in its entirety.
Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 00:10:40 PDT
The last twelve hours of news coverage has been nearly overwhelming. Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, others, even unapologetic partisans like Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson -- everyone is asking where the government is. (No, I haven't turned to Fox News. I don't have the heart, today.) Anderson Cooper lost it interviewing Sen. Mary Landrieu, countering her litany of thank-yous to a series of politicians with his own encounter with rats eating a body that had been left abandoned in the street for 48 hours. Paula Zahn boggled at FEMA director Michael Brown's declaration that the reason about 15,000 shelter seekers at the New Orleans Convention Center have gone without food or water since the day of the hurricane is because FEMA didn't even know the refugees were there until today.
The common televised theme is of reporters traveling to hard hit areas in New Orleans or the smaller communities, and reporting no FEMA presence, no National Guard presence, no food, no water, no help -- and this is day 5. "Where is the government?" has been the predominant theme of the day. Apologists are being met with barely concealed disgust, in more and more quarters. Bush administration cuts to the levee system are being widely reported. FEMA inaction is being roundly criticized by ever-more-urgent live feeds from disheveled media figures with stunned expressions.
The Convention Center situation appears to be horrific, with deaths of elderly and infants due to dehydration already now occurring. It's not clear if anything can be or is being done tonight, or how many will die between now and the morning, or what will happen then.
The lawlessness is rampant. It's important to note, however, that the lawlessness wasn't rampant on Monday. It wasn't rampant on Tuesday. We heard only twinges of it on Wednesday. Today, from the sounds of the reports, a city devoid of all hope devolved into absolute chaos.
It is nighttime again in New Orleans, and after four days of no food, no water, no communications, no security forces, and no apparent discernible plan that they can see, trust and hope that rescuers will arrive seems all but gone. If the forces had arrived on Tuesday, things would be different.
It is simply too stunning, too shocking, too soul-draining. Nobody knows where the emergency relief has been. Nobody can quite understand why the response to the catastrophe only now seems shuddering to life.
The politics are omnipresent, but present only a hollow shell behind which a sea, an absolute frothing sea, of much worse realizations are crowding every mind. This was a disaster the country had been preparing for. This was one of the disasters most predicted, most feared, most planned for. There was two days of advance warning, as the massive, category 5 hurricane shifted purposefully towards New Orleans. This was no terrorist attack -- this time, there was warning. This time, there was knowledge.
And yet, the much-reshuffled domestic security resculpted as a result of 9-11 simply didn't show up. It wasn't there. FEMA, which has been hacked, shuffled, and gutted in the last few years, proved unable to respond to a catastrophic emergency situation. The catastrophic emergency situation, along the Gulf Coast, the one that sounded the alarms two days before landfall, the one that triggered the warnings of nightmare scenarios known for years in advance, and yet if there was any advance plan at all, any knowledge at all, any fathoming at all of how to respond in the fourty-eight hours most critical for the survival of the victims, it didn't show up. The roads were clogged, the islands were flooded, the levees were breached, and homeland security wasn't there, leaving each state, each town, each police force, each wrecked band of shell-shocked survivors to fend, and make do, while convoys were organized and strategies prepared with seeming obliviousness to the urgency of the numbers and clocks. There is... almost nothing meaningful to say.
The apparent and most likely explanations for the failure, known long before the fact, are almost shattering when reread today, while the ongoing catastrophe unfolds around us.
We have witnessed two disasters this week. The first was an act of nature. The second was not. The second disaster, still ongoing, is unforgivable.
That's the only word that comes to mind, a word I keep repeating to myself. These deaths, these men, these women, these infants dying now in these hours didn't have to happen. They did not have to die waiting for convoys to gather outside their city or for reservists to stand alongside their shattered police forces. They did not have to wait in darkness and fear for help to arrive, only to struggle for days without that help ever coming.
This is not politics. This is not partisanship.
This is unforgivable.
That's right, dumbass, get in that truck, drive away and never return.