Thursday, September 01, 2005

'It's like they're punishing us'

Great Britain's MI5 security service estimated recently that Western civilization is about "four meals away from anarchy."

Those words are proving sadly prescient in New Orleans, which in a week's time has gone from one of the world's most beautiful cities to Hell on the Mississippi. Armed gangs now control the city's streets, overwhelming the comparative handful of police trying to keep order, and hospital evacuations stopped today after snipers opened fire on the National Guard.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people remain stranded on the streets or rooftops or in cramped refuges like the Louisiana Superdome, the Riverwalk, or the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the bodies are beginning to pile up as the city's food and water supplies continue to dwindle. Looting is widespread, with some people taking advantage of the crisis to steal weapons and expensive items but with many others desperately seeking food and water to stay alive.

Rescuers and relief workers are doing everything they can on the ground and in the air, but there just aren't enough of them to reach everyone who's in trouble, and anger toward city, state, and federal officials is growing. "They've been teasing us with buses for days," one refugee said. "It's like they're punishing us," another said. Publishing online today from its new home in Houma, La., the New Orleans Times-Picayune editorialized that "[v]irtually everyone in public safety has failed the people left in New Orleans who are trying desperately to survive."

The Bush administration right now may well be doing what it can in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but some area residents blame the president for what they see as an inadequate response. A refugee outside the city's convention center expressed his outrage today: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."


Blogger Matt Collins said...

I understand these people are in probably the worst conditions imaginable in the US today, but you can't blame the President for any of this. When it comes to hurricanse, the immediate decisions have always been made at the local and state level. As to him visiting, it usually is a few days after something of this magnitude before a president can get to make an on-the-ground visit.

I'm not saying the people affected by Katrina have no right to be angry, only that it is misplaced. The President is doing what he can. The people should be asking how there local governments failed, which seemed to happen far too much in this disaster, like almost a third of New Orleans "finest" abandoning their posts and fleeing in the time of greatest need.

It is especially unfortunate to see some of those who stayed in New Orleans showing their true colors, as they form gangs and loot and open fire on rescuers. It is one thing to loot in a desperate search for food and water, but this is nothing more than succombing to mob psychology and turning on your fellow man in his time of greatest need.

I've heard rumor that police have been given shoot-to-kill orders regarding these gangs that have formed, and while I hate to see the loss of additional lives that may be the only way to handle this idiocy. I have this sinking feeling we may see an urban assault by the military to supress this "uprising" just some rescuers can get in to help people.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Did anyone on earth send the hurricane to hit New Orleans? No.

Does the president bear all, or perhaps even most, of the blame for the slow response to the hurricane? No.

Can you completely absolve the president of all of the blame? No.

This is a national disaster that's been predicted for decades. It's becoming increasingly clear that the comprehensive federal plan to deal with the big one hitting New Orleans either was inadequate or inadequately executed by the federal government. Past administrations bear responsibility for that, of course. So does the current one.

As for the police quitting, it's nice to play armchair quarterback, but I'd venture that nobody reading this comment ever has been in a situation remotely like the one in New Orleans right now.

People are dying by the hundreds there every day, and their corpses litter the floodwaters and streets. Armed gangs are patrolling the city. Police have little or no ability to call for backup. And like everyone else in town, many police have been struggling for days to find food and water. It's nice to think everyone would be a hero, but after a few days of those circumstances, who's to say how any human would react?

3:05 PM  

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