Friday, September 02, 2005
More painful truths
From an interview with the mayor of Nola, Ray Nagin, last night:
"But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.
Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up -- you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man."
Apparently there are some stupid rules about who is allowed to ask for assistance from the federal government, and somehow those requests weren't made correctly. Did FEMA say "Oh, no, we can't begin rescue operations until we receive this form in triplicate"? Gee, we're sorry, but our fucking forms were underwater! And the martial law that should have been declared days ago... well, hasn't been. The resources that should have been commandeered as early as Monday, the civilian and military buses and equipment and food that FEMA should have just TAKEN from every Wal-Mart and Greyhound station and military base within 500 miles, weren't. Nobody is in charge. The local police are exhausted and terrified, being shot at, and abandoning their posts. Evacuations to the Astrodome and other arenas in Texas are underway but it's slow going, and who is in charge of the next step there? How long can 20,000 people live in the Astrodome?
And Mayor Nagin also mentions an overlooked fact - that Nola has a serious drug problem and now there are addicts roaming the streets with weapons, looking for a fix. It's bad.
He echoes my sentiments of yesterday: "I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.
Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."
This makes the 9/11 response look so easy in comparison. At least New York still had its infrastructure and communications systems, and an obvious Bad Guy to direct all our hate towards. Now we have emergency plans that can't be carried out because they all assumed roads and electricity, and no obvious Bad Guy. I can't even imagine the long-term fallout - the people displaced, the businesses ruined, the architecture and history lost, the poor physical and emergency planning exposed, the bureaucrats falling down on the job. How these things are dealt with will say a lot about America's future as a nation. We must learn from history, which teaches very harsh and real lessons.