U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) In Letter To Bush: Hurricane Katrina Rescue Efforts Is One Of The Greatest Injustices Of My Lifetime
Chicago, IL. ---- September 2, 2005
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20502
Dear Mr. President:
For most of my life, I have fought for justice and equal rights in this country. What I have seen over the past week in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina qualifies as one of the great injustices of my lifetime and one of the biggest travesties in American history.
I do not say this lightly. Mr. President, I along with millions of other Americans have witnessed on television unspeakable, widespread suffering in Mississippi and (especially) Louisiana that has led to the wholesale denigration and destruction of thousands upon thousands of human lives. I and millions of other Americans have seen 80% of the city of New Orleans submerged in water. We have seen people stranded on their rooftops for days without any rescue, who are dying of starvation, dehydration and exhaustion. We have seen thousands of people literally baking in the hot sun on the highways that are above water. We have seen dead bodies floating in water and lying in the street, covered with blankets and rotting in the heat. We have seen mothers desperately seeking nourishment for their children - for their infants! - and we have seen the elderly weakly sitting in a daze, simply waiting to die.
Mr. President, we have seen the Superdome and other refugee centers - an insulting term - descend into complete anarchy, where people lack basic necessities and are submerged in the stench of filth and raw sewage. Worse they are terrorized by criminals who brazenly prey on them with violence, including rape and murder.
I have heard you and others in your Administration say that we did everything we can and are doing everything we can to save the lives of these innocent souls. I do not believe that this is true. Nothing anyone says in a press conference in front of cameras will convince me that the richest, most powerful nation in the world is incapable of mobilizing its massive, unprecedented resources to simply deliver food and water to people dying in the streets.
It is impossible for me to believe that we can't deploy sufficient troops to the Superdome and other so-called safe havens to protect people and provide them with basic necessities.
Mr. President, the response to this catastrophe has been completely incompetent at the very best, and unconscionably indifferent at the very worst. There is no good reason why a massive military or national guard effort did not take place sooner to alleviate the death and suffering of the citizens of New Orleans. No one can convince me that we could not have moved a convoy of personnel carriers into the city to evacuate people from the Superdome and the other relief centers. There is no good reason why an armada of helicopters couldn't give food and water to large congregations of people dying in the streets.
It is no coincidence that the vast majority of the people suffering and dying in New Orleans are poor and African American. These are citizens that simply did not have the logistical or financial wherewithal to evacuate New Orleans along with the rest of her citizens. It is my belief that if Hurricane Katrina had left wealthy white citizens in dehumanizing squalor surrounded by flood waters, the federal government would have mobilized swiftly and decisively to rescue and evacuate those people. On top of all of the suffering and death taking place, I am outraged by this blatant display of discrimination.
I hope you will hold everyone in your Administration accountable for the lack of response to this human catastrophe. While nothing will be able to make-up for the inhumanity suffered by the citizens of New Orleans, we must go forward from here and do everything in our power to alleviate their pain. And we must also determine exactly what went wrong and hold accountable those people who had the responsibility to decisively act in a time of crisis.
Bobby L. Rush
Member of Congress