Friday, September 09, 2005

After Katrina hit New Orleans, hundreds if not thousands of trained disaster first responders showed up, ready and waiting to deploy their much needed services in the devastated city. A week and a half later, they were still waiting, as FEMA head and horse-show washout Michael Brown explained:

Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency ... said Wednesday that scores of police and volunteer firefighters from around the nation, as well as trucks loaded with donated water, were even now being prevented from entering New Orleans while troops conduct house-to-house searches.

"They can't just yet," Brown said during a briefing in Baton Rouge. "There is going to come this natural time when we will release this floodgate of cops and firefighters who want to help. It's the same for anyone who wants to volunteer ---- we have over 50,000 offers of donations from the private sector. It has to be coordinated in such a way that it helps."

With troops already swarming the streets, and "forced evacuations" already underway at that point, one wonders what the proper moment will be. Not, it seems, until there is no one left in the city who needs their services. There is literally nothing left to wait for.

The hurricane hit a week ago last Monday. Lack of fresh water will kill a healthy person in three days.

It took longer than that to even get the troops in. Last Saturday, five days after the storm hit, General Steven Blum of the National Guard was telling the press why they'd only gotten troops in within the preceding 36 hours:

Some people asked why didn't we go in sooner. Had we gone in with less force it may have been challenged, innocents may have been caught in a fight between the Guard military police and those who did not want to be processed or apprehended, and we would put innocents' lives at risk. As soon as we could mass the appropriate force, which we flew in from all over the states at the rate of 1,400 a day, they were immediately moved off the tail gates of C-130 aircraft flown by the Air National Guard, moved right to the scene, briefed, rehearsed, and then they went in and took this convention center down.

They had to be briefed and rehearsed, you see. Because order was more important than the lives of the people who had been dying in the streets. It's the attitude toward the welfare of its citizens that I've come to expect from the government --- of Communist China. Here, it's a novelty.

By the way, if you'd like to see more of this briefing with appropriate illustrations, Rivka's provided them here.

Airlifts could, and should, have been ready to go days earlier. Navy chopper pilots who started doing rooftop rescues on their own were ordered to desist and reprimanded.

The troops started going in four days after the storm hit. Lack of fresh water will kill a healthy person in three days.

What's more astounding than all of this is the attitude towards it on a lot of right-wing web sites, who are defending it the way they've been defending the administration of Iraq for years --- with absolute fealty and a blind eye to the most salient facts. One wonders if anyone they trust will stage an intervention --- but a lot of the people they trust think just like they do.

So, we have a government treating its citizens like dangerous refuse which it is more important to control than to succor, letting them die in large numbers while it "organizes" what ought to be no-brainer efforts, and then stuffing the survivors into armed, guarded camps.

What's the attitude, you might ask, of the New Orleans well-off to this treatment of their poorer fellow citizens? Good riddance, it appears:

"The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

We live in a society where fundamentalist Christians have increasing influence. I'm sure a lot of these people like that. In their way. It helps keep the rabble down.

Yes, I'm just blowing off steam here. If I didn't, I'd burst. For more on the story, some of it more reasonable, see the Nielsen Haydens; as Christians of a more traditional sort, their own reflections on what constitutes a proper Christian response to the tragedy might be of interest...


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