Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina, and other political storms


My hasn’t it been an interesting fortnight?

So…. Hurricane Katrina…?


I was glued to my telly the past fortnight, especially when the levees broke and the media coverage became as saturated as the Gulf Coast.

It’s genuinely hard to believe that this could happen to a Western city, especially in the mighty US of A. Although whoever the genius was who decided that a swamp, mostly below water, was a smart place for a town is probably being given some hard stares at the moment in Heaven.

Of course the biggest story is the human tragedy. Even more than in the regularly hurricaned state of Florida, those affected most have been poor, marginalised and black. It reads a lot like the reports of storm damage from Haiti and Cuba that we usually get as a precursor to hurricanes making landfall in the States.

Only this time it was America that was turned into a third world country. Or, at least, appeared to.

And I have to apportion blame at some stage.

It seems that local and state authorities were completely overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, especially when those levees broke and flooded 80% of the city.

But you’d sort of expect that from Louisiana, wouldn’t you? I mean it’s hardly going to be the most efficient or competent state…

No, federal help should have been waiting in the wings to jump in and take over.

But they weren’t.

And the fault for that can be attributed to the White House.

I know that there are reams of officials and departments between the trouble in the Big Easy and the Oval Office, but the buck stops with Bush. And that’s why he and his aides shouldn’t be fobbing the blame off on everyone else.

It was his government that cut funding from the levees, despite being told that they would be unable to contain a force 4 or 5 hurricane.

It was his government that weighted the Dept of Homeland Security to focus on terrorism almost exclusively, despite being told that a hurricane hitting New Orleans and a California earthquake were of equal threat.

It was he who didn’t send federal troops in immediately, or as soon as possible.

And it was Bush who spent 5 weeks on holiday, as his ratings and grip on reality slipped away slowly under the hot Texan sun.

Any President who goes to San Diego on a party fundraiser the day after one of his nation’s largest cities is hit by a category 4 hurricane is either incompetent, uncaring, or so far removed from public opinion that he doesn’t know what to do.

Or in Bush’s case, all of these things and more.

His press conference on the Wednesday after the disaster was a masterpiece in how not to address a worried country. He mentioned gas, and gas only. It was all about how the supplies of petrol would be re-established asap.
Not much about the suffering and trauma in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Of course, he’s safe. No re-election worries for him.
Just a legacy. A legacy that is rapidly disintegrating.
Ah well, 3 ¼ years to go. Still time for an impeachement.

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