Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans

I'm so cut off here that only just this morning, thanks to Sally, I heard about the devastation of New Orleans. I've spent much of the morning just trying to catch up a little with all the news and it is certainly upsetting for me, for so many reasons.

First (and once again), this would certainly have been a nice time to have a budget surplus (remember that?), instead of having given all those funds away. Just as anyone who manages a home budget will attest, it's always a good idea to have a little stashed away 'just in case.' You don't hand that money back to the kids, saying 'after all, it's their money' and then hope that the economy will suddenly be spurred to new levels of growth simply because they ran out and blew those funds at the candy store.

And as a Guardsman, it's particularly difficult to realize how poorly executed the relief efforts are. It is appalling and inexcusable. It is also unbelievable to think that other nations are offering us aid, all while all the helicopters, water purification units, medics, generators, and food that we need, are here with us.

I think too about all the Louisiana and Mississippi Guardsmen who are stuck over here. I know that many of our own Idahoan troops are fuming that they are here and not able to help our own people back home, so I cannot imagine what it's like for Guardsmen from that area to be here, unable to help their own families, and yet still having to perform their mission here every day. How can you scan for IED's on the roadside when all you can think about is if your cousin has water to drink, or if your uncle is homeless or not?

I knew a couple of Guardsmen from both states in Basic Training and they were both good men. While it's pure fantasy at this point, I like to think of them out there right now, working through the night, wading through water for hours on end, carrying people out of harm's way and back to aid stations. That is, after all, what Guardsmen do.

And finally, I'm saddened by our apparent complete inability to prepare, even when experts effectively predict such things beforehand. Granted, these days there are a lot of 'experts' out there producing a great deal of Chicken Little white noise, but I can tell you that I was studying the numerous writings of terrorism experts in 1990 who told, in explicit details, of the vast inadequacies of U.S. airport security. I even wrote a 65-page research paper on that very topic that offered solutions to the problem, solutions I knew would never be enacted because of their cost (costs that were of course nothing compared to that of rebuilding Manhattan alone, not to mention the Pentagon, financial impact on airlines and their subsequent bailout, lost revenues from the tourism industry, and costs of subsequent resulting wars). These same experts also noted that the World Trade Center was the number one and most obvious target for any major attack in the U.S.

New Orleans is obviously a very different scenario but similar in the fact that warnings were ignored, until it was too late. Computer models predicted it, experts testified on the inevitability of it, Louisiana's own emergency management teams even 'war-gamed' it and drilled on it, and the Discovery Channel told millions about it months, if not years, ago. Yet we were still caught with our pants down. Have we become such a reactionary society, with a subsequently reactionary federal government, that we can no longer invest enough (and comparatively minor) resources beforehand to help prevent such catastrophes? Or perhaps, in such a state of distrust in our own government and almost total public lack of confidence in their ability to manage our tax dollars (thanks in part to our laser beam focus on all-too-well publicized financial mistakes and no publicity at all when things are done well), we are simply doomed to do this again and again.

I am beginning to believe that such words and phrases as 'proactive' and 'solutions-based' are now only words to be used by marketing firms and certainly not our own government. And as for 'anticipatory' and 'preventative', forget about it…
Well, said! A big 'recommend' for this article!
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