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    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    A Serious Aside

    "The responsibility for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence." Winston Churchill

    Over at that other place, a thread got started called WTF which quickly denigrated into a discussion of things evacuatees from NO have said. Things like “People are complaining that their pizza is cold or people are refusing to be evacuated to cruise ships in Galveston or the cops in NO are cowards.” Me? My personal WTF list would primarily be made up of comments from this thread.

    I haven’t posted on this until now because I’m angry. Fuck I’m angry. I’m angry at the President, whose policies beforehand and dithering afterwards cost many American lives. I’m angry at his legion of apologists, those enablers who try to hide the dripping blood on their hands by dancing around the issues. I’m angry at those who make incredibly repugnant statements and then try to back away with passive-aggressive dissembling because they didn’t mean anything by it. I’m angry at those who think they can put the experiences of these people into a frame of reference from their own experience.

    The situation these people have experienced is unlike anything anyone on this thread has ever experienced. It is as beyond the personal experience of most people posting here as talking about living on Mars would be. I AM NOT GOING TO JUDGE SOMEONE WHO COMPLAINS THAT THEIR PIZZA ISN’T HOT ENOUGH OR WHO DOESN’T WANT TO GO TO GALVESTON BECAUSE I CANNOT, AND I HOPE TO GOD I WILL NOT EVER BE ABLE TO, BEGIN TO IMAGINE WHAT THEY HAVE GONE THROUGH IN THE LAST FEW DAYS.

    (And I’m not even going to begin to comment on calling police officers cowards, except to say that the firemen and police officers who ran into those collapsing towers didn’t have to keep running into the collapsing towers for five days straight. For the most part, they didn’t have to worry if their family members were alive or dead. It makes a big difference.)

    Now here’s the part where the apologists jump up at say “You can’t imagine what the President is going through either!” And I can’t. But I don’t have to be able to do that to criticize him, to judge him. The President is elected precisely to handle events such as this. That applies to any President – but with Bush, the bar is raised higher still because his whole 2004 campaign was based on the theme “Bush will keep you safer than the other guy.” That is the standard he asked to be judged by, and it is the standard to which he should be held.

    Because this isn’t just about what happened last week. This is about the systematic gutting of the federal agency responsible for emergency management. A systematic gutting that took place AFTER a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil showed us the importance of emergency management. A systematic gutting that took place after we were faced with the reality that someday we might have to evacuate a major American city. The blame game isn’t about getting Bush – it’s about accountability.

    The following is from Cunning Realist.

    This is why what happened was a fundamental betrayal that transcends spin and political ideology. For as much as they suffered, those people in New Orleans were not the only ones who were failed. This was a betrayal of every citizen who goes to work and pays taxes to assure that if this tragedy befell him, the federal government would uphold its part of the bargain. It's incumbent on each of us to react as if this happened to our friends, our parents, our children, or us. Because one day that might be the case, and by then it will be too late to demand accountability.

    The response to Katrina should have shown conservatism at its best. Those calling themselves conservatives who disagree with this need to explain exactly what they think the federal government should do and why it should exist at all. I happen to think it should not do much more than field a strong military, defend the borders, collect taxes, maintain national infrastructure, enforce laws that are beyond the purview of the states, and respond to historic disasters such as this. But for God's sake, it must do those things competently and not embrace an almost Soviet type of failing-upwards cronyism. The most senior federal officials learning from television reports about thousands of people trapped and dying for days in a single place is not competence.

    I’ll pull one sentence out for those who say it is inappropriate to be playing the blame game. I’ll also (mostly) ignore the fact that for people who are supposedly so high on accepting personal responsibility, you sure are reluctant to assign blame. (Or is personal responsibility only for those less fortunate than you?)

    Because one day that might be the case, and by then it will be too late to demand accountability.

    What happens if another hurricane forms in the next few weeks and hits hard? What happens if our enemies choose this moment when our forces are stretched to the breaking point and our response ability is in disarray to attack us? The first inquiry into the bombing at Pearl Harbor was launched TWO DAYS after the attack. It was launched because we realized we needed to know what went wrong to prevent it from going wrong again. The same is true here. Blame must be focused now, because if it isn't, those who deserve it will do all they can to escape it's grasp. It's not always true, but those who say "let's not play the blame game" are usually doing so because they know they are the ones to blame.

    And that’s about as far as I can go right now without the anger taking over completely.

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