This satellite photo shows some 255 unused buses in a flooded New Orleans lot. (Found via Instapundit.) The photo — found, I presume, via Google Earth, and mailed to a weblog by a reader — depicts an unused escape route for some 15,000 New Orleans citizens. The blog, which defends George Bush against attacks from the left, represents another example of the power that citizens have — we can access Google’s images of the Earth, analyze them, and publish our findings. While amateur sleuthing is probably not the way to definitive answers, it can raise powerful questions.
Bush himself has to answer questions raised by photos of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, coffins returning from Iraq, and war death in general. But for now I’ll consider Katrina’s aftermath.
Why the National Guard took so many days to get into the city baffles me, as does the sight of these unused buses.
The New Orleans mayor is understandably stressed, so I can understand his cry for help:
I need 500 buses, man. We ain’t talking about — you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here. I’m like, “You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.”
But one has to ask — why didn’t the city’s bus drivers get off their asses and get the refugees out?
The answer is, of course, that no one person made a single mistake that caused this disaster. Not President George W. Bush, not Ray Nagin, not the bus drivers (who were presumably doing their best to take care of their families) and not the tens of thousands of individuals who chose to ride out the storm. Few disasters are really the fault of one person. Consider the grade of steel used in the construction of the Titanic, the captain’s decision to keep up speed despite the warnings he’d received of icebergs, the telegraph operator’s decision not to deliver to the captain all the warnings he received, an administrative decision to remove several rows of lifeboats in order to give the upper-class passengers more deck space – the list goes on and on.
Between the rage of those who attack George Bush for not being God (“We’d have been able to control the weather if there were a Democrat in the White House! As a senator, didn’t Al Gore take the initiative in inventing a weather-control machine?”) and the indignation of others who still think he can walk on water, I still find it shocking that the stories of death and misery — not only in New Orleans, but also in the surrounding area — are coming from within my own country.
Update: Upon re-reading this entry, I think I may have given the impression that all the people who rode out the storm in New Orleans did so by choice. Many were trapped. But to the passengers of the Titanic, who weren’t aware of the extent of the damage, staying on board the ship (which still had lights and where the officers seemed to be in charge) seemed a lot more sensible than taking one’s chances on the open sea. Few people who make bad survival decisions live to regret their errors; so people who’ve lived through rough times tend to get the feeling that disasters happen to other people (hence my earlier shock to realize that these reports were coming from the world’s only remaining superpower). This isn’t about policy or politics, it’s about human psychology.