Morning Report 9/14/05
Picking Up Pieces in Baghdad, New Orleans
Suicide-bomb horror in that Gulf, homicidal stench in this Gulf
Beleaguered rescue workers on both of America's war fronts had the grisly task yesterday of picking up pieces of what used to be human beings.
The grim scene at St. Rita's Nursing Home, southeast of New Orleans, where elderly people were apparently abandoned to Hurricane Katrina and wound up as unrecognizable, bloated corpses floating in fetid murk, has led to homicide charges.
George W. Bush finally took partial responsibility for the mortifyingly belated response to Katrina. And at least he's no longer publicly praising disastrous FEMA director Mike Brown (left, with Bush at a disaster scene in September 2004); that toxic clown has mercifully been evacuated from D.C. It's too humorous only in this sense: Bush isn't the one who makes these decisions; his handlers — Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Andy Card, Joe Allbaugh, Karen Hughes — make the decisions. They're the ones who screwed up by making FEMA strictly a patronage post at the top levels. The POTUS, a spoiled scion who never gave a yell for anything but moola-moola, is so brain-dead, as he was on 9/11, that he didn't step in to order up some real action. He was begged months ago to fire Brown for previous screwups, but the Bush regime ignored those calls until it was too late.
As the work shifts from rescue and evacuation of the living toward the recovery of remains, the U.S. military has begun planning for withdrawing some of the 68,000 troops, 21 ships and dozens of aircraft from the Gulf Coast region, senior military officials said.
A large-scale troop pullout is already underway in Mississippi, with all of the several thousand out-of-state National Guard forces there scheduled to depart within eight to 10 days, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, said in an interview.
Military forces are expected to remain longer in Louisiana, but with the primary search effort in New Orleans expected to be completed by Wednesday, thousands of troops are expected to start departing within weeks, according to FEMA and military officials.
They'll be needed in the other Gulf. Overshadowed in the U.S. media by the Katrina mess, Baghdad and other dismal locales in Iraq have been particularly grisly yesterday and today. Here's a brief rundown, compiled primarily from the Washington Post and Associated Press:
In the middle of the night, gunmen dragged 17 people out of their homes just north of the city and killed them.
Mortar shells landed near a military hospital in the Green Zone.
Two truck drivers delivering concrete blast walls to protect against bombings were ambushed and killed.
The body of a former judge was found with this note attached: "This is the destiny of those who support Saddam."
A roadside bomb injured three private security people in Basra.
Gunmen shot and killed two Sunni clerics in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad.
A bomb exploded on a bus in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killing two civilians.
U.S. warplanes attacked Haditha, the out-of-control town in far western Iraq where Ohio's ill-fated "Lucky Lima" Marine company previously was decimated.
While the body parts are being pried apart in Baghdad after today's explosion and the other carnage, workers will continue to pull floaters out of the toxic gumbo that still covers part of New Orleans.
The St. Rita's tragedy will reverberate with every corpse plucked out of that horror house. In the confusion immediately following Katrina's assault on the coast, the Web was flying with queries from worried relatives. Here's one that was posted September 1 on the website of a Mississippi newspaper:
Does anyone know what happened to St. Rita's Nursing Home in Poydras on HWY 46 in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana?
My grandmother is a resident there and we have not heard anything.
You may not want to hear anything.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.