Letter to the Editor

This is depraved indifference

Sunday, September 11, 2005

To the editor:

Fire and rescue companies nationwide have sent highly skilled emergency workers to aid in the Katrina disaster. Men and women, driven by humanity and armed with skills and the determination to use them, volunteered to leave their homes and wade into waters rife with toxins, poisonous snakes and rotting corpses and enter dangerously ruined buildings to save lives and aid the injured, sick and abandoned.

In a report from the Salt Lake City Tribune, we learn that FEMA knew just what to do with these generous souls: turn them into leafleteers, passing out FEMA's 800-number to a population still largely without phones. So off went the dutiful firefighters and EMTs to FEMA community relations and sexual harassment seminars, while New Orleans drowned and burned. According to the Tribune, worse was to come.

Finally, 50 firefighters were dispatched to Louisiana's devastation. Their mission? Stand behind President Bush for his photo opportunities. They weren't there to secure the area, maintain safety or deliver any assistance. They were there to be props, like the Coast Guard choppers and rescue personnel who acted as a backdrop for President Bush's photo op a few days earlier.

When public relations and cheap political theatrics trump the welfare of the injured, the shell-shocked and the ruined citizenry awaiting deliverance from disaster and death, this is an increasingly familiar situation in Republican governance, and in fact there is a legal phrase which covers it: depraved indifference to human life.

RICHARD A. ALMEIDA, Cape Girardeau