- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dealing ‘seamlessly’ with disasters

Diana West asked the question “What man, what plan, what country copes seamlessly” with a Category 5 hurricane in “Katrina unleashed” (Op-Ed, Friday) .

Please let me educate her:

First, the despicable communist Fidel Castro is the man who has coped seamlessly with hurricane threats to his citizens. Under his brutal dictatorship he assured the survival of every Cuban when his country was hit by Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 hurricane, in September 2004. His pre-crisis planning, prioritization of action and prompt execution assured that not a single Cuban was reported to have died even though tens of thousands lost their homes and limited belongings.

Second, it is the Netherlands that has a plan. The elected policy-makers of this below-sea-level nation plan for and appropriate funding for the protection of citizens from a storm with the force of two Category 5 hurricanes hitting at the same time. These wise souls know that as remote as this “perfect storm” scenario may be, it is still a catastrophic possibility, and they pass laws accordingly.

What Katrina really unleashed was a profound awareness of the failure of American policy-makers at every level (county, state and federal) to deal with easily predictable consequences of any inevitable event. Especially on the lives of the poor. But this goes beyond the “denial” that Tony Blankley asserted Wednesday on your Op-Ed page (“Complacency and survival”). It is actually a conscious decision to risk the lives of poor people, lives that the majority of our policy-makers hold less value for.

If you question this, look at the current efforts of Ambassador John R. Bolton trying to renege on the U.S. commitment to the Millennium Development Goals directed at reducing the lethal consequences of poverty.

We know the predictable catastrophic consequences that world poverty will have on our lives in the form of future pandemics, wars, environmental degradation, job loss and crime, but still, our most prominent diplomats wage war against preventing such crisis.

President Bush responded almost immediately to the crisis of September 11. It would have been far more helpful if he had responded faster to the pre-September 11 warnings of catastrophic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Imagine how bad it would have looked if Mr. Bush had remained on vacation two days after September 11.

What to do next is to plan for what we know is coming. And make adequate investments in preventing and preparing for future crises from nature, poverty, God or human mistakes.



Lack of leadership in the black community

It is refreshing to know that there are at least a few African American figures who do not reflexively blame President Bush for the tragedy that occurred in New Orleans (“Blacks fault lack of local leadership,” Page 1, Saturday), and who rightfully fault the incompetent Democratic leadership in Louisiana for failing to do enough in advance to prevent the calamity and casualties in that region after Hurricane Katrina hit.

I expect that the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson will be trashed by the black left for stating a politically incorrect truth: that the victims of Hurricane Katrina would have been able to relocate if they were self-sufficient as opposed to being dependent on the largesse of the federal government. Mr. Peterson’s critics will inevitably label him an “Uncle Tom” and accuse him of carrying water for Mr. Bush, which will just go to show that the liberal-left’s slurs are as tired as they are inaccurate.



True Heroes

Hats off to David Elfin for his article on the Good Samaritan Foundation (“Where teens matter,” yesterday, Page 1). Quietly working in the background, without personal headlines, former Washington Redskins stars Charles Mann, Art Monk, Earnest Byner and Tim Johnson showed the kind of leadership that any group should be grateful to find.

And not just for the short term. They are duplicating themselves, creating future leaders through mentorship grounded in principle and personal caring. Mr. Elfin’s article has given me more hope for the future of our country than all the press reports of human failings in rescuing New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina.

The last paragraph says it all: “We purposely didn’t put our names on the foundation because it’s not about us. This foundation is going to be here making a difference in the community when we’re all gone.”

Thank you for telling their story, and thank you for putting it on Page 1, where it belongs. On behalf of the Cold War warriors I served with for 26 years in the Navy, and on behalf of my 19 grandchildren, I salute Messrs. Monk, Mann, Byner and Johnson. That’s the America we were willing to fight and die for. Go ‘Skins.



Back to school

“Rebuilding Gulf Coast Lives” (Op-Ed, Friday) fails to highlight another vital need in addition to housing: ensuring that young survivors of the hurricane can return to school as soon as possible.

Maintaining education in times of emergency is key to lessening the impact of trauma on children and to helping them deal with and recover from a crisis. We’ve learned this in refugee situations around the world, where the daily structure and routine of school, and the safe space it provides, helps children process what’s happened to them and maintain hope for the future, whether on the Gulf Coast or in Darfur.


Senior coordinator,

media and communications

Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children


Local reflection

Friday’s editorial, “Malfeasance of citizenship,” is the best I have read to date; it goes to the root of the problems facing New Orleans. Congress may have designed an ineffective bureaucracy in Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the citizens and politicians of New Orleans and Louisiana need only look in the mirror to find the main source of their ills.

As far as Washington is concerned, so far President Bush is the only one who still looks and sounds like an adult. Judging from the verbal mudslinging on Capitol Hill, the national shame felt due to relief failures will now be compounded by a national display of political opportunism.



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