I turned on my television today and saw the usual. Talk of refugees, chaos, people dying of starvation, thousands with no running water or electricity, and gunshots fired at helicopters and hospitals. But CNN, MSNBC, and the rest weren't reporting from Iraq, Darfur, Sudan, or any African nation for that matter, they were reporting from New Orleans.
The ABC news website leads with a headline, "Losing Control." The front page of the Washington Post has a picture of white cops in riot gear and automatic weapons, riding in an armored transport through a sea of black faces. The New York Times calls New Orleans an increasingly "desperate and chaotic city." If you feel like this is something out of the third world, you're not alone. New Orleans is quickly coming apart at the seams.
FEMA has suspended boat rescues because of the danger, not from the flood, but from people driven into chaos and desperation. There is widespread looting in New Orleans, some of it bourne out of opportunistic, but most of it from people just trying to get the food and supplies they need to survive. They see the images that we see on television but in real life of bodies floating in the streets and other bodies beginning to be stock piled outside of the city's convention center.
As authorities tried to shuttle people into buses to transfer them from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome, a group broke free in hopes of storming a nearby Hyatt Regency. They were stopped by police with 12-gauge shotguns and AR15s. The mayor of New Orleans issued a "desperate S.O.S" because the city is out of resources to help 20,000 people in the city's convention center and they don't have anywhere to take them.
Granted, this is too big of a job for any president. But this one is clearly nowhere near up to the task. Bush held a press conference with President Clinton and the sr. Bush today to announce they have setup a private fund raising drive like they did for the Southeast Asia tsunami. Bush briefly spoke the need to restore law and order but spent most of the time talking about efforts to keep gasoline flowing to the rest of the country. "The good folks must understand that major refineries have been shut down, which means it's going to be hard to get gasoline to some markets," Bush said. "Americans should be prudent in their use of energy in the next few days. Don't buy gas if you don't need it."