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We Need a Franklin Roosevelt
Last uploaded : Wednesday 7th Sep 2005 at 15:35
Contributed by : Carol Gould


News London --

This is an unmitigated disaster. There is no excuse for it. It is a bad day for those of us who have stood by the Bush agenda and it is a torture treatment for those of us stuck out here in Old Europe and drowning in anti-American rhetoric from gloating USA-haters.

The best way of summing it up is to quote House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: ?President Bush says he is appointing a commission to look into the reason behind the crisis. He needs only to look in the mirror.? Republican Senator Susan Collins, fuming, asked the powers-that-be if this is how they would deal with an enemy attack.

But what has been most infuriating this week has been the sight , over and over again, of President Bush smirking and fidgeting as if he had been asked about a flat tyre, not a national catastrophe of unparalleled proportions. One million Americans are displaced and thousands of children have either lost track of their parents or have no idea when they will live a normal life again. Today?s British ?SUN? newspaper shows images of a score of little ones on its front page with the title, ?Orphans of the Storm.? The devastation of this assault by Mother Nature is incalculable. The lack of leadership in a country that gave the world the likes of Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson and FDR is breathtaking.

Harry Truman said ?The buck stops here.? George W Bush may not have been responsible for the crisis that arose in the wake of Katrina but his absence from the scene and his light-hearted, fumbling rhetoric have made a vast swathe of Americans feel shame and anger. This is not the behaviour of a Commander in Chief or of a Chief Executive. When a major airline suffers a crash the CEO is on television and a team is sent in immediately whatever the conditions.

Yes, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reminded us yesterday that when he was a Navy pilot it was his job to evacuate military jets from storm centres. It would not have been possible for the Iwo Jima, now in Southern waters, to arrive mid-storm. It would not have been possible for military craft to land in the wake of the storm. Notwithstanding the things the Federal government and Pentagon could not do, the absence of the Cabinet until this past weekend, when tens of thousands of American citizens had been languishing in conditions akin to a war zone for a week, was nauseating.

It is inexcusable that hundreds of yellow school buses and other vehicles were not used to evacuate citizens who could not afford to leave town. That is, we suspect, the fault of Mayor Nagin. It is lamentable that chaos ensued in hotels and other facilities where foreign citizens were refused rescue because, according to the British media, the Governor of Louisiana had not authorised consular officials to enter the stricken areas.

Whatever Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin did wrong, the total absence mid-crisis of anyone from the Bush Administration was an insult to the people of the region and could be proof, even to those of us who have supported this team in the past, that the Republican Party and its leaders in Washington care little for the ordinary American taxpayer or for those too poor or sick to pay tax or to buy SUVs guzzling fuel that makes the Bush cronies richer and richer as the bodies float along the once-dazzling streets of the Big Easy.

Here in the United Kingdom it was a painful experience being an American abroad after the Iraq war and Abu Ghraib. Now it is a source of shame that the richest nation in the world must ask Canada and the EU for cots and blankets.

When Rumsfeld told a squaddie without proper gear in Iraq that he got the army he may not have wanted, does this mean the people dying in the Dome did not get the FEMA (federal emergency management agency) they wanted? When GW was down on the ranch in Crawford what was HE watching on TV? In the UK we were watching BBC men and women single-handedly rescuing Americans off little rafts made from planks left from the shattered remnants of their homes. We were watching Channel Four newsmen giving their water to stranded citizens of Biloxi. And so on.

The ultimate shock came when it was announced on an American cable network that the flag above the White House was at half mast ?because of the death of William Rehnquist.? Doh??? With all respect to the Chief Justice, what about the dead of the American Tsunami?

This year I have been mentoring a film project about World War II Evacuees: 3.5million children and some adults were evacuated to the country and to the USA and Canada as soon as war was declared in September, 1939. Yes, war was expected. Yes, a hurricane is not a long and predictable war scenario. But the British government, seventy years ago, had plans in place to rescue its children and citizens. On July 7th 2005 the National Health Service and our social services kicked in; hotels became triage centres and the victims were offered care and aftercare under the British social welfare system.

Any American with a modicum of conscience will cringe at the sight of the President after this debacle. Franklin Delano Roosevelt GW is not.

If Bill Clinton could be impeached for an indiscretion as old as the Roman Emperors and biblical Kings, is there no form of censure under the Constitution for gross negligence of the welfare of American citizens ?

And by the way, Mr President, it would be a courtesy to reply to Cuba's offer of 1,100 doctors: according to a BBC reporter sailing up and down the river of sewage tonight, there are none to be seen.

Photograph of FDR statue by Carol Gould at the Roosevelt Memorial by the Potomac, Washington, DC.


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