Five days into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the international community and US politicians are in awe that a tragedy such as this could happen in the world's most powerful country. With the large number of deaths, lawlessness and humanitarian aid for survivors the situation shows the vunerability of the country.
In today's Die Welt (Germany) the editorial writes "America looks aghast at a third world situation on its own soil, splintered and full of violence. Armed men have humiliated the under-staffed police officers. In the Superdome, 20,000 people hang out as if in a refugee war camp."
In the French newspaper, Liberation, no time was spent mincing words. "The situation is still as desperate as ever for thousands of Americans after Hurricane Katrina's passage. Why was the United States so ill-prepared? Bush reacted slowly, the levees couldn't handle more than a Category 3 hurricane. In addition, despite evacuation orders, most in New Orleans had no mode of transportation and finally, the war in Iraq has sapped resources." Of course this newspaper comes from the same country where African immigrants are desperately dying in dilapidated aparment buildings.
The Times of London didn't hold back either with its editorial titled "It's An Ill Wind That Blows No Good for Bush" —'With a hurricane, even one cutely named Katrina, there is no one to fight (although jihadi websites yesterday claimed that "Private Katrina" had enlisted on their side). The spectacle would make any leader look impotent, as if he were, well, trying to hold back the waves. To be the President of the world's superpower and to lose an entire, world-famous city within hours is humbling.'
The most profound complaints are coming from the hurricane victims themselves, who blame the dire situation on poor leadership. One man who lost his home was quoted on CNN yesterday as saying "This ain't no Third world, this is America, man. People shouldn't be dying in the streets. People shouldn't be hungry. It thought this was America."
"Where's George Bush? Where's George Bush?" said another so-called 'refugee' carrying his sick child.
Even New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at the federal government for not "getting off their asses." The Congressional Black Caucaus expressed anger around the slow response for relief.
"It looks dysfunctional to me right now," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-California at a press conference on Friday. The black lawmakers blame the slow response on the fact that most of the victims were poor. Many also are black, but the lawmakers held off on charging racism. "The issue is not about race right now," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio. "There will be another time to have issues about color."
Watson and others also took issue with the word "refugee" being used to describe hurricane victims.
"'Refugee' calls up to mind people that come from different lands and have to be taken care of. These are American citizens," Watson said.
Added Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland: "They are not refugees. I hate that word."
He called for citizens and governments to come together "with a force equal to that of Hurricane Katrina" to meet the needs of the hurricane victims.