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ISSUE 119 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/16/2005

Katrina: Tragedy, travesty

By Maura De Chant
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 16, 2005

Hurricane Katrina has done more than destroy thousands of lives: It has exposed the core problems of the Bush administration. This administration prides itself on swagger, bravery and take-charge attitude, while in reality it is characterized by ineptitude, patronage, blind loyalty and a total disconnect from reality.

President Bush’s house of cards came crashing down in late August, when a nation bewildered by the chaos in New Orleans discovered that Michael Brown, the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had absolutely no experience in disaster management. In fact, his only qualification seems to be that at one point he ran the International Arabian Horse Association.

After Brown was asked to step down from the International Arabian Horse Association, President Bush decided a man who wasn’t qualified to run horse shows would be good enough to head the federal government’s disaster management division. The rest of Brown’s top staff was also staggeringly underqualified in disaster management and were given jobs as a thank-you from the White House.

This blatant patronage, which cost thousands of lives, is only the beginning of the tragedy that is New Orleans. Experts have been warning government officials for years that a strong hurricane would devastate New Orleans and cause massive flooding.

Just last year, a computer simulation predicted with eerie accuracy the horrid conditions which would result from a storm like Katrina.

Still, when told that Hurricane Katrina could be the storm the experts feared, federal and state officials did little to prepare. Residents were told to evacuate, but those who were unable to leave were ignored.

Instead, officials crossed their fingers and hoped Katrina would miss New Orleans.

They very nearly got their wish, but on Aug. 29, the levees broke and officials were caught flat-footed. It took a jaw-dropping four days for relief to arrive – four days! – in the richest country in the world.

Inept bureaucracy reared its ugly head, and trucks carrying bottled water were turned away, told they weren’t needed. Inept leaders stalled while thousands starved and died.

Reporters made it to the drenched streets of New Orleans quicker than the National Guard, and Brown denied knowing anything of the chaos at the Convention Center days after it had been broadcast on the news.

Naming Brown head of FEMA was one of many mistakes President Bush has made during his term. Bush originally praised Brown’s bumblings, and brushed off offers of foreign aid, including an incredibly generous offer from Venezuela.

The offer comes despite the fact that Pat Robertson (the host of Christian Broadcasting Network's “The 700 Club” and founder of the Christian Coalition of America) recently advocated assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Bush eventually agreed to accept aid from Venezuela, but then went on to claim no one could have foreseen the breach of the levees.

Again, the Bush administration’s disdain for science was a grave error, and the hubris that so characterizes the administration cost countless American lives and created a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

No one is blaming Bush for Hurricane Katrina. We are blaming him for failing to protect American lives by putting unqualified cronies in charge of necessary government operations.

On Sept. 9 Bush backed down, and Brown was replaced as head of the relief efforts.

He did not resign until Monday, and although his removal from Louisiana and FEMA was a good thing, it is far too little, far too late.

Contributing writer Maura De Chant is a junior from West Bend, Wis. She majors in English and history.





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