|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Friday, September 2nd, 2005
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|Fat, bearded, right-wing operative Grover Norquist, associate of Dick Cheney, confidant of the Bush administration, is an architect of the ‘starve the beast’ theory of governance. He and his friends advocate drastic cuts in government programs. Robbed of their funding, the programs, and ultimately the departments that administer them, wither away and die. “I don't want to abolish government, I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub” Mr. Norquist told NPR’s Mara Liasson earlier this year.1
As the city of New Orleans drowns in its own toxic bath of hurricane debris, rotting corpses, sewage, and leaking petrochemicals, now is the time to reflect on the Norquist-Cheney-Bush philosophy of government. Since Mr. Bush took office in January of 2001, the nation has endured two catastrophes; the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf coast. Both catastrophes, and their aftermath, have been marked by indifference and detachment on Washington’s part, a complete absence of government leadership.
The build-up to 9/11 began years before September 11th, 2001. Bin Laden had already attacked U.S. targets in Africa, in the Sudan, and in New York. He was a known menace, tracked with growing attention by counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke during the Clinton years. But it was only after President Bush took office that Mr. Clarke was excluded from the regular ‘principals’ security briefings. Funding for counter-terrorism was cut. National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice had little interest in Al Qaeda, concentrating instead on the threat of Chinese missile attacks. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s focus was on pornography. So when a memorandum outlining Bin Laden’s determination to attack the U.S. with aircraft was presented to the vacationing President Bush in August of 2001, he paid no attention to it. On the actual day of the attacks, the President froze in a kindergarten class, then spent the day aimlessly flying from airbase to airbase around the country. His ultimate response was tardy, and inadequate. Ground zero is still an open hole, and Bin Laden is still at large.
The vulnerability of the New Orleans flood control system was a known quantity long before hurricane Katrina struck. Experts have forecast with precision the levee breaks and flooding taking place right now. The New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote a prize-winning series on the inadequacy of the levee system years before Katrina. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the system, has had its budget for flood control slashed by the Bush Administration every year that the President has been in office. The Corps officer responsible for flood control resigned over his meager funding. The administration’s priorities were elsewhere.
When the hurricane hit, Mr. Bush was on vacation. His response since then has been tardy, and inadequate. The devastation of New Orleans resembles Somalia, or Haiti, as supplies of food and water in sufficient quantities are only now reaching victims, five days too late. FEMA and the new Department of Homeland Security have been incompetent, and the government’s response in general has been murderously inept.
Indifference and willful ignorance, followed by incompetence and more indifference. That’s how the Bush administration prepares for catastrophes, and how it deals with their aftermath. And it all comes down to starving the beast. Cut programs, cut funding, misdirect resources: if you make citizens hate their government enough, according to Norquist and his ilk, government will wither away. Not every citizen, and not every facet of government, of course. Thanks to its rich diet of military contracts, Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton, has seen its share price rise 750% since Mr. Bush took office, making its officers and shareholders very happy indeed.
What about the rest of us? Now that we see how starving the beast translates into actual starving Americans, and drowning government in the bathtub leads to the drowning of American cities in toxic floods, maybe it’s about time we paid more attention to what we do in the voting booth. Louisiana, after all, voted for Bush. Twice.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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