Responsibility and Accountability

President Bush on Tuesday, September 13, took responsibility for part of the second disaster – the lack of a timely and comprehensive federal response to the first disaster of Hurricane Katrina. I’m glad to see this. More politicians and bureaucrats should stand up and be held accountable.

Unfortunately, accountability may be the missing ingredient in this batch of cookies. If Bush is responsible, he should also take the consequences. People died that didn’t have to die as a direct result of the late and erratic rescue efforts. Not only was Bush on vacation as word of Katrina’s impending landfall was declared, so was Vice-President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfield, and Secretary of State Rice (how dumb is it to have the administration’s major decision makers out at the same time). And none apparently cut short their vacations – except after public and media pressure became too uncomfortable to ignore.

Proprietors of a residential nursing home for the elderly have been arrested for possible negligent homicide in the deaths of close to 40 people. Okay. But far greater negligence can be firmly placed at the feet of Bush and his cronies. This was nothing short of negligent homicide – considering they had full warning and enough images of dead, stranded, and desperate people to get them to move (which they did, although still in exasperating spurts, and after it was too late).

If we are to be truly free and truly honest, legal proceedings should begin at once in this matter. Why even President Clinton was raked through the coals, including in a costly impeachment trial, for a far lesser – even if stupid and incomprehensible – misuse of power.

Public interest lawyers – not just those out to get the ‘money” – should do their duty to file the proper papers and begin this process. The Congress should step up to the level of the ire of most Americans and carry out their own impeachment proceedings.

How many more lies and levels of incompetence can we tolerate?

Serious lessons cannot be learned without a serious demand. The government must never again drop the ball when it comes to taking care of the poor, the weakened, and the needy. This is not a call for a dependent social welfare society. This is the legitimate call for the government to work tirelessly for all of the people, not just the rich and powerful.

Any other administration – Republican or Democrat – should be put on notice: We will not tolerate lame excuses and tired platitudes when it comes to a viable plan to use all available resources to save everyone when disaster strikes (including a complete preparedness before they occur). Moreover, we may as well include the daily disasters due to economic shifts and social policies that have made more people poor, with fewer options and resources, and not much means to pull out of the mire.

Remember, this is the administration that flubbed the 9/11 attack – ignoring good intelligence and taking up the bad. This is the same gang that lied to justify a costly and deadly war against Iraq – which, it turns out, was never part of the terrorist attacks and had no weapons of mass destruction (the main reasons given for sacrificing many of our sons and daughters, and countless Iraqi citizens, to invade).

Remember, this is the same administration that has made poverty more prevalent than at any time since the 1950s. That has gutted our schools and destroyed teaching morale to the detriment of our children, especially those in the inner city and poor rural communities. And that has made a mockery of environmental protections.

This is the administration that for the first time in our history helped place the words “voter fraud,” “torture,” and “criminal negligence” next to news items about the United States of America (even if many of us have long known such things have long existed here).

We may not be prepared as a nation to carry out our full responsibilities during this crisis, but at least it must be brought to the table. Those in power – not just the inane bureaucrats like former FEMA director Michael Brown – should be held accountable and removed.

That’s what any decent society would do. Let’s see how decent and thorough we can become as we try to get to the business of good, honest, and fair governance.

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