Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans from a distance

I've been out of the U.S. long enough to take what I read about it with a grain or two of salt. Complicated situations can appear deceptively simple from a distance. But the reaction to the New Orleans disaster has been remarkably consistent. People are angry, and it sure looks like it's justified.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times, dismisses some of what I've been reading -- that the government couldn't respond with enough troops because they're all in Iraq. But without that excuse, what's left?
In fact, there are plenty of troops and National Guardsmen who could have responded adequately. Iraq holds only 10.2% of army forces. There are 750,000 active or part-time soldiers and guardsmen in the US today. The question then becomes: where were they? The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi, said last week: “On Wednesday, reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High school shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw air force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics.”

Where was the urgency to get these soldiers to rescue the poor and drowning in nearby New Orleans, or the dying and dead in devastated Mississippi? The vice-president was nowhere to be seen. The secretary of state was observed shopping for shoes in New York City. The president had barely returned to Washington; and had already opined that nobody had foreseen the breaching of New Orleans’ levees.

Earth to Bush: the breaching of the levees had been foreseen for decades. If anyone wanted evidence that this president was completely divorced from reality, that statement was Exhibit A. It didn’t help coming after a five-week vacation, when most Americans are lucky to get two.
A Florida resident, who is well aware of the dangers of hurricanes, wrote in his blog that the danger was obvious. Before the disaster, his wife worried about the people who wouldn't be able to get out:
I told her that: The US Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines in the region were already staging for deployment, and that before she even hit, they would be rolling towards the area.
That the Army would be dispatching troops, supplies, and medical assistance, including MASH units, and Tent Cities, from at least several bases outside the “Target” area, and that they would be on site when the winds died down just enough to move in.
That the United States Navy had capabilities that few Americans were aware of: Fully loaded supply ships with just about every commodity you can think of, including clothing. Assault Landing Craft, capable of landing Thousands of Troops, ( even Tanks), and Heavy equipment on ANY kind of land. That they had the ability to land and resupply entire Divisions of troops. That the Marines had Helicopter Carriers, the Navy had not only Rescue, and SAR (search and rescue Helos), but that Pennsecola probably had a bunch of them used for training. That Helicopters, troops and even C-130’s could be flown in from as far away as Ft. Campbell Ky., iand be “Operational”, On Site, in less than 24hrs, with literally thousands of trucks/semis/amphibious troop carriers, loaded with supplies and Medical teams, “On Site”, in LESS than 48 hrs. That the Coast Guard, and National Guardsmen would be on scene within HOURS, from ALL of the surrounding areas (States).

In other words…….While we can’t prevent Mother Nature from ravishing the area, we CAN help the survivors within Hours!!!!!!!!!

Boy was I Full of Shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In the meantime, administration officials are insisting that no one could have foreseen this. As an easy Google search will show, the possibility of a major hurricane hit on New Orleans was considered one of the top three threats facing the U.S., that the Army Corp. of Engineers has been warning that the levees were inadequate, that the government recently slashed the budget for repairs and put the money toward projects such as a bridge from one Alaska town (pop. 8,000) to a nearby island (pop. 50).

Someone's got some explaining to do.

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