22
Sep
2005

FEMA CONTINUES TO PUT POLITICS AHEAD OF PEOPLE

As the letter below shows, just when you thought the Bush regime could sink no lower, they add another basement level.


Dear Cindy,

My name is Stuart Leeds - I'm the family practice MD that you met at the storage facility shortly before we all caravanned to Algiers today.

It was a great honor and delight to meet you! I'm also pleased and somewhat relieved to have the opportunity to give you a brief report on the state of affairs visa vi the medical relief effort in the afflicted areas.

In short strokes: people are not getting the help they need, because our government, through the agency of FEMA, has totally politicized the relief effort. I'm sure you've already gotten wind of the reports that the Bush Administration is handing out huge contracts to favored vendors, much as they have done in Iraq. But what is not widely known is - and I can verify this personally - that FEMA is preventing certain groups and individuals from participating in the relief efforts. Here's a quick synopsis of the experience I and my companions (my wife, and two respiratory therapists) had today, in our attempts to offer our services to the Red Cross operation in Covington, LA.

We got a call from an official at the Red Cross that the Vets for Peace were being invited to send doctors to Abita Springs, a nearby community.

When we got there around 9 AM, some of director Dr Rachel Murphy's assistants welcomed us, and started making lists of materials we would need.

Suddenly, a man wearing a Homeland Security shirt came over and rudely asked us to leave. He brought a local cop with him, and their body language was pretty threatening. We explained that we were coming at the request of both Dr. Murphy and the mayor of Covington, Candace Watkins. He (whose name was Rodney Hart) would hear none of it from us; he forced us to leave immediately.

We went to Mayor Watkins, who called Dr. Murphy and arranged for us to be allowed into the Red Cross center. We decided that only my wife and I would go - realizing that the other gentlemen, who were wearing VFP T-shirts, would be less than welcome at the center.

We met Dr. Murphy a little after noon, and she was very friendly. She told us she would find a place for us to work - I as a physician, and my wife as an organizational specialist. However, midway through our tour of the facility, she stepped into the office of Mr. Hart, the Homeland security rep, and there were some tense words exchanged between them. She repeatedly exclaimed that we were not representing VFP, and finally there was a long period of silence. Mr. Hart apparently made some gestures we couldn't see. She sighed, and turned to us, and abruptly suggested we get some lunch in the basement. As we ate, she started talking about how the Red Cross was pulling out of her parish within a week, how there were already an excess of docs, and that our services wouldn't be needed.

She also explained that the reason that VFP was not welcome with the Red Cross (or indeed, within the entire parish) was because of a series of allegations that we had already heard from others in the center. We had heard several conflicting versions of these stories: that someone with VFP had stolen $15,000 worth of medical supplies, and that he turned out to be a child molester; that the Vets for Peace had come to one center and were taking over, and bringing cameras into clinics; that VFP was illegally collecting Red Cross donations on the Internet.

We could not substantiate any of these rumors, and indeed, I think it's unlikely that there was truth to any of them.

Clearly, FEMA and/or Homeland Security is trying to keep "political undesirables" from lending a hand during this catastrophe. Perhaps they are marching to orders from Bush's political hacks to preventing peace groups from upstaging the administration in the relief effort - which would hardly be difficult to do, on anything like a level playing field.

It is so sad to think that the Bush machine would put politics in front of the safety and security of human beings, even in a the wake of a natural disaster of Katrina's magnitude. But in the eyes of this physician, I believe that is exactly what is happening. And it will continue, as long as the responsible government agencies can get away with it.

We must hold them accountable. But more importantly, we must let people know this is happening, and thus bring such pressure to bear on these obstructionist agencies that they can no longer keep VFP, or indeed any group of caring citizens from pitching in.

Thanks, Cindy. And keep up the great work.

F.Stuart (Skip) Leeds, MS, MD


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