Here's something I don't understand. The Golden Goose was about to
lay another 9/11-type Golden Egg for Bush&Co. to pick up. And they
Surely, Karl Rove, who had seen Bush's approval ratings drop to
all-time lows, knew days ahead that a Category 5 Hurricane was
bearing down on New Orleans and a calamitous disaster was likely to
unfold there if and when the levees were unable to hold back the
water. What better way to improve those ratings than for Bush to be
photographed the day after the disaster struck, standing on top of
debris, bullhorn in hand, vowing that the government would help Gulf
Coast states rebuild from the Katrina catastrophe?
But none of that happened. They bungled their own political
resurrection! Nearly a full week went by, while thousands were dying
and starving or were kenneled in unbelievable filth in New Orleans.
Nobody seemed to be in charge. Bush remained "on vacation" in
Crawford, and traveled around to fundraisers, played golf, etc.;
Condi was theatergoing and buying thousand-dollar shoes on Fifth
Avenue. What was going on? Did Karl Rove not understand the
significance of what was happening? Was Bush...uh..."incapacitated"?
What about Cheney, "on vacation" in Wyoming; was he "incapacitated,"
too? Are the Bush people really that politically obtuse?
So here's the question I have for those of you who voted for Bush in
2004: Do you get it now?
BUSH GOES AWOL, AGAIN
For the past four years, progressives and moderate-conservatives
have been pointing out how incompetent this Administration is. Many
Bush Republicans accused us of making up such accusations for purely
political reasons. Now you yourself can see what we have seen: These
guys are way over their heads and haven't got a clue; they're
constantly having to come back at a problem in hopes of getting it
right the second or third time around. Of course, that means they're
always playing catch-up, which means they're always too late. (Such
as this Alice-in-Wonderland comment by Bush a week after he went
AWOL -- again -- when his country needed him: "In America, we do not
abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need.")
Those at the royal Bush court lead such isolated, circumscribed
lives that when a disaster strikes, they are so far removed from the
circumstances in which regular people find themselves that they
simply don't understand the magnitude of what's happening out there
in the real-world. You may remember that Bush's first response to
the Asian tsunami was silence, and then a grudging piddling amount
of aid offered; it took the international community shaming him for
his unfeeling miserliness before his handlers began to change Bush's
tune and he finally pledged genuine aid commensurate with the
enormity of the catastrophe.
Our earlier assessment of the Administration as bumblers was made
mainly on the disaster that Bush&Co. made, and are still making, in
the Persian Gulf. But now the whole world gets to see, up close and
personal, the thorough botch they made, and are still making, in the
other Gulf, in New Orleans and environs.
THE IRAQ BOTCH
In Iraq, they launched a war based on lies and deceptions, and had
no plan for what should happen after the major military fighting
They turned away Iraqis from participating in the reconstruction of
their own society, preferring to award the multi-billion-dollar
contracts to huge American firms like Halliburton and Bechtel. They
disbanded the Iraqi army, leaving hundreds of thousands of young
Iraqi men unemployed and angry. They insultingly refused aid and
advice from the United Nations and their former allies, wanting
nobody to interfere with their Occupation. They didn't have enough
troops, and the correct troops, in place to police the "post-war"
phase. They didn't guard the abandoned ammo dumps, and then were
surprised when those munitions were used to blow up U.S. soldiers.
They finally, a year or two late, realized that the U.S. was engaged
in a guerrilla-style war against nationalist insurgents, along with
some foreign jihadists, and started to change their military
strategy. But it was too late, and insufficient, to make much of a
dent. Now the U.S. is involved in a stalemated, Vietnam-like
quagmire, and steady streams of flag-draped caskets make their way
back to the U.S., and thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi
civilians continue dying as well.
And still Bush cannot bring himself to answer Cindy Sheehan's simple
question: "For what noble cause did my son have to die?"
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Now in 2005, a natural disaster occurred that everyone predicted --
including the government's own emergency-response specialists.
Specifically, Homeland Security Department chief Michael Chertoff
and FEMA's head Michael Brown were briefed on the consequences of
the levees breaking days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
But the Administration's response was non-existent. Or completely
beyond belief: Bush actually told Diane Sawyer "I don't think anyone
anticipated the breach of the levees." Read your experts' frickin
FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which Bush turned
into a stripped-down, underfunded subgroup buried in the Homeland
Security Department, focusing on anti-terrorism measures rather than
on emergency-management -- is led by an bumbling political
appointee, Brown, someone with no experience in this field, and it
showed; for example, neither he nor Chertoff were aware there were
thousands of refugees in the city's Convention Center until Day 5.
We ordinary citizens, paying attention to the news reports, knew
that three days before they did.
Brown was a buddy of one of Bush's Texas pals, with a history in
show-horses. That's the man in charge of FEMA. And, believe it or
not, Bush the other day thanked him publicly for doing such a "heck
of a job." Oh, by the way, guess which company has been awarded the
contract for reconstructing New Orleans? Yep, Cheney's Halliburton.
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin hit the nail on the head about Bush's
belated promise to send 40,000 troops into his city. "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."
Tens of thousands of New Orleans residents -- those mostly too poor
to have been able to evacuate the city -- were herded into mass
structures like the Superdome and Convention Center, locked inside,
and then no government agency provided food, water, medicine,
sanitation care, removal of the dead, etc. Those who wanted to leave
those horrific shelters and cross over a bridge to dry land were
prohibited by armed troops from doing so.
Many of those residents complained that the thousands of citizens
there were treated worse than dogs in a kennel. It was a circle out
of Dante's Inferno. Indeed, so atrociously were the victims treated
in those facilities that even right-wing Fox News reporters Shepard
Smith and Geraldo Rivera were appalled on the air, just trying to
get viewers to understand the enormity of the hell-on-earth scenes
they were witnessing. Rivera was crying and screaming to "let these
people walk out of here...just let them leave." (You've got to
powerful video of Shepard and Rivera live on air -- reality-TV
at its best.)
DON'T BE POOR OR POOR-AND-BLACK
The fact that the great majority of those seeking refuge and rescue
were African-American, and that no help came in the first five or
six days, spoke volumes about the "compassionate conservatism"
supposedly animating Bush's administration. Try to imagine how fast
the federal government would have mobilized to reach an upper-class
compound filled with thousands of well-do-do white people, with
access and influence. You get the picture.
Speaking of pictures, two comments:
1. Bush flew into New Orleans to have his picture taken for
public-relations purposes. At one location, he spoke at a
"food-distribution" point, which disappeared shortly after the
photo-op. It was a set! Various other photo ops likewise were
organized that were equally as unreal. For more, see
"The Potemkin Photo Op".
2. No doubt you've seen the way two virtually identical photos of
hurricane survivors were captioned in local newspapers. In one, a
white man, up to his chest in water, with some groceries in his
hands: "...found food at a local market." In another, same scenario,
but a young black man: "...looted food from a supermarket." Both
were trying to survive and bring some form of sustenance back to
their children and families. One "found" food, the other "looted"
Interestingly, when after Baghdad fell, we saw the video pictures of
Iraqis looting stores and museums and such, Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld said: "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make
mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things". . . Looting, he
added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant
social upheaval. "Stuff happens."
Now the governor of Louisiana is talking about "shoot-to-kill"
orders against those who, facing starvation from a non-caring
government, are taking food from abandoned, flooded-out grocery
stores. And right-wing, let-them-eat-cake pundits blame the mostly
black, poverty-stricken residents for "choosing" not to evacuate New
Orleans, as if these cashless folks should just have jumped in their
non-existent cars or boats and headed out of town. Of course, FEMA
or the military could have supplied the buses and trucks and trains
to take out the trapped, but apparently there were no such
contingency plans and/or nobody with any brains was in charge to get
the mass evacuation organized.
A REVERSE-MIDAS TOUCH
But let's move on from America's perennial,
always-just-below-the-surface racism and hits-on-the-poor. The point
here is that George W. Bush has a reverse Midas touch. Whatever he
involves himself in as a leader winds up in FUBAR land. (If you
don't know what those letters stand for, ask someone in the
military: ---- Up Beyond All Recognition.)
It happened with his botched oil-company ventures at Arbusto and
Harken Energy in Texas; it happened, and is happening in Iraq; and
now it's happening with regard to the Katrina disaster in Louisiana.
Except this time there's no wealthy family friend, or Saudi prince,
or British prime minister, to bail Bush out of his difficulties.
He's out there all by his lonesome, exposed for all the world to see
as the emperor with no clothes, a figurehead leader with no
emotional or intellectual wherewithal to deal efficiently and
correctly with anything beyond the most simple scenarios. Introduce
complexity into the equation, and he's a deer in the highlights of
So...what to do? While Rove&Co. ratchet up the ol' spin machine --
and try to find others to blame for their own gross delays and
mistakes -- Bush's normal allies are abandoning him, right and left
and right. Business Week, Washington Times, newspapers around the
country, conservative pundits
and Newt Gingrich, retired military officers, and so on -- they all
can't believe the idiocy and deadly cluelessness of their GOP hero.
They all realize that this incompetent, way-over-his-head guy has
three more years on his contract, and he's likely to take down the
economy, political structure, and everything else with him as his
administration self-destructs in an unholy mess. In short, the Bush
Administration is not good for business, which CEOs and others are
finally starting to realize.
LEAVE OR BE PUSHED
Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Chertoff and the others
simply have got to go, along with the other fools and criminals down
there in his bunker. Bush and Cheney either must be encouraged by
GOP powerbrokers to resign, or they must be impeached.
They each took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution
and all American citizens. They have shredded the Constitution -- in
the name of "anti-terrorism," they have denuded the Bill of Rights
-- and they have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of
protecting the citizenry, either in Iraq or here at home. Clear
dereliction of duty.
Indeed, they have, for their own partisan purposes, revealed the
identity of a covert CIA agent -- a crime that according to
President George H. W. Bush is "traitorous"; indictments are
expected shortly against key Bush Administration officials involved
in this case. In addition, the Administration has "disappeared"
American citizens into the military gulag, away from contact with
lawyers or their families. This is the behavior of dictators; when
it happens in African or Latin American countries, we are outraged.
Folks, it's happening right here.
You and I, no matter for whom we voted in 2004, need to stop these
incompetent fools from doing even more damage, and get this country
back on its moral track, run by leaders who have something else on
their minds other than power-hunger and take-the-money-and-run.
Bush and Cheney should resign voluntarily right now, in the best
interests of the country. If they don't choose to go, it's long past
time for impeachment hearings to begin and for local prosecutors and
grand juries (perhaps in New Orleans parishes) to start their own
investigations and indictments, and not depend solely on Congress
for accountability-reckoning. That's the message that needs to go
out from all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to our legislators.
I can't express it any better than Aaron Broussard, the president of
New Orleans' Jefferson Parish. Here is what he had to say on
Meet the Press.
"We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina
down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American
coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one
of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in
U.S. history. ? Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that
totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we've got to start with
some new leadership. It's not just Katrina that caused all these
deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here
in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial
before Congress now."
Bernard Weiner has authored
more than 150
articles and essays about the Bush Administration since 9/11/01.
A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at
various colleges, was a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (
www.crisispapers.org ) .
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