To those who accuse New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin (D) of an ill-planned evacuation of the Crescent City ["Officials Deal With Political Fallout by Pointing Fingers," news story, Sept. 5]:
Amtrak, a federally subsidized corporation, canceled regularly scheduled trains in and out of New Orleans 72 hours before Hurricane Katrina was scheduled to make landfall.
Major airlines canceled flights Saturday evening, 48 hours before the projected landfall of 8 p.m. Aug. 29.
The government and private industries also abandoned New Orleans well in advance of Katrina's arrival.
To blame Mr. Nagin for the problems associated with the evacuation is despicable.
MARY BLOW PREVOST
Much of the suffering that Hurricane Katrina has inflicted on southern Louisiana has been the result of the gross incompetence of Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin. Before, during and after the hurricane, these officials failed to take action that could have lessened the severity of human suffering and property damage. It is inconceivable that they and their staffs should take lead positions now in the enormous and expensive undertaking confronting the region.
The appointment of a federal manager to oversee this effort is essential.
President Bush isn't responsible for Hurricane Katrina or for the disaster in New Orleans. The federal government can do nothing in such situations until it is requested to do so by the local governments.
Why didn't Mayor C. Ray Nagin have the city's school buses standing by to evacuate people? Why didn't he request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency sooner? Why did he tell people to go to the Superdome when it wasn't ready to handle them?
And why didn't Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco have the National Guard standing by -- no, not all the guardsmen were in Iraq -- in armories to control looters and rescue stranded residents?
Why weren't plans in place on the city and state levels to handle a disaster that has been predicted for 100 years?
Where did the money go that was allocated to shore up the levees?
In his Oct. 6 column, "It's Your Failure, Too, Mr. Bush," Eugene Robinson noted that the federal government has been focused on preparedness and response in the event of a terrorist attack on a major city. But throughout history, dikes, dams and levees have been military and terrorist targets. In planning for a catastrophic terrorist attack, wouldn't one priority be to focus on likely targets, which in New Orleans would be its dikes, dams and levees?
So despite what President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael D. Brown want us to think, it hardly matters that the levees broke because of a hurricane, because a terrorist attack could have brought about the same result. Therefore, the planning -- if any -- should have been the same.
The Sept. 3 letters about Hurricane Katrina were a Rorschach test for observers of the national scene.
One writer saw looting, while another saw people grabbing necessary goods to survive.
One letter writer saw an administration with fatally skewed priorities while another saw Democrats opportunistically attacking a political "soft spot."
Some saw the long-anticipated outcome of environmental and policy mistakes, while others looked past human outcomes to focus on the patterns of natural forces.
Essentially, the wind, rain and subsequent high waters ripped away the everyday social facade, revealing the raw anatomy of our system. The misery from Katrina will last for decades. However, those who knowingly benefit from the status quo confidently expect that the mechanisms that ordinarily obscure the daily reality of homelessness, racism and institutional neglect will be functioning smoothly again within weeks at most.
I am frustrated by those who suggest that the tragedy in New Orleans should not be "politicized." When something is politicized, it becomes an issue for consideration in public policy. That's important.
The policy that consolidated several federal agencies -- including FEMA -- under the Department of Homeland Security is such an issue. So is the minimum wage, which contributes to a 30 percent poverty rate in New Orleans. Cuts in funding for securing the levees are an issue, as are health care and insurance reform.
Housing and employment policies and what happens to the displaced victims are other issues worth politicizing. And what about what happens to the waste and pollution when the water is pumped out of New Orleans?
I want to see all these issues politicized so that we can have campaigns and debates about them.