Wednesday, September 07, 2005

AN INITIAL 303 NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS have gone down to the Gulf Coast to help with disaster relief. Not all of these officers were on the scene at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, but those who were see big differences between the two disasters -- not simply because one was the result of a terrorist attack and the other the result of a hurricane, but because Gulf Coasters face a far more wide-ranging and intractable set of problems.

"We were in a 16-acre disaster zone that went for 10 or 12 blocks," said Inspector Thomas Graham, a 33-year veteran who commands the Disorder Control Unit, based in the Bronx.

"Here, there is no water," Inspector Graham said. "There is no electricity. I've got my people housed in a nursing home. There's not enough water pressure to take a shower. And the death toll, I think, is going to be more severe.

"We had a toxic stew because of the fires and the dust," he continued. "Their toxic stew is you cannot drink any water from the tap, because of the pollution, because of the dead bodies in the canals."

So when George W. Bush seized on 9/11 as an excuse to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into an unprovoked war in Iraq; and drained our country of its human disaster-protection resources by emptying entire National Guard units to send those men and women to Iraq; he left America open and horribly vulnerable to the kind of catastrophic harm that has occurred in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

This truth cannot be stated too strongly or often enough. Pres. Bush acted as though terrorism was both the worst and the only threat to the safety and national security of Americans. It wasn't, and it isn't. The consequences of Hurricane Katrina -- in terms of public health both emotional and physical, clean-up costs, infrastructure repair, unemployment and the economy in general, and the pressure on domestic social institutions -- are far more severe than those of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, as terrible as those were; and will continue to be so for years, and maybe even decades, to come.

The leaders and elected officials in Washington whose policies, decisions, and actions brought us to this reality should not be permitted to escape the consequences. The American voting public should deny them the opportunity to do further damage; and the individuals most responsible for the decisions that made this natural catastrophe so much worse than it would have been otherwise -- specifically Michael Brown, Michael Chertoff, and George W. Bush -- should resign or be forced out of their jobs.

No comments: