The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an open letter to George Bush today, castigating him for the mishandling of the response to the crisis in New Orleans, and calling on him to fire FEMA head Michael Brown. What follows is my letter to the editor in response to that open letter:
To the Editor,
Your open letter to the President makes a strong statement about the outrage being visited upon the city of New Orleans by the Federal Government, but in simply calling for George Bush to fire Michael Brown and other officials at FEMA, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
It was George Bush who, after the hurricane had already smashed into the Gulf Coast on Monday and hundreds lay dead in Mississippi and Louisiana, delivered an 85-paragraph speech on Medicare and managed to devote just two paragraphs of that speech to Katrina. Instead of spending his time planning for disaster relief before the storm hit, he was out giving political speeches, and graciously informing the citizens of New Orleans that he would pray for you. Astonishingly, he even disclosed in that speech that he had just spoken with Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security…about immigration!
It was George Bush who, on Tuesday, after the levees had breached and New Orleans was being submerged, found time to travel to San Diego and deliver a 91-paragraph speech, yet another political exercise making a preposterous analogy between the so-called war on terror and the World War II fight against Japan. He managed this time, after the hurricane had hit (!) while 90% of New Orleans was already under water, to squeeze in a grand total of two paragraphs about Katrina. At that very time, another President, the President of Cuba, was sufficiently aware of the disaster in the Gulf that he had contacted the U.S. State Department and offered to send on a moment’s notice 1100 fully self-sufficient doctors, carrying not only medicines but even their own food and water. Our President…spent time playing with his spiffy new guitar with a Presidential seal.
The next day, one day after that generous and potentially life saving offer from Fidel Castro, on a day when those Cuban doctors could have already been in place saving lives, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was still on vacation in New York, spending several thousand dollars on shoes. To this day, although there are still people dying in the streets (and even in the understaffed temporary hospital set up at the airport) of New Orleans, Rice has still not responded to that offer.
As for Dick Cheney, he’s still on vacation, having done (if that is possible) even less than George Bush.
And, I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, it was not only Bush and Rice, but Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the key people in this administration, who were responsible for the lies which justified the invasion of Iraq, not to mention the decision to do so, a decision which has not only cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans, but also nearly $300 billion. As the Times-Picayune well knows, some of that money should have been used to shore up the levees in New Orleans, but was denied because of the urgent need to fight an unjustified, illegal war. And, as you also well know, it was that decision which resulted in thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi National Guardsmen being halfway around the world fighting that war, instead of at home ready to deal with the effects of crises at home like they signed up to do. And not only were a signficant portion of the Guard not available in a timely manner, but there aren’t as many of them in the first place as there should be either, because that same war has discouraged more people from joining the Guard.
FEMA has certainly proven completely incompetent in managing the response to this disaster. But who appointed the incompetent, completely unqualified Michael Brown to his position as head of FEMA? George Bush, of course, doing what he always does – rewarding a political ally (the college roommate of his 2000 campaign manager, and no doubt a major contributor as well), rather than seeking the best qualified person for the job.
There is only one solution to the nightmare enveloping our country, and it doesn’t start with FEMA. It starts with the Administration which appointed the head of FEMA, which starved New Orleans of the money it needed to reinforce its levees long before Katrina hit, which sent vitally needed National Guard to Iraq where they could be of no help when Katrina hit, and which exhibited callous, criminal indifference to the plight of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast before it finally sprang, or rather crept, into action.
George Bush and his entire Administration — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Chertoff, Michael Brown, and everyone else who bares responsibility for that criminal behavior — should resign. Today. In countless other countries around the world, any decent official responsible for such a disaster would have fallen on their sword – figuratively, and even literally in a few cases. We don’t need them to go that far, although later, charging them as accessories to the murder of hundreds or thousands of residents of New Orleans would not be inappropriate. But at this time, their responsibility is far too deep, and far too obvious, to call for the usual round of Congressional hearings and mild recriminations. They must resign. Now.
ELI STEPHENS maintains the LeftI blogspot. He can be reached at: http://lefti.blogspot.com/
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