Perhaps, some will argue that it is not appropriate to engage in recriminations in the midst of disaster; I would not be one of those. Often it is during these times that our attention is focused, our emotions engaged to a higher than normal degree, and our desire to make things better is piqued. As I read through the various accounts of the circumstances that led to the vulnerability of New Orleans, two things stand out: 1) there is no question but that the severity of the damage to New Orleans can be added to the tradeoffs I mentioned in an earlier post regarding the costs of the war in Iraq and 2) we have not yet discovered what it will take (see an earlier post) for supporters of this administration to confront them for their moral failings.
On the first issue, Sidney Blumenthal has reported that FEMA identified a hurricane striking New Orleans as one of the three most likely disasters the US might face. In another article by Will Bunch, we get a blow by blow of the identification of the problem, the initial planning and funding to resolve it, and how budget pressures (in light of the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the well to do) led this administration to reduce funding well below levels needed to implement the plan. And now, we are reaping what we have sown. Sadly, as David Brooks and others have noted, those suffering are disproportionately the poor and those otherwise on the margins. Paul Craig Roberts goes into additional detail here on how the war has left us unprepared to properly deal with disasters like New Orleans now faces. So, tax cuts for the well to do and a war that fails to meet just war criteria and which was entered on false pretenses have us unprepared for a disaster about which we were well warned.
On the second issue, just consider some of the dialogue we've heard over the last few days. Those who go ballistic anytime a question is raised regarding how American foreign policy might fuel terrorism have suggested that the suffering is the fault of those who are suffering, since they did not move away from New Orleans! The fact that many of those who will suffer most are disproportionately among the poorest and have the least mobility seems conveniently missing from the conversation. One news sources has characterized the president's arm's length engagement as swift and forceful. For my money, I think the truth is closer to Arianna's post or the NYT, who characterized the president's speech last night as the worst ever. Another pundit, while having no words of criticism for the administration, could not figure out how celebs had not more quickly put together a "live aid" type event. Apparently, the president commented this morning that no one anticipated breach of the levees, but this reports on the error in that claim. I know some of those who have invested themselves in this administration will see this as "Bush bashing," but these facts do not "bash Bush," they point out the incompetence and misguided priorities of his administration. I won't even assail his motivations, don't even know the guy, but I can say this: if you were managing a company and had a group of employees who blew it as often as this group, you would have fired them long ago. And, I continue to wonder: what will it take?