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Katrina and the knaves

There’s not an awful lot more one can add to the impressive coverage provided by Gene, so I’m not going to try. Pretend as I might, I know nothing about planning responses to natural disasters on this scale, and little more about the division of Federal and state responsibility in such matters. (At least I know what the bloody hell a ‘levee’ is now, although the rest of ‘American Pie’ remains as unintelligible as ever).

Of course, the same is true for the vast majority of bloggers this side of the water (that’s the Atlantic Ocean), but this doesn’t seem to have stopped them. The great and good of the British blogosphere (when is someone going to come up with less vomit-inducing term?) have taken to lecturing anybody who will listen on everything from the state of flood defences in America’s SE, to the precise number of buses required to evacuate the entire population of New Orleans. After all, we are only talking about the project management of one of the largest logistical exercises ever undertaken by man and machine, so why shouldn’t post-graduates in political philosophy and those who “work in IT” have their tuppence worth?

Which is not to say that you have to have decades of disaster relief experience under your belt to recognize that some things have gone wrong, so I’ll go out on a limb and say that “some things have gone wrong” as regards the authorities’ attempts to deal with a natural catastrophe that has engulfed 90,000 square miles of territory, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands. Precisely what has gone wrong, what should have been done differently and who is to blame, I’ll leave to the frustrated Isambard Keyboard Brunels.

One thing I do feel qualified to comment on, however, would be the scarcely concealed glee exhibited by certain commentators in the UK at the predicament in which Bush now finds himself. Some at least dress up their schadenfreude as a serious critique of the federal response; others don’t even have the decency to do this. Again, the point here is not that the Bush administration is absolved of all responsibility for the mistakes that have been made, but that the criticism, at least for the most part, is gratuitous, spectacularly uninformed and delivered with an eager spite that suggests a good few years of pent up frustration: ‘we couldn’t get him on Iraq – at least up to now – so we’ll get him on Katrina.’

I pity the future resident of the Whitehouse the day the Pacific and North American plates collide in a way that will leave people asking whose San Andreas fault it is that so many people are dead and homeless?

Anyway, at least we Brits can be thankful we don’t live in a continent where 15,000 of our most vulnerable people can die in hot weather that the authorities neither predicted nor planned for. Can you imagine? So let’s enjoy these last few days of summer before the first 2-inch flurry of winter snow brings the entire country, the cradle of industrial revolution, to a juddering, freezing halt. Just as it did last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

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