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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

FEMA and the world's response to Katrina:

I desperately wish I had something happier to discuss for this, my fiftieth post, but I don't. I am by turns humbled and grateful for the response of some nations to Hurricane Katrina; and very angry about the initial domestic response to the catastrophe. I find myself especially humbled by the outpouring of support from some of the smallest and poorest nations in the world. This article on Yahoo News outlines some of the offers the United States has received in response to this horrible disaster. Bangladesh has offered US$1 million; Cuba, 1100 doctors; the Czech Republic, rescue teams, a field hospital, pumps, and water processing equipment; the Dominican Republic, rescue workers, doctors, and nurses; and also on this list offering substantial aid are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, and basically, a list of most of the nations in the world. For that, I as just a private citizen and native of part of the affected area, am deeply thankful. Thankfully, neither my loved ones nor I will need that help as a result of this storm, but over a million people will need assistance in some form or another, and, to put it mildly, I would not be surprised if our government will have to take at least some of the nations up on their offer. As a side note, though the U.S. policy towards Cuba's government is not the most cordial in the world, I realize as do, I hope, most other Americans, that their leadership is not a reflection on their people. I believe their response reflects that. Also, France is actually sending troops and supplies to the affected region, and it it my hope that their people will show far more competence than their diplomats or president. They will certainly be a big help in areas of Louisiana where French is the native tongue of the residents.

I've mentioned the gratitude for foreign nations' responses to Hurricane Katrina, but I would also be remiss if I did not mention the response of private aid and relief organizations, and businesses. The largest and best-known are the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, but other organizations and faith-based groups are joining them. From what little research I've done, many, if not most, major corporations in the U.S. are assisting with fundraising and other assistance in response to this catastrophe. Again, this is both good and, unfortunately, necessary.

I've mentioned that I'm very angry at the response of some of the domestic governmental agencies and their response to Hurricane Katrina. More and more people in the military are saying that they were ready but were held back by FEMA, and I've heard some mention that the Red Cross and Salvation Army made it to the affected region and started distributing supplies a day or two before FEMA came in. Bureaucracy has its place in providing for accountability and ensuring that public funds and trust are not being abused, and in normal times, it does serve a salutary purpose if kept in check. However, in times of crisis, which by any definition of the word, this is, that same bureaucracy can and has cost lives, and that is a far greater abuse of the public trust. I don't believe this is a Democrat or a Republican problem, because it took decades for things to deteriorate to this point. I agree with Spiegel's assessment that the response to Katrina was not unlike that after 9/11/01, and that what we are seeing is a repetition of past mistakes. I simply disagree strongly with the other insinuations of their article. They compared it to the response to 9/11, and yet in a fit of ideological fervor, they refused to take that train of thought to its logical conclusion, in that it had very little, if anything, to do with the race or wealth of those affected, and everything to do with incompetence at higher levels of government in their response. In short, that which should have happened immediately didn't occur for days, and people died as a result. I blame everyone from Mayor Nalin of New Orleans for not ordering the evacuation sooner, to Governor Blanco for the same and for showing an inability to effectively lead her state during this crisis, to the current Administration. There's more than enough blame to go around for everyone to get as many helpings as they want, but it would have been far better had there been no or little cause for the blame. It's too late to change that now. All we can do is go forward and provide any assistance we can to those affected, and make the necessary changes to attempt to prevent this from happening again.

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