Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The 'Singularity' of This Latest Preventable Tragedy

For the sake of the republic, President Bush should resign

MR. LEHRER: New question. We've been talking about a lot of specific issues. It's often said that in the final analysis, about 90 percent of being the president of the United States is dealing with the unexpected, not with issues that came up in the campaign. Vice President Gore, can you point to a decision, an action you have taken that illustrates your ability to handle the unexpected, the crisis under fire, et cetera?

GOV. BUSH: Well, I've been standing up to big Hollywood, big trial lawyers -- what was the question? It was about emergencies, wasn't it? (Chuckles.)

I can remember the fires that swept Parker County, Texas. I remember the floods that swept our state. I remember going down to Del Rio, Texas. I've got to pay the administration a compliment -- James Lee Witt of FEMA has done a really good job of working with governors during times of crisis. But that's the time when you're tested not only -- it's a time to test your mettle, it's a time to test your heart when you see people whose lives have been turned upside down. It broke my heart to go to the flood scene in Del Rio where a fellow and his family just got completely uprooted. The only thing I knew to do was to get aid as quickly as possible, which we did with state and federal help, and to put my arms around the man and his family and cry with them. But that's what governors do. Governors are oftentimes found on the front line of catastrophic situations.

— First Presidential Debate, October 3, 2000 [ref]

**

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.

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. — Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, on NBC's Meet the Press, September 4, 2005 [ref] [video]

In technology circles, a singularity is basically the culmination of a period of time when the development of advanced technologies causes models of the future to become less and less reliable and eventually break at some crescendo, leaving developments after that time open only to wild speculation. Or put more simply, beyond a certain point, we just cannot foretell what the future holds.

When applied to politics, interestingly enough, the concept of the singularity works somewhat differently, as while there can be seminal events which trigger tectonic shifts in political attitudes, there are usually a much smaller set of potential scenarios for what is to follow after such a shift. The 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the 1963 church bombing and 9/11 spring to mind as such events that changed the nation forever, even though the choices for the nation following these events were either immediately obvious or delayed for a short period of consideration to allow a public consensus to form behind reasoned national responses. In short, catastrophic events that befall the nation often trigger major political changes, although the changes are not entirely unanticipated.

I propose that Hurricane Katrina, its aftermath, and the federal response widely agreed as strangely delayed will become known as the second political singularity of the twenty-first century. But the horrific disaster in New Orleans and along the American Gulf Coast is not where this story begins. Instead, we are witnessing a culminating event, a final straw, a breaking of the proverbial camel's back. While it might seem more direct or prudent to only discuss this latest tragedy, I cannot do justice to this address to the American people if I don't first turn back the pages of the history book a few years and explore what will come to be called by future historians a pattern of sheer incompetence, willful neglect, extreme partisanship and bullheaded decisionmaking, if not criminal behavior and sinister intentions (hereinafter referred to as the Bush governance pattern).

**

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, obviously a political singularity of extreme measure, triggered so many changes in the political landscape that to name them here would both wasteful of space and worse, insulting to the reader. However, it's important to point out how 9/11 demonstrates the first several major examples of the Bush governance pattern. First, we know from Bush administration insiders like Richard Clarke how the national security establishment in the administration concentrated on nuclear missile defense and finding a way to attack Iraq at the expense of containing global terrorism, despite an obvious escalating series of al-Qaeda attacks against American targets. Then, we also know of an unprecedented level of terrorist "chatter" in the Summer of 2001, capped by an internal briefing with a section titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US" on August 6 (while President Bush was on a long vacation, incidentally) that strongly suggested what was soon to occur. In short, we know we had an administration that was peculiarly uninterested in terrorism before 9/11. The actual main event, of course, generated a newfound interest that led to the oftentimes misapplied concept of a "war on terror", though in the immediate aftermath, overwhelming bipartisan support was provided to Bush administration anti-terrorism initiatives, including the USA Patriot Act and the invasion of Afghanistan.

Zoom ahead to the months and years following 9/11, where the Bush administration sought to deflect any hint of responsibility for failing to prevent this tragedy, while stymying investigations and reforms, and ultimately seeking political advantage from it. The Bush administration first opposed and then supported the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, but only after it appeared a bipartisan movement of support in the Congress was growing and couldn't be contained. They first opposed and then supported an independent 9/11 Commission, but only after some families of 9/11 victims loudly complained and achieved major mainstream media attention. They gave this commission one of the smallest independent commission funding levels in recent history—a mere $3 million. They blocked or attempted to block the release of information to the commission, and refused to give interviews without tight conditions attached. Bush and Vice President Cheney "cooperated" with the commission by 1) insisting on testifying jointly, 2) not taking an oath, and 3) diallowing the electronic recording or transcription of their testimony. Aside: Doesn't it continue to be stupefying that the leader of the free world couldn't testify by himself, while former President Clinton was able to do so?

Then, just a few months ago, on June 23, Bush's senior advisor Karl Rove stated at a New York City fund-raiser: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Abusing the 9/11 tragedy for political gain might have even worked if the American people could not easily recall the overwhelming bipartisan support of Bush's post-9/11 anti-terror initiatives. And has anyone actually run into one of these "liberals" yet? There are certainly many who want to understand why the terrorists attacked (beyond the specious "they hate our freedoms" nonsense), not to mention how their organizations are structured and funded, but who doesn't want the global terrorists dealt with in the harshest manner? Perhaps only figments of Rove's imagination.

The Bush administration's avoiding of responsibility and its politicizing, along with ongoing unanswered 9/11-related allegations and what is perceived to be inaccurate, politically expedient results from incomplete (read: not allowed to complete) investigations by the 9/11 Commission has led to what is known as the 9/11 Truth Movement. Say what you will about conspiracy theorists, but who amongst us has not run into a good number of people who are at least suspicious of the events surrounding 9/11, and who believe there are many questions still left unanswered?

A key thing we learn from the case of 9/11 is that we have an administration that is, at best, uninterested in learning about, or rather, letting the public learn about the full scope of what happened on that awful day in September—mistakes cannot be corrected if they are not uncovered. I posit that an administration uninterested in doing what needs to be done to avoid or appropriately correct major mistakes, especially with national security, if not our national survival at stake, is dangerous to the republic. Don't buy it? — Read on.

**

The 2003 invasion of Iraq provides the next glimpse into several more major examples of the Bush governance pattern. We know today that from the earliest moments of President Bush's first term, his administration was dead set on attacking Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein—we know this from former administration officials such as Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill. We also know that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, administration officials including Donald Rumsfeld wanted to immediately bomb targets in Iraq, despite no evidence surfacing that linked Saddam to that horrific disaster. Note: To those just joining us after five years of slumber, no link has ever been found between Saddam and 9/11. Yet to this day, Bush continues to link the war in Iraq with the War on Terror, even while standing amongst the ruins... of New Orleans—more on that later.

There's no way to sugarcoat this: The Bush administration built a case for war in Iraq on a pack of lies—the most egregious of these lies being 1) that Saddam continued to possess weapons of mass destruction (while hinting he would let them slip into terrorists' hands) and 2) that the U.S. had the authority under the UN Charter to judge Iraq's compliance to UN resolutions and to enforce them (tip: the U.S. and no other single nation has that authority). The administration proceeded to bamboozle the American people into supporting the war with nonstop drumbeating (including oratorical visions of "mushroom clouds", no less), shortchange requested troop numbers as well as the equipment provided to troops actually deployed, and then after it was inescapably clear that, after the invasion was complete, Iraq was found to possess no WMDs whatsoever, made every effort to misdirect responsibility for "bad intelligence" to the CIA.

Regarding the lie packing, both Joseph Wilson and the Downing Street memo, amongst other sources, have confirmed that the Bush administration built a false case for war on a web of carefully contructed lies (e.g., Iraq purchasing yellowcake from Niger) and intelligence fixed perfectly to fit the policy of attacking Iraq. We have also witnessed Bush seemingly offer a new reason for the war every few weeks, including the strange Bush-era concept that it is some kind of divine responsibility of the U.S. to overthrow regimes that don't pose an immediate threat in order to create liberal democracies. Both before, during and after the invasion, Bush has been delivering one new reason after another, the latest one being that we're protecting Iraqi oil from being captured by terrorists. [ref] This reason, of course, does not coincide with any of the reasons expressed before the invasion, and who honestly thinks Saddam would have let Iraq's oil reserves fall into terrorists' hands if he were still in power today? (Not that anyone likes the idea of Saddam still being in power... but this applies to many other despots today—are we to deplete the U.S. treasury to invade and "nation-build" their countries too?)

So today, we have nearly 2,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead (and countless maimed/injured), and if that is not bad enough, some U.S. military personnel have engaged in a shocking degree of torture and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. The U.S. treasury has been depleted by about $200 billion... so far. And Joseph Wilson's wife, a CIA agent under nonofficial cover, was outed by one or more high-level Bush administration officials because he exposed the yellowcake lie. And to top all this, the military is experiencing recruiting and retention difficulties, most likely due to overusing stop-loss programs and misusing National Guard personnel for purposes outside the range of duties I'm all but certain most of the enlistees thought they were signing up for. This is certainly not very good for national security, including dealing with natural disasters—more on that shortly (I promise I'm almost there).

In recent months and especially during Bush's August vacation in Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan, accept her motives or not, has successfully reignited the central question for which the American people have yet to receive a straight answer: Withholding the bullshit this time, what exactly was the U.S. government's rationale behind invading Iraq? (in Sheehan's terms, paraphrased, what exactly was the "noble cause" that Bush keeps referring to in his speechifying?). According to Bush's latest reason, apparently, it is to keep terrorists from getting control of Iraqi oil that they wouldn't have had the chance to control if the U.S. hadn't invaded in the first place. With Bush using this circular logic in place of a straight answer, the American people are still waiting.

Simultaneous to the Sheehan saga, with the Downing Street memo having come to light in May, there have been growing calls for an investigation not very much unlike the 9/11 Commission; a Congressional resolution of inquiry has over sixty co-sponsors so far. And like with the 9/11 Commission, the administration appears to be desperately preventing any similar investigation from occurring with regards to the Iraq war—proof of this is that Republican lawmakers have been overwhelmingly compliant so far. However, recently a breach in the levee (pardon my ill-timed dark comedy analogy) may have occurred recently with Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) becoming a co-sponsor on September 2, oddly enough, in the midst of the hurricane aftermath playing out last week.

A key thing we learn from the case of the Iraq war is that we have an administration that cannot admit (or worse, cannot see) that they have overreached with regards to deployment of our armed forces, engaging them in places where they ought not to be, due to still no rationale that has stuck, while the U.S. should have had more forces on standby for military action worth pursuing as well as for dealing with natural disasters here at home. Here again we have an administration making serious mistakes and not owning up to them. Therefore, I posit once more that an administration uninterested in doing what needs to be done to avoid or appropriately correct major mistakes, especially with national security, if not our national survival at stake, is dangerous to the republic. And even worse with regards to Iraq, there's a strong case that can be made that the administration engaged in, at best, a willful denial of facts to execute a pre-decided war-making policy. Still don't buy it? — Hang on to your seat, Betsy, because here's where I start bringing it all home.

**

Now, let's take a look at the week following the hurricane disaster.

"We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America's history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality. ... Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over. " — Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, September 4, 2005 [video]

Nothing could have prevented the monster storm itself. Hurricane Katrina was going to hit with tremendous Category 4 force and cause vast damage no matter what any politician could muster. With regards to New Orleans, many questions remain and will be explored about what could have prevented the levee breach, called by many the second disaster after the hurricane struck. As government always had and will have the responsibility to ensure that infrastructure is maintained adequately, these questions will be answered in due course, and responsibility may or may not be assigned for the lack of preventive maintenance on the levee system. If the Bush administration does have a lot to do with the levee breach, this will definitely fit the Bush governance pattern, and this will provide even more reasons to oppose them. But as amazing as it seems, as of now, there are much bigger fish to fry.

It's not the bureaucratic and budgetary FUBAR behind the levee breach that should concern us most now, but rather the general Bush administration response to the tragedy during the first week after the hurricane came onshore, no matter who is ultimately responsible for the levee becoming breached.

As this is such a fast-paced story in progress, putting various facts about this ongoing tragedy into a conversational format doesn't do them justice. So, following is a categorized but admittedly incomplete list of referenced facts with regards to Bush administration activity/inactivity surrounding this disaster. Before you start reading, let me warn you: Some of this may well curl your hair.

Lengthy delay of response

  • "On the Friday before Katrina hit, when it was already a Category 2 hurricane rapidly gathering force in the Gulf, a veteran FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] employee arrived at the newly activated Washington headquarters for the storm. Inside, there was surprisingly little action. 'It was like nobody's turning the key to start the engine,' the official recalled." [ref]
  • The Department of Homeland Security "did not ask the U.S. military to assist in pre-hurricane evacuation efforts, despite well-known estimates that a major hurricane would cause levees in New Orleans to fail. In an interview, the general charged with operations for the military's Northern Command said such a request to help with the evacuation 'did not come our way.'" [ref]
  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered to send his state's National Guard the day before the hurricane hit Louisiana. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco accepted his offer, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route did not come from Washington until late on the Thursday after the storm. All along, Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard from any state to the disaster area himself. [ref]
  • "Others who went out of their way to offer help were turned down, such as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who told reporters his city had offered emergency, medical and technical help as early as last Sunday to FEMA but was turned down. Only a single tank truck was requested, Daley said." [ref]
  • Immediate response to the disaster was made much more difficult than under ordinary circumstances, as from 30 to 40% of the National Guard from the affected states were deployed in Iraq. [ref] Also of note: Ostensibly due to the Iraq war, "Recruiting and retention problems are worsening the strain on Guard forces in hurricane-ravaged states. Alabama's Army National Guard has a strength of 11,000 troops -- or 78 percent of the authorized number." [ref]
  • The American Red Cross was never allowed into New Orleans because, according to DHS, their "presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." [ref] However, with no way out for thousands of survivors all the way through the Friday night after the hurricane (see reference to Fox News report below), badly needed food, medicine and other supplies were callously held at bay.
  • Reports have surfaced that various relief providers were prevented from bring food, water and supplies to the thousands of people seeking shelter at the SuperDome as well as survivors in other locations. [ref] [ref] Further, police and doctors were turned around by FEMA. [ref] This was all apparently by FEMA's design. [ref] [ref] Note: the second reference in this bullet also has Aaron Broussard mentioning that FEMA was cutting "all of our emergency communication lines" without notice!
  • A New Orleans resident commented that "On Thursday, the government used the excuse that there were some very scattered gunshots (two or three instances only) -- around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day -- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to scrounge for 5,000 National Guard troops fully armed, with 'shoot to kill' orders -- at a huge economic cost. They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday, using the several gunshots (and who knows who shot off those rounds?) to say 'It's too dangerous'. The volunteers didn't think the gunshots were dangerous to them and wanted to continue their rescue operations and had to be 'convinced' at gunpoint to 'cease and desist.'" [ref]
  • Also on Thursday, despite FEMA already operating in New Orleans for three days, the head of the city's emergency operations, Terry Ebbert, said there was still no "command and control." [ref] Ebbert also stated "This is not a FEMA operation. I haven't seen a single FEMA guy." [ref] Perhaps FEMA being systematically dismantled had something to do with that. [ref] [ref] Or that "[DHS Director] Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown had no disaster experience before they were appointed to their jobs." [ref] Also see [ref]
  • The U.S. Northern Command (federal troops), which was to be used for search and rescue, medical help and supplies (not law enforcement activity barred by the Posse Comitatus Act), was ready to deploy before the hurricane struck (Monday), but according to Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, was required to wait for Bush's authorization (according to the BBC). [video] FEMA Director Brown confirmed that federal "personnel, equipment, supplies, trucks, and search and rescue teams were positioned in the region ahead of the hurricane." [ref] Gov. Blanco confirmed on Friday morning that "they were finally starting to see the response from the federal authorities," [ref] the same day as the President's arrival on the ground, three full days after New Orleans became flooded from the levee breach.
  • On the same Friday:
    • "Martha A. Madden, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, said she believes a critical systemic breakdown occurred the moment the levee broke. She said contingency plans have been in place for decades but were either ignored or improperly executed. Madden, now a national security and environmental consultant, said the lack of immediate federal help, specifically in the form of military assistance, was 'incomprehensible.'" [ref]
    • "Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., (R-La.), said he spent the past 48 hours urging the Bush administration to send help. 'I started making calls and trying to impress upon the White House and others that something needed to be done,' he said. 'The state resources were being overwhelmed, and we needed direct federal assistance, command and control, and security -- all three of which are lacking.'" [ref]
    • Early in the day, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin said "This is a desperate SOS. Right now we are out of resources at the Convention Center and don't anticipate enough buses. Currently the Convention Center is unsanitary and unsafe and we are running out of supplies for 15,000 to 25,000 people." [ref] Late in the evening, the end of the day the federal forces had been fully deployed no less, apparently thousands of people were still stranded at the convention center (and its vicinity) to experience another night of misery and death (and prevented from leaving on foot to seek supplies in other locations), according to Fox News reporters Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith. [video] They were finally evacuated on Saturday. [ref]
  • One full week after the hurricane struck:
    • Air drops of food and water (apparently directed by FEMA) begin. [ref]
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers patched the ruptured levee along the 17th Street Canal. [ref] This came three days after the flurry of "photo-op repairs" followed by abandonment on Friday (see below).
  • People who know what they're talking about are accusing the administration of failing to act according to the National Response Plan. [ref]

Administration lies, coercion, productions and feigned ignorance

  • FEMA Director Michael Brown declared on March 9, 2005: "Our Nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters and other domestic incidents." [ref] And as the hurricane struck on Monday, Brown said FEMA had "planned for this kind of disaster for many years because we've always known about New Orleans' situation." [ref]
  • As the hurricane struck on Monday:
    • "FEMA had medical teams, rescue squads and groups prepared to supply food and water poised in a semicircle around the city, said agency Director Michael Brown. Brown, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, said the evacuation of the city and the general emergency response were working as planned in an exercise a year ago. 'I was impressed with the evacuation, once it was ordered it was very smooth,' he said." [ref]
    • "'It's a storm now that is moving through and now is the time for governments to help people get their feet on the ground,' Bush said. 'For those of you who are concerned about whether or not we are prepared to help — don't be. We are.' He added, 'We're in place, we've got equipment in place, supplies in place and once we're able to assess the damage we'll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas.'" [ref]
  • DHS Director Michael Chertoff said on NBC's Today program on the Thursday after the hurricane: "The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster. Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part." [ref] Ignorant or outright insensitive? Anyway, there were many poor people without their own transportation or without the funds to afford long-term accommodations away from home, so without massive evacuation help, these people were simply not going to be able to leave. There were also many tourists stuck at hotels.
  • On the Thursday after the hurricane, while New Orleans was "crumbling," Brown and Chertoff were offering assessments of various situations that could be characterized as rosy, ignorance-feigning or otherwise very much off-the-mark in comparison to "grittier, more desperate views" from officials and others actually on the ground in the city. [ref]
  • Even though Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency on August 26 [ref], at least two days before the storm hit (and during Bush's vacation, incidentally), the Washington Post reported on Sunday morning that a "senior Bush official" had complained that, as of Saturday, the governor (incidentally, a Democrat) had not yet made such a declaration [ref]. The Post has posted a correction. [ref] Also see proof that the Department of Defense received the declaration: [ref] (jump to question from CNN's Jamie McIntyre). Also of interest is that Bush declared Louisiana a federal disaster area two days before the hurricane struck. [ref] [ref] Thus, Louisiana was federalized all along.
  • In a nationally televised interview the Thursday evening after the hurricane, Brown said FEMA hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the convention center. "He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, 'We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.'" [ref] His boss, Chertoff, also appeared Thursday evening on NPR, dismissing "reports of thousands of refugees trapped at the convention center for days without sustenance. He called the reports, in so many words, 'rumors and anecdotes.' Informed that an NPR reporter had been on the scene, he sniffed, 'I can't argue with you about what your reporter tells you.' Later, his staff called back to say that he had 'received a report confirming the situation' and that he was now 'working tirelessly' to get food to the location." [ref] These words from Brown and Chertoff came before the Fox News reports from the Convention Center on late Friday evening.
  • Commentators have suggested that federal relief efforts were kept at bay until Bush himself set foot on the ground on Friday. CNN's Jack Cafferty: "Do you suppose, Wolf, that the arrival of the relief convoys and the political photo ops on the Gulf Coast happening at the same time were a coincidence today?" [video]
  • Bush stated on early Friday evening: "I'm pleased to report, thanks to the good work of the adjutant general from Louisiana and the troops that have been called in that the convention center is secure. One of the objectives that we had today was to move in and secure that convention center and make sure the good folks there got food and water. The caravans, the bus caravans, are continuing on, as is the airlift." [ref] These words came before the Fox News reports from the Convention Center that happened just a few short hours later.
  • Last Friday, New Orleans levee repairs were faked for a Bush photo-op. Sen. Mary Landrieu commented on Saturday: "But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment." [ref] Interesting then, that on early Friday evening, Bush stated: "and by the way, we just came from the 17th Street Levee. A lot of folks are working hard to repair that levee. They've been working around the clock, 24 hours a day. People from -- people from the federal government and the state government and the local government are working to breach that -- to fill that breach." [ref] The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ultimately patched the ruptured levee along the 17th Street Canal, but on the following Monday. [ref]
  • With regards to last Friday, a commenter to the War and Piece blog commented: "There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV. ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time. The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF." [ref] This appears to be backed up by:
    • the ZDF news site regarding a Bush stop in Biloxi (translated from German by a contributor to the Daily Kos blog): "In the parts of the disaster area where the US president visited, auxiliary troops [National Guard] cleared up properly beforehand - but only there. ZDF correspondent Claudia Rueggeberg quoted desperate inhabitants asking, 'Why is Bush bringing loud bodyguards and his assistants here in his cars, instead of provisions?' Along the President's route, troops had cleared debris before Bush arrived and would have hidden corpses. Then Bush left, 'and with it', said Rueggeberg, 'so did the troops'. In Biloxi, the situation remains unchanged - everything is still lacking." [ref]
    • a ZDF video, translated to this: "Two minutes ago the President drove by with his convoy. What happened here in Biloxi during the day is really unbelievable. All of a sudden the rescue troops finally showed up, the clean-up vehicles; we didn't see those over the last days here. In an area where it really isn't urgent, there is nobody around, all the remaining people went to the city center. The President is traveling with a press convoy, so they get wonderful pictures saying the president was here and the help will follow. The amount of this catastrophe shocked me, but the amount of set-up that happened here today is at least equally shocking for me." [video]
  • On the same Friday, even while standing amongst the Katrina devastation, Bush denied that the military (and by extension, the National Guard) was stretched too thin because of the Iraq War, and reasserted that "We've got a job to defend this country in the war on terror." [ref] Recall that Iraq under Saddam had no connection to the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda.
  • "Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday. The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. 'Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals,' said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly." [ref]
  • On the Saturday after the hurricane, Chertoff told reporters that government officials were surprised by the levee breach and flooding, even though he and Brown were briefed by the director of the National Hurricane Center on the danger of severe flooding before the storm hit. [ref] Also see [ref], which includes Brown contradicting Chertoff's assertion on Larry King Live the previous Wednesday, after the flooding: "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it."

Bush's insensitive and otherwise odd behavior

  • Despite the ongoing hurricane and flooding aftermath, Bush stuck to his original event schedule (note that in photos from the events, Bush appears to be having a splendid time):
    • (Mon) As the hurricane rages, he appears at a staged Medicare event in California. [ref] Bush then flies to Arizona for yet another staged Medicare event. [ref] Upon landing, he presents John McCain with a birthday cake [ref] [pic]. The next day's editorial in the Arizona Republic calls Bush out: "I'm guessing that Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, will not be remembered as the day President George W. Bush stopped by a retirement community in El Mirage to discuss prescription drug benefits for seniors."
    • (Tues) On the day floodwaters inundate New Orleans and the Gulf Coast reels from the catastrophe, Bush spoke at a VJ-Day ceremony in San Diego. Afterwards country singer Mark Wills presents him with a guitar. [ref] He then returns to Crawford for the night. In an editorial released the following day, the conservative Manchester Union Leader called out Bush for his "diffident detachment" and declared "A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease." [ref]
    • (Wed) Bush finally returns to Washington, but not without first flying over New Orleans on the way so Bush could gawk at the disaster. Back at the White House he makes his first official statement about the aftermath of Katrina. [ref]
    • (Thurs) Bush surrounds himself with his father, the first President Bush and former President Clinton and callously declares this day that there's a "lot of help coming," [ref] even though the full thrust of federal relief doesn't begin until the following day when he happens to arrive in the devastated areas in person.
  • Bush declared there would be "zero tolerance" for looters [ref]. OK, so it's "shoot to kill" [ref] for hurricane survivors searching for food, water and supplies, but for Iraqi looters after Saddam was toppled, it's "freedom's untidy." [ref]
  • Upon arriving in Alabama Friday, Bush remarked "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." [ref]
  • On the Friday after the hurricane, while touring the devastation, Bush "joked at the airport in New Orleans about the fun he had had in his younger days in Houston." [ref]
  • No federal government flags were flown at half-staff until Sunday, several days after it was known there would be hundreds or even thousands of deaths in New Orleans alone, but conveniently, the day after Chief Justice Rehnquist died. Bush drafted two separate proclamations about flags flying half-staff starting immediately for both the victims and Rehnquist, even though the period for the victims would last a week longer. [ref] [ref] No national day of mourning has been declared to this day.
  • Still to this day, despite wide calls to fire FEMA Director Brown or DHS Director Chertoff, no action has been taken. But Bush has almost never fired personnel widely believed to be major "screw-ups." Almost nothing to see here, but nevertheless, inaction here is still insensitive.

Now, once you've caught a breath or two, imagine yourself in the place of a hurricane survivor (if you haven't already), especially one stranded in New Orleans because you were too poor or too unlucky to comply with the "mandatory" evacuation order. Many, many people went for days without any help whatsoever. We will certainly find out many people died from dehydration, drowning and unavailable medical care, if not hunger. It's often said you can judge a nation on how well it treats most poor and needy. The people of the United States who have any degree of character or decency, no matter who they choose to blame, will thus realize our nation should be ashamed of its response to this disaster.

While playing a "blame game" might appear to be untimely in face of the work still left to be done for the survivors, the evidence is dramatic, to say the least, that especially the federal response to this disaster was slow and pathetic, if not willfully held back. No matter how it's cut, no excuse is acceptable here! Decide for yourself Is this calamity worthy of being labeled a "genocide by neglect"? Decide for all those people you saw on the television screens calling for help without their calls being answered... for days. Decide for the dying babies, senior citizens, and diabetics going without their insulin shots. Decide for all the victims, no matter their race or class.

Now that you've decided for the victims, now transpose them with the tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens killed by Bush's elective war in Iraq, noting that the press is getting access to the Gulf coast disaster areas in a way very much unlike the non-access they get in Iraq. Congratulations! You have just achieved a glimpse into the horrors being met by victims of an unnatural disaster in a faraway land at the same hands that could have prevented much of the deaths within the first week after the hurricane struck.

And here's another mental exercise for the gentle reader: After the way our fellow citizens have been left to starve, drown and die in New Orleans and other Gulf coast areas, do you honestly feel at all safe from potential terrorist incidents occurring while this administration is in place? Will Bush and his minions protect you when you need it most?

"Four years of anti-terrorism planning have failed to produce a competent system for mitigating a metropolitan cataclysm one that, on the ground, is indistinguishable from the effects of the terrorist attack we've supposedly been girding for since 9/11." [ref] What's more, Bush and his minions seemed to have a tin ear when it came to requests for immediate assistance in the case of Katrina, eerily similar to how requests for more troops were ignored in the case of the invasion of Iraq.

So, after all we know, how do we the people deal with this? Thankfully, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is going to investigate the federal response to Katrina starting as early as next week [ref], and perhaps they will discover all the aspects to this tragedy that we already know of and hopefully, a lot more. I encourage anyone who can help them in their investigations to do so. And I call on the American people to pressure their Senators to perform a solemn duty in finding out all the facts, no matter how much their efforts are obstructed by the Bush White House (like during the 9/11 Commission), and if the facts lead to a conclusion that Bush should be impeached, Congress should honestly pursue that. Of course, the American people will not be surprised that, based on past performance, Congress will most likely fail in this particular task, especially with taking steps to reign in or dismantle this imperial Presidency... perhaps the idea of impeachment has become quaint.

By the way, just yesterday, Bush announced that he will be effectively investigating himself. [ref] Great! Perhaps Bush will do a better job with this than he did with the Valerie Plame affair, where the criminals were lurking under his nose, and still are. But alas, the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will fill us in soon enough on this matter.

**

"Real conservatives believe that the state should do a few things that no one else can do - defense, decent public education, police, law and order among the most obvious - and leave the rest to individuals. Funding FEMA and having a superb civil defense are very much part of conservatism's real core. It's when government decides to reshape society, redistribute wealth, socially engineer, and take over functions that the private sector can do just as well that conservatives draw the line. The reason I'm mad as hell over Katrina is precisely because I'm a conservative and this kind of thing is exactly what government is for. Bush in this sense is not now and never has been a conservative. A man who explodes government spending but can't run a war or organize basic civil defense is simply a fiscally reckless incompetent. If this were a parliamentary system, we'd have a vote of no confidence. Instead we have three years of more peril." — Andrew Sullivan from his Daily Dish blog, September 2, 2005 [ref]

It's not only that we have an administration that makes a lot of critical mistakes, it's that we also have an administration that avoids and shifts responsibility for those mistakes, and therefore an administration that does not learn from their mistakes. With one disaster after another (one of them an elective war) with large American death tolls (not to mention Iraqi deaths), and the strong probability of natural disasters and terrorist incidents to come, how can we trust the Bush administration with national security matters any longer? This is NOT a partisan political issue. This is NOT "politicizing" a tragedy. This is engaging the POLITICS OF NATIONAL SURVIVAL—with many hands sadly forced by President Bush's strangely delayed reaction to the hurricane disaster. We have to ask this question: If we don't bring politics into this now, when will we?... a few weeks from now when we will certainly hear the buoyant and eerily recognizable cries of Bush minions and sycophants saying "It's time to move on!"? Sorry, no dice this time. The American people deserve a president today who is not only interested in protecting them, but also one who, when he inevitably makes mistakes, owns up to them, and quickly learns from them. A president who is disinterested, disengaged and disingenuous is dangerous!

For those who insist we adhere to electoral decisions and maintain a president and his adminstration so widely observed to be unfit for office, we have to ask: What's more important, a democratic decision from almost a year ago (a result questionable to some in its own right, and before we knew of the Downing Street memo and especially before the woefully inadequate response to this hurricane disaster), or the survival of the republic? An election won largely by portraying John Kerry as incapable of keeping the country safe now rings hollow. That we cannot use democracy in the form of a recall or "no-confidence vote," while supposedly we the people are stuck with last year's election result until January 2009, even while the nation falls apart today under this administration, seems almost viciously anti-democratic and cruel.

Therefore, for the sake of the republic, I humbly ask George W. Bush to resign the Presidency, and for Vice President Dick Cheney and the entirety of Bush administration officials to step down as well, at the earliest possible moment. How can I put this gently: there are a sufficient number of people in this country who are now incensed enough to pursue the ultimate removal of this administration, one way or another. Resignation will avoid the inevitable dangerous times to come.

President Bush, you have uttered the phrase "you're either with us or against us" many a time. President Bush, with full patriotic verve, I am wholeheartedly against you. Does that make me a terrorist? Does it make me an "America hater"? No, it makes me a mere citizen who just wants his country to continue on as the great country it used to be before you came to power. It's time for a responsible adult, Republican or Democrat, to take over... something your minions and sycophants claimed you were when you came on board, but in the light of the now-dark city of New Orleans, they were clearly wrong. So be honorable and step aside.

Authored by Steve Magruder, September 7, 2005 (reformatted on 9/8). Please forward any corrections to Steve at your earliest possible convenience.

Special props to Crook and Liars for their great video feeds. And also a special thanks to the progressive blogosphere and even the mainstream media for a lot of great reporting the past week and a half.

This article is being released into the Public Domain. Relentless reproduction and quoting is encouraged with the caveat that the original article at the Public's Power Base blog (using its permanent URL) is referenced.

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The preceding statement is inapplicable to other articles posted at the Public's Power Base blog.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said!!

Reference Bush having declared an emergency in Louisiana on the 27th, please check this link from the FEMA website:

http://www.fema.gov/news/event.fema?id=4786

Unless they change the graphic, the parishes in green are the ones covered by the Emergency Declaration EM-3212, issued 27 August.

This can be verified by clicking the link entitled "Designated Counties." http://www.fema.gov/news/eventcounties.fema?id=4786

(A few days ago, it could also be verified by clicking on the image itself, for a pdf file showing the designated parishes. Now, however, that pdf file has been replaced by one with a date of September 4th.)

The parishes in white - the coastal parishes - were NOT included in the declaration. They were only included in an admendment issued on the 29th: http://www.fema.gov/news/eventdfrns.fema?id=4786

When Bush brags about declaring an emergency in Lousiana on the 27th, he doesn't include the minor fact that he omitted the coast from a hurricane emergency.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/08/20050827-1.html

This could go a long way toward explaining the total cluster that arose with the FEMA response. They apparently didn't have the authority to do anything until the 29th, at the earliest.

Incompetence or criminal negligence? Or both?

Anonymous said...

Oh Boy! What a bunch of drivel!

Do you actually expect people to read this entire diatribe?!?!?

I really ought to encourage you though. It's idiot Leftists like you that are responsible for marginalizing the Democrat party. I bet the DUmmies at DU love it!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I just checked your post on DU and not even the DUmmies are responding!

I guess a stinker is a stinker whether you're a traitor or a patriot!

Anonymous said...

I'm Mitchell and I know that within 3 hours the note on the Demo Underground will have 25 responses ....not to mention LOTS of recommendations.

You dumb Freepers don't even have the attention span to read this entire article. Bush KILLED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE!!!

He was on vacation .... playing golf and fiddling .....er I mean strumming a guitar while Rome....er I mean New Orleans flooded!

Anonymous said...

Having seen this horrible tragedy, I recall George Bush's inability to think of even one thing he made a mistake on.

That man would miss his turnoff and have to circumnavigate the globe to get back on track. He can't admit error.

Anyone who can't admit even the mere possibility of being wrong is dangerous.

Thousands of people are dead because of incompetance at the top.

It's not pointing fingers. It's not playing games. It's about accountability. And isn't accountability what conservatives claim to be about?

Sadly, our little Nero is going to be fiddling for quite a while. Perhaps he should do the nation a favor and do what he does best - go on vacation for three years and let the competant people run the show.

Steve Magruder said...

Just found a blog post that backs up the first anonymous commenter's points in a compelling way.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stevie,
So how's this workin' out for ya? Is your long-winded pablum piece gettin' anything done?

Here's my advice: Learn to write or hire an editor.

Maybe you can retitle this piece: "How to show the world you're an empty-headed leftist in 50,000 words or less"

C-ya DUmmy!

Anonymous said...

Good points

I am sure Mr. Short Attention Span Freeper has better things to do tonight--Getting the wood all ready for the weekend cross burning and washing his sheet.

Karlo said...

Nice blog. I've added you to my blog roll over at swerve left.