies played in this disaster doesn't get white-washed away or spun down so that only FEMA or local officials become the patsies. I want Bush to finally take some responsibility for his actions.