Thursday, September 08, 2005

"A Nation Prepared: At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept. 11th." --FEMA, 10/04

FEMA published a history of the organization on its web site in October 2004. It gives an overview of some of the key milestones in the history of FEMA. But one paragraph, in particular, caught my attention. It was the very last paragraph, which tried to sum up the agency's mission and its vision. Here it is:

"As it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of 'A Nation Prepared.' At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept. 11th."

Honestly, it's a pretty straightforward and accurate statement about what FEMA should stand for. I don't think any of us could quibble with those words.

However, the sad fact is that those words ring utterly hollow in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. FEMA has left all of us with a vision of a nation UNPREPARED. And not even the ghosts of the horrific attacks on 9/11/01 have provided sufficient impetus for our federal government to take its disaster preparedness role seriously.

In fact, even our top leadership seemed to have better things to do as the catastrophe was unfolding last week. While the streets of New Orleans flooded and the poor black underclass died, our leaders were doing their level forget that anything else was going on.

Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, here's what our illustrious leaders did as Katrina destroyed an iconic American city:

President Bush cleared brush and strummed a guitar...

Vice President Cheney enjoyed a leisurely vacation in Wyoming...

Secretary of State Rice shopped for expensive shoes and took in a Broadway comedy...

Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff bageled over his Tuesday morning newspaper headlines that said all was calm on the bayou...

Meanwhile, people all over New Orleans - and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast - were scrambling for higher floors to escape the rapidly rising water. They were climbing into musty, stifling attics in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Many found a way to survive. Many untold hundreds - likely thousands - never did. Others were forced to endure unbearable conditions elsewhere in the city without the benefit of water, food or medicine.

In what we now euphemistically refer to as our "post 9/11 world", the ability of our government to be there for its citizens in a time of crisis - whether said crisis is unleashed by man or nature - is of the utmost importance. FEMA's vision and mission statement even says so. So, while the Bush administration has spent the last four years and countless billions of dollars trying to convince us that future terror attacks are a certainty, they've also tried to sell to us the idea that we should rely on them to keep us safe and out of harm's way. They lied.

As we approach another anniversary of that terrible September morning in 2001, may we all reflect on what our government has promised, as well as what they have failed to do. What we have to show for the last four years is nothing but broken promises, treacherous lies and thousands of dead and dying in a once great American city.

How sad.


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