Friday, September 2, 2005

New Orleans and the politics of disaster

The tragedy in New Orleans and on the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast is a horror.  New Orleans seems to be at this point in a genuine state of violent anarchy.  People are dying of hunger and thirst and treatable medical conditions.  Thousands are assumed to be dead.

And the situation has continued to worsen.  And the problem has gone way beyond the looting that so shocks affluent middle-class TV viewers who imagine that they would never have to impulse to do such a thing.

I hope the new Guard and military forces can restore order quickly so that further losses of human life can be prevented.

Joe Conason in the column cited below says that we have "lost the great city of New Orleans."  Everyone hopes and prays that it can recover as speedily as possible.  But this is an astonishing level of devastation, both material and social.

This recent article gives a grim summary of the situation: National Guard arrives in force in New Orleans  USA Today/AP 09/02/05:

The National Guard arrived in force after law and order had all but broken down.

Over the past few days, police officers turned in their badges. Rescuers, law officers and medical-evacuation helicopters were shot at by storm victims. Fistfights and fires broke out at the hot and stinking Superdome as thousands of people waited in misery to board buses for the Houston Astrodome. Corpses lay out in the open in wheelchairs and in bedsheets. The looting continued.

The politics of disaster

We are already hearing a lot about this topic already.  The federal government fumbled badly in responding to the disaster, and so far as I can see, so did the state governments.

We're fast approaching the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Bush's GWOT (global war on terror) has been going on longer than the period of time between the Pearl Harbor attack and V-J Day.

In the immediate afermath, one of the key concerns for me and for a lot of other people was making sure disaster-preparedness was up to an optimum level.  Building up levees doesn't have the urgent drama of a war.  Nor does it evoke the kind of sacred aura that so many people, especially the Christian Right, put around the military and wars.

But shoring up the vulnerabilities that might expose large cities to catastrophic results was and is a vital part of preparing adequate defenses against terrorist incidents.  So is emergency response.

Does the loss of New Orleans look adequate to you?

Joe Conason recently looked at the Republican Party line that anyone who criticizes anything about Dear Leader Bush's performance in this situation is unAmerican: Remain silent! Salon 09/01/05.

I've learned during the Bush years that when Dear Leader and his minions call for putting politics aside, they mean for Democrats to put our politics aside.  But it also reliably means two things: (1) Dear Leader's supporters know that he is vulnerable to attack on the particular issue; and (2) Reps will use the issue for partisan purposes in the future, usually the near future.  So why should Democrats or anyone be hold their criticisms until Bush is making a political issue of how brilliantly he supposedly handled this crisis.

Conason writes:

None of this is to say that the hurricane is "Bush's fault," which would obviously be unfair. But as with 9/11 and Iraq, the president and his administration deserve to be held accountable for poor judgment, damaging decisions and false statements.

Neither bullying bluster nor banal pieties can deter candid debate about federal emergency planning and funding, the underlying causes of harsher hurricanes over the past few decades, and the crippling domestic costs of an expensive, unnecessary foreign war. The right's capacity to intimidate has been much diminished by the proven lies and failures of this administration.

We are likely to face still more fearsome challenges, from natural disasters and human enemies, in the months and years to come. The governing style and habitual dishonesty of the Bush Republicans represent a severe danger to our future well-being. Nobody should be afraid to say so.

The incisive Hesiod writes (Begging the Question American Street blog 09/02/05):

Today, the President said that the “results” of the hurricane relief efforts thus far are “unacceptable.” ...

If the President actually believes that, your job is to ask him and Scott McLellan WHO the President is going to FIRE over this!?!

Other links:

Atrios has been following the callousness of the Bush administration in its approach to the disaster, including in this post:  Too Much Sympathy for the Victims 09/02/05.

Local leaders call relief efforts too little, late by Jed Horne New Orleans Times-Picayune 09/02/05

Guardsmen greeted with applause, anger by Allen Breed Biloxi Sun-Herald/AP 09/02/05

Schroeder: U.S. asks for international oil reserves Houston Chronicle/AP 09/02/05

And we've also been linking to stories on Katrina in the "Blue's News" sidebar on the right side of The Blue Voice.


eazyguy62 said...

Great comments as always.  As for who is going to get fired, they can forget that.  I suspect that the head of FEMA will get a promotion and a medal when its all over.

bmiller224 said...

Unfortunately, it would be in keeping with this administration's approach if literally that happened. - Bruce