Americas

Viewpoints

Hurricane Katrina

“The Katrina aftershock hurt the conscience of every American and deeply dented America’s self-image as a dedicated, united nation able to offer quick response in difficult situations.” (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP-Getty Images)

“A Brutal Reminder”

LONDON — The Guardian (Liberal), Sept. 3: “Such is the scale of this disaster that Mr. Bush would probably have been criticized however he had responded. … Still, there is a widespread perception that the sheer scale of the problems reflects a shuffling of resources — to pay for tax cuts and the Iraq adventure — that has left the US far too vulnerable. It is all a brutal reminder that government policies, sometimes followed only in the small print of rows over obscure budget allocations, can have real — and deadly — consequences for real people. The words “homeland security” now have a terribly hollow ring in the anarchic south: 35% of Louisiana’s National Guard is serving in Iraq, where four out of every 10 soldiers are guardsmen. And recruiting is down because people fear being sent to Iraq. The priority given to law and order seems a troubling inverse reflection of what happened after the fall of Baghdad. Is it really more important to use deadly force against looters than to deliver humanitarian aid effectively?”

What Was Revealed

LONDON — The Times (Conservative), Sept. 3: “The truth is that the New Orleans disaster is far worse than 9/11, and dwarfs anything seen in the West in modern times save for the Etna eruption and the San Francisco earthquake. In that sense it only tells us how vulnerable we are. Well, not all of us equally. When disasters or fires or bombings happen, you discover just who was traveling on your trains, who was crammed into your hostels or who was living in the low-lying areas. It isn’t the failure to act in New Orleans that is the story here, it’s the sheer, uninsured, uncared for, self-disenfranchised scale of the poverty that lies revealed. It looks like a scene from the Third World because that’s the truth. It’s a quiet disaster that’s been going on for years — a pudding-basin-full-of-poverty situation.”
— David Aaronovitch

Loss of an American Dream

MELBOURNE — The Age (Centrist), Sept. 3: “How could it happen? Six days after hurricane Katrina swept in from the Gulf of Mexico, America is waking up to a reality as frightening in its force as the storm and flooding themselves. It is that America has been humiliated by its inability to prevent, or then deal effectively with, a natural disaster in its own backyard; and, worse and more important in the long term, that the world’s richest nation has been exposed, in a most brutal way, as a society still divided by race and possessing an underclass. … Of course, the infrastructure can be repaired, dam walls renewed and new homes and businesses constructed; and the French Quarter, which attracts millions each year from around the world, can be restored. What may prove more difficult for Bush and his successors — for this will surely be a project of many years’ duration — is the rebuilding of trust and credibility in the nation’s leaders and administrators and the healing of wounds so savagely and swiftly inflicted by hurricane Katrina.

The World Mobilizes to Aid U.S. Victims

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that at least 59 countries have offered aid to the United States to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. She said that aid had been offered from “every corner of the globe.”

A partial list of countries that have offered their assistance:

Afghanistan
Australia (10 Million)
Azerbaijan
Canada
China (5 Million)
Cuba
El Salvador
England
France
Germany
Guatemala
Honduras
India (5 Million)
Indonesia
Iran
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Kuwait
Mexico (1 Million)
The Netherlands
Nigeria (1 Million)
Philippines
Qatar (100 Million)
Russia
Saudi Arabia (5 Million)
Singapore
South Korea
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Taiwan (3 Million)
Thailand
Turkey
Venezuela (1 Million)

Political Ramifications

TEL AVIV — Yediot Aharonot (Centrist), Sept. 3: “In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Americans felt a deep sense of national pride over their solidarity and restraint, efficient response to the disaster. Now, they feel horror and anger. … The Katrina aftershock hurt the conscience of every American and deeply dented America’s self-image as a dedicated, united nation able to offer quick response in difficult situations. … The political ramifications of the failure in America may be similar to what happened here following that war [Yom Kipper (1973)]. The ruins of New Orleans may give rise to a popular protest movement that would gradually amass power and influence, paralyzing the Bush Administration and leading to a stinging Republican defeat in the upcoming (partial) elections for Congress.”
— Sever Plocker

“Grim Lesson”

TORONTO — Toronto Star (Liberal), Sept. 3: “A just anger is rising across America at the official incompetence that Katrina has exposed. A vacationing Bush made a tardy post-disaster appearance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to speedily organize an effective command and control system. And the National Guard was deployed after Katrina hit, far too late. By then 100,000 people had flouted evacuation orders and were in peril. Even then, troops, helicopters, buses and trucks were slow arriving. And the Army Corps of Engineers had no effective contingency plan to repair broken levees. Katrina is proving as much a man-made disaster, as a natural one.”

“A Society in Collapse”

EDMONTON — Edmonton Journal (Conservative), Sept. 3: “We have seen a society in collapse. Many people with cars got out of town before Katrina hit. Many others, particularly the poor, old and disabled, could not or did not flee the hurricane. They were left to cope in a flooded city with no clean water, no food, no working toilets, no air conditioning, no medical care, no transportation, and no reassurance that help was on the way. Recriminations have already begun, and so they should. There has been gigantic failure here … The weakness of the levees was known, the danger of hurricanes was known, but plans to improve the levees and to deal with a major flood were clearly inadequate. … At the same time, the picture of thousands of desperate people, many of them poor and black, left to fend for themselves in an anarchic city speaks volumes about a society dangerously polarized between the privileged classes and a marginalized underclass.”

A Gesture of Sympathy

AUCKLAND — The New Zealand Herald (Conservative), Sept. 3: “Day by day this week the world has watched a mounting horror in the United States. … No part of the world is entirely immune from the effects of a disaster on this scale. The damage to oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to be felt in the petrol prices, and the cost of damage to insurers will be passed into premiums the world over. If the disaster had struck a different part of the world, appeals for aid would have been made. America is expected to look after its own, which it will. But it might appreciate some gesture of sympathy. Even the most powerful turn out to be frail in the face of nature.”

“He Turns His Back on Them”

MOSCOW — Pravda (Liberal), Sept. 2: “The best he [President Bush] can do is a brief flyover of the region and a belated visit, hurriedly put together only because of the protests. … After siphoning off 200 billion USD of their hard-earned cash to finance his illegal act of butchery overseas, he turns his back on them, leaves them to wallow in the sewage, to lie rotting in the streets and to starve to death. … It appears the man is as inept at governing his own country as he is at conducting foreign policy.”
— Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

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