Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Al Gore on Katrina

Here are some excerpts from the speech Al Gore gave on Katrina on 09/09.  The full text can be found at CommonDreams.org 09/12/05: On Katrina, Global Warming: Speech given by Al Gore.  Emphases in the following quotes are mine:

I was supposed to be [in New Orleans] today and tomorrow morning [for a scheduled speech]. And of course as we all watch this tragedy unfold, we had a lot of different thoughts and feelings. But then all those feelings were mixed in with puzzlement at why there was no immediate response, why there was not an adequate plan in place. We are now told that this is not a time to point fingers, even as some of those saying "don't point fingers" are themselves pointing fingers at the victims of the tragedy, who did not - many of whom could not - evacuate the city of New Orleans, because they didn't have automobiles, and they did not have adequate public transportation.

We're told this is not a time to hold our national government accountable because there are more important matters that confront us. This is not an either/or choice. They are linked together. As our nation belatedly finds effective ways to help those who have been so hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, it is important that we learn the right lessons of what has happened, lest we are spoon-fed the wrong lessons from what happened. If we do not absorb the right lessons, we are, in the historian's phrase, doomed to repeat the mistakes that have already been made. All of us know that our nation - all of us, the United States of America - failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast when this hurricane was approaching them, and when it struck. When the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane strikes, it is time not only to respond directly to the victims of the catastrophe but to hold the processes of our nation accountable, and the leaders of our nation accountable, for the failures that have taken place. ...

Four years ago in August of 2001, President Bush received a dire warning: "Al Qaeda determined to attack inside the US." No meetings were called, no alarms were sounded, no one was brought together to say, "What else do we know about this imminent threat? What can we do to prepare our nation for what we have been warned is about to take place?" If there had beenpreparations, they would have found a lot of information collected by the FBI, and CIA and NSA - including the names of most of the terrorists who flew those planes into the WTC and the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. The warnings of FBI field offices that there were suspicious characters getting flight training without expressing any curiosity about the part of the training that has to do with landing. They would have found directors of FBI field offices in a state of agitation about the fact that there was no plan in place and no effective response. Instead, it was vacation time, not a time for preparation. Or protecting the American people.

Four years later, there were dire warnings, three days before Hurricane Katrina hit NOLA, that if it followed the path it was then on, the levees would break, and the city of New Orleans would drown, and thousands of people would be at risk. It was once again vacation time. And the preparations were not made, the plans were not laid, the response then was not forthcoming.

In the early days of the unfolding catastrophe, the President compared our ongoing efforts in Iraq to World War II and victory over Japan. Let me cite one difference between those two historical events: When imperial Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt did not invade Indonesia. [applause] [Take that, Victor Davis Hanson! - Bruce]

I personally believe that the very fact that there has been no accountability for the horrendous misjudgments and outright falsehoods that laid the basis for this horrible tragedy that we have ongoing in Iraq, the fact that there was no accountability for those mistakes, misjudgments and dissembling, is one of the principal reasons why there was no fear of being held accountable for a cavalier, lackluster, mistaken, inadequate response to the onrushing tragedy that was clearly visible - for those who were watching television, for those who were reading the news - what happened was not only knowable, it was known in advance, in great and painstaking detail. They did tabletop planning exercises, they identified exactly what the scientific evidence showed would take place.  ...

Carl [Pope] said he was embarrassed. The word is a tricky word. What did you feel after the invasion of Iraq when you saw American soldiers holding dog leashes attached to helpless prisoners, 99% of whom, by the way, were innocent of any connectionto violence against our troops, much less terrorism - innocent prisoners who were being tortured in our name - what did you feel? I don't know the words. I don't know the words but I want you to draw a line connecting the feelings you had when you saw the visual images providing evidence that our soldiers, acting in our name, with our authority, were torturing helpless people and that it was a matter of policy - now, they pointed fingers at the privates and corporals that were in charge - but I want you to draw a line between the emotions that you felt when you absorbed that news, and the emotions that you felt over the last ten days when you saw those corpses in the water, when you saw people without food, water, medicine - our fellow citizens left helpless. And of course in both cases the story is complex and many factors are involved, but I want you draw a line connecting the feelings that you had then and now. And I want you to draw another line, connecting those responsible for both of those unbelievable tragedies that embarrassed our nation in the eyes of the world.

We must disenthrall ourselves with the sound-and-light show that has diverted the attentions of our great democracy from the important issues and challenges of our day. We must disenthrall ourselves from the Michael Jackson trial and the Aruba search and the latest sequential obsession with celebrity trials or whatever relative triviality dominates the conversation of democracy instead of making room for us as free American citizens to talk with one another about our true situation, and then save our country. We must resist those wrong lessons. ...

... The fact that an administration can't manage its own way out of a horse show doesn't mean that all government programs should be abolished. FEMA worked extremely well during the previous administration.

... The refugees that we have seen - I don't like that word when applied to American citizens in our own country, but the refugees that we have seen could well be the first sip of that bitter cup because sea-level rise in countries around the world will mobilize millions of environmental refugees. ...

No wonder he was elected President in 2000!


ereading7 said...

He sure gives darn good speeches.  I am glad he stayed active in the political realm.

blueneighbor said...

Some speech.  I like Gore more now than ever.

Gore was no charmer.  In fact, he was barely better than Kerry in that regard.  In many ways, I think he is better now that he knows he will never ever be a candidate again.

Would have made a fine Chief Justice.

bmiller224 said...

I think you're right that Gore is more impressive now than when he was a presidential candidate.

But it's also true, as the Daily Howler keeps reminding us even now, that the mainstream press corps was ridiculously hostile to Gore and regularly manufactured fake "facts", e.g., Gore claimed he invented the Internet, and pimped them throughout the campaign. - Bruce