A rumor killed almost a 1000 Iraqis in one panicked moment in Baghdad. A rumor about a suicide bomber in a religious mass of thousands on their way to a shrine.
These two catastrophies are linked inextricably. The war in Iraq siphoned away budgets, National Guards, and attention. The failure of infrastructure, of chains of communication, of emergency resources, of planning, of back-up planning, is something that those Iraqis and Thirdworlders are quite familiar with, right? But that never happens here. We are prepared.
I remember the seething anger when I read the following in The Economist, August 4th, 2005: A Loss of Prestige
In particular the poor state of Mumbai’s drainage infrastructure, owing to neglect and indiscriminate construction‚Äö√Ñ√Æon mangrove swamps, for example, which used to act as natural floodwater drains‚Äö√Ñ√Æmeant the impact was worse than might have been expected elsewhere. (The state water-resources minister, Ajit Pawar, angered many by blaming the proliferation of shanty towns for blocking drains, rather than rapacious developers.) The chaotic response to floods betrayed the ineffectiveness of the city’s disaster-management planning, too. A disaster-management plan had in fact been drawn up, with the help of the World Bank, in 2003. This envisaged the augmentation of drainage, corridors for public transport, an emergency public information system and wireless communication among emergency services and the transport system. But there was little sign it was followed.
Now go read Paul Krugman’s A Can’t Do Government. Or Jon Elliston’s A Disaster in the Making. Or Joel Bourne’s Gone with the Water. Or the Louisiana Homeland Security report from last year. Might as well have titled that PDB Hurriance Katrina Determined to Strike Inside US. Everyone knew this was coming. Our government didn’t do anything. That is the bottom line.
Here was Anderson Cooper on Larry King last night:
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn’t say I’m angry, you know. I think I’m tired of hearing the politicians say that, you know, they understand the frustration of people down here. To me, you know, it’s not frustration. It’s not that people are frustrated.
It’s that people are dying. I mean there are people dying. They’re drowning to death and they drown in their living rooms and their bodies are rotting where they drowned and there are corpses in the street being eaten by rats and this is the United States of America.
Today The Chosen One said this is unacceptable. Yes, HIS ADMINISTRATION is unacceptable. Where is the DHS? What if the terrorists had blown up the levees? EVERYONE WATCHED KATRINA LUMBER TO NO FOR FOUR DAYS. Where was the preparation for this? We hear about dirty bombs a lot from Cheney et al. Can I see some plans for evacuations of Chicago? WHO THE FUCK HERE HAS A CLUE!?
And from Bush’s statement released just now, the there-not-here refrain is even more prouncounced: “And I’m not looking forward to this trip. I got a feel for it when I flew over before. It — for those who have not — trying to conceive what we’re talking about, it’s as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by a — the worst kind of weapon you can imagine. And now we’re going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world“. NOLA is no longer in this part of the world?
update: Tom Engelhardt’s Iraq in America.