Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fucking the victims of Katrina

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is completely and utterly appalling:

As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.

Titled "Echo-Chamber Message" -- a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again -- the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans "practical help and moral support" and "highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."

Many of the U.S. diplomats who received the message, however, were beginning to witness a more embarrassing reality. They knew the U.S. government was turning down many allies' offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Eventually the United States also would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina's victims.

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

And here's a revealing statistic: "Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel, according to a 40-page State Department table of the offers that had been received as of January 2006."

I don't know what to say. Essentially, the U.S. government -- with the knowledge and inaction of the Bush Administration, which covered it up -- denied Katrina victims massive amounts of foreign aid and support, even aid and support from America's closest friends.

How fucked up is that? And how reprehensible?

The normal and ineffectual processes and operations of government may be partly to blame, but so too is the Bush Administration. And Bush himself, who must be held responsible for the government's response to Katrina.

For what we know now is that it wasn't just FEMA's slow response to the hurricane that was the problem. It was also failure on a massive scale to provide aid and support to the victims.


That is what is truly appalling.

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