CHAOS ON THE WAY TO ORGANIZED CHAOS
First Massive US Relief after the Hurricane - Mental Crisis Processing leads to Shocking Discoveries
By Thomas Pany
[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis, 9/6/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/r4/artikel/20/20877/1.html.]
Important levees in New Orleans are being repaired. The floodwater is driven back in Lake Ponchartrain. Places of refuge for hundreds of thousands of homeless are provided. The relief- and resettlement machinery in the catastrophe area in the southern US are fully underway.
The president visited the crisis area trying to improve his shaken image (1) and changed the minds of some. "The power has returned to him." The electricity actually seems restored in some places. Nevertheless 900,000 households are still without electricity, the Washington Post reports. (2)
The chaos moves toward organized chaos (3) according to the situation assessment of the New Orleans police chief W. J. Riley. "It is better now," he told the press. The shock is not overcome amid the first signs of confidence. "The city is destroyed, completely destroyed."
Estimates of the number of dead like the estimate of the mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin run into the thousands. (4) For a while, the published number was only 200. (5) Despite this low number (from Monday), the public prepared itself for a considerably larger number. The count and the identification are problematic. The rescue of the remaining has priority. The danger of epidemic threatens.
A million (6) people have lost the roof over their heads. Most of them only have what they could put in their pockets. The enormous multitude of homeless - "displaced citizens" in the official version - are now mostly settled in neighboring and distant states - for months. Texas has already exhausted its capacity. Michigan, Utah and California have also promised to accept refugees. 114,000 are settled in emergency shelters from West Virginia to Utah. Texas will accept 54,000. (7)
The mental crisis processing takes another course. Disputes about competence and apportioning of blame between local authorities and federal authorities are raging. (8)
The demand "heads must roll" becomes louder. In the last days, the Times-Picayune, Louisiana's largest newspaper, made itself known beyond its borders through a series of articles warning of the catastrophe (cf. "Tantamount to Negligence" (9) urging in an open letter the president's firing of all leading representatives of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Similar demands will soon reach the Department of homeland Security.
Endless "Cyclone of Poverty"
As expected, the "disgrace" and poverty of great sectors of the population in the US revealed in the aftermath of the catastrophe was widely discussed. The well-known columnist of the New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, in today's edition (10) compares the fate of American children from poor families and the fate of children from poorer countries and comes to amazing conclusions.
"Indeed, according to the United Nations Development program, an African-American baby in Washington has less change of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban parts of the state of Kerala in India."
The hurricane, Kristol says, made visible a greater problem, the increasing number of Americans caught in an endless "cyclone of poverty." A few days ago, the US Census Bureau published statistics showing that a million more Americans lived in poverty in 2004 compared to 2003. The number declined under Clinton's presidency but is 17% higher under the presidency of George W. Bush.
Another signal number, child mortality, also rose for the first time since 1958 under Bush. One could almost consider the poor children as fortunate since they now have medical care, a kind of luxury since 29% of American children last year were inadequately insured and most did not receive medical care or necessary inoculations.