Friday, September 02, 2005

The US is humbled!

And we thought September 11 was bad!

Katrina has humbled humanity's most powerful nation. All these years, US planners were preparing for a cataclysmic terrorist attack. Well, the cataclysm came; the terrorist attack didn't. Instead, Mother Nature struck.

From what can be seen on TV screens, as well as eye-witness accounts, up to 10,000 people may have perished. An entire city has been evacuated and may never be inhabited again. Hundreds, if not thousands of towns and villages along the Gulf Coast have been utterly leveled. Some Congresspersons have even publicly broached the topic of whether it will be worth tax-payer dollars to rebuild New Orleans.

But why am I so devastated? I watch similar calamities strike humanity all over the world. The Tsunami in South East Asia, earthquakes in Iran and Turkey, floods in Bangladesh and China. Each of these natural disasters has lead to tens of thousands of deaths, and in the case of the tsunami, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives. Yet, with the exception of the Tsunami, my sorrow was relatively fleeting. Why?

Well, maybe because America is the most powerful nation in the world. And if nature humbled the most powerful among us, then I am indeed humbled! Maybe my anger is the result of the massive screw-up on behalf of the federal government and state authorities. One thought frightens me more than any other though. I hate witnessing the decline or gradual death of any creature or entity. Could this inability to manage the crisis and the hesitation to rebuild what was destroyed, be a symbol of the decline of the United States? When Empires stop building cities and start abandoning them... is that not the most obvious sign of decline?

As a Lebanese I cannot but look in awe at the mess caused by Katrina in the US. As an American, I feel depressed and angry at the incompetence and lack of foresight by the Federal government and state authorities. I am also ecstatic with the performance of most American media outlets which have thrown out all shackles, taken their gloves off and gone all-out against the authorities; a lot of times TV anchors and reporters have spoken with tears of rage and compassion on their faces. It ought to say a lot when the best performing organizations during this calamity are media outlets.


Doha said...

This crisis has shown as well the severe divides in race and class in the US.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I think that the way the US handled the crisis is good. Sure, a lot of people died but this was to be expected. In what country can you evacuate a 1.4 million city in 48 hours? Less than 300 000 people stayed and nobody ever said that you could evacuate every possible grandpa sitting in a wheel chair. The rescue operation is gigantic and that is the key issue here.

Anonymous said...

It's incredible. It seems like this happened in a 3rd world country. As Doha said, it clearly highlights the inequalities in US society...Had this happened in the richer states, the scale of the damage would not have been as severe. There was clearly a failure in anticipating the nature of the threat, and there is also a failure of the authorities in dealing with the consequences. Part of the huge toll is due to the fact that many people thought they could live through this storm, as they had lived through many others. But there is more importantly the issue of under-investment in the infrastructure.... (the dams for ex)...It also shows us how vulnerable we still are against the wrath of mother nature, and how the whole "system" we've created for ourselves to make life easier can actually be not a strength but a weakness. I was in a ski resort once, and after a tempest, the power was cut for several hours...people were paralyzed: the cash machines did not work, neither did the automatic petrol pumps, no one had candles at home....well, being from Lebanon, WE did of course! Reem.

may said...

So far, I have only seen the BBC's coverage of the issue and was surprised about a journalist's interview with the mayor (i think ) of New Orleans(will give name and position once i find it). She was explaining how the disaster is much bigger than what is shown on the media. I understood her meaning as the affect of the hurricane on the area. The question or comment that the journalist posed alluded to the "looting." She explained differently.

Was I supposed to think that she was talking about the "looting?"

Just a media observation.

Anonymous said...

I have read many comments about the federal government's failure to plan adequately for Katrina. You should know, it is not the Federal governemnt's role to plan for handling local disasters; that is left to each state.

It is important to many citizens of the US that many things are left in the hands of their State governments and are not controlled by Washington.

The US does have an agency named FEMA, which is designed to help the States in very large disasters, but the Governor of each state has that main responsibility.


hale said...

Raja -

You titled your post: "The US is humbled!" I don't know what you mean by that. I would agree that the US has been bloodied, but not humbled! As the saying goes: BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED!

When the extent of the damage was realized, money started pouring in from all over the country. Bush allottted several millions to relief and assigned about 20000 additional National Guard troops to keep order and help with salvation and recovery.

Where in all of this did you get the idea that the country was 'humbled'?


Anonymous said...

In response to anon 11:17

It is true that a key feature of the US model is minimum government interference, especially in economic afairs -as is visible in the tax policies of the recent governments...This has been in many aspects a positive factor to the performance of the country, however the recent disaster shows that this model might also have weaknesses. Of course, I think it is imprtant to think of this in the context of the overall political situation: with Bush's policies focused on his 'war on terror', many resources have been diverted from other areas. FEMA is actually part of the department of homeland security, and is one such body which has had its budget cut down....I find it pretty worrying that the US, which has been preparing itself to deal with any terror attacks, can't deal with a natural disaster...

Dunia said...

لوتينغ العراق ولوتينغ كاترينا

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

During his press conference on "Al-Manar" (a.k.a. Hizbull-Persian-Deity TV) yesterday evening, the cruel Kurdish warlord of Bayt-el-Din added yet another outlandish statement to his long list of pearls of twisted wisdom:
“…our beloved friend martyr sheikh Rafik Al-Hariri, may Allah have mercy upon him, single-handedly defeated the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese treaty that president Reagan and various Christian collaborators tried to impose on our country...” [sic]

Talk about historic revisionism!

No wonder Waleed Jumblatt is a self-proclaimed admirer of “scientific socialism”: the man would have done a great job at the head of the Ministry of Truth under the reign of comrade Jo Stalin…

Dr Victorino de la Vega
The Middle East Memo

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

It's about all the anti-american mumbo-jumbo hiding behind all those who rejoices about the 'humbling' of the US

It's in French though, if you can understand it, read it:

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I am not talking for you Raja, you made your feelings clear enough, but I am fed up by all this anti-americanism hiding behind the comments on this catastrophe.

Utlimate BS: Islamists bloggers and websites are already saying that the USA were struck by Allah's wrath!

hale said...


Thank you, VP, for the references. I did not read both of them, only the first one, and did not feel I had to read the second one after I read the first!! The French journalists are BITTER, aren't they? I don't understand it, and I am not going to try.

I only know that if France had an equivalent disaster, I - and a large number of my compatriots - and people throughout the world - - would try to help, at least with a monetary contribution. Such disasters exact a tragic toll in human misery, and it should be everyone's duty - no matter where they live, to try to alleviate the pain of it!

To give people in Lebanon some perspective of Katrina, winds of over 100 mph extended out so far, that if it had hit Lebanon dead on, such winds would have been experienced at the southern end of Israel and all the way up to Turkey, to where the Mediterranian coast swings west!! ALL OF LEBANON would have looked like the pictures you see on TV - the ones in Alabama and Louisiana from wind damage!


ps - Vox, I like your profile picture; I've seen that gal somewhere before!! Oh yes!! She is French, I believe, and came over as a thank you gift!!! Golly, that was a long time ago!! [sm]