Talk:Hurricane Katrina: Blaming the Victims

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Hurricane Katrina: Blaming the Victims

Sydney Morning Herald Coverage

It was a place of stark and absolute paradox. The contrast of the instinctive, improvisational heroism of rescue workers and the irrational embrace of violence and anarchy by some of its residents was like watching an overlap of the First and Third worlds. This was the image of the social fibre of a community unravelling.

BY TUESDAY morning, 80 per cent of New Orleans was under water, ranging in depth from 20 centimetres to three metres. Two levee banks on transport canals running out of the massive Lake Pontchartrain, immediately north of the city, had been breached. In the sun, the water was rainbow-streaked from leaking fuel, squalid with the refuse from a broken sewerage system, blended with the run-off from the industrial canals fed by chemical and petroleum refineries.

Christie Todd Whitman, the former national director of the Environmental Protection Agency, called it a toxic gumbo containing chemicals we don't even know about.

[. . .]

When light returned, the rescuers began plucking residents from homes, in at least one case breaking through the roof with a boat anchor to rescue people from an attic. Specialists from the US Coast Guard dangled from the ends of lines. Lowered to roofs, they would strap the able-bodied in harnesses, the infirm in steel-framed cradles, and ride aloft with them, swaying gently in the downdraft of the blades. This procedure was repeated hundreds of times. Almost without exception, the rescuers were white, the rescued were black.

New Orleans, population 485,000, is 67.5 per cent black. This demographic majority is also the economic minority. The Big Easy is one of the poorest cities in the US and has been rated among the most violent. The poverty rate among its African-Americans is three times the national average. They are ignored by government and everyone else, except at election time, when they provide a formidable voting bloc for the best-organised, if not best-intentioned, candidate.

[. . .]

Refugees in their own cities, the survivors followed half-remembered instructions about post-hurricane assembly points. On Thursday, 15,000 people had gathered at the New Orleans Convention Centre. Some dropped by the sides of the roads or on the median strips on the way. Inside and outside the building, others lay against walls and did not get up. Their bodies were covered and left.

There was no law, no supervision, no food, water or sanitation, and no leadership. The police were trying to save lives. The cavalry had not been sighted. In times of absolute emergency, an American state governor has the option to call for help from the National Guard, the citizen soldiers who can act as a second line of armed authority.

Three thousand of Louisiana's National Guard are in Iraq. This was only a third of the number available. But with them was critical rescue equipment: dozens of high-water vehicles and Humvees, which could have traversed the floodwaters; and refuellers and generators that could have partly covered the lack of fuel and electricity.

These were New Orleans's and Louisiana's voluntary contributions to the war against terrorism. Other contributions came in the form of what the city did not get.

NEW Orleans is a geographic improbability. It is two to three metres below sea level - the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain are all held at bay by an intricate system of pumps, canals and levee banks.

The South East Louisiana Flood Control Project, or SELA, was established in 1997, two years after a storm inundated the city with 460 millimetres of rain in 48 hours, causing millions of dollars in damage. Among the authority's jobs was to upgrade and replace the infrastructure that kept the water out.

The US Government was to provide 75 per cent of the money. That stipend, renewed annually, has been steadily dropping, from $US75 million in 1999 to $US10.4 million ($13.7 million) next year. The money has run out in the meantime.

The authority is overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, which in turn is run by the huge Department of Homeland Security. Funds that have previously gone to the corps have been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to increasing national security, and to paying for massive tax cuts.

Gerard Wright, "America 2005 - after the flood", Sydney Morning Herald, September 3, 2005


Garry Jones, one of four Australians driven to safety by a Channel Seven crew after being stranded on the flooded streets of New Orleans, said: "We're looters, like everybody else. You've got to go into the markets. You've got to take water. You've got to take food."

Joining relatives of other trapped Australians in criticising the Australian response to the disaster, Mr Jones told Seven: "We've rung the Australian consul 4000 times. They say they can't get in here. We understand their position but, geez, Johnny Howard, where are you?"

In the New Orleans convention centre, refugees are living next to the dead, with no one in charge of increasingly angry crowds. CNN showed footage of an old woman who had died in a wheelchair at the centre. She was covered by a blanket. Another body, wrapped in a sheet, lay next to her.

"I don't treat my dog like that," said 47-year-old Daniel Edwards, pointing at the woman in the wheelchair. "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."

[. . .]

The former head of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation's waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded.

"Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in," said Mike Parker, a former congressman.

Mr Bush, aware of mounting criticism of his handling of storm relief, told ABC television: "Well, I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday. I understand the anxiety of people on the ground. I just can't imagine what it's like to be waving a sign saying, 'Come and get me now.' So there is frustration, but I want people to know there's a lot of help coming."

Mark Coultan, Storm of anger as US fails its own", Sydney Morning Herald, September 3, 2005

an angry madman

No Mr. Bush, you cannot imagine what it is like to feel the desperation as a friend or relative dies when you are holding them. No Mr. Bush, you can't even imagine what it is like to fulfill a six year commitment in the Texas Air Guard. You can't imagine what is is like to spend a couple of days in the drunk tank for a DUI. You can't imagine what it is like to be fined and imprisoned for insider trading. You can't imagine what is it like to stand or fail on the success of your own business. You cannot imagine what it is like to accept personal responsibility for your acts. But you can imagine what it is like to kiss a Saudi Prince, and probably dream about it every night.

Can anyone tell me why the Sydney Morning Herald could find this photo in the AP pool that cuts across the stereotyping of race straight into the real issue of class? What the hell is wrong with them to have helped the upswelling in American Racism with their distored broadcasting?

One last thing and then I am done raving as a madman...for

Everyone, listen, do not use the word refugee describing an American who has been pounded by Katrina. It is evil. These are people who were born, live and will die in an American Metropolitan Area. There is absolutely no right in this world for an American media outlet to describe them as Refugees.

We have Exiled our Poor on Main street.


Did Gov. Haley Barbour get his Moon Pies and RC's stocked up before the flood?

FOX News, FEMA and GW are "right"

AMERICAblog said September 7, 2005, that "FOX News, FEMA and George Bush are right... " ... "Why didn't these rich assholes just get in their car and drive themselves out of town when they were asked to? It's clear they stayed to simply embarrass the president."