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Some thoughts on an American tragedy

Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.

- George W Bush, Mobile (Alabama), 2.9.05 (source)

Football stadia have been symbols of the worst moments in their nations' history in a few countries over the past four decades. In Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq, football stadia have been the scene of torture and public executions. The New Orleans Superdome stands as a monument to a different kind of torture and death, the result of governmental incompetence and neglect.

Thousands of people entered the Superdome, seeing it as a place of shelter from the hurricane outside. They would never had expected the betrayal of trust, the indifference of the institutions responsible for the safety and security of all American citizens.

It can be argued that it is still not the time to play politics and point fingers over issues such as the existence of global warming, the deployment of National Guard troops to Iraq, the tampering with the path of the Mississippi River and so on. But one cannot ignore the screamingly obvious - that government at federal, state and local levels have all failed to cope with a catastrophe which was always a risk.

I mean to say, a large city built below sea level in a hurricane belt - where was the disaster plan?

It's not political to say that Bush's display of leadership over the past week has been utterly dreadful. His speech from the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday was described in a New York Times editorial as one of his worst. His major priority on Thursday was to bring in daddy and Bill Clinton as celebrity fundraisers. And on Friday it was important to single out the loss of Senator Trent Lott's mansion as a symbol of the Gulf Coast homeless.

Vice President Dick Cheney was on holiday in Wyoming until Thursday, when he returned to Washington DC. I have seen no evidence that he has done anything since then, let alone provide leadership and support to the people of New Orleans and beyond. But maybe he is hot on the trail of irrefutable evidence that the Iranian government was responsible for Hurricane Katrina.

When the time for inquest arrives, there should be a litany of senior administrators and public servants held responsible for criminal negligence over the tragic debacle of the past week (and, of course, still going). Is it too much to ask for the President to be impeached on charges of manslaughter?