Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I don't know if anyone has made this connection, or even if anyone should, but here it is.
Remember the Kevin Costner movie "Waterworld". Yes, I know that you have been probably been trying to forget it, and now I have rendered all of that effort for naught, but work with me here.
Apocolyptic scenario of a world covered by water. A lawless place where life is cheap. Marauding bands of warlords are the only authority, and they oppress the poor souls who were unforunate enough to have survived.
Doesn't this sound a lot like New Orleans? It's like life imitating art, albeit bad art, but art nonetheless.
UPDATE 09/01/05 8:30 AM Evacuation at Superdome suspended as shots fired at military evacuation helecopters. Yeah, that's the way to get back at the man, that'll teach him!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Yes, I said below that looters should be shot. Certainly some leeway should be afforded in cases of food, especially in a dire situation such as this, but anytime a state of emergency exists, it should be clearly stated as part of the emergency order. After reading this, I see no reason to chnge my position.
By ALLEN G. BREED Associated Press Writer
With much of the city emptied by Hurricane Katrina, some opportunists took
advantage of the situation by looting stores.
At a Walgreen's drug store in the French Quarter, people were running out with grocery baskets and coolers full of soft drinks, chips and diapers.
When police finally showed up, a young boy stood in the door screaming, "86! 86!"
-the radio code for police-and the crowd scattered.
Denise Bollinger, a tourist from Philadelphia, stood outside and snapped pictures in
"It's downtown Baghdad," the housewife said. "It's insane. I've wanted to come here for 10 years. I thought this was a sophisticated city. I guess not."
I saw a similar scene in a grocery store on TV. Scores of people, grinning from ear to ear, mugging for the camera as they cheerfully looted the contents of the store. Their total lack of shame is what I find most unnerving. They weren't hungry people in search of food, they were people who clearly felt that the rules of civilization had been suspended and they were gleefully taking advantage of it. It's said that the veneer of civilization is thin, but frankly I think that gives these animals far too much credit. As if to prove my point, the story continues:
Around the corner on Canal Street, the main thoroughfare in the central business district, people sloshed headlong through hip-deep water as looters ripped open the steel gates on the front of several clothing and jewelry stores.
One man, who had about 10 pairs of jeans draped over his left arm, was
asked if he was salvaging things from his store.
"No," the man shouted, "that's EVERYBODY'S store."
Looters filled industrial-sized garbage cans with clothing and jewelry and floated them down the street on bits of plywood and insulation as National Guard lumbered by.
Mike Franklin stood on the trolley tracks and watched the spectacle unfold.
"To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society," he said.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Musings on Disaster
Well, the destruction of New Orleans did not happen. Hurricane Katrina, having weakened slightly and veered east, did not deliver the biblical smiting of The Big Easy that was being predicted. The Mississippi and Alabama Gulf coast is a mess with restoration of power and return to normalcy likely to take weeks. or more. I would hope that loss of life will be low, but those figures are still emerging. It could have been far, far worse.
The news coverage was as saturating as the rain with scores of obligatory reporters standing in the wind and torrential rain at 45 degree angles so as to not be blown over by the gail. I always find it a bit silly, but I guess that it does give one an idea of the conditions and I guess that is the real point of reporters.
There were reports of looters in New Orleans which, alas, is not unexpected. Looters should be shot on sight. Seriously. I'm not bloodthirsy, and I do not think that the penalty for theft of property should be death, but I've always felt that looting in the midst of an emergency such as this is far worse than theft. People who would use a natural disaster such as this as an opportunity to pillage the possessions of those who have fled to save their lives simply give up their right to live in civilized society.
There were also reports of price gouging. The penalty? Revocation of the business license, statewide, of anyone found to be profiteering off of the misery of others for a period of no less than 5 to 10 years. It would be nice of local businesses would reduce their prices for a time in order to assist the community in getting back on it's collective feet, but raising prices because they feel they have a captive clientele is simply unacceptable. A business that sees an event such as this as an opportunity to increase their bottom line waives its right to do business in that community.
These incidents though, are but anomalies. As we so often see, disasters such as this tend to bring out the best in man, rather than the worst. People instinctively extend their hand to help a stranger and strangers thus become friends. Those who weathered the storm together and will now share the grim and difficult task of putting their lives back together will share a distinct bond that they did not share yesterday.
Catastrophes such as this reveal our innate nature, for better or worse. For the overwhelming majority of us, they reveal strength and courage we did not know we had as well as compassion we thought long buried by cynicism. When whatever storm we are struggling against is over, we emerge from it as stronger, wiser people. When the clouds part, and the sun finally emerges, the warmth is felt not only on our face, but also from the depth of our soul.
Perhaps that's the point.
UPDATE 8/30 9:00 AM: Fox News is now showing the first video of the morning after in New Orleans and conditions are far worse that we had previously been led to believe. Most of the city is flooded, the mayor saying 80%, with the water continuing to rise due to levee breaks. Emergency response is nearly no-existant due to the ever rising water and martial law has been declared. There is no potable water electricity or telephone service and officials are now questioning how long they "will be able to sustain life in the city". Some 10,000 people are holed up in the Superdome and conditions there continue there continuing to deteriorate.
As New Orleans is a city built below sea level in the first place, these flood waters are unlikely to recede naturally which would lead one to believe that the situation these will continue to worsen. Mosquitos, disease and the increasing toxicity of the flood water are concerns that immediately loom large.
New Orleans seems to be descending into hell, God help them all.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
TARGET: NEW ORLEANS
It appears that catagory 5 hurricane Katrina is on target to render historic devastation in New Orleans. Mandatory evacuation has been ordered and "catastrophic" damges are expected. Phrases such as "the worst natural disaster in American history" are being used.
A "perfect storm" of unprecedented purportions has set it's sights on The Big Easy and a direct hit is expected.
My wife is from New Orleans and for years she has told me of "the big one" that was destined to hit and it looks as though New Orleans' worst fears are about to become grim reality. My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you leave your homes to the ravages of this monster. And to those who choose to remain, may God have mercy on your souls.
I don't think this is hype-I think this is the real thing.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
Gen. George S. Patton
While he was not without foibles, General Patton had keen perspective on human nature and the nature of war. Along with his knowledge of history, these qualities were probably the key ingredients that made him the legendary leader and strategist he became. One need only read his quotes to be awestruck with his economy of language and his incisive and inimitable grasp of hard, cold reality.
In reviewing the above quote, I cannot help but wonder what he would have to say about the media's morbid fascination with the "body count" in Iraq. I wonder what he would say about how they tend to focus more on our dead soldiers than they do the live ones and the incredible job they are doing against daunting odds. I have no doubt that his verbal riposte would be swift, devastating and, no doubt, very colorful indeed.
But on the subject of perspective. My cousin wrote me the other day and brought up a very interesting point. In 2002, there were 17,638 murders in the United States. Yes, in the most prosperous nation in the history of mankind, a nation enjoying domestic "tranquility" nearly 18,000 people were murdered in just one year. In Iraq, over a 2 year period, we suffered 1,900 combat deaths in the midst of a war. Certainly one could mathematically make the case that 18,000 among a population of 280 million is a far smaller number than 1,900 among some 120,000 Americans in Iraq, but then again you are contrasting a nation at peace versus a nation at war. I don't know how one would mathematically weight the war and peace factor in order to obtain a more valid comparison, or if that is even possible. I must say though, it does provide perspective.
But let's look at a comparison that provides even more perspective. John Hinderaker at Powerline wrote a fascinating piece about another 18,000 deaths. These were the deaths of military personnel suffered in accidents and training exercises between 1983 and 1996. He writes, in part:
We are conducting an experiment never before seen, as far as I know, in the history of the human race. We are trying to fight a war under the auspices of an establishment that is determined--to put the most charitable face on it--to emphasize American casualties over all other information about the war.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to state the obvious: being a soldier is a dangerous thing. This is why we honor our service members' courage. For a soldier, sailor or Marine, "courage" isn't an easily-abused abstraction--"it took a lot of courage to vote against the farm bill"--it's a requirement of the job.
Even in peacetime. The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.
That's right: all through the years when hardly anyone was paying attention, soldiers, sailors and Marines were dying in accidents, training and otherwise, at nearly twice the rate of combat deaths in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to the present. Somehow, though, when there was no political hay to be made, I don't recall any great outcry, or gleeful reporting, or erecting of crosses in the President's home town. In fact, I'll offer a free six-pack to the first person who can find evidence that any liberal expressed concern--any concern--about the 18,006 American service members who died accidentally in service of their country from 1983 to 1996.
The point? Being a soldier is not safe, and never will be. Driving in my car this afternoon, I heard a mainstream media reporter say that around 2,000 service men and women have died in Afghanistan and Iraq "on President Bush's watch." As though the job of the Commander in Chief were to make the jobs of our soldiers safe. They're not safe, and they never will be safe, in peacetime, let alone wartime.
What is the President's responsibility? To expend our most precious resources only when necessary, in service of the national interest. We would all prefer that our soldiers never be required to fight. Everyone--most of all, every politician--much prefers peace to war. But when our enemies fly airplanes into our skyscrapers; attack the nerve center of our armed forces; bomb our embassies; scheme to blow up our commercial airliners; try to assassinate our former President; do their best to shoot down our military aircraft; murder our citizens; assassinate our diplomats overseas; and attack our naval vessels--well, then, the time has come to fight. And when the time comes to fight, our military personnel are ready. They don't ask to be preserved from all danger. They know their job is dangerous; they knew that when they signed up. They are prepared to face the risk, on our behalf. All they ask is to be allowed to win.
It is, I think, a reasonable request. It's the least that we--all Americans, including reporters and editors--can do.
None of this is to say that we should take the deaths we have suffered in Iraq lightly, but the endless clicking of the abacus of death to which we are being subjected by the media is not only unhelpful - it is dangerous. It weakens our will as a nation and, sadly, I cannot help but believe that this is exactly the point.
I have no idea how it feels to lose a child, but I would think that it is probably the most difficult and painful experience imaginable. I have lost my parents, but burying one's parents is within the realm of natural order. Burying one's child is not.
In Cindy's eyes, Casey Sheehan will always be her child and I would expect no less. In reality though, Casey was a young adult who joined the military and reenlisted in 2003 fully knowing that his unit was to be sent to Iraq. He was killed when his convoy was attacked even though, as a mechanic, he was not compelled to be part of the convoy. He volunteered for the convoy to be with his comrades, fully knowing it was a combat situation. He was an honorable man.
Did Casey Sheehan believe in our mission in Iraq? In reality, we will never know. People on both sides seem to want to make assumptions as to Casey's motivations, assumptions that support their own beliefs about the Iraq war and I'll not engage in this sort of gruesome ventriloquism. What we do know is that Casey walked into the situation which took his life with his eyes fully open. I think that it would be unreasonable to assume that a young man who served in the military, then reenlisted with the knowledge that Iraq would be his destination would be unaware of the personal risk that is the nature of war. The very fact that he was there does give us some indication.
For Cindy Sheehan to forever see Casey as her defenseless child is natural, though I would hope she will eventually will see him as the honorable man he was. For the press and the left wing anti-war movement to glom onto and use Cindy Sheehan and her grief to their own ends is not only unseemly; it's thoroughly disgusting.
As this continues to play out, it seems that it is all about Cindy. Yes, I feel sympathy for any mother who has lost her child, but are we no forgetting the nearly 1,900 men and women who have lost their very lives? Who speaks for them? Who speaks for those men and women who enlisted in the military for the expressed purpose of serving in Iraq because they deeply believe in the mission? I'm sorry to have to ask this question, but is Cindy speaking for Casey, or is she speaking for Cindy?
I'm in the airline business and a few months ago I had the privilege to fly with a pilot, a Captain, who was taking a leave of absence in order to enlist in the Army and has volunteered to go to Iraq. Assuming that he was going to be flying, I asked him if he was going to fly fixed wing aircraft or choppers. He replied that he was not enlisting to fly. He was going in as as an infantryman, a buck private, a "grunt" as he described it. Why? Because he has a burning desire to do his part in a mission in which he deeply believes. This is a man with an excellent job, an enviable job by anyone's standards, who is putting it all on hold so that he can risk his life as a foot soldier in Iraq. His local newspaper got wind of his enlistment and wanted to do a big story, but he specifically asked them to respect his privacy. Why? Because he did not see himself as anything special, and he felt that for him to be portrayed as such would somehow diminish the sacrifices of all of the others serving their country in Iraq. His quiet dignity was humbling, but it made me proud to be part of a country that produces such individuals. I will never forget him and I pray to God that I will one day fly with him again.
Who speaks for him?
Who speaks for the thousands of brave men and women, who have seen combat in Iraq, and have reenlisted because they believe in our mission? Should those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in an endeavor that they find worthy of that sacrifice be used in an effort to turn their pursuit of success into failure?
Ms. Sheehan has been said to have "the ultimate moral authority" to speak against the war because of the loss of her son in that war. There is, however, no such "moral authority" afforded those who are actually fighting the war; those who risk their lives 24-7, those who are enlisting and reenlisting in droves. There has also been no such "moral authority" afforded those parents and spouses of men and women killed in the Iraq war who are in support of our actions there. "Moral authority" seems to be a commodity that exists only in the eyes of the beholder.
Cindy Sheehan's grief has become a bizarre public spectacle and her increasingly outlandish statements have attracted an equally bizarre group of supporters from white supremacist, neo-Nazi David Duke to 60s flower-child icon Joan Baez to Al Sharpton to Pat Buchanan - a motley group if there ever was one. Her family has distanced themselves from her and those who wish to share the spotlight, shed upon her by a compliant media, have enthusiastically filled the void and are cheering her on. When the carnival ends and the spotlight is darkened, I can only hope that someone close to Cindy will be there for her when reality sets in because her new "friends" will long since be gone in pursuit of the next spotlight.
This isn't about Cindy Sheehan, nor is it about Casey Sheehan. It's about our media's seeming inability, or rather refusal to understand concepts such as sacrifice, honor and duty. Have they, in the interest of balance, sought out a grieving parent of one of the fallen who is proud of the sacrifice that their son or daughter chose to make and given them like coverage? Well, no they haven't and I find especially egregious in that I would suspect that there are a lot more grieving parents who honor their children's sacrifice and the cause in which they believed than there are Cindy Sheehans - thank God.
Cindy's 15 minutes are used up and her grief is beginning to look suspiciously like self-promotion. I have no doubt that her loss is unimaginably painful, but it is no more painful than that of the parents of any other dead soldier in history. Poignant, yet not unique. I wish she would go away now and find some way to recover her dignity and a more positive way to express her grief other than abject hatred of her country, her president, the Jewish cabal, et al. For God's sake, David Duke has rushed to her side, is this the company she wants to keep? I just wish she would go away now and allow a grateful nation to honor her son, even if she refuses to do the same, for Casey Sheehan was an honorable man.