Fwd: +Mark Steyn on "Katrina"+
blueoval at 1SMARTISP.NET
Wed Sep 7 10:38:10 MDT 2005
Proof that nothing changed after Sept. 11
September 4, 2005
BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
In the Atlantic Monthly a few years back, Robert D. Kaplan went to
Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other failed jurisdictions of West
Africa and concluded that many of the "citizens" of these
"states," roaming the streets raping and killing, belonged to a
phenomenon called "re-primitivized man."
Anyone watching TV in recent days will have seen plenty of
"re-primitivized man," not in Liberia or Somalia, but in
Louisiana. Cops smasing the Wal-Mart cabinet so they can get their
share of the booty along with the rest of the looters, gangs
firing on a children's hospital and on rescue helicopters,
hurricane victims being raped in the New Orleans Convention
Center....If you're minded, as many of the world's anti-Americans
are, to regard the United States as a depraved swamp, it was a
grand old week: Mother Nature delivered the swamp, but plenty of
natives supplies the depravity.
Not all of them, of course. But it doesn't really matter if it's
only 5 percent or 2 percent or 0.01 percent if everybody else is
giving them free rein. Not exactly the most impressive law
enforcement agency even on a good day, the New Orleans Police
Department sent along some 80 officers to rescue the rape victims
trapped in the Convention Center, but were beaten back by a mob.
Meanwhile, the ever more pitiful governor was, unlike many of her
fellow Louisianans, safe on dry land but still floundering way out
of her depth, unable to stand up to the lawlessness even
rhetorically or to communicate anything other than emotive
With most disasters, it's a good rule to let the rescue teams do
their work and leave the sniping till folks are safe. But in New
Orleans last week the emergency work has been seriously hampered
by actual literal sniping, as at that hospital. The authorities
lost control of the streets. Which one of Tom Ridge's Homeland
Security color codes does that fall under?
After Sept. 11, many people who should have known better argued
that it was somehow a vindication of government.
"One of the things that's changed so much since Sept. 11," agreed
Vice President Dick Cheney, "is the extent to which people do
trust the government -- big shift -- and value it, and have high
expectations for what we can do."
Hard to see why he'd say that. Sept. 11 was an appalling
comprehensive failure of just about every relevant federal agency.
The only government that worked that day was local and state: The
great defining image, redeeming American honor at a moment of
national hjumiliation, is those brave New York firemen pounding up
the stairs of the World Trade Center. What consolations can be
drawn from the lopsided tango between slapdash bureaucrats and
subhuman predators in New Orleans?
To be fair, next door, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has been
the Guiliani of the hour, and there are many tales of great
courage, like the teams from the Children's Hospital of Alabama
who've been helicoptering into New Orleans to rescue newborn
The comparison with Sept. 11 isn't exact, but it's fair to this
extent: Katrina was the biggest disaster on American soil since
that day provoked the total overhaul of the system and the
devotion of billions of dollars and the finest minds in the nation
to the prioritizing of homeland security. It was, thus, the first
major test of the post-9/11 structures. Happy with the results?
Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of
Endowment (and no, I've no idea what that means, though feel free
to do your own jokes), wrote a hurricane essay arguing the novel
line that "The Terrorist Katrina Is A Soldier Of Allah." You could
sort of see his point. Imagine if al-Qaida were less boneheaded
and had troubled themselves to learn a bit more about the Great
Satan's weak spots. Imagine if they'd decided to blow up a couple
of levees and flood a great American city. Would local and state
government have responded any more effectively than they did last
week? After all, Katrina, unlike Osama, let 'em know she was
heading their way.
The nation's taxpayers will now be asked to rebuild New Orleans.
The rationale for doing so is that it is a great city of national
significance. Fine. But, if it's of national significance, what
have all the homeland security task forces been doing these last
four years? Why is the defense of the city still left to a system
of levees each with its own individual administrative regime? If
it's of national significance, why did the porkmeisters of the
national legislature and national executive branch slash a request
by the Army Corps of Engineers for $105 million for additional
flood protection measures there down to just over $40 million, at
the same time they approved a $230 million bridge to an
uninhabited Alaskan island? Given that the transport
infrastructure's already in place, maybe it makes more sense to
rebuild New Orleans in Alaska.
One thing that became clear two or three months after "the day
that everything changed" is that nothing changed -- that huge
swathes of the political culture in America remain committed to a
bargain that stiffs the people at every level, a system of lavish
funding of pseudo-action. You could have done as the anti-war left
wanted and re-allocated every dollar spent in Iraq to Louisiana.
Or you could have done as some of the rest of us want and
re-allocated every buck spent on, say, subsidizing Ted Turner's
and Sam Donaldson's play-farming activities. But, in either case,
I'lll bet Louisiana's kleptocrat public service would have
pocketed the dough and carried on as usual -- and, come the big
day, the state would still have flopped out, and New Orleans'
foul-mouthed mayor would still be ranting about why it was all
everybody's else's fault.
Those levee's broke, they failed. And you think about Chicago and
San Francisco and Boston and you wonder what's waiting to fail
there. The assumption was that after 9/11, big towns and small
took stock and identified their weak points. That's what they told
us they were doing, and that's what they were getting big tax
bucks to do. But in New Orleans no one had a plan that addressed
levee failure, and no one had a plan for the large percentage of
vehicleless citizens who'd be unable to evacuate, and no one had a
plan to deal with widespread looting. Given that all these local
factors are widely known - New Orleans is a below-sea-level city
with high crime and a low rate of automobile ownership -- it makes
you wonder how the city would cope with something truly surprising
-- like, say, a biological attack.
Oh, well, maybe the 9-11 commission can rename themselves the
Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America's enemies will
draw many uselful lessons from the events of this last week. Will
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