Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bin Laden and the "Blame Game"

Where have all those “muscular” conservatives gone - the ones that were going to keep America safe from terror at any cost? Because bad as Katrina was, it could have been far worse. It could have been a terrorist bomb that broke the levee, without warning, and the flooding could have happened when the city was full of Mardi Gras tourists, instead of mostly empty.

I don't know exactly how possible this scenario was, but Becker and Posner use the phrase "highly vulnerable" in their analysis of it. With Al Qaeda still able to mount deadly attacks, like those in London and Madrid, and with hundreds of tons of high explosives unaccounted for in Iraq, such an attack is certainly conceivable. And how much worse would it have been - 50,000 dead instead of 10,000? and is that an acceptable level of protection?

After 9/11, before we had even finished counting our dead, the US was preparing for war in Afghanistan, in order to kill or capture Bin Laden. Although we failed, this was a war that I (and many other Democrats and liberals) supported, and one that I still think was right. Yes, Americans wanted someone to "blame", but Afghanistan was hardly a game. It was only justice to seek out the men responsible for so many unnecessary deaths, and it would have foolish to leave those men in positions of power, where they could do further harm.

A death due to bungling incompetence is less dramatic than a death due to malevolent evil, but leaves one no less dead; and so accountability is no more a "game" now than it was after 9/11, when we went to war. We need to get serious and honest about what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how to fix it.

I'll kick off with a few comments and observations.

  • The argument that the we've seen "a better response than one could have expected" I find to be appalling. Honestly, this is the best you think we can do? Even bloggers can't figure out what the chain of command was supposed to be! We saw the head of DHS apparently getting his intelligence from yesterday's Fox News! even Michelle Malkin was fed up! Bush is accepting help from the UN, is Team Red really happy with that?

  • It does not appear to be the case that Bush's decision to scrimp on anti-flood measures was directly responsible for the floods.
    The
    NY Times
    has a decent discussion. (Which doesn't mean that this was the right decision - spending more faster would almost certainly have lower the risk of failure.)

  • It's clear that the danger to New Orleans was no secret, and that the danger has in fact gotten much worse in recent years, due mostly to increased development, which has damaged the marshes and barrier islands that formerly protected NO. Proposals have been sent to Congress since the late 80's for massive funds ($15B or so) to keep NO safe from floods, but politics prevented any consensus on exactly what to do until after 1998, when Hurricane Georges just missed NO. Scientific
    American
    has a in-depth discussion on the situation, from Oct 2001.

Posted by William Cohen at September 6, 2005 9:14 PM
Comments
Comment #78583

William,

Those muscular conservatives cannot really refute the points you have made, which BTY were right on target.

How anyone could have witnessed, even on TV, the events of the past week and not realized that no one was in charge is incomprehensible, or willful.

Is it not the federal gov’t’s duty to take charge of a situation that is affecting four states of the Union almost simultaneously? And if not, whose? And is not the president the CEO of the feds? The seat of government is in D.C., not Crawford, TX, thank heavens. It seems to this simple soul that the least Generalissimo Bush could have done on Monday was put on his flight suit and jetted back to Washington to take charge.

Posted by: Disgusted in GA at September 6, 2005 10:17 PM
Comment #78611

It’s now obvious that OBL could send a tape to Al Jazeera announcing the date and location of a major attack on US soil and four full years after the attacks of 9/11, we would be incapable of reacting quickly enough to minimize the loss of life.

Posted by: Thom at September 6, 2005 11:43 PM
Comment #78631

Bush and his cronies are already laying the groundwork of deniability when Al Queda strikes in the USA. Its funny. We already gave away our Rights to the Police State and STILL don’t get security!!!

Posted by: Aldous at September 7, 2005 3:43 AM
Comment #78640

Yes, we do need to get serious and honest about what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how to fix it. Of course this takes political leadership and courage…both elements currently lacking among Democrats. And speaking of Democrats they are still but a minority voice in the halls of power. Unless there are turnarounds in the next Congressional elections, don’t look for real change to occur!

Supporting a policy of war starting in Afghanistan was perhaps our first mistake. At the time, we were after a few individuals whose tactical advantage was terrorism at all costs. A highly coordinated global police action was required but not undertaken. But of course this is now “ancient” history and the major architect is still out there.

The responsibility of government first and foremost is to protect and secure its citizens (us)from the known and likely. Government should also be rapid and thorough in its response to trajedy. The current governing elite believe however it should focus more on profit and loss, promoting religious doctrine while denigrating scientific pursuits ( whether it be environmental, biological, medical, etc.), protecting and preserving wealth among the wealthy, and determing what we watch, read, and may choose to do in our own bedrooms.

Maybe next time we can set it right…

Posted by: Bill at September 7, 2005 5:12 AM
Comment #78642

William:

You are correct in your thoughts that the Katrina tragedy was bad, but could have been worse had it been an intentional attack. Also correct that the aftermath was not handled in a great way. I think the relief has been much better than some want to say, but certainly the first day or two showed serious flaws in the planning aspect as well as performance.

We need to NOT let the media create the strawman argument that New Orleans was some kind of surprise to the Bush Administration. The reality of their comments has been that the surprise was over the TIMING of the flooding, which came after everyone thought the worst was over. This timing caused FEMA to move supplies into New Orleans (these were subsequently lost) as well as personnel away from New Orleans and into Mississippi, which created delays.

FEMA still did not do a good enough job, but let us not overstate things too simplistically. This is the major problem of the left and the media, in my opinion. The “Bush sucks no matter what” argument loses its steam with the public—it is this that helped Bush win in 04. We need the media and the left to provide an unvarnished look at the problems with FEMA so we can fix them, not a simplistic call for blame.

Look at the comments of Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore among others as examples, calling the GOP racist. This goes so far over the top that even Bush detractors cringe. Only the furthest left or the most ardent Bush haters buy into this. It thus gives the administration cover against their flaws, as it allows them to suggest that the rabid haters are on the war path again. This prevents real solutions from being discussed.

The Bush administration has not done everything perfectly by any means. But an objective viewer of history would also recognize that the Bush administration has faced some of the most severe crises in US history, with 911, Katrina, the Afghan war, the Iraq war, the tech bubble burst, the accounting scandals. It has been a turbulent time, yet we are still standing strong and proud.

It is time to view this history and recognize the good. Those who claim that no good has occurred since Bush took over are simply partisan. Those who claim no bad has occurred (or that Bush is not responsible for any bad) are just as partisan.

This post will not appeal to those bellcurve babies on the ends of the spectrum. But to those in the majority it should be plain to see that Bush has accomplished a lot.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at September 7, 2005 5:54 AM
Comment #78644

Talk about seeing an empty glass and saying it’s half full!!!

When the attack on 9/11 occured, it was unanimously agreed that it was the worst disaster in American History. No one commented “Well, it could have been alot worse.” And THAT was a disaster to which local, state, and federal agencies reacted swiftly and correctly. Even dubyah presented himself as a terrific leader.

Sure, nature’s attack on NOLA could have been a lot worse. If it had come with no warning at all; if the media had ignored it rather than put fire to the feet of the agencies that botched their jobs so enormously; or (to the blind bushies) if it had hit a pre-dominantly white area.

“It has been a turbulent time, yet we are still standing strong and proud.”

The majority of Americans believe that the War in Iraq was a mistake and more are ashamed and pissed that it took days instead of hours for aid to get to the Katrina survivors in dribbles instead of torrents.

Would Kerry or Gore have done any better? We’ll never know, but I’d like to speculate that a couple of guys with a keen understanding of the intercourse between nature and man, such as both these gentlemen have, would clearly have been more attuned to the devasting possibilities of a catagorie 4 Hurricane bearing down on NOLA. Bush still doesn’t believe in Global Warming!!!


Posted by: Thom at September 7, 2005 6:46 AM
Comment #78682

JoeBag, I agree fully we should take an unvarnished look at this. Which is not to say that it’s time to “recognize the good”. Can I ask for links to back up some of your factual statements, eg about the timing issues?

Posted by: William Cohen at September 7, 2005 10:11 AM
Comment #78722

Good question… what should the role of the media reponse be in this instance (Katrina)? Probably to uncover, follow and report the story, inform, raise questions, among other things. Remember the media were already on the ground, first hand on this one before the official governmental response was put into action. So their reporting starts from that first hand, eye-witness perspective. We have the actual daily video footage while it was happening so it will be harder to “sugar coat” or pass inapproriate blame concerning relief efforts.

While the main thrust of the story should focus on the relief efforts going forward, part of this story should be to also shed light and truth on the quality and quantity of our preparedness to respond to future disasters, as well as the failed accountabilities of this one.

Yes these are turbulent times, and as always happens the historians and political scientists for sure will debate and write the Bush legacy after he is gone. For many of us what we see at the time is what we know, and I for one see in Katrina a failure to respond and execute in a timely fashion by the overall coordinated efforts of Homeland Security and the Federal government. The sad result being the unecessary loss of many American lives.

Posted by: Bill at September 7, 2005 12:05 PM
Comment #78811

IMO, this illustrates one of the key traits of the Bush League, which is that they are MUCH better at gaining power and consolidating it than they are in actually governing. I think they’re pretty inept when it comes to actually governing.

The Bush League failed to adequately protect us from foreign attackers when they ignored warnings from the outgoing Clinton administration that Al Qaeda was going to be their biggest challenge, and ignored additional warnings from within that Al Qaeda had plans to use aircraft as weapons. The result of their inattention was a catastrophe. Don’t get me wrong - I am NOT placing the entire blame for the attack on the Bush League. But I *am* saying that if they had paid attention to the warnings, it’s much more likely that the attacks could have been thwarted.

After 9/11, the Bush League’s ineptitude at diplomacy wasted the overwhelming outpouring of sympathy following the attack. Instead of using that outpouring and forming a REAL coalition to combat global terrorism, they chose to focus on Iraq, a country had NOTHING to do with 9/11 and that posed little or no threat to this country. Warnings from many sides that invading Iraq would inflame the Muslim world and, as Hosni Mubbarak said, “create 100 new bin Ladens” appear to be coming true. By almost any standard, the situation is bleak. We may need to be in Iraq for decades to repair the country that we destroyed. And we’re not any closer to finding the terrorist leaders and bringing them to justice.

The Bush League’s ineptitude at managing a budget has resulted in record deficits, which will take generations to pay off. In this respect, they are helping Osama bin Laden achieve one of his goals - to bleed this country dry economically. Furthermore, their policies are endangering the middle class, which is the economic engine that drives our economy. What astounds me is that this is being done by the party that has labeled itself as the model for fiscal responsibility.

The Bush League’s failure to manage a bureaucracy and failure to hire competent people as managers was a significant factor in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina. Again, I’m not placing the entire blame on the Bush League. But with a better ability to govern and manage could well have ameliorated the situation.

I fully expect to be called a “Bush-basher” for this. I find it ironic that the wrong wing uses such a tactic to dismiss ALL criticism, legitimate or otherwise, because it comes from a group of people who spent the years 1992-2000 doing exactly the same thing, and whose ONE AND ONLY policy for at least the last decade has been to undo the accomplishemnts of the Democrats.

Posted by: ElliottBay at September 7, 2005 4:09 PM
Comment #78854

Great post, Elliot Bay! It amuses me to watch
how the Publicans like to dish it out {1992-2000}
but scream Unfair! Bushbashing! when they have
to take it. Too *#&^@! bad.

Posted by: Disgusted in GA at September 7, 2005 6:30 PM
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