The United States military attack on the Middle East received widespread criticisms from all over the world. Human rights activists asserted that the United States concerted efforts on this war reflected the deep-rooted negligence of the important roles a government plays to its citizens. The slow response by the government to the Hurricane Katrina re-ignited criticisms, which is slowly becoming part of the American culture.
Who is to blame for the slow response towards the Katrina catastrophe? This paper carries out a research on the criticisms of the United States government on the war on terrorism and disaster response to test the hypothesis that, the former United States president, George Walker Bush, is to blame for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
The research will obtain relevant information from scholarly articles and electronic libraries. The study focuses on three areas viz. the opinion polls on war and disaster response by the government, the criticisms of war on terror, and criticisms of disaster response. Based on the opinion polls of the public on the war on terrorism, the research will establish whether the US people supported the government involvement in Middle East.
The research will also seek to establish the public view and evaluate several arguments by the critics to the ‘war on terror’ and the disaster response. In order to dispel or justify the stated thesis, the research shall carry out a qualitative evaluation to test the thesis.
Criticisms of the Response to the Hurricane Katrina
After the devastating Katrina Hurricane that struck the Mexican Gulf and parts of Southern United States, observers, politicians, activists, and public pointed fingers to the government for its slow response to the disaster. The research found that most of the accusations targeted Department of Homeland Security and the President Bush administration for slow response because the research established that the slow response was a result of inadequate leadership within the Department.
To demonstrate the DHS’ negligence on this matter, the research established that according to ABC’s Tapper (2005), “More than 10,000 people died in Katrina Hurricane” (7), whereas DHS reports showed that less than 2,000 people died. The discrepancy could be a result of the DHS slow response to establish the real effect and impact of the Hurricane Katrina.
Critics also blame President Bush’s handling of the Southern United States before and after the Katrina. According to public opinion poll carried in September 2005, “only 38% of the American citizens supported President Bush’s handling of the Katrina disaster” (Tapper 2005, 7). More than 60% of the United States citizens expressed dissatisfaction by the Bush’s involvement in the issue.
The Bush administration had ignored the various warnings issued by scientists, politicians and largely by media. Critics attribute the Bush’s neglect of the disaster to his concentration on the Iraqi invasion. New Orleans experienced understaffing of its military and disaster management officers, approximately by 65% hence; there was insufficient disaster response military.
The research found that critics accuse the State of Louisiana for the slow response because Brown (2005) argues that, the state officials “frustrated the efforts of the federal government and international agencies in providing aid, security, and relief, after the Hurricane Katrina” (60). Due to the limitations of the Posse Comitatus Act, the Federal troops could not provide direct security to the New Orleans’ citizens, hence slow response.
Criticisms of War on Terror by the Bush Government
Most critics of the war based their arguments on the morals, economics, ethics, and issues surrounding the American military attack on Iraq and other regions in the Middle East. Legal experts viewed the United States’ military actions in the Middle East as the extreme violation of the international law.
In addition, these experts justified that it was against the United Nations’ Security Council for United States to “invade Middle East, particularly Iraq, without cognitive evidence that the region possessed threat to the peace of the world” (Williamson 2009, 89). The Bush’s remarks of the perpetual war on terrorism exposed his focus on the military activities in Iraq at the expense of the needs of people of United States.
As a result, the government did not prepare adequately for the breach of levees after the Hurricane Katrina despite the perpetual warnings by the experts. Majority of the critics attributed the slow Katrina response to the government’s focus on the military actions in the Arab world. Therefore, Bush was to blame for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina.
The research found that the majority of public believed that the government did not involve the public in the decisions of war on terror. Critics further argued that the government neglected the citizens who opposed its actions in Iraq. The media quoted President Bush saying, “You are either with us or against us” (Taylor 2002, 1).
By making such remarks, the president meant to engage whoever opposed his predetermined plans. Critics such as Johns A. Keaney observed that the slow response to the Hurricane Katrina was a means by the government to punish those who opposed its war on terror (Cook 2005, 13).
With the principle of unilateralism, the United States government attacks in Iraq did not mean to achieve the goals of ‘war on terror’. In fact, it enhanced poverty and undignified livelihoods of the Black American citizens. As a result, the victims’ response to the Hurricane Katrina was slow due to their incapability to move out of the disaster stricken New Orleans state.
The war on terrorism created more problems to the people of the United States. Apart from enhancing terrorist attacks to the US citizens, the war on terrorism made even the local officers to neglect their roles to the citizens. Since the president himself had neglected his role to the people, the local officers imitated him.
Therefore, it was President Bush to blame for the failure of quick action by the local authorities. According to Brown (2005), if the government had allocated enough funds on disaster preparedness and management, the DHS would have quickly responded to the Hurricane Katrina (58).
Based on the opinion polls that the slow response to Hurricane Katrina because of the government focus on war on terrorism, this research established that majority of the people who lived in the New Orleans blamed the government for their desperate conditions; the level of poverty and poor living conditions in that state.
Some linked the neglect by the government to the heavy ‘investment’ the government had made in the war on terrorism. Therefore, it was President Bush to blame for the slow response by the local authorities to the Hurricane Katrina.
The research established that 61% of American citizens proposed that the government should reduce the spending in Iraq and invest in reconstruction of the disaster hit New Orleans (Tapper 2005, 7). The opinion polls also revealed that 57% of the citizens had no trust in the government’s provision for relief services in case of terrorist attacks or occurrence of natural disasters.
The polls showed that the citizens blamed everyone involved for relief problem during the Katrina disaster; 73% blamed the local government, 61% accused President Bush, 70% blamed the government agencies and 57% accused the Katrina victims.
On the Iraqi war, 58% supported withdrawal of the US soldiers from the Middle East, with 77% of the democrats in support of the withdrawal while majority of the Republicans (59%) in opposition of the plan. Generally, the poll findings indicated that over 50% of American did not support the issue of terrorism and blamed the government for slow response to disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
The opinion polls bring about an important aspect of the study-the slow response to the Hurricane Katrina has direct link with the President Bush’s war on terrorism. As depicted by the public opinions, the government had allocated many resources for the Iraqi war.
The public outcry to the government for reduction of investment in terrorism evidences President Bush’s extensive expenditure on Iraqi war. With 61% of the American citizen accusing Bush for the slow response in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, it is clear that people believed that the government had devoted all its resources for the war on terror. Basing on the criticisms concerning terrorism and disaster response, the government did show partiality in dealing with two issues that affected the lives of Americans.
In the view of qualitative analysis, President Bush is to blame for the slow response to Katrina because the local government had the upper hand to respond to the Hurricane Katrina before the federal government. On the ‘war on terror’ critics argued that, the victims and the citizens should blame the president for investing too much to the extent of neglecting crucial needs of the Americans.
Moreover, the critics argue that the government was too busy in the Iraqi war such that it disregarded the action against the natural disasters. In addition, the government reduction in financing of the disasters such as Hurricane Katrina frustrated the efforts of the local authorities to respond effectively to the disasters.
Brown, Michael D. 2005. Hurricane Katrina: the first seven days of America’s worst natural Disaster. US: Lulu Publishers
Cook, Robin S. 2005. The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means. London: The Guardian, July 8.
Holmes, Stephen M. 2006. The Torture Debate in America. Greenberg: Cambridge University Press.
Kellner, Douglas. 2003. From 9/11 to terror war: the dangers of the Bush legacy. New York: Rawman & Littlefield.
Meggle, Georg. 2005. Ethics of terrorism & counter-terrorism. Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag Publishers
Peterson, Scott L. 2004. Why the U.S. granted ‘protected’ status to Iranian terrorists. The Christian Science Monitor 10, (June/July): 130-145.
Piszkiewicz, Dennis. 2003. Terrorism’s war with America: a history. US: Greenwood Publishing Group
Tapper, Jake. 2005. Amid Katrina Chaos, Congressman Used National Guard to Visit Home and opinion polls. ABC News. September 13.
Taylor, Martin S. 2002.With us or against us? Mideast is not that simple. St. Petersburg Times, May 9.
Williamson, Myra. 2009. Terrorism, war and international law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001. US: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.