Lord of the Flies, New Orleans styleEvery year, a hurricane or two slams into the states that border the Gulf of Mexico. There is always devastation and property loss. But even those who might normally be emotionally immune to the effects of such annual events, it's hard to not be dazed by the utter anniihilation of the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. What's left of New Orelans has been gripped by near anarchy and a virtual breakdown of civilization; today, there were a series of massive explosions at a chemical factory on the city's waterfront. And while the former Big Easy is certainly the biggest disaster, it's worth remembering that other parts of the south were smashed too.
There has been plenty of 'looting' in New Orleans. Though those who take water, food, hygeine products, etc. in such catastrophic circumstances can't really in good conscience be called looters. Those who steal electronics, on the other hand...
But it's absolutely sickening to read that those trying evacuate refugees from the Superdome football stadium came under sniper fire. To steal food or water is completely understandable. To steal TVs and stereos is morally wrong, but at least there's some sort of selfish interest involved. But to open fire on people trying to evacuate refugees? What sort of twisted rationale can there be for something like that, other than sadism or pure malice.
Dennis, over at Moderate Republican blog, applauds the countries.who have planned to offer aid to the US in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Most notable are Canada, Germany and France, three countries regularly smeared by the far right as irredeemable America-haters because their governments rightly opposed the Iraq aggression. The supposedly anti-American United Nations also offered relief.
Also offering help were Australia, Belgium, Russia, Japan, Britain, China, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Thanks to France, Canada and all the other countries for their help.
Update: President Bush went out of his way to condemn relief efforts in the area. Efforts have been hampered by the fact that state and local officials are having such trouble mobilizing and deploying National Guard troops to the crisis. How come? The Washington Post notes that thousands of National Guard troops from the affected states are out of the country in Iraq. Some 30% of the Louisiana Guard is in the Middle East. Perhaps more importantly, so their equipment. The role of the National Guard is to help in domestic crises. There were plenty of New York Guardsmen who helped deal with the aftermath of 9/11; they were available because they were in New York, not Mesopatamia. The National Guard is not sent abroad except in the most grave emergencies that threaten the safety of America. At least that was the case until a few years ago.
Another update: This editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wonders How do you justify cutting $250 million in scheduled spending for crucial pump and levee work in the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), authorized by Congress in 1995? Editor and Publisher magazine reports that even "as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside," after 2003 "the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle." Why? Editor and Publisher says both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Orleans Times-Picayune blame "spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts."