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Monday, September 05, 2005

When Government Fails.
Thousands of people are likely dead. Thousands more lost everything they own. The city of New Orleans lies beneath water.

The fury of Katrina inflicted horrendous damage, but the sad reality is that the bureaucracy of Bush increased the harm. Republican incompetence, which began with unsound tax cuts and continued with Iraq, reached a new level during the aftermath of Katrina. The federal government’s response was borderline criminal, Bush’s budget priorities increased the death toll, Iraq weakened the response and Republican environmental policies may have contributed to the strength of Katrina. Bill Maher called this Bush’s Waterloo. Indeed this may be the breaking point of a dismal Presidency.


Katrina came as no surprise. In the long term, we knew a large hurricane was coming, and in the short term we knew that Katrina was on her way. Hurricanes are a multi-state event that are more efficiently planned at the federal level. Although the state bears some responsibility, the federal government has the final say in disasters. At this point, even President Bush has admitted that the initial federal response to Hurricane Katrina was unacceptable.

In response to 9/11, the Bush administration folded FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, into the Department of Homeland security. Bush promptly then went on to appoint 2 of his cronies to head the organization, both of whom were men with no experience in disaster management. The New Orleans Times-Picayune demanded Bush fire FEMA chief Michael Brown for his incompetence handling Katrina.

The GOP’s propaganda spin that the state and local governments didn’t ask for the federal government’s help in time has proven false. This letter proves that the state did, in fact, ask for help last Sunday. Federal assistance began coming in earnest starting on Friday. The Washington Post reports that “[o]ne reason for the slow White House response, said a Republican who has been in contact with several officials, is that so many high-level officials and aides were on vacation.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune points out that by Monday it was clear that New Orleans needed 2 things and only 2 things: buses and gas. Yet the Federal government took until Friday to do nothing. Not caring about the social welfare, of course, isn’t just an accident when it comes to Republicans – that’s in their platform. A big part of this is racism. Bush and his cronies don’t seem to understand why poor people can’t just pick up and leave anytime a hurricane arrives. While the rich can vacation wherever they choose, normal folks often need to work the next day just to have enough to eat. Picking up and leaving isn’t an option and the federal government needs to help alleviate these burdens in a major disaster.

Typically, governors control the National Guard. But the President has the power to “federalize” the National Guard in an instant and divert the collective guardsmen of the states to where they are needed most. Bush 41 did this during the Rodney King riots. In light of this ability, Newsweek reveals massive imcompetence:

“For days, Bush's top advisers argued over legal niceties about who was in charge, according to three White House officials who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. Beginning early in the week, Justice Department lawyers presented arguments for federalizing the Guard, but Defense Department lawyers fretted about untrained 19-year-olds trying to enforce local laws, according to a senior law-enforcement official who requested anonymity citing the delicate nature of the discussions.”

After 9/11, this kind of disaster preparation should already have been taken care of. How could the billions that we have spent on homeland security not included scenarios for evacuating and maintaining law and order in disaster areas? Apparently, it did not. This is malpractice of the first degree and for this reason alone, Bush deserves impeachment. Perhaps I sound too serious here, but we are dealing with a President who ran mostly based on his reputation following 9/11. A basic, fundamental task of the 9/11 aftermath was to invent and implement emergency plans for every major region of the country. The idea that no one though of the legal implications behind federalizing the guard – and making a decision as to what to do – until after the disaster struck, lies beyond incompetence. The buck stops with Bush and his administration failed miserably.

Unfortunately, Bush’s visit to the region only exacerbated the problems. Three tons of food ready for hurricane survivors sat on a bridge for hours as air traffic was cancelled due to Bush’s visit. The fact that Bush would harm survivors in order to stage a publicity stunt is appalling. And apparently is was indeed a publicity stunt – since the background George Bush stood in front of was dismantled after the “show.


One of the essential functions of government is to pool our resources collectively to ensure our safety. Government has a moral duty to prevent the death of its citizens, within reason. Considering that New Orleans lies below sea level and hurricanes occur regularly, the maintenance of quality levees is a top governmental priority.
Bush also bears blame for the New Orleans disaster due to his misplaced budget priorites. While we have spent over $200 billion in Iraq as part of a near manical campaign to avenge 9-11 in any way against any one available, Bush failed to come up with the $27 million needed for the Army Corps of Engineers to protect New Orleans against hurricanes. Bush put $3.9 million in his budget; Congress’ final budget gave $5.7 million to the project. The Chicago Tribune makes a key analytical connection:

“Because of the shortfalls, which were caused in part by the rising costs of the war in Iraq, the corps delayed seven contracts that included enlarging the levees, according to corps documents.

Much of the devastation in New Orleans was caused by breaches in the levees, which sent water from Lake Pontchartrain pouring into the city. Since much of the city is below sea level, the levee walls acted like the walls of a bowl that filled until as much as 80 percent of the city was under water.”

In response, Former Congressman Mike Parker adds "I'm not saying that this would not have occurred in New Orleans in this situation," Parker told The Associated Press. "I am saying that there would have been less flooding if all the projects had been funded."

One can only come to the conclusion that but for the Republicans’ under-funding of the levees, many people would be alive today. The costs of Iraq directly impact every project under federal consideration. It may be true that far more so-called “pork” projects exist than there is money to pay for them. But preventing a foreseeable flood of a large American city should be an utmost concern of homeland security, not relegated to consideration as a “pork” issue. Certainly if New Orleans were as white as Dallas, the Republicans would have treated the levees with more urgency.

The corporate media bears blame for spreading Republican propaganda on this issue. George W. Bush went on “Good Morning America” and said “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.The New York Times reprinted this statement without a challenge. Of course as I address above, that isn’t the truth. To rephrase, Bush lied, the media reported it, and didn’t dare question him on it. When someone like Kayne West tries to call attention to how racism killed people in New Orleans, the corporate media acts as Bush’s cronies and switches the camera to someone who sticks to the script.


The New York Times’ lead editorial on September 2 argued that the decreased number of National Guardsmen available for homeland security due to Iraq led to problems during Katrina’s wake. Active duty troops have been deployed to New Orleans due to the lack of National Guardsmen in America. Deploying the army within America’s borders is highly unusual and puts them in situations that they are not trained for. Homeland security is the province of the National Guard; they are the ones fully training in disaster management.

In any war, the number of military forces available for emergencies is necessarily diminished. That’s the reason why war needs to be used only as a last resort. According to George Bush himself, we went to war with Iraq as a last resort because they wouldn’t get rid of weapons of mass destruction:

We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.

The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators, whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth.

Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations -- and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.

(Btw, this should be exhibit A in Bush’s Impeachment case)

Bush’s lies in Iraq have now come home to kill as we deal with weakened homeland security. How many Americans died in New Orleans because of Bush’s folly in Iraq? Hundreds? Thousands?


During an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher on September 2, 2005, Prof. Steven Schneider, a Biological Science at Stanford and owner of Climatechange.net confirmed that global warming likely contributed to the increased power behind Katrina:

"Global warming has been proven to increase the power of hurricanes. Hurricanes don’t occur in the winter or spring, they do happen in the summer and do happen in fall. Why? Everybody knows why -- warm water is the power behind it. So there’s a very complicated set of factors that determines how hurricanes work and how many in a season and all that, but if all those factors were constant and you just increased the heat of the ocean, you’d have to increase the intensity of storms.
. . .

We’ve increased the planet’s temperature by 1 degree. Most scientists believe that at least half of that is due to human product."

Considering that global warming exists, hurricane strength and frequency increases with warmer water and that the Republicans have fought environmental initiatives at every turn, it’s hard not to argue that the Republican Party bears blame for some of the destruction of Katrina. Of course, by that logic, so does the Democratic Party. Let’s not forget that the Senate voted 95-0 against the Kyoto Treaty. The environment remains one of those issues where the Democrats are good only when considered relative to the Republicans. Despite Kyoto, the Democratic Party’s record on the environment outdistances the Republicans in every quantifiable way.

As long as corporations work solely for a profit motive without considering the costs to society from their actions, disasters like Katrina will increase.


Republican incompetence and the wrath of nature teamed up to create one of the worst disasters of our time. Perhaps the following quote from the New York Times best exemplifies the exasperation of people right now:

“The administration's problems in the crisis seemed to crystallize in a dramatic appearance on the NBC program "Meet the Press" by Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. Sobbing, he told of an emergency management official receiving phone calls from his mother, who, trapped in a nursing home, pleaded day after day for rescue. Assured by federal officials, the man promised her repeatedly that help was on the way.

"Every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' " Mr. Broussard said. "And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you.' Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."

Mr. Broussard angrily denounced the country's leadership. "We have been abandoned by our own country," he said. "It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."’

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