Saturday, September 3, 2005

America as a third-world country

I am a native-born United States citizen and I am proud of what my country has accomplished. But I am not a jingoistic flag-waver, and I must admit that there are times when I am aghast at what is done in America or in the name of America.

The now-infamous events surrounding the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina is one such thing. Who could imagine that such lawlessness, break-down of social order, and utter disregard for the lives of others could occur in such a rich nation with such a long history of democracy?

Both sympathizers and critics alike are looking at the United States as if it's a third world country. Newspapers in the U.S. are saying the affected region is in a state of anarchy. A Kuwaiti government minister supposedly said that Katrina was punishment by Allah.

The worst of the stories claim that there is rape and murder going on amidst the chaos. Thousands of people have been left stranded and without food or drinkable water.

It could be three months before the entire city is pumped dry.

Lots of people--Dems and GOPers alike--are blaming the President, who finally toured the region and brought aid with him. To his credit, he admitted that relief efforts indeed sucked ("not acceptable" were his words).

At least one Bush supporter, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, disingenuously tried to deflect criticism of the Feds (and thus Bush) by suggesting the hurricane was a surprise that caught everyone off-guard. In response to a question asking if the federal government had dropped the ball, Barbour replied:
I really don't. And I think it's very unfair for the federal government, for you to say we knew this was a great powerful storm. This was a category-1 hurricane when it hit Florida. Now that's the truth.
Well, that's part of the truth. This was, in fact true at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. But it is entirely misleading of Barbour to bring that up without explaining that the next day, Friday, August 26, the National Hurricane Center predicted Katrina would become a major hurricane as it moves away from the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico where it would almost certainly pick up steam.

By the end of Friday, Katrina was a category-2 hurricane, and by 5 a.m. Saturday, it was a category-3 hurricane. By 2 a.m. on Sunday it was a whopping category-4 hurricane, and by 7:30 it was a category-5. At this point it was 400 kilometers from the Gulf Coast around Louisiana and Mississippi. Three hours later, at 10:30 a.m., the mayor of New Orleans ordered mandatory evacuation of residents.

The next morning the hurricane makes landfall again, not far from New Orleans. This is three days after the former category-1 hurricane Barbour talked about was predicted to be a major storm and two days after it actually became a category-3.

This all is a tragedy. Even if evacuation had gone as planned, there would still be many deaths and billions of dollars in damage. While I don't think it deserves the "American tsunami" label some have used (even if thousands died due to Katrina, that is just 1 or 2 percent of the tsunami's death toll), it is something that will have put a major scar on our country's economic and social fabric.

I send a prayer out for all those who have suffered or lost their lives, and their loved ones who remain.


  1. If it was Allah's retribution, it hit the wrong place...
    Calling this America's Tsunami is like calling the massacres in Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia's Holocaust. All tragedies to be sure, but hardly comparable ones.

  2. A prominent Jewish scholar has said that Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for America supporting Israel's pull-out of Gaza.


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