05 September 2005

Fakery Rampant in Bush Photo Ops (courtesy of Iraq Timeline)

This is unbelievable. This is beyond reprehensible. This is beyond impeachable. I honestly don't know what should be done with Bush and the people responsible for this. I can't think of anything the law provides that's even close to appropriate for the crimes against humanity perpetuated by this president. Impeachment should be just the first step. Note: These stories are still developing. Here goes:

Rescue flights suspended for presidential visit: Friday, Bush spent several hours in New Orleans photogenically overseeing food deliveries and hugging children. But for the entire time Bush was in New Orleans, all helicopter flights were suspended, further delaying deliveries of critically needed food and water. Three tons of food sat on the tarmac for hours waiting for Bush to finish posing for the cameras. (AP/Macon Telegraph, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Staged food distribution: "ZDF News Germany reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time. The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF." German reporter Christine Adelhardt reports (translated), "The extent of the natural disaster shocked me, but the extent of the staging is shocking me at least the same way."

Staged victim assistance: While in Biloxi to review the damage with Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, two photogenic young black women "spontaneously" approach the president for assistance; they tell him they are looking for clothes, that they "don't have anything," and Bush directs them to where they can receive food and water. It looked good on television, but was fake. The two women were NOT hurricane victims, they weren't even Biloxi residents. Instead, they were on vacation, and had come to Biloxi to try to "salvage" clothes for one of the women's sons. It's apparent that the two photogenic women were recruited by Bush's handlers to "represent" the area.

Faked levee repairs: The critically important 17th Street Levee in New Orleans appeared to be repaired, or close to it, when Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu toured the area with Bush on Friday. The next day, Landrieu reported, "Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young annd old -- deserve far better from their national government." Bush has so far refused to fulfill Landrieu's request for a cabinet-level official to lead the rescue efforts; as Landrieu writes, "Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand." (Mary Landrieu, AmericaBlog)

Red Cross refused entry into New Orleans: The director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, ordered that Red Cross rescue workers be kept out of New Orleans because their presence would discourage victims from evacuating. The Salvation Army is experiencing the same restriction. This is apparently new Homeland Security policy for any and all disasters. (DailyKos)

First Lady visits refugee center; center all but shuts down for eight hours: Laura Bush visited the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Saturday, September 3. During the eight hours that she was there (including prep time for her visit), the center shut down the food distribution center, the women's showers, and the communication room, the only room where victims could go to call or e-mail family members to let them know they were alive. The writer, a volunteer at the Cajundome, writes, "You may have seen it on CNN; apparently seven refugees were allowed back so Laura could help them in front of the cameras. ...Now, I know this is the sort of thing that happens whenever a VIP tours a disaster site, and maybe Laura Bush handing out that loaf of bread really will lead to an increase in donations. All I can say is, to have paralyzed a third of a day of operations at this stage of the game, it f*cking well better." A Daily Kos blogger adds, "They are so afraid of the American people, they can't help, they can't even allow people to be helped while they are around. It could be too dangerous. I have to admit, they do have a point. There are a lot of people upset with them. But maybe people wouldn't be so upset if they had leaders who showed courage and that they cared." (Daily Kos [eyewitness account])

Hundreds of doctors refused access to victims: While diseases such as dysentary rage through the refugee population in the Gulf Coast, hundreds of doctors who have volunteered their efforts are being denied access to those in need because of federal red tape. A state-of-the-art mobile hospital from North Carolina sits unused in rural Mississippi, and the doctors are still waiting to see their first patient. Other doctors who attempted to volunteer their services were turned down by the Department of Homeland Security. According to the article, "Dr. Jeffrey Guy, a trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University who has been in contact with the mobile hospital doctors, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, 'There are entire hospitals that are contacting me, saying, "We need to take on patients," but they can't get through the bureaucracy. The crime of this story is, you've got millions of dollars in assets and it's not deployed,' he said. 'We mount a better response in a Third World country.'" In a related incident that same Saturday (September 3), more than 250 emergency medical workers, over 50 ambulances and other medical support assets in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina were mobilized, and 22 local hospitals were put on on alert to receive multiple planeloads of Gulf coast evacuees. Those emergency workers, pulled away from their regular duties, sat idle for nearly 6 hours before being dismissed by local officials, who were unable to obtain a straight answer from federal officials. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Durham Herald-Sun)

FEMA head lies about food distribution: On Friday, September 2, Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, told the press that FEMA had seen to it that all of the refugees at the New Orleans Convention Center were regularly provided with food: "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day," he said. The editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune call Brown a "bald-faced liar" and demand his immediate firing; instead, Bush publicly tells Brown that he and his organization have "done a heck of a job." (New Orleans Times-Picayune/Editor and Publisher)

My God, how low will this administration stoop? Combine this with the stories pouring in of the federal authorities turning down offers of help from all over the globe -- shelters for 40,000 from Germany, water purification units from France, free oil and gasoline from Venezuela, and even assistance from our own Chicago -- and you tell me how seriously this administration is taking this disaster. An offer from New Mexico for National Guard assistance was made Sunday, before Katrina hit, but paperwork delays kept the troops from reporting for duty until Thursday. Other states -- Michigan, California -- made similar offers that were not processed until Friday. A hospital ship, the USS Bataan, has sat off the coast of Louisiana since Monday, with no request for aid from the federal government. (The Bataan has six operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day.) The Bataan was part of an entire relief effort organized before Katrina even hit by Northern Command, the organization which oversees all military activities within the US. Northcom was ready to deploy, but had to wait on the president's authorization. And wait. And wait. And the federal government could have activated, but refused to activate, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines. The program, called Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service for disaster relief. The CRAF provision has been activated twice, once for the Persian Gulf War and again for the Iraq war. And the US Forest Service has water-tanker aircraft that could be used to douse the fires raging along the riverfront, but so far FEMA has refused to request them: (AP/Guardian, Mary Landrieu) Scores of doctors who have attempted to volunteer their services have been told by Homeland Security not to bother. And the US Northern Command had a detailed disaster relief plan in place well before the strike, but did not receive authorization from Bush to implement the plan for days after the hurricane had passed. (AP/Washington Post/DailyKos, AP/San Francisco Chronicle)

"...I think it is a source of tremendous pride to me to work with people who have pulled off this really exceptional response." -- Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security (Department of Homeland Security)

"The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, [an American broadcaster] said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better." -- Matt Wells, BBC

And what is the Bush administration doing? Blaming everyone else, particularly the Louisiana and New Orleans officials. Mayor Ray Nagin is being targeted by government officials and right-wing hate radio as the one person responsible for all of the incompetence and indifference displayed by the federal government. Bush officials are trying to claim that Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco failed to request help, a flat lie: here's her letter requesting federal assistance dated Sunday, August 28, in which she says that she ordered mandatory evacuations of the coastal areas of Louisiana on August 26 (the lie is that Bush had to step in and publicly ask residents to evacuate on August 27; Blanco and the other regional governors were already mandating evacuations). In fact, requests for aid from the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi were received on August 26, according to the Department of Defense. On Sunday, August 28, Nagin ordered the mandatory evacuation of his city, following up on Governor Blanco's order of two days before. On the same day, Bush demanded that Alabama declare a state of emergency, thus allowing the federal government to take charge of ALL disaster relief efforts. Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi have already been declared disaster states -- the federal government is ALREADY overseeing -- or not overseeing -- relief efforts. (CBS) This pathetic skein of attempts to dodge responsibility is as predictable as it is loathsome. Responsibility for the incompetence of the response must lie with the person ultimately in charge: George W. Bush. (Washington Post) Thankfully, Louisiana officials are refusing to allow the federal government to pin the blame on them. What exactly did Bush officials do during this critical time? Apparently, those who weren't partying, vacationing, or modeling their new shoes were arguing over who exactly was in charge of the relief efforts. Lovely.

But let's not forget the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown. Just who is the person responsible for leading the federal government's response to this disaster? Well, he's a former lawyer, a former assistant city manager, and most critically, GOP fundraiser and former FEMA head Joe Allbaugh's college roommate. What was Brown doing before being named to head FEMA? He was forced to resign as the commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association. (The Bush adminstration wrongly reported him as being part of the US Olympic Committee.) You tell me how this man's experience as a corrupt horse association commissioner, a lawyer, and a roommate of a GOP fundraiser qualifies him to lead the federal government's emergency response organization. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls Brown's appointment "raw cronyism." (Boston Herald/Knight Ridder/HorsesAssDHS/DailyKos)

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