OPINION

Readers decry media criticism of bungled Bush response to Katrina as unfair and anti-American

I am compelled to answer Dimitris Kastriotis’s commentary titled «The spirit of social Darwinism» (September 15). His assertions are misleading at best. First of all, for the past five years, the federal government has allocated more funds for civil works projects to Louisiana than any other state in the Union. The Bush administration has spent more on flood control projects, thus far, than the entire eight years of the Clinton administration. There was no 50 percent reduction for flood protection works as Mr Kastriotis asserts. Spending on flood control has increased steadily. What was cut was the annual increase in spending from the current services baseline. It is insulting to assert that the government «abandoned the poor to their fate.» Within one week over 32,000 had been rescued, all the levee breaches had been repaired and water begun to be pumped out of New Orleans, and shelter, food, and medical care had been provided to more than 180,000 refugees. Now, in New Orleans, the airport has opened, the business district is up and running, the port is operational, and four major residential areas are being reoccupied. The volume of support provided during those 72 to 96 hours was unprecedented. The federal response was faster than hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Iniki, Francine, and Jeanne. It took five days for Guard troops to arrive in strength after Andrew hit in 1992. After Katrina, there was significant troop presence within three days. Within a week, President Bush had pledged over 100 billion in aid. And that is just the beginning. Mr Kastriotis is long on opinions and short on knowledge. He has no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power is down, telecommunications are out, bridges are damaged, and roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently has no interest in finding out. So he labels «abandoning the poor to their fate» the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history. TED SURDIS, San Francisco. As an American who lives half of each year in Greece, I have been struck by the confidence that our Greek friends have in the truth and accuracy of what they read in their newspapers and see on television news. I have personally found Kathimerini English Edition and the Athens News to be the best of a decidedly bad lot of newspapers in Greece. Reading Pantelis Boukalas’s commentary «Broken wings» (September 6), I felt compelled to comment myself. Mr Boukalas is clearly misinformed and obviously biased in his observations. In the United States, there is a clear distinction between the roles of the states and the federal government. Despite Boukalas’s aspersions, the hurricane was very accurately tracked, its strengthening and its future path predicted for days before landfall on the US Gulf Coast. Citizens living along the Gulf Coast were very adequately warned of this and were requested to evacuate the entire area that was subsequently struck by the hurricane and the resulting storm surge. It is the responsibility of the respective municipalities, counties or parishes (in Louisiana) and states to perform this very important function. However, citizens are not forcibly removed from their homes. Some cannot, but many, for reasons best known to themselves, elect to «ride it out» and undertake the subsequent risk. The failure of the levees in New Orleans was a tragedy waiting to happen – the result of allowing a city to expand although the bulk of it is located below sea level. The question is, now that the inevitable catastrophe has occurred, should the city now be rebuilt? But that is for the future. Once the flooding occurred and given the legal relationships and powers of our governments, it is the responsibility of the individual states to respond initially and to request federal help if necessary. It is obvious there was a delay in doing so for whatever reason. Even after the requests were made, however, it does take time to respond in a major way. It does, in fact, take days even in a «superpower» nation to adequately respond to a disaster of this scale. Of course, like Greece, the USA has its problems with a media that has no concept of reality. So talking heads and other «experts» get to give their opinions from their various platforms. And the gullible and those with a political agenda (for example, Mr Boukalas and his editors) eat it up. The president of the United States has and is responding as he should. The US will recover from this disaster as it always does. The government of Greece, with its limited resources, should observe very closely what has transpired in the US and learn what it can do to prepare for and respond to the next inevitable major earthquake. That is much more productive than the obvious gloating displayed by the likes of Mr Boukalas. JAMES F. SMEADER, Nafplion, Greece and Amherst, NY, USA. Your anti-American and anti-President Bush rants which infuse your publication always provide a bit of a laugh at their crudity. Your commentary on «social Darwanism» (September 15) was hilarious – you outdid yourselves. The USS Louisiana is a submarine that was en route to the Panama Canal and not «offshore.» Does Greece use submarines as relief ships? Maybe you can teach the world something. Please help us find the «50 percent reduction in flood control works» (hint: there was not such a cut). Despite devastation in a land area the size of Great Britain, and halting relief efforts in the first few days in Louisiana, it mercifully appears the death toll from this killer storm will be less than 1,000 people. Contrast this with Europe’s response to its devastating summer heat wave two years ago. Over 40,000 people died (15,000 in France alone) because government officials and others would not interrupt their August breaks to return to the cities to organize relief efforts. Your self indulgent anti-American rants are hiding the awful truth: It is Europe that is indifferent, not the US. SAMMY THOMAS, New York City. Editor replies: If our readers from the United States are satisfied with their government’s response to the Katrina catastrophe then who are we to argue? However, the reports and analyses in the US media are unanimous in their criticism and bewilderment at what went wrong. Nevertheless, it is sad that when we are critical of the US government this is so easily interpreted as «anti-US bias.»