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Web Letter

I agree that there was a definite racist element to the Bush administration's lack of or slow response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

But there is mounting evidence that the Republicans deliberately did what they did to punish Democratic Party leaders in Louisiana. To score political points against Democrats in an attempt to get more Republicans elected.

For instance, on the day that New Orleans flooded, Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) said last year that the FEMA command center in Baton Rouge was inundated with phone calls by people responding to the right-wing smear campaign launched against her (and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, also a Democrat). This flood of calls into the command center, she said, made it difficult to call out and coordinate rescue efforts. Remember the fallacious claim (rumor, smear) that Governor Blanco didn't ask the federal government (Bush administration, DHS, FEMA) for federal emergency disaster help before Katrina hit? Official documents posted on the White House website proved that she had, and besides, what was a FEMA disaster coordinator doing at a FEMA command center in Baton Rouge if she hadn't requested federal disaster assistance before Katrina hit?

But, you see, this was a White House-coordinated (Karl Rove?) smear campaign against Louisiana Democrats. And the last thing a "smearer" would want to do during a smear campaign would be to help, in anyway, the person (or group) they were smearing, right?

So, the FEMA disaster coordinator was reported to have said in the presence of a reporter the day New Orleans flooded that he felt frustrated, because his efforts to rush rescue personnel and equipment into New Orleans was being thwarted, with personnel and equipment either being stopped or redirected elsewhere.

Then, earlier this year, there was the report that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during Katrina ordered the standing down of US Navy search-and-rescue helicopter units in Pensacola Florida, even as pilots and crew reportedly wanted to go help in New Orleans, a short distance west along the Gulf Coast. Combine this information with David S. Cloud's NY Times articles the weekend after Katrina's landfall and the flooding of New Orleans, and one gets the idea that the Bush administration's non-response to people dying in New Orleans was deliberate. Mr. Cloud reported that two US military helicopter pilots were reprimanded on their return to their Pensacola airbase following a resupply mission to a base near New Orleans. Once they dropped off their supplies they responded to a distress call from New Orleans and rescued over a hundred people stranded on rooftops, or elsewhere, in New Orleans.

But what struck me in Mr. Cloud's articles was a paragraph reporting what these pilots saw as they passed along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast, heading westward from Pensacola to near New Orleans. They saw a flurry of federal and state rescue activity on the ground and in the air while passing over Alabama and Mississippi, but once they crossed over into Louisiana and into the New Orleans area, practically nothing on the ground or in the air was happening. Why?

Oh! Alabama and Mississippi had Republican governors, while Louisiana had a Democratic governor, whom the Bush White House was actively trying to smear, casting her as incompetent. This is what happened in Louisiana and New Orleans. This is why all those residents of New Orleans were left to die. This was premeditated murder on the part of the Bush administration and Karl "Politics All The Time" Rove. Katrina was bad enough, but the Bush administration compounded the tragedy by deliberately withholding officially requested federal emergency disaster assistance from New Orleans and Louisiana during those first critical days. Hell isn't deep enough for these Republicans.

Paul Sorrells

Austin, TX

Aug 27 2009 - 11:05pm

Web Letter

This was a superb article. It provided a thorough summary of the awful situation caused not so much by Katrina as by the lack of empathy by our heartless leaders. Most of us still feel the helpless rage at the complete indifference to our suffering. I am one of the fortunate ones. I did not lose a loved one or my personal history like so many others, but many of my close friends did, and we have all tried to comfort each other as best we can.

Much of my own outrage is directed to our own homegrown leaders and the white-collar criminals that continue to rob us at every turn. Huge amounts of money have been squandered or stolen by our own people. The enormous problems we face are caused not by a lack of leadership but by the wrong leadership. The only thing worse than a Southern Democrat is a Southern Republican, one of which is now our elected governor, who has brought even more scorn toward our state. The only pride I can feel is in the fact that 78.5 percent of the people of Orleans Parish voted for Barack Obama. I only hope he is aware of that. We need a strong leader, especially now.

These problems did not begin with a hurricane. They began over a century ago when Southern Democrats and others in positions of power opted out of a more intelligent plan to include everyone, and especially former slaves, into the mainstream of everyday life. The mindless and evil leaders created a population raised on poverty and humiliating racism. As recently as the 1960s we once again failed to do the right thing. It is almost as if we are incapable of morality. This reluctance to do the decent thing was exposed for the world to see by Katrina and was traced all the way to the federal level. The failure of the levees was the direct result of a failure of leadership put in place decades ago. The richest country in the world with the best engineers in the world did not use the capital and the will to provide protection that was obviously needed. Personally, I can only hope it is not too late when the next disaster strikes.

Donald Waits

New Orleans, LA

Mar 12 2009 - 5:31pm