Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina politics

The politicizing of the Katrina aftermath needs to take place. It already has. I read Georgia Anne Geyer’s column in Monday’s Washington Times that was a shot across the USS George Bush bow (“Ill-prepared beforehand,” Commentary), which argues that the president and Congress are responsible for the flooding of New Orleans and, second, the slow and inept response to the victims. According to Miss Geyer, Congress left for vacation after “having slashed the budget that could have corrected the area’s imperfect flood control.”

Also suggested by Miss Geyer is that because we have so many soldiers in Iraq we do not have enough for New Orleans. Wrong again. To date there are more than 40,000 troops in New Orleans, almost a third of the number of troops in all of Iraq. The lone reason there were not more when she was firing off her column was not the president’s fault nor Congress’; it was the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, who still is obstructing the relief effort.

So let the politicizing begin, but let’s go back a bit to see where we went wrong. Let’s go back to the congressional delegation from the state for the last three decades who knew exactly what would happen to their state in the absence of federal funding to redirect the Mississippi River, to improve to needed strengths the levees and pumping systems.

Let’s go back to the mayors like Moon Landrieu (father of now-Sen. Mary L. Landrieu) and the Morials, Dutch and Marc, and Sydney Bartholemy. Let’s go back to John Breaux, arguably one of the most powerful people in the Senate in all of Louisiana history.

What about Billy Tauzin? Let’s go back to Edwin Edwards and Dave Treen. And what about William Jefferson and Mrs. Landrieu, who represent and were elected by the very people most hurt by this disaster?

Could not these politicians have prevented the tragedy years before? How many times did any of these mayors, congressmen and women and governors stand up armed with the absolute proof of the pending danger to Louisiana and the country and demand protection through the needed funding. If they did, why did they fail to convince their fellow lawmakers? Because it was too much political baggage?

If the city would have been protected properly, it would not have had to be evacuated in the first place. Politics flooded New Orleans. Politicians, elected by those who died and those who lived to lose everything, need to step up for once and accept the responsibility for their part.

I agree with Miss Geyer about emphasizing the need to properly educate our young, but I have trouble connecting it to what went wrong. In any case, we need some guts in Congress to do what is right every time, not just when it is expedient.



The cost of Guantanamo

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey’s defense of the Bush administration’s policy of withholding legal rights from captured terrorist suspects is flawed on at least three counts (“Engaging the critics,” Op-Ed, Wednesday).

First, their argument wrongly asserts that every prisoner held at Guantanamo, in Iraq and in Afghanistan is either an al Qaeda or Taliban operative. While many of the detainees are undoubtedly terrorists, periodic releases of prisoners show that at least some of them are guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Had these prisoners been granted basic legal rights, they could have been freed immediately instead of after several years.

Second, Mr. Rivkin and Mr. Casey audaciously claim that the denial of legal proceedings is actually a “humane decision” that has spared many prisoners harsh sentences, even the death penalty. What could be harsher than indefinite detention with no access to legal counsel or family? If the government’s cases are so ironclad, let charges be brought in public and appropriate punishment meted out.

Third, the writers assume that the administration’s policy is making America safer. To the contrary, the abuse of prisoners’ rights has likely increased the number of angry young men intent on harming U.S. citizens and soldiers. Those predisposed to hate us are not interested in legal rhetoric or rationalizations about what makes an “enemy combatant.” What they respond to are the long-term caging of detainees at Guantanamo, the torturing of prisoners in Iraq and the “disappearing” of suspects in Afghanistan.

So, yes, incarcerating individuals outside the United States without trial or representation prevents them from harming our country. But at what cost? This shortsighted policy has punished the innocent, warehoused the guilty, and is spawning thousands of angry jihadists eager to take the detainees’ place.



Who’s to blame?

In “Democrats blame ‘oblivious’ Bush,” (Page 1, Thursday) reporters Bill Sammon and Stephen Dinan mention the recent Gallup Poll about Hurricane Katrina that says “only 13 percent of Americans blame the president.” For some reason, they chose not to tell readers about some of the other questions asked in this poll.

When the pollsters asked “what kind of job has Bush done in response to Katrina?” only35percentsaid good/great, while 42 percent said bad/terrible. I am among the 87 percent who do not blame the president for the hurricane damage.

But I am among the 42 percent who do blame him for the federal government’s pathetically slow response and for appointing a pathetically unqualified person to be the head of Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Alamo, Calif.


I find myself wondering why people in both the Republican and Democratic parties insist upon politicizing everything from September 11 to hurricanes?

Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, unlike anything we have ever seen in the United States. Instead of finger-pointing and criticism, why don’t these “well-meaning” Americans put a collective lid on it and just deal with the problem at hand? I do not trivialize the plight or the suffering of anyone affected by the disaster.

But the bottom line here is that valuable time is being wasted by trying to affix blame for what many believe was something less than a swift response.

Given the climate in our country following September 11, I was hopeful that even people with very different political views could work together for the common good. Obviously, I expected too much. The positive side of all this is the fact that many good, decent Americans with no political ax to grind have gone in and accomplished much.

They have evacuated and relocated thousands. Some semblance of order has been restored. People and businesses from all over the country have opened their wallets, their hearts and their homes. Let’s remain focused on the problem and leave politics at the door. And above all, let’s stop the blame game.


Harpers Ferry, W.Va.


Following one of the most monumental executive-branch blunders in U.S. history, President Bush had the audacity to announce that he will lead the investigation into what went wrong with his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. As with the administration’s other investigations — Abu Ghraib; the Plame affair; no-bid contracts and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — the public should expect a complete whitewash.

The White House has no business investigating its own failures to properly respond to Katrina and protect Americans in need. The administration is clearly seeking to build on its inspiring efforts to date by offering more platitudes and empty promises about getting to the bottom of its own failures.

The administration should accept responsibility for its errors and stop blaming others.


Wailuku, Hawaii

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