Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Looting, Robbery and Rape. Would it happen here?

I am genuinely sad for those who have lost everything in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many will have lost a lifetimes work and endevour. It must be heart breaking. I am also genuinely moved by the knowledge that many hundreds of thousands of people are living suspended lives

It must be said however, despite the apparent insensitivity, that my sympathy is tempered ever so slightly by a number of things.

A minor point would be my constant amazement that people knowingly build and live in communities located in such geographically un-sound situations. There are many examples around the world, of human's defiance of nature's superior force and every so often she proves who's in charge.

The most important point however is the incompetence and downright negligence of a state and local government not to have the powers, resources and plans in place to deal with a known threat and regular rehersals of their plans.

There is no question that good, rehersed plans save lives. Ask the many survivors of the French airliner that came down and blew up a month or so ago. Ask the hundreds of survivors or the London bombings on July 7th. Those in charge knew that one day the threat would arrive and had plans to cope.

Even according to its highest officials, New Orleans has been waiting for this for years, yet their readiness was non existent. The Mayor can order people to leave, but sod you if you can't. I would go so far as to say that the negligence of public officials verges on the criminal. Contingency planning is a much maligned profession but behind the scenes they must quietly get on with the job and have plans in place.

If an order to evacuatte is given, it should have been followed up with clinical precision to ensure that everyone leaves and would be easily anticipated by the massive build up of national guard and other agencies ready to move in and execute the order.

The third world coped better with the tsunami, and they had only 30 seconds notice. Get a grip, America.

It is at this point that I leap to the defence of that prize, grinning Charlie, President Bush. What the hell was he supposed to have done about it? Is he really supposed to check personally the contingency plans of every State and County. Was he really supposed to command the response? Have we gone mad? No. He has been massively let down by Senators, Governors, Congressmen, Mayors and every other local representative and it is very disconcerting that we see these very people promising to "punch the President". If they had done their job properly in the first place........

I also wish to hear nothing more from that dreadful group of British tourists caught up in it. They ignored the warnings, they were pathetically ill-prepared and most of them have displayed a staggering lack of dignity in the way they have escaped - and then weep crocodile tears for those they left behind. Sorry, not acceptable.

What is most alarming and depressing is the speed of descent into civil unrest and disorder. Media reports of rape, robbery, murder, looting are a disgrace. A natural disaster occurs, and a community of people are at each others throats within days. Is this where we are at, the so-called developed world? In the moment when a community should pull together and help itself, the community has pulled apart and turned on itself.

Can you imagine that happening here in Britain?

In as much as this has become the parallel stories of rich and poor, I rather think there are sufficient similarities between our two countries to merit closer scrutiny.

The very fact that I, a pro-American blogger, am contemplating this demonstrates just how much more fuel has been poured on anti-American sentiment. How they will crow. Until now, criticism of America has taken place against defensible backdrops. There has always been another side to the story. But in New Orleans we see America in its true colours. No Richard Rescorla here.

It is worth bearing in mind that a certain audience will have watched this situation very carefully indeed and will have been quite amazed and intrigued at how simple it has been to bring a major US city to its knees. Radical Muslims have shown a propensity for developing unique and viscious tactics against the West, deliberately targetted at our fears and foibles. This advertisment of the Western / American psyche will not have gone un-noticed.

1 comment:

Ian Bradley said...

Good post Richard, thanks. I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. The attitude of 'leave now, but sod you if you can't' was pretty apparent. In fact the outcome was to expose some of the reality of the American South nowadays, which some of us might think had long since become as 'civilised' as the rest of the US - specifically, the racial divide. Look again at the terrible pictures from the football stadium - twenty thousand black Americans, locked up in squalid conditions, kept inside by dozens of unsmiling white policemen with shotguns. I know it's not the whole story, but it's not the image lots of us would ahve expected to see in this situation.
Is Bush to blame? Well, the American mentality (especially in the South) is that Federal government is generally bad/inept/ill-intentioned/over-funded/over-bearing, but the one thing they do look to Washington for is the safety and defence of the nation. And there is a whole alphabet noodle soup of federal and state agencies charged with delivering this, from DHS and FEMA through the National Guard, State Police, Coastguard and all the others. The whole brew failed to work, pretty comprehensively. The federal parts of the system were too distracted by 'Al-Kayeeduh', the state and local parts of the system were hamstrung by bad planning, corruption and poor infrastructure. Bush can't invent new federal superagencies (like the DHS) and connive at manipulating the infrastructure budget (like the non-updating of the levees around New Orleans) without accepting responsibility for some of the consequences. He may not deserve every single punch that flies his way, but has certainly made it easy for people to think her deserves them.
Poor Louisiana.
It couldn't happen this way here, I hope.