Monday, September 05, 2005

Waterloo in Lousiana?










PV Vivekanand


ALREADY under bitter fire over the Iraq fiasco, US President George W Bush is now drawing the fury of Americans over the slow response to the chaos on the Gulf Coast left behind by hurricane Katrina and the unpreparedness of the US government to handle crisis situations. More importantly, critics link the crisis to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The barrage of accusations is typical of many developing countries when hit by natural calamities: absence of a disaster management system, inexcusable delay in getting relief to victims, concealing the actual number of casualties, misuse or ineffective or inefficient use of aid funds and material, and political exploitation of the crisis.
Such allegations are unheard of in American history and these do have far-reaching implications and some commentators have even called the crisis Bush's Waterloo.,
Many are calling the Bush administration the worst the US ever had and demanding that the president be impeached for what they perceive as his deliberately misleading policies that had left them vulnerable and helpless to face calamities.
One of the bases for that the contention that the administration was too preoccupied with the Iraq crisis that it had no time to address domestic issues such as public welfare. A specific charge cited is that the administration diverted funds for hurricane protection for New Orleans and part of the state's emergency response teams to the war in Iraq.
National Guardsmen of Louisiana were not available at hand to attend to the crisis (4,019 of them are serving in Iraq) and Blackhawk helicopters needed for emergency work and rescue operations were missing (most of the state's Blackhawks are deployed in Iraq).
People are also accusing the government of seeking to conceal the actual casualties in the first three days by shipping "bodies out instead of rescuing those who could be rescued and sending emergency relief."
The American Red Cross said on Saturday that it was not allowed access to the disaster area to help rescue and relief work, and that was interpreted as a government ruse not to allow the group to get first-hand information on the number of dead.
Commenting on that, says a posting on the Internet:
"Remember after the tsunami? There were photos on the net within 24 hours taken by survivors showing the damage from right there on the ground. In New Orleans, we are getting reports of National Guard confiscating and destroying cameras. "Radio amateurs report that someone is jamming the frequencies they would normally be able to use to communicate with radio hams in New Orleans (many of whom keep their own generators in order to be able to communicate during disasters).
"But other than a precious few photos provided by controlled media, New Orleans is blacked out."
A web site supposed to have posted the first non-media photographs of the disaster area (www.ogrish.com) was "blocked" on Sunday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is supposed to have had standby plans to be implemented in every state and every situation, is asked one question: Had New Orleans been "nuked," then where would FEMA have relocated survivors away from the danger of radiation?
However, the FEMA shortcoming is directly blamed on the Bush administration.
In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the US. (The other two were a major terrorist attack on New York and a major earthquake in San Francisco).
But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 per cent to pay for the Iraq war.