OPINION

Defense of Bush reaction unfair

In defense of your reporting, I found the published criticisms of the letters (17 September) from American citizens overstated. As an American in Greece under a Fulbright grant, I felt compelled to highlight the issues your editors have discussed and those which have been overlooked in the respondents’ zeal. The important issues are not that the relative death toll is small in comparison to European disasters – one letter seemed to write off 1,000 lives as a insignificant toll – or that the state of Louisiana also lacked in its response to the relief effort. Rather, this storm shows the inefficiencies in response coordination and the deep socioeconomic divisions in the world’s wealthiest nation. Attention must focus not only on the «72 to 96 hours» after the storm, but on the 72 to 96 hours before it. There was ample warning that Katrina was headed for the New Orleans area. There were repeated concerns as to the state of the levees. There were also many cars full of middle-class people going to stay with relatives. Yet, despite advanced warnings, National Guardsmen/women (the federal arm best suited to handle such a disaster) were in short supply and unequipped, shelters were overpopulated and undersupplied, and it still took two visits from President Bush before the necessary provisions were under way. Also not to be understated is that most of the victims were poor. The disadvantaged do not have a higher tolerance for evacuation conditions; simply, they are citizens with less means to leave the danger zone. This demographic of storm victims can be seen throughout the world (villagers during droughts in India, farmers in storms hitting Cuba, or residents buried by mudslides in Brazil). One would not expect the same socioeconomic division in a multi-trillion dollar economy. For an administration that prides itself on performance under pressure, Katrina sent a chilling reminder that the responsiveness of the American government is not to the level it should be. Preparation and planning are the best ways to fight the ills facing America today – whether natural disasters, terrorist strikes, or inequality. Unfortunately, the current administration favors passive response, pre-emption and Reaganomics. If critical commentary is stifled by scapegoating such questions as «anti-American,» the war on all three fronts has been lost already. TAUN TOAY, Athens, Greece.