This is a multiple-choice test.
You are the President of the United States. You talk a great deal about homeland security and keeping Americans safe.
1. You learn that an immense category five hurricane is bearing relentlessly toward the Gulf Coast.
(a) You immediately cut short your vacation and put all federal relief agencies on high alert. You monitor the progress of the storm. You coordinate with governors and mayors in the Gulf states. Together you put the National Guard (those few left who aren’t in Iraq) and the military on standby to move at the earliest possible moment if necessary. You mobilize helicopters, airplanes, boats, trucks, and buses to ferry survivors to safety if necessary. You make sure shelters are stocked with provisions and medical assistance and are prepared to receive hurricane victims if necessary. In other words, you step up and take charge because IT’S YOUR JOB. You are our LEADER. It happened on YOUR WATCH.
(b) You yawn as though it’s no big deal and continue your vacation. Being The President is very tiring. Sometimes it’s not as much fun as Karl promised it would be.
2. You learn that the hurricane actually went where it was headed.
(a) You immediately put into effect the relief effort you set in place when you learned the storm was imminent.
(b) You decide to fly over the area and confirm for yourself that the rumors of a killer storm are really true and not just more bleeding-heart, liberal-media whining. You look out the window of Air Force One and mutter, “Huh. Where’d Mississippi go?”
3. Experts have long predicted that “the big one” would eventually hit New Orleans. It was a matter of when, not if. These same experts have warned that if the levees failed, the city would be inundated. Therefore, the Army Corps of Engineers studied the levee system, determined the weakest spots in the flood walls of the canals, and began shoring them up.
(a) You make sure, for the safety and security of American citizens, that the flood-wall repairs are completed. Also, you understand that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, that it is more fiscally sound to spend millions protecting New Orleans than billions rebuilding it.
(b) Experts? You don’t need no stinking experts. You’re The President. You’re so obsessed with terrorists that you’re blind to any other kind of danger. You and the Republicans in Congress decide to slash funding for the Corps of Engineers and instead squander that money, and billions more, invading a distant, non-threatening land in the name of “homeland security.” Consequently, the flood walls are never repaired.
4. Hurricane Katrina tosses Lake Pontchartrain violently against Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. Flood walls on three canals are breached at the predicted points. Thousands of residents of New Orleans who did not have the resources to evacuate the city are struggling through waist-high, polluted water; drowning, starving, dehydrated, frustrated, angry, dying in the streets and in attics; dying from heat stroke, and now, thanks to widespread looting, well armed.
(a) You send Homeland Security and FEMA (Federal EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT Agency) to establish order, and the Army and National Guard to help the beleaguered NOPD maintain order. You send food and water — by air drop if necessary. You find a way to get those people out of there immediately and take them someplace safe. That’s why we pay you the big bucks.
(b) You are asleep at the wheel. When you wake up, you stumble and stutter and mutter about how complicated, unexpected, unanticipated, unprecedented . . . You sit glaze-eyed and complacent with a taxpayer-funded roof over your head and advise people who have lost everything — who have no food, no drinking water, no baby formula, no dry clothes, no sanitation, no medicine, and no homes — to be patient. You allow that perhaps mistakes were made. The passive voice: classic refuge of those trying to escape accountability.
If you answered (b) to all of the above, your names is George W. Bush, and you are not qualified to run a Laundromat, much less the greatest nation on earth. (No offense to Laundromat managers.) The only thing you are good at is spin; you and your minions spin like spiders on amphetamines. You deserve nothing so much as to be immediately impeached for your bungled handling of the hurricane relief effort and your general gross incompetence.
Of course, even the President cannot prevent a hurricane. But you could have responded faster and more decisively. You could have taken the security of New Orleans more seriously in 2003 when you effectively ended work on the flood walls. And, of course, the unanswered question will always hang in the air: If the majority of people overflowing the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center had been white . . .?
New Orleans was known as “the city that care forgot”; you will be remembered as “the President that forgot to care.” One of America’s great cities, a unique national treasure that was my second home, may never again be the same vibrant and gracious place that I knew and loved so well. But, hey, that’s cool. At least people in Iraq are now free to vote for the theocracy of their choice. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but that makes me feel a whole lot more secure.
MAXINE CONANT, a Belen native, and former resident of New Orleans.
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005