A Nation Poised To Grieve

Katrina is a catastrophe in both natural terms and emergency response terms but there might yet be another way to mark the event as scandalous: The dignity of the dead and their rights to be duly counted. Remember, this is the administration that prohibits news coverage of coffins returning from Iraq.

Col. Terry Ebbert, New Orleans homeland security chief (and someone who likely deserves much of the blame game’s pointed fingers) spoke of the fear that as many as 10,000 may be dead and for the moment seemed to doubt it:

“Some of the catastrophic deaths that some people predicted may not have occurred… Numbers so far are relatively minor as compared to the dire projections of 10,000.”

Ebbert said the search for the dead will be done systematically, block-by-block, with dignity and with no news media allowed to follow along. “You can imagine sitting in Houston and watching somebody removed from your parents’ property. We don’t think that’s proper,” he said.

I’ve had this fear from the moment reporters started asking for estimates of the dead; the fear is that the toll will be misrepresented by homeland security and the administration. Mostly because I realize that a number in the thousands, much less ten thousand, will guarantee greater instances of blame and recrimination.

These people did not die noble deaths like the 9/11 victims and their fates will not inspire a retaliatory invasion of a foreign nation (but then neither did 9/11). These people did not evacuate like they should have. In reality they are embarrassments for too many in authority and antithetic to an administration seeking good news from Iraq and the economy. A memo from Michael Brown to FEMA employees before they arrived charged them to “convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public.“ It’s too late for that now but is this a foreshadowing of the “good news” to come?

Lack of preparedness for a major hurricane, subsequent levee breaks and several days taken before rescue operations began has done little to convey positive images. Thousands upon thousands dead will do even less to inspire positive responses and forgiveness from a nation poised to grieve. The area hurricane Katrina devastated was huge. It will be amazing that only a few hundred died but something tells me the toll will be correspondingly low.

I hope I’m wrong and that each fatality will be counted with cause and time of death documented and disseminated, but who can we trust to see it through?

Someone fears the toll from Katrina.

Quotes:
http://apnews.excite.com/article/20050910/D8CH2MA00.html

http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=katrinaresponse07&date=20050907

 

21 thoughts on “A Nation Poised To Grieve

  1. These people did not die noble deaths like the 9/11 victims

    Huh? The 9/11 victims died a noble death? What constitutes a “noble death?” Do you mean the firefighters who got trapped doing their jobs? Do you mean people like my neighbor who died when his floor was engulfed in flames? Do you mean all of them? The Gulf dead did not die noble deaths? So we canonize the 9/11 dead, but not the Gulf dead? Why?

    The gubmint might try to cloak the number who died, but the bodies have to be processed somewhere (one place was on Nightline last night) and I think there will be plenty of witnesses (counting the used body bags, if nothing else) so that, sooner or later, the true number will come out.

    But, I wonder, why does the final number really matter? It will be more than should have died no matter what the final tally is. Is there a tipping point (for what, I’m not sure—what constitutes a whitewash, I guess)? Is it 500 or 5000? What body count would allay your fears?

  2. I’ve seen first-hand a lot of people die from family, to friends, to strangers, in all sorts of ways and methods; And, honestly, not one of them ever was “noble.”  Such a notion reeks of typical American realtiy-disconnect, in all honesty.

    From my experiences, i cannot imagine how the process of death, be it a natural process or artificial, could ever, ever be noble.  Case in point, when a death involves sudden physical trauma (like one or more gunshot wounds) you often shit your pants.  Think back to all those Westerns where the wife holds her dying husbands head, as he slowly dies from a gunshot, and imagine the stench of shit wafting over the scene.  When i think of death i think of the smell of shit, foremost in my mind.

    I hope I’m wrong and that each fatality will be counted with cause and time of death documented and disseminated, but who can we trust to see it through?

    The other day on NPR’s Fresh Air Terri Gross’ guest host (sorry, can’t remember the dude’s name) interviewed a coroner who worked at GroundZero; He described in detail the process given each body, and the time given each item of human remains.  These coroners, the doctors, take an oath.

    Each body will not only be examined for cause of death (e.g., drowning) but also for signs of sexual assault, sudden head/body trauma, etc.

    If you do a google on (boolean mine):
    katrine AND coroner AND bodies

    … you’ll find some interesting newspieces.  The washpost’s article is fairly good (their usual subscript seems to be disabled):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/05/AR2005090501401.html

    The media has been doing an excellent job thus far on this American Debacle.  I can’t imagine they’ll suddenly discontinue this effort as the recovery of human remains begins.  Why, despite FEMA’s imploring, i still see *new* footage of bodies, and last night i even saw a live feed of a tour from within the Convention Centre (supposedly, if you listen to the conspiracy junkies, out-of-bounds to all but the military).  This process is hardly done behind closed doors.

    Remember, each missing person and then the resultant body recovered essentially has a one or more individuals overseeing their remains, awaiting the coroner’s report with a grieving-need for the stark truth.

    “I just want to know what happened to him, the whole truth,” is something you’ll hear survivors often say.

    Family members, and the media, will hardly be lacking focus or attention to the process the body recieves, and could potentially make the report public.  So, if anything, this is the one aspect of this latest American Domestic Debacle that shall recieve the most scrutiny as time continues past the original, tragic event/mistake.

    rob@egoz.org

  3. Rob said:

    Family members, and the media, will hardly be lacking focus or attention to the process the body recieves, and could potentially make the report public.  So, if anything, this is the one aspect of this latest American Domestic Debacle that shall recieve the most scrutiny as time continues past the original, tragic event/mistake.

    I hope you’re right, rob, about all of it.

    And neurotwitch, if you knew the way I think, you’d know that I was mocking the ways people rate the significances of mass annihilations. I guess we all have a certain conceitedness with the values we assign.

    To suggest, in any way, that people died stupidly in the towers could easily attract censure. To suggest this of Katrina’s victims would be much more acceptable. The gulf coast victims will always be seen by many as having been able to save themselves if they had only struggled mightily enough. Death by war imparts a legitimacy that weather-related accidents never could. We’re not so different than suicide bombers in that respect: We believe in martyrdom too.

    I’m not hoping to reach a certain toll of victims but want it to be an honest number. All lives have value and regardless of whether by war or weather, a death is grieved by someone and need be accounted for.

  4. One thought here. Just because no “pictures” are going to be allowed to be aired, is that supposed to mean that the reporters will not be allowed to accompany them?

    “You can imagine sitting in Houston and watching somebody removed from your parents’ property. We don’t think that’s proper,

  5. CNN is reporting that the ban has been lifted.  Reading the article it appears as if the ban wasn’t just against photos, but against the media being present whatsoever.

    U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison issued a temporary restraining order Friday against a “zero access” policy announced earlier in the day by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city’s homeland security director.

    In explaining the ban, Ebbert said, “we don’t think that’s proper” to let members of the media view the bodies.

    The judge was to consider granting a permanent injunction Saturday when the government announced its decision not to fight CNN’s lawsuit.

  6. The “ban” ?  Gee, it sounds so…  official.
    This or that FEMA/DHS official can ban all they want, even this or that general.  They can issue a “ban” against breathing, too. Enforcement is another matter entirely.  With sattelite uplinks, mobile phone pics, etc., such a ban was worthless unless the US Attorney General was willing to go after those who published.

    But, he was not so willing.

    Their *desire* for a ban on pictures of the dead, the interior of Thunderdome, the Convention Center, or rotting oysters in the FrenchQuarter sashimi parlos is and was irrelevant.  Unless they’re capable of enforcing the ban via the courts, then their ban is worthless.

    And so it was—worthless.

    Truth is good, not always easy for some to stomach, but *always* good in the long run of affairs.

    Me thinks Americans need less “bans”, and a tad more truth.

    rob@egoz.org

  7. Heh, “this or that” general might have a little more success at a ban.  Remember how many non-embedded journalists have met “accidents” trying to get information other than the “official” news in Iraq?  I think that I read somewhere that 2004 was the deadliest year for journalists.  Being shot at (no doubt by some “lawless looter” wink  )would deter many journalists from taking photos.

  8. The official death toll from Hurricane Andrew was 26.  According to people I know who lived in South Florida at the time, that number cannot possibly be accurate.  I find it concerning that the local goverment officials were predicting up to 10,000, then the feds come in and suddenly its “a lot less”. 

    I have a friend whose father was deployed last week to go the gulf coast.  She sent us a copy of an email he sent to her.  I’m copying a portion of his email here:

    “We’re starting to see pats. today, not many yet. I think alot evac’d and alot of these that
    stayed have died. The death count is alot higher than the media is saying (you didn’t hear that from me) A dr. (surgeon) form N.C. and his son
    showed up yest. Everyone was turning them away, said they didn’t need his help, so we took them in. “

    I have no doubt that we are being lied to.

  9. Oh my God! “Lied to”? This must be the first time any government has ever lied to anyone. How revolting! Why don’t we vote in another kinder, gentler regime? Let me know when you find such an animal.
    Seriously, the new communication revolution as mentioned earlier here is making it VERY DIFFICULT for

    tyrants governments to hide anything meaningful. ALL HAIL TO THE REVOLUTION! wink

  10. The official death toll from Hurricane Andrew was 26.  According to people I know who lived in South Florida at the time, that number cannot possibly be accurate.  I find it concerning that the local goverment officials were predicting up to 10,000, then the feds come in and suddenly its “a lot less

  11. While this site offers a plethora of good, interesting, and stable view points, there are a fair number of i-see-conspiracy-everywheres-i-look users as well, they’re just a tad more eloquent.

    Remember how many non-embedded journalists have met “accidents

  12. (Straying away from the improbable idea of American soldiers hunting down and killing stray reporters…)

    The NYTimes today has a really excellent piece detailing what is, thus far, known about America’s Katrina Debacle.  Here are two paragraphs, lest i run foul against the fundamentalistic copyright orthodoxy faction in our midst:

    Oliver Thomas, the New Orleans City Council president, expressed a view shared by many in city and state government: that a national disaster requires a national response. “Everybody’s trying to look at it like the City of New Orleans messed up,” Mr. Thomas said in an interview. “But you mean to tell me that in the richest nation in the world, people really expected a little town with less than 500,000 people to handle a disaster like this? That’s ludicrous to even think that.”

    Andrew Kopplin, Governor Blanco’s chief of staff, took a similar position. “This was a bigger natural disaster than any state could handle by itself, let alone a small state and a relatively poor one,” Mr. Kopplin said.

    Go here…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11response.html

    Unfortunately, it requires a (free, for now, but not in the near future) registered account.  So, let me paste just a few more interesting paragraphs (copyright worshipers, close your eyes now):

    As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin largely followed the city plan, eventually ordering the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. Although 80 percent of New Orleans’s population left, as many as 100,000 people remained.

    Mayor Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, P. Edwin Compass III, said in interviews that they believe murders occurred in the Superdome and in the convention center, where the city also started sending people on Tuesday. But at the convention center, the violence was even more pervasive.

    “The biggest problem was that there wasn’t enough security,” said Capt. Winn, the head of the police SWAT team. “The only way I can describe it is as a completely lawless situation.”

    While those entering the Superdome had been searched for weapons, there was no time to take similar precautions at the convention center, which took in a volatile mix of poor residents, well-to-do hotel guests and hospital workers and patients. Gunfire became so routine that large SWAT teams had to storm the place nearly every night.

    The article is 6 pages long.

    rob@egoz.org

  13. While I agree with your stance on the conspiracy issue, Rob, I still have to admit that reading:

    (Yes, i admit, i’m a less than compelling conspiracy-writer, unlike some of you.  I’m too grounded in reality and have too much a taste for truth.)

    Made me laugh out loud.

  14. lest i run foul against the fundamentalistic copyright orthodoxy faction in our midst:

    …(copyright worshipers, close your eyes now):

    Bit peeved today?

     

    Maybe these soldiers, too, met “accidents

  15. If these soldier-induced “accidents”/murders were the case, i’m sure outta, what?, 150,000 soldiers in the field, never mind all those who’ve rotated in and out of the arena, that *someone*, just *1*, maybe 5?, soldiers would come forward and say…

    My humorous comments in my last post aside, your reasoning is identical to what I try to tell people believeing in all of these highly unrealistic conspiracy stuff. Conspiracies exist only where they are restricted to a VERY small number of people in both cause and public effect.

  16. I had a humorous conversation this weekend about conspiracy theory’s. Basically, in order for any of these conspiracy theory’s to be true, there would have to be a level of competency in the White House that we just haven’t seen.

    So I feel much better knowing that it’s just not possible for the theory I came up with as well as others to have ever been conceived by our government.

  17. Not that you are, by any means, a neo-nazi or the like, but the following comment i’ve heard many-a-time from such regarding ZOG, the Jewish Media Cabal, etc.

    …your reasoning is identical to what I try to tell people believeing in all of these highly unrealistic conspiracy stuff. Conspiracies exist only where they are restricted to a VERY small number of people in both cause and public effect.

    Like i tell my aryan brotherhood “friends” and others of like ilk: “It’s very hard to debunk that which cannot be produced for examination.”

    How intellectually…  convienant.

    rob@egoz.org

  18. Some of you seem to be suggesting that misreporting the toll of dead is a conspiracy theory by me. I have serious doubts that the true number will be known and I don’t really care if you think it’s an irresponsible fear of mine.

    CNN has been reporting that even though they have a court order from a federal judge allowing the press to be present during the search and rescue operations, (as warbi linked, the ban had been lifted) the military is hampering them anyway. There is only so much time left before evidence gathering will be impossible, or at least much more difficult, and the military is using coercion to stop them. Why? What do they (of all possible interests) have to lose if the true number of dead is known? Is it personal preferences of military personnel being served or have they been ordered to hinder the press?

    An estimated 160,000 homes were demolished or seriously damaged and I’m going to be very surprised if the toll is reported as less than three thousand.

    There is so much with the situation that could damage careers and popularity that I cannot understand why some of you would cry conspiracy theorist. An Illuminati takeover of the world is one thing. Secretiveness during and after Katrina is another thing entirely and, as such, is entirely possible.

  19. Are the authorities only reporting bodies that have been officially confirmed dead by a coroner and positively identified by a next-of-kin? Is this why the numbers are so low? Why would the authorites not report the number of bodies? Surely this is a big story in itself.

    http://www.moberlymonitor.com/articles/2005/09/06/news/news1.txt
    Davis said Gator has been busy rescuing as many people as he can; when she spoke to him last, he had taken over 50 people into his home to give them food and shelter. He has pulled almost that many dead bodies out of the water and taken them to I-90, where he told Davis there were about 800 corpses lined up along the road for rescue workers to retrieve.

    http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7000069092
    But those numbers are considered low by law enforcement and medical rescue squads. One law enforcement officer estimates it is more likely to be between 600 and 800 Bay St.Louis alone. The residents are “in for a shock,

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