HARPER'S WEEKLY September 6, 2005


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the United States declared disasters
in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Taken together, the
90,000-square-mile disaster area would be the twelfth largest state.
Emergencies were declared in Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. Eighty percent of New Orleans was
flooded after levees were breached by rising water.

"I don't think," said President George W. Bush, "anyone anticipated the
breach of the levees." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the
disaster "exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's

The flooding had been anticipated by National Geographic magazine,
Scientific American magazine, the Times-Picayune newspaper, FEMA, and Mr.

Condoleezza Rice attended a musical in New York City, where she was booed.
She also went shoe shopping. A fellow shopper was thrown out of the store
after yelling "How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying or

Dick Cheney canceled a trip to the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, and Senator
Bill Frist called for a permanent repeal to the estate tax.

President Bush decided to end his month-long vacation two days early and
return to Washington, D.C. During his trip, Air Force One flew low over New
Orleans. "This was a natural disaster," said Bush.

The situation in New Orleans quickly worsened, but little help appeared.
Shelters set up at the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center became
squalid, hot, and dangerous. The Louisiana National Guard patrolled the
Superdome with machine guns as flood victims, locked behind metal
barricades, shouted "we need more water."

Cigarettes in the Superdome sold for $10 a pack, and a brisk market in
anti-diuretics, which allowed people to avoid the overflowing bathrooms,
developed. "We are like animals," said a woman.

Shootings, carjackings, and looting were reported across New Orleans.
Thousands of people, most of them poor, were stranded for several days; many
died waiting for rescue. "Nobody's coming to get us," said Aaron Broussard,
president of Jefferson parish, weeping. "For God sakes, shut up and send us

The effectiveness of FEMA head Mike Brown, who was fired from his previous
job supervising the International Arabian Horse Association, was called into
question after he repeatedly claimed not to have known the severity of the
storm or the location of several thousand refugees.

"There is way too many fricking . . . cooks in the kitchen," said New
Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin.

"George Bush," said rapper Kanye West, "doesn't care about black people."

About 57,000 troops, many assigned to combat operations, entered the New
Orleans area. "This place is going to look like Little Somalia," said a
brigadier general.

The Superdome and Convention Center were finally evacuated, but evacuees
were not allowed to take their pets with them. "Snowball!" cried a little
boy after police took away his dog. "Snowball!" It was announced that it
could take up to six months for New Orleans to be pumped out, and another
three months for it to dry. Officials estimated that 10,000 people had been
killed in the flood; about the same number of people remained in the city.

Fifty-five countries offered aid to the United States. Cuba offered 1,100
doctors, Iran offered humanitarian aid, China offered $5 million, and
Venezuela offered fuel at a reduced cost. The United States was performing a
"needs assessment" to decide whose help to accept.

Some Christian extremists declared that the hurricane was punishment by God.
"New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence," said the pastor of the New
Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, "and the sodomites, the witchcraft
workers, false religion--it's free of all of those things now." Many other
Christians simply prayed.

In Iraq nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed during a march across the
Al-Aaimmah bridge when rumors of a suicide bomber in the crowd caused a
stampede. Most of the victims were women and children who died from
trampling or, after they fell or jumped into the Tigris River, from
drowning. President Bush declared that U.S. troops needed to stay in Iraq to
keep the country's oil out of the hands of terrorists.

Federal prosecutors accused eight officials from KPMG and a lawyer of
conspiracy for helping wealthy people evade at least $2.5 billion in taxes,
and a man named Glenn Allen Powell pleaded guilty to taking as much as $1.25
million in kickbacks in Iraq while working for Halliburton subsidiary
Kellogg Brown & Root.

Chief Justice of the United States William H. Rehnquist died, and President
Bush nominated John G. Roberts, Jr. as a replacement.

Scientists announced that they had created mice that could regrow amputated
extremities, and a plane crash in Indonesia killed at least 147 people.

The Bush Administration was working on a new set of pollution controls
intended to make it harder to sue power plants.

There was a condom shortage in Uganda; a U.N. representative attributed the
shortage to restrictions placed on U.S.-provided HIV/AIDS-prevention funds.

Susan Wood, chief of women's health at the FDA, resigned over the FDA's
refusal to allow emergency contraception to be sold over the counter in
spite of "scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended
by the professional staff here."

Up to twelve more tropical storms were expected through November.

National Preparedness Month began.

-- Paul Ford


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