So now I have to paste in the full text, and not provide working links. Poor blogosphere etiquette, but that's the Times's fault.
For No Good ReasonAnyone wondering what's going on with the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Or should I say, some W victims on the mainland.
by Bob Herbert
"You can keep the flowers blooming on their graves forever. It won't change the fact that they died for nothing." - antiwar protester, circa 1969
It's finally becoming clear on Capitol Hill, and maybe even in the White House, that the United States cannot win the war in Iraq. The only question still to be decided is how many more American lives will be wasted in George W. Bush's grand debacle.
The wheels have fallen off the cart in Iraq, and only those in the farthest reaches of denial are hanging on to the illusion of an American triumph over the insurgency.
Air Force General Richard Myers, who retired Friday as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was publicly chastised at an Armed Services Committee hearing last week by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has always been a strong proponent of the war.
Senator McCain bluntly declared that "things have not gone as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers."
The general replied, "I don't think this committee or the American public has ever heard me say that things are going very well in Iraq."
The gruesome events throughout Iraq over the past month or so were understandably overshadowed in the American media by the obliteration of New Orleans and other matters connected to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. An apocalyptic tone was set on Aug. 31 when nearly 1,000 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge in northern Baghdad. The stampede was provoked by rumors of a suicide bomber.
Another two dozen Iraqis were killed in attacks by insurgents on Sept. 3. A few days later a taxi blew up outside a crowded restaurant in Basra, killing 16. That attack came just hours after four American contractors in Basra were killed by a bomb that was detonated next to their convoy.
The violence would continue without respite. Nearly 200 Iraqis were killed in just 48 hours in a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad on Sept. 14 and 15.
On the evening of Sept. 17, a Saturday, insurgents used a remote control device to detonate a car bomb in a crowded marketplace on the outskirts of Baghdad. At least 30 people were killed. A dozen Americans, including a State Department aide and eight soldiers, were killed in a series of attacks from the 19th through the 23rd of September.
And so on.
The president who slept through the early days of the agony in New Orleans is sleepwalking through the never-ending agony in Iraq. During an appearance at a naval base in California, Mr. Bush characterized the war that he started in Iraq as the moral equivalent of America's struggle against the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II.
If that's true, the entire nation should be mobilized. But, of course, it's not true. This is a reckless, indefensible war that has been avoided like the plague by the children of the privileged classes.
Even the most diehard defenders of this debacle are coming to the realization that it is doomed. So the party line now is that the Iraqis at some point will have to bear the burden of Mr. Bush's war alone.
Talk about a cruel joke. On the same day that Senator McCain faced off with General Myers, more than 100 people were killed in a series of car bombs in a town north of Baghdad; five U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi; and the American general in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, George Casey, admitted before the Armed Services Committee that only 1 of the Iraqi Army's 86 battalions was capable of fighting the insurgency without American help.
The American death toll in Iraq is fast approaching 2,000. If the public could see the carnage close up, the way it saw the horror of New Orleans, the outrage would be beyond belief.
You never want to say that brave troops died for the mindless fantasies spun by a gang of dissembling, inept politicians. But what else did they die for?
And what about all those men and women, some of them barely out of childhood, who are lying awake nights, hardly able to move their broken, burned and paralyzed bodies? What do we tell them as they lie there, unable to curb the pain or fight off the depression, or even begin to understand the terrible thing that has happened to them?
What do we tell them about this war that their country inflicted on them for no good reason whatsoever?
Miserable By DesignTwo great columns, about two sides of the same coin.
by Paul Krugman
Federal aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina is already faltering on two crucial fronts: health care and housing. Incompetence is part of the problem, but deeper political issues also play a crucial role.
Start with health care, where conservative senators, generally believed to be acting on behalf of the White House, have blocked bipartisan legislation that would provide all low-income victims of Katrina with health coverage under Medicaid.
In a letter urging Senate leaders to reject the bill, Mike Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, warned that it would create "a new Medicaid entitlement." He asserted that victims can be taken care of by Medicaid "waivers," which basically amount to giving refugees the health benefits, if any, that they would have been entitled to in their home states - and no more.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, many needy victims won't qualify for aid. For example, Medicaid doesn't cover childless adults of working age. In fact, surveys show that many destitute survivors of Katrina are being denied Medicaid, and some are going without medicines they need.
Local hospitals and doctors will often treat Katrina victims even if they can't pay. But this means that communities that have welcomed Katrina refugees will, in effect, be financially punished for their generosity - something local officials will remember in future crises. (The administration has offered vague, unconvincing assurances that it will do something to compensate medical caregivers. It has offered much more concrete assurances that it will reimburse religious groups that provide aid.)
What about housing? These days, both conservatives and liberals agree that public housing projects are a bad idea, and that housing vouchers - which help the poor pay rent - are much better. In the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, special housing vouchers issued to victims worked very well.
But the administration has chosen, instead, to focus its efforts on the creation of public housing in the form of trailer parks, which have been slow to take shape, will almost surely be more expensive than a voucher program and may create long-term refugee ghettoes. Even Newt Gingrich calls this "extraordinarily bad policy" that "violates every conservative principle."
What's going on here? The crucial point is that President Bush has been forced by events into short-term actions that conflict with his long-term goals. His mission in office is to dismantle or at least shrink the federal social safety net, yet he must, as a matter of political necessity, provide aid to Katrina's victims. His problem is how to do that without legitimizing the very role of government he opposes.
This dilemma explains the administration's opposition to Medicaid coverage for all Katrina refugees. How can it provide that coverage without undermining its ongoing efforts to reduce the Medicaid rolls? More broadly, if it accepts the principle that all hurricane victims are entitled to medical care, people might start asking why the same isn't true of all American citizens - a line of thought that points toward a system of universal health insurance, which is anathema to conservatives.
As for the administration's odd insistence on providing public housing instead of relying on the market, The Los Angeles Times reports that Department of Housing and Urban Development officials initially announced plans to issue rent vouchers, then backed off after meeting with White House aides. As the article notes, the administration has "repeatedly sought to cut or limit" the existing housing voucher program.
This suggests that what administration officials fear isn't that housing vouchers would fail, but that they would succeed - and that this success would undermine the administration's ongoing efforts to cut back housing aid.
So here's the key to understanding post-Katrina policy: Mr. Bush can't avoid helping Katrina's victims, but he doesn't want to legitimize institutions that help the needy, like the housing voucher program. As a result, his administration refuses to use those institutions, even when they are the best way to provide victims with aid. More generally, the administration is trying to treat Katrina's victims as harshly as the political realities allow, so as not to create a precedent for other aid efforts.
As the misery of the hurricane's survivors goes on, remember this: to a large extent, they are miserable by design.