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It’s Not the Hurricane I’m Politicizing

September 3, 2005

Mark – rather than responding to your comment with another comment, I decided it would be best to dedicate a whole post to it.  So here goes:

You are correct that it is stupid to politicize a
hurricane. It is, I agree, a clear act
of God. Similarly, it is foolish to lay
the blame for a deficiency in preventative measures at the feet of the Bush
administration, the Republican legislature, or even the Louisiana or New Orleans
governments. The geographical
vulnerabilities of New Orleans
have been apparent for decades, and, in all that time, countless
administrations and public officials have dropped the ball.

I am not attempting to politicize the hurricane, or to lay
blame for the breeched levees upon the shoulders of President Bush.

My point of contention is not with the hurricane itself, or
with the lack of preventative measures, but rather with the shoddy, incompetent
nature of the response.

I have two main criticisms for which I believe the public
officials in command should certainly be held accountable for.

The first is preparedness. In the four years since 9/11 we have pumped billions of dollars into
Homeland Security, and have supposedly been preparing for responses to
large-scale terrorist attacks – dirty bombs, chemical/biological attacks, and
so forth. Such attacks would necessitate
the same response as this hurricane has – evacuation and the provision of
necessities – food, water, shelter, and medical care.

In the last week, I have seen no indications of this
preparation. It makes me question the
government’s ability to protect its citizens or, in the wake of tragedy, to
bring aid and comfort and to maintain order. It makes me wonder what we have been doing these past four years. It makes me wonder if all of Homeland
Security is as useless as the TSA. It
makes me wonder what Osama bin Laden is thinking as he watches this unfold.

No, scratch that. I
know what he is thinking. He is thinking
that we are weak, and that we are unable to cope with a tragedy on this scale. He is thinking that we have no plans in
place, and that Bush has been paying lip service to protecting the country.

My second point of contention is the delay in the response.

I understand that New  Orleans is inundated, and that the floodwaters have
made a mess of relief efforts. But that
does not matter.

We knew on Saturday that Hurricane Katrina was back in the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening as it headed
northwest. By Sunday, it was a category
five, and appeared headed directly for New  Orleans.

Thankfully, it turned aside at the last moment. One can only imagine the devastation had it slammed
directly into the city.

But that is my point. We knew this storm was coming. We
knew it was going to hit somewhere in the Gulf Coast, and likely New Orleans. We were aware of the danger Saturday, and certain of it Sunday, and yet
President Bush made no acknowledgement of the tragedy until Wednesday.

Why was nothing done over the weekend? Why were supplies not already making their
way to distribution points? Why was the
National Guard not being called up? Why
did Bush not go on television and tell the country that he was aware of the approaching
storm, and was already mobilizing the relief effort? Where was the Army Corps of Engineers? Why was the National Guard – at least lead
elements of it – not on the scene on Tuesday, trying to figure out how to get
into the city? When it became apparent
that the city was flooding, and that tens of thousands were trapped in and
around the Superdome, why were no airdrops orchestrated? I understand, given the limited open space,
that an airdrop from fixed-wing aircraft would have been difficult, but surely
Chinook helicopters could have lowered food and water and doctors and enough
soldiers to help maintain order…

Again, I understand that the geographic peculiarities of New Orleans are making relief efforts difficult, but they are no excuse for foot dragging, ball dropping, and flat-out incompetence.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2005 4:59 pm

    You’ve got my support on this post. I agree with everything you said, and thank you for saying it.

  2. Jenny permalink
    September 4, 2005 8:39 pm

    Ditto.

  3. September 9, 2005 11:52 pm

    Well said, Matt.

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