Sunday, September 11, 2005

Pathology Politics

Yesterday, CNN International reported:
"U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison issued a temporary restraining order Friday against a "zero access" policy announced earlier in the day by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director.

In explaining the ban, Ebbert said, "we don't think that's proper" to let members of the media view the bodies."
That's circular, of course; a tautology, not an explanation. The question remains, "Why not"? Why does Homeland Security and the U.S. Army allow news reporters to cover New Orleans search-and-rescue operations, but not the recovery of the dead?

James Wolcott has a troubling answer. He sees politicians playing a "numbers game" about the guesstimates of the dead left by Hurricane Katrina: "A vulgar effort" is underway, he thinks, "to shrink Katrina's impact as a national tragedy."

Why? Because--
Since 9/11, "3000" has been elevated to a sacred, symbolic number in political discourse. It has been the solemn chord struck again and again by Donald Rumsfeld at his press briefings and public addresses ... and a recurring talking point to justify the invasion of Iraq... ."
The now-abandoned government policy does sound uncomfortably like the Pentagon's "Dover Policy" that bars photos of the war dead and wounded as they come home from Iraq. Critics of that policy "say the rule is designed to cover up the human cost of war."

So, it's tempting to conclude that Michael ('Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job') Brown with his pathetically inadequate qualifications -- who was sent home Friday by George Bush and is still getting paid for supposedly heading up FEMA -- was trying to hide the 'human cost' of Homeland Security's abysmal performance.

But artificially reducing the death toll really isn't FEMS's style. Mr. Bush's politically-inspired disaster hacks at FEMA, if history is any judge, are more likely to misuse FEMA money by burying twice as many more dead people, rather than less, than the storm actually caused.

Then again, that was 2004 -- an election year. This is now, when no votes are lost if the bodies are simply swept out to sea.

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