This terrible tragedy has now become a scandal.
Aaron Brown just asked a correspondent whether he thought he’d ever stand on the soil of the United States of America and report what he is reporting from New Orleans.
Through a lack of quick action and resources and any semblance of planning, the people left in New Orleans have been condemned to thirst, hunger, filth, disease, fear, crime, danger, and in too many cases death.
The convention center in New Orleans is a symbol of shame. How can we not figure out how to get water there? Babies are starving. People are dying. There is no authority; police have pulled back to defend their own stations or, according to CNN, deserted their posts.
Authorities — from Bush down to cabinet officials down to legislators down to state officials down to the soon-to-be-former-mayor down to those police — have failed these people. No one would argue that this was going to be smooth or easy. But the basics — water, food, safety, goals — are abandoned.
Political careers at every level will end because of this failure.
That is to say nothing of the storm’s terrible toll or the economic crisis that is building. This is about the failure of authority and thus civilization in the heart of New Orleans. This is a scandal.
: LATER: Angelos adds in the comments: “This is America, and this is the best we could do.”
There’s a good discussion going on in the comments under my post asking how New Orleans should be rebuilt.
To get an idea of what it would take to make New Orleans safe, go to this story in the Times-Picayune’s all-too-prescient 2002 series, which I linked to before Katrina hit the coast and which exactly predicted what would happen when the big one hit the city:
Based on current plans and proposals, here are some changes that coming generations may see:
# A giant wall, more than 30 feet high in places, cuts through New Orleans and across Jefferson Parish to create a “safe haven” should a storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain top the levees. The levees themselves are 10 feet or more higher than today, and some are crowned with a sea wall, blocking views of the lake. A large collapsible wall sits atop some levees, ready to be raised during hurricanes….
# From New Orleans to Morgan City, thousands of homes have roofs fortified to resist high winds and are equipped with steel storm shutters. Outside the levees, most homes have been raised on pilings 15 feet high or more. Main roads and highways are at similar heights.
# Some communities have built elevated shelters capable of withstanding 175-mph winds, similar to those being constructed in Bangladesh today….
: See also this all-too-accurate prediction from the T-P on the success of evacuation:
Once it’s certain a major storm is about to hit, evacuation offers the best chance for survival. But for those who wait, getting out will become nearly impossible as the few routes out of town grow hopelessly clogged. And 100,000 people without transportation will be especially threatened.
The question of rebuilding New Orleans — whether and how — is not just an understandably emotional decision and certainly an economic one but it is also an ethical issue. We knew this was going to happen and we were not prepared.