Friday, September 02, 2005

Sacrifice and Security

As others have pointed out, dealing with this crisis really was not significantly different than handling a terrorist attack. Like a massive dirty bomb attack. If anything, the difficulties involved in a major terrorist attack are worse than what is necessary for a natural disaster. Especially as we had several days warning before the storm hit. Not that it is likely that anything worse will happen, but we certainly must be prepared for significantly worse.

But we're clearly not. Four years after 9/11, there clearly are no plans. There was no mass evacuation ready. We didn't have National Guardsmen ready. Our Washington leadership's plan was Every Man For Himself, and to denounce people who didn't take care of themselves. And that is simply not a plan. That is disgusting. Four years after "everything changed" and it's obvious that nothing has. At least not as far as preparing our nation for another attack.

The only thing that changed was that the Bushies had a stronger argument to use against their opponents. An argument which supposedly gave them free reign to do whatever the hell they wanted. Taxcuts, war, racial profiling, invasion of liberties, torture, anything. That's what they wanted and that's what they got. And so the only thing that changed was their rhetoric.

But what about doing the things necessary to make our country safer? Not indirect things, like invading Iraq, which only Bush loyalists still insist made us safer. But the direct things, like evacuation and quick responses. And securing our ports and chemical manufacturing plants, and other necessary safety precautions, which are unsexy but necessary. All that got ignored. And this current disaster shows the consequences.

But it's not just a case of the Bush Administration not caring. It's that they knew that these things would hurt them. They knew that we'd be far less likely to follow them into war if we were busy making America safer. This wasn't just incompetence. This was part of the PR campaign. This was part of the sales pitch. They wanted lots of unused energy getting pent-up with hopelessness and anger, so that they could spring their "solution" on us and we'd follow right behind them. They didn't want us to have a useful outlet for those feelings, and so they didn't give us one. And if we felt safer, we wouldn't need Bush's war to make us safer. And they just didn't see how any of this was necessary anyway.

Sacrificing Goals

And I was thinking about this in the context of Kevin Drum's comments about troop strength. As he said, for those liberal warhawks who say the war was right, but that Bush screwed up by not sending enough troops; that's just bogus. Because the real issue is that we didn't have enough troops to make the war work. And that it would have taken great time and expense to raise enough. And the Bush Admin knew that that wouldn't work, and that they couldn't have their war. So they took the troops they had and hoped for the best. Bush preferred to sacrifice our lives, money, and reputation; rather than his agenda.

And that's exactly what we've seen post-9/11. It's not just that the Bush Admin didn't do what was necessary to make America safer. It's that they knew that they couldn't, not if they wanted to get their laundry list agenda passed, anyway. They knew that they'd lose their taxcuts and their war if we spent what was necessary to prepare America. So they cut spending on our security and infrastructure; rather than increasing it, as was necessary.

But it's not just about spending. During WWII, citizens made real sacrifices, not just with rationing, but with citizen groups organized to defend our nation. People volunteering their time and energy to make America safer. And I don't know much about the 50's and 60's, but I know that they were ready for this kind of stuff too. Not just this, but against actual commie invasions and nuclear attacks. They organized local preparation units nationwide. Regular citizens sacrificing their time and energy, to ensure against attacks that never happened.

And that's exactly the kind of thing we need now, and what people would have gladly agreed to after 9/11. Not just higher spending, but civilian mobilization crews who are told what to do in case of disasters. So that we don't need to wait for FEMA and troops to restore order and help those who need it. Because more often than not, people want to help during crisis. People like being useful, rather than helpless. They'd much rather be a rescuer than the rescued. One of the worst things during a crisis is doing nothing and unsure of your next move. People just need to know where they fit in and what they can do to help. With guidance, even your worst looter will prove that he/she belongs in our society.

And maybe they've got stuff like that where you live, but I haven't seen jack dooky where I'm at. And I live on the Texas coast, with a large Navy base, a major port, and refineries nearby. And I don't have any idea what I'd do if we were attacked. Sure, I know the evacuation routes out of town. And I've gotten a flier from the local newspaper and TV station, showing what I need to do to prepare for a hurricane. But what about something more serious and unpredictable than a natural storm? I'm sure they've got plans for what we'd do in case of attack (I hope), but I have no idea what those plans are, or what I could do to help.

But these things can't just make themselves happen. These things need to be organized at a higher level. But that takes time and energy and money. And Bush had better uses for these resources than getting us better prepared for emergencies and terrorism. He didn't want to see these resources squandered on government programs, and now all he can do is make excuses for why we weren't ready. But there are no excuses. We've been warned and the Bush Administration ignored those warnings, and people are suffering and dying. People were prepared after 9/11 to do what it took to make America safer; and Bush used that instead to ensure his place in history. And that he has, though it is doubtful that it is in the way that he intended. If nothing else, Bush will not be a forgotten president.

I can't stress this enough, people who don't think that government works should not be in positions responsible for making it work. Because they can't do it. You don't put a communist in charge of your chamber of commerce, and you don't let an atheist run your church. If someone doesn't think something can work, they won't be able to make it work. Conservatives don't believe in government, and should not be allowed to control it. It's that simple.

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