Serenity Now!

It’s out, and it’s pretty great.

Beware the comments link below; it may contain horrible, horrible spoilers. Also, avoid reading the reviews, because the ones I’ve read have been incredibly cavalier in this area. One possible remedy is suggested by Penny Arcade.

In case you don’t know, Serenity started life as an amazing (though short-lived) television series, Firefly (2002), by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy (1997) and Angel (1999). A great cast, a terrific set of characters, and some unbelievably creepy bad guys.

You can buy all fourteen episodes, including three never aired in the United States, on DVD from Amazon here; they too are well worth the cost of admission.

Tal Afar

You might have heard that some insurgent actions in Baghdad a week or two ago were in retaliation for what the coalition forces had done at Tal Afar. And if you were like me, you might have wondered, “WTF?”

The mainstream news was that we had sent a mess of troops in there to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, and we had killed about a hundred insurgents (and with no innocent people killed whatsoever!)

The alternative news was that most of the insurgents had melted out of the city, as they learned to do after Fallujah, and our troops didn’t find anyone much to fight.

So again, WTF? Why did there need to be retaliation? Juan Cole sheds some light on the situation:

… the US has now attacked another Sunni city, this time the Turkmen stronghold of Tal Afar. In the continued “scorched earth” policy of the US military in the Sunni areas, a joint US/ Iraqi (mostly Kurdish) force appears to have levelled entire neighborhoods in Tal Afar, a northern Turkmen city, making most of its 200,000 inhabitants refugees living in squalid tent camps or with friends and relatives elsewhere. The operation yielded relatively few arrested terrorists. There is a news blackout on Tal Afar imposed by the US and the Iraqi authorities. This move is draconian and anyway unnecessary, since the American cable news channels have already imposed a global news blackout in favor of playing “Weather Channel” 24/7. Members of a Red Crescent delegation reached Tal Afar, but had their cell phones confiscated, were told to distribute aid in a remote and little known part of the city, and ended up mainly giving help to the displaced persons in their tent settlements: ‘ Hasan Bal, a member of the Red Crescent team that went to Tal Afar, stressed that theirs was a very difficult mission. ”The people and especially the children in Tal Afar are living in miserable conditions. Their conditions are indescribable. It is practically impossible not to cry for them,” noted Bal. ‘

In the same article, he makes the point that the Sunni areas were originally less trouble than Shiite Najaf:

When Saddam Hussein first fell, the Sunni Arab elites were mostly quiet, and were waiting to see what their relations with the US would be like. Fallujah was less troublesome than Shiite Najaf in the first weeks of April. But the US insisted on garrisoning troops in a local school, which alarmed parents that their children might be endangered. They mounted a demonstration, and green US troops panicked and shot 17 civilian demonstrators. That began a feud between the clans to which the dead belonged and the US army, which, in the way of feuds, grew over time. By March of 2004, anti-American feeling was so virulent that crowds attacked, killed and mutilated four private security guards, one of them a South African. George W. Bush took the attack personally, and ordered an assault on Fallujah. (Norman Mailer thinks the Iraq War is about white guys making it clear that brown guys are not going to be allowed to lay a glove on them.) The spring attack on Fallujah, however, was extremely unpopular among Iraqis, and members of the US-appointed Interim Governing Council began resigning or threatening to resign. Even the Shiites in Kufa sent aid. The US backed off Fallujah.

In summer of 2003, there had been a growing, low-intensity guerrilla conflict in the Sunni Arab areas. But large areas were relatively quiet, including the city of Mosul (with a population of about a million). A lot of Sunnis were still on the fence.

Then after Bush won reelection, in November of 2004, Bush sent the Marines into Fallujah. He emptied a city of 300,000, turning the residents into refugees and the homeless no less surely than the hurricanes have done to the inhabitants of New Orleans more recently. The American assault damaged 2/3s of the buildings in Fallujah and left it a ghost town. In the past few months, some Fallujans have been allowed to return, and a few neighborhoods are functioning (shown, like the facade in the Jim Carrey vehicle, The Truman Show, to gullible Western journalists as evidence that everything is hunky dory). Other Fallujans are living in tents atop the rubble of their former homes. There are still bombings and daily mortar fire in the area. I noted an Aljazeerah report of a mortar shell falling near a US position not so long ago, and asked here why the US press did not report it. Someone with a relative serving in the US military in that area wrote to say that they take mortar fire all the time and it was unremarkable. The propaganda line was that “Fallujah is the safest city in Iraq.” But US troops have been killed there not so long ago, and the slogan is clearly not true.

The reaction among the Sunni Arabs to the Fallujah campaign was immediate and explosive. They mounted large-scale urban revolts and rebellions virtually everywhere. Ramadi, Samarra, Qaim, Heet, you name it. The coup de grace was Mosul. Some 4,000 Iraqi policemen abruptly resigned. Masked men appeared on the streets and set up checkpoints. Mosul went over to the guerrilla movement, and substantial portions of it are still unstable.

Mosul contains about a fifth of the Sunni Arabs! It had been quiet. It was a model, under Gen. Petraeus. Now it had exploded. It became unsafe.

The Great Sunni Arab Revolt of November-December 2004 was a direct result of the Fallujah campaign.

It was a disaster, and not just on security grounds. The Great Revolt made it impossible for the Sunni Arabs to participate in the January 30, 2005 elections. Their areas were too insecure, or too sullen, to vote. The Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group descended from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, had announced a slate of 275 candidates for parliament. They were withdrawn. The cooperation vanished.

The Sunni Arabs only managed to elect 17 deputies to the Parliament on Jan. 30, out of 275 seats. Three of the 17 were gifts from the major Shiite coalition (which led the more hard line Sunnis to decline to cooperate with those 3). The Sunni Arabs were virtually absent. Who was present? The election was won by the religious Shiite parties, especially the Da`wa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Even the Sadrists, most of whom were lukewarm about involvement in politics under Occupation, had more deputies than did the Sunnis! The Shiite religious parties despise the ex-Baathists (i.e. most of the Sunnis). The other winners were the Kurds, who wanted to safeguard their semi-autonomy and if anything hated the Sunni Arabs more than did the religious Shiites.

And now the elected parliament drafted the constitution. The Sunni Arabs were included in the negotiations, rather as an eccentric uncle might receive a half-hearted invitation to stay for dinner, but would then be politely ignored, as he twittered on about some conspiracy theory, or sometimes greeted with giggles by the ruder children.

The constitution that was fashioned by the religious Shiites and the Kurds unsurprisingly contains all sorts of goodies for Shiites and Kurds, but cuts the Sunni Arabs permanently out of the deal. Substantial proportions of the oil income will stay in the provinces (i.e. Kurdistan and the Shiite South) rather than going to Baghdad. All future oil fields that are discovered and developed will be the sole property of the provincial confederation in which they are found. Most such likely fields are in the Shiite areas. (There are rumors of a field off Fallujah, but it is not a sure thing).

All the major Sunni Arab organizations and respected political and clerical figures have come out against the constitution.

Even as they are chasing after shadows in dusty border towns, the US military is allowing much of Baghdad to fall into the hands of the guerrillas.

And that is why we have to get the ground troops out. Counter-insurgency has to have both a military and a political track. Even as the enemy is being pressed, you have to reach out to the civilian leadership and try to draw them into a truce.

The US military has had no political successes in the Sunni Arab areas. Mosul and some parts of Baghdad could have been pointed to in summer of 2004. In summer of 2005, these earlier successes have evaporated like a desert mirage toward which thirsty soldiers race.

The situation in the Sunni Arab areas was worse in summer of 2004 than it had been in summer of 2003. It is worse in the summer of 2005 than it had been in 2004. Even the Iraqi political groupings that had earlier been willing to cooperate with the US boycotted the Jan. 30 elections and are now assiduously working to defeat the new constitution.

Things in the Sunni Arab areas are getting worse, not better.

Read the Full Article at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment

They Love Us, Really

More news out of Basra. First up, a wild story about a daring rescue from The Washington Post. Unfortunately, our guys were being rescued from the Iraqi police, rather than by them:

British armored vehicles backed by helicopter gunships burst through the walls of an Iraqi jail Monday in the southern city of Basra to free two British commandos detained earlier in the day by Iraqi police, witnesses and Iraqi officials said…

Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives. Photographs of the two men in custody showed them in civilian clothes.

When British officials apparently sought to secure their release, riots erupted. Iraqi police cars circulated downtown, calling through loudspeakers for the public to help stop British forces from releasing the two. Heavy gunfire broke out and fighting raged for hours, as crowds swarmed British forces and set at least one armored vehicle on fire.

Read “British Smash Into Iraqi Jail To Free 2 Detained Soldiers”
The Washington Post
September 20, 2005

The Times of London goes on to report that by the time British troops invaded the jail, the police had already handed the two men over to one of the local militias (but don’t let anyone say that the police are in cahoots with the militias, there’s absolutely no proof of that):

British troops who stormed a Basra jail with armoured carriers to rescue two commandos discovered that the pair had already been handed over to local militia, the Ministry of Defence said today.

Officers searched the jail in the southern Iraqi city from “top to bottom” before forcing guards to disclose the whereabouts of the men at gunpoint…

The British men had been handed over to a local Shia Muslim militia, apparently to use as hostages to force the release of two militia leaders. They were tracked down to a nearby house and rescued by UK forces in a follow-up operation.

Read “Undercover troops were held at militia house in Basra”
The Times, London
September 20, 2005

And finally, another journalist working for The New York Times probing Basra police connections to the miltias was taken from his house and shot:

Fakher Haider, a 38-year-old Shia Muslim reporter covering Basra for The New York Times, was found dead with his hands bound and a bag over his head in a deserted area on the city’s outskirts yesterday morning…

Shortly after midnight, two cars – one unmarked, the other a police car – were driven up to his apartment building. Three men, carrying AK-47 assault rifles, ransacked the flat removing mobile phones and videotapes.

Haider, a father with three children aged 5, 7and 9, told his wife not to worry as he was led outside and bundled into one of the waiting vehicles.

Hours later, she was called to identify his body at the city morgue. He appeared to have been shot more than once in the head. His back was bruised, suggesting he had been beaten…

Many of Haider’s most recent photographs, showing British military vehicles targeted in Basra, had been published on the ironically-titled They love us, really website which highlights the difficult relationship between locals and the coalition forces.

Read “Second journalist probing Basra police killed”
The Times, London
September 20, 2005

So remember: Basra, shining jewel of the Iraqi resurgence!

Security Situation in Baghdad Sinking like the Titanic

A grim post on Juan Cole’s brilliant Informed Comment today:

An observer in Iraq writes to me:

“The situation has deteriorated in Baghdad dramatically today. Five neighborhoods (hay) in Baghdad are controlled by insurgents, and they are Amiraya, Ghazilya, Shurta, Yarmouk and Doura. It is very bad. My guys there report that cars have come into these neighborhoods and blocked off the streets. Masked gunmen with AKs and other weapons are roaming these areas, announcing that people should stay home. One of my drivers in Amiraya reports that his neighborhood is shut down totally, and even those who need food or provisions are warned not to go out.

The government will respond feebly. It will go into a contested neighborhood, and then just like Fallujah, Ramadi, Tel Afar, the insurgents will flee to take over another area on another day. Bit by bit they are taking over the main parts of Baghdad. The only place we are sure they cannot control is Sadr City, unless of course they want to take on Jaish Mahdy [Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army], and that would be bloody.

A few minutes ago [Prime Minister] Jaafari came on television to tell everyone in Baghdad to stay home. Can’t wait for his next bold move…

More and more of even the most patriotic intelligentsia are departing. The situation is dire, and those with escape valves are using them. [Some organizations are] sending more of [their] staff to Arbil and Sulamaniyah and out of Baghdad. Until about March this year, [some] thought that there was a chance of returning to Baghdad. It is remarkable how incapable this government is. Its only success is that it exists at all.

In the meantime, the embassy people act as if nothing in Baghdad is wrong (except that they cannot walk in the Green Zone without body armor and they have to take precautions against kidnapping). . . It is a fantasy world.”

Read the Full Post at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment
September 18, 2005

The Dread Judge Roberts

Well, it’s been months since he was first nominated, and I keep waiting to hear about this story on Meet the Press or one of the other Sunday shows, but the media just isn’t interested. Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts is as extreme as they come, maybe even John Bolton extreme (without Bolton’s cluelessness), and he is at the absolute center of a huge ethics scandal.

The Bush administration had been ordered to replace their phoney-baloney tribunals at Guantánamo with something that was actually legal, and wouldn’t you know it, they were secretly interviewing Roberts for the Supreme Court job all the time that he was actively hearing their appeal of that ruling — and they didn’t announce his nomination until four days after he’d ruled in their favor:

Attorney General Gonzales, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and other top officials interviewed [Roberts] for the nomination in May, the very period he was hearing the Administration’s appeal in the crucial Ahmed Hamdan case, a sweeping challenge to the extraordinary military commissions at Guantánamo. Indeed, Roberts was first interviewed by Gonzales on April 1, before Hamdan’s appeal was heard. These secret meetings should sound an alarm across the partisan divide. Roberts and two other judges ruled in favor of the commissions just four days before the White House announced Roberts’s Supreme Court nomination. Hamdan’s lawyers knew nothing about Roberts’s secret job interviews. As legal ethicists Stephen Gillers, David Luban and Steven Lubet pointed out in Slate, these interviews “violated federal law on the disqualification of judges,” specifically the statutory principle that judges should step aside if their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The huge stakes for Roberts, and the equally massive stakes for the Administration in its challenge to the Geneva Conventions and other impediments to the military commissions, raise Roberts’s role in the Hamdan case beyond mere appearance of conflict to the real thing. Does anyone really think that on July 19 Bush would have introduced Roberts as his nominee if four days earlier he had voted the other way? Roberts should have recused himself from the case. He could at least have notified Hamdan’s lawyers of his conflict of interest. The fact that Judge Roberts–a wired-for-life GOP activist who advised the party in Bush v. Gore–didn’t do either means that his impartiality fails the smell test…

Roberts, for all his geniality, shows no sign of being a closet pragmatist looking to escape his most extreme utterances. With remarkable consistency he has established a twenty-five-year track record as foot soldier in a legal revolution profoundly destructive to the public interest. Indeed, his views are among the most extreme to emanate from a cohort of partisan Republican activists intent on reversing decades of settled policy on civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, privacy rights and access to justice. It would be a mistake for civil libertarians to give Roberts a pass based on Roe, affirmative action or any other issue on which he claims fealty to precedent. What is disturbing about John Roberts is the complete picture. The coming weeks may reveal new information about this nominee, but headed into the confirmation hearings, Roberts has done nothing to dispel the impression that he is a dangerous and partisan Republican ideologue who has no place on the Court.

Read the Full Editorial in The Nation
“Roberts, Without Illusions”
September 19, 2005 Issue

…the same provision of the Geneva Conventions that would protect Hamdan from unfair trials also protects detainees from cruel, humiliating, or degrading treatment. The D.C. Circuit’s decision rejecting the Geneva Conventions’ trial protections—a decision that hinged on Roberts’ vote—also strips away an important legal safeguard against cruel and humiliating treatment that may fall just short of torture.

Given the case’s importance, then, when Gonzales interviewed Roberts for a possible Supreme Court seat on April 1, the judge should have withdrawn from the Hamdan appeal. Or he and Gonzales, as the opposing lawyer, should have revealed the interview to Hamdan’s lawyer, who could then have decided whether to make a formal recusal motion. The need to do one or the other became acute—indeed incontrovertible—when arrangements were made for the May 3 interview with six high government officials.

Read the Full Story in Slate
“Improper Advances”
August 17, 2005

Sheriffs Prevented Katrina Victims From Evacuating

This American Life this week covers the aftermath of the Katrina flood. One of the most disturbing segments is about Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco who were caught in New Orleans when Katrina struck. [There were no flights out available, no rental cars available.]

Lorrie tells how sheriffs in Gretna, Louisiana, formed an armed blockade on the freeway, preventing Americans from walking out of New Orleans into their town, or even congregating in groups near their town.

Keep in mind that this was Thursday, Day 4. People had begun to die of thirst in New Orleans, while across the bridge in Gretna, they even still had electricity.

The quote below is from an article that they wrote about their experience, but the This American Life audio is especially compelling; listen to that if you can.

As we approached the bridge, armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions.

As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.

From a woman with a battery-powered radio, we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway. The officials responded that they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us” had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was accurate. Just as dusk set in, a sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces and screamed, “Get off the fucking freeway!” A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Buy the This American Life story from for $3.95:
“This American Life: After The Flood”
September 9, 2005

Listen to the same story for free at the This American Life web site:
Public Radio International
“This American Life: After the Flood”

Finally, you can read their original story in Socialist Worker Online:
“The Real Heroes and Sheroes of New Orleans”
September 9, 2005

Yes, I know: “Lions and Tigers and Socialists, Oh My!” But the basic facts, that Americans fleeing New Orleans were turned away at the parish line by Gretna sheriffs, were also covered on ABC’s Nightline on September 5, 2005, and on Meet The Press on September 11, 2005.

But just so that you right-wingers can move forward from your initial, “It never happened!” phase to the more long-term, “It was totally justified!” phase, here’s a clip from FOX News, where Mississippi native Shepard Smith is reporting to the horrible Sean Hannity:

SMITH: They have set up a checkpoint at the bottom of this bridge. This is the bridge that takes you from New Orleans over into Gretna, from Orleans Parish into Jefferson Parish. It’s the only way out. It’s the connection to the rest of the world.

And they’ve set up a checkpoint. And anyone who walks up out of that city now is turned around. You are not allowed to go to Gretna, Louisiana, from New Orleans, Louisiana.

Over there, there’s hope. Over there, there’s electricity. Over there, there is food and water. But you cannot go from there to there. The government will not allow you to do it. It’s a fact.

HANNITY: All right, Shep, I want to get some perspective here, because earlier today–

SMITH: That is perspective! That is all the perspective you need!

You can see it for yourself; it’s about 80% into the clip:
Horror Show on

Get Out The Torches And The Pitchforks

People have asked me, “Why are you so consumed with hatred for the Bush administration? Surely this is not moderate, or even healthy?”

And yeah, a more well-tempered Tom Chappell would laugh these things off. But let me tell you: it’s Sunday night, and right now, I’m thinking that there are going to be 10,000 dead in Louisiana from Katrina.

Let me start with a quick history, and then finish with what I found to be an absolutely riveting interview in today’s Meet the Press. First, the history:

When Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court, he in turn appointed Joseph Allbaugh (“a campaign hack without any emergency magnagment experience”) as the head of FEMA. Mr. Allbaugh appointed his old college crony, Michael Brown, as his deputy. Mr. Brown, a lawyer, had most recently worked (full-time, for eleven years!) as the Commissioner of Judges and Stewards of the International Arabian Horse Registry, from which he had been asked to resign, and so was luckily available.

This pair got right to work reducing the scope and capability of FEMA, which they regarded as just another “oversized entitlement program.” According to a terrific column by Michael Hiltzik in The Los Angeles Times tomorrow, Mr. Allbaugh actually said as much in testimony before Congress in 2001, going on to recommend that sticken communities rely for help on “faith-based organizations…like the Salvation Army…”

When Mr. Allbaugh left government in 2003 to return to work for W.’s reelection campaign, and then to peddle influence in the Iraqi reconstruction, Mr. Brown was elevated to the head of FEMA, where he remains.

Admittedly, this was no longer the important position that it had been: President Clinton had made the head of FEMA a Cabinet-level position, but the W. administration’s guiding principle was that anything that Clinton was for, they were against, so they moved FEMA to be a subsidiary of the Department of Homeland Security, and moved the “prevention” aspect of FEMA to another DHS department, and privatized it, leaving FEMA responsible only for “emergency response.” (So, response, but not prevention; awesome).

Now, just the idea of putting FEMA under DHS is retarded on the face of it: anyone can see that faced with a choice of either paying attention to “Fighting Terrorists” or to “Preparing for Possible Hurricanes Someday”, you’d tend to do the former, and indeed, vital funds, such as for repairing levees, were transferred to Terrorist Central starting in 2003, essentially defunding SELA, a 10-year levee repair program that had been started in 1995.

On THURSDAY, Directory of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff gave an interview on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, where, in response to questions, he revealed that he was unaware that there were thousands of people massed at the New Orleans Convention Center without food and water in unbelievable misery. As an incredulous Robert Siegel repeatedly tried to tell him that this wasn’t a rumor, that they had an NPR reporter actually on the other line who was live at the scene, and who could confirm that there were two thousand people with zero food and water, Chertoff, who is apparently not only ill-informed, but also an unbelievable prick, dismissed the reports as rumors and anecdotes, saying, “I can’t argue with you about what your reporter tells you.”

An informal poll of my walking partners showed that all four of us, and at least two of our wives, had already been aware of the Convention Center situation for quite some time. But the fricking head of DHS didn’t know?

The Bush administration has been working overtime to try and find something else that the story could be about, rather than their own incompetence. They tried to make it about the looters and the violence, but you know, refugees can only live without water for about 3 days, and start getting pretty crazy when they’re running out. So now they’re trying to making it about how the local city and state guys were inept, even telling easily-disproved lies that the locals didn’t ask for federal help in time.

And here we are, up to date. All of today’s episode of NBC NEWS’ “MEET THE PRESS” was great, and if you TiVo’d it, I urge you to watch it. But if you missed it, you can always listen to a clip, or read the transcript; see the links below.

Here’s the most powerful excerpt — be sure to read it all the way through to the end:

MR. RUSSERT: Jefferson Parish President Broussard, let me start with you. You just heard the director of Homeland Security’s explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership.

It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It’s so obvious. FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support. It needs to be a Cabinet-level director. It needs to be an independent agency that will be able to fulfill its mission to work in partnership with state and local governments around America. FEMA needs to be empowered to do the things it was created to do. It needs to come somewhere, like New Orleans, with all of its force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy, act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives. Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It’s got to be able to come in and save lives.

We need strong leadership at the top of America right now in order to accomplish this and to– reconstructing FEMA.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Broussard, let me ask–I want to ask–should…

MR. BROUSSARD: You know, just some quick examples…

MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn’t the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn’t they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, “The cavalry’s coming,” on a federal level, “The cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming.” I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry’s still not here yet, but I’ve begun to hear the hoofs, and we’re almost a week out.

Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA–we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, “Come get the fuel right away.” When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. “FEMA says don’t give you the fuel.” Yesterday–yesterday–FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, “No one is getting near these lines.” Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America–American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.

But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she’s done and all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn’t foresee, a 300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: I’m telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees…

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: …that have worked 24/7. They’re burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home [VOICE STARTS TO BREAK] and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” [CRYING] And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President…

MR. BROUSSARD: [CRYING] Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

So, to return to the question posed in the first paragraph, that’s why.

Listen to Aaron Broussard on Meet The Press (clip: starts 11:14 minutes in)
September 4, 2005

Read the Full Transcript of today’s Meet The Press
September 4, 2005

Listen to the NPR interview with Unbelievable Prick Michael Chertoff
September 1, 2005

Read Michael Hiltzik’s column in The Los Angeles Times
“Bush’s Hurricane Response a Disaster”
September 5, 2005

Read Josh Mashall’s column in The Hill about the dismantling of FEMA:
“Bush Tore Down the FEMA That Clinton Built Up”
September 8, 2005