I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reminder of French Lectures to the U.S.

It is, of course, unseemly, and even arguably disturbed, to take pleasure in another country's riots.

Nonetheless, it is worth reminding ourserlves of the pious, pompous, condescending lectures about social order, racial and economic inequalities, and government competence which the French doled out to America in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Philippe Grangereau in France's Liberation
"Bush is completely out of his depth in this disaster. Katrina has revealed America's weaknesses: its racial divisions, the poverty of those left behind by its society, and especially its president's lack of leadership."

Jean-Pierre Aussant in France's Le Figaro
"This tragic incident reminds us that the United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto accords. Let's hope the US can from now on stop ignoring the rest of the world. If you want to run things, you must first lead by example. Arrogance is never a good adviser!"

Le Monde
Le Monde credits the hurricane with highlighting “the country’s social inequalities”. It says: “Despite the economic and military strength it is prepared to deploy overseas, the United States has shown itself incapable of dealing with a catastrophe of this scale at home.”

Le Monde
Why did federal authorities under Bush's command "seem to be so little prepared in the face of a hurricane, the strength of which was known 48 hours in advance?" Le Monde asked. "Why did the [Bush] administration fail its first great [national-]security test since the September 11, 2001, attacks?"

Le Monde
"Is it well-advised to spend hundreds of millions" -- make that billions -- "of dollars to make war in Iraq when America is incapable of protecting its own citizens?" a Le Monde editorial asked.

For the French, who feel greater historical, cultural, linguistic and emotional ties to New Orleans than perhaps any other American city, the daily front-page images have been gut-wrenching. "The rage of the forgotten" declared the headline of Saturday's editions of Liberation newspaper beside a photograph of a young woman on her knees, screaming in despair.

"Bush had already been slow to react when the World Trade Center collapsed. Four years later, he was no quicker to get the measure of Katrina - a cruel lack of leadership at a time when this second major shock for 21st century America is adding to the crisis of confidence for the world's leading power and to international disorder. As happened with 9/11, the country is displaying its vulnerability to the eyes of the world. "

"Katrina has shown that the emperor has no clothes. The world's superpower is powerless when confronted with nature's fury."

Le Fiagro
Saturday's lead editorial in Le Figaro questioned how the U.S. military could have been so quick to arrive in South Asia for the tsunami, yet "wasn't able to do the same within its own borders."

The situation is still as desperate as ever for thousands of Americans after Hurricane Katrina's passage. Why was the United States so ill-prepared? Bush reacted slowly, the levees couldn't handle more than a Category 3 hurricane. In addition, despite evacuation orders, most in New Orleans had no mode of transportation and finally, the war in Iraq has sapped resources.

Emmanuel Todd, Le Figaro
American neo-conservatism is not alone to blame. What seems to me more striking is the way this America that incarnates the absolute opposite of the Soviet Union is on the point of producing the same catastrophe by the opposite route. Communism, in its madness, supposed that society was everything and that the individual was nothing, an ideological basis that caused its own ruin.

Today, the United States assures us, with a blind faith as intense as Stalin's, that the individual is everything, that the market is enough and that the state is hateful. The intensity of the ideological fixation is altogether comparable to the Communist delirium. This individualist and inequalitarian posture disorganizes American capacity for action. The real mystery to me is situated there: how can a society renounce common sense and pragmatism to such an extent and enter into such a process of ideological self-destruction?

Could these snide criticisms have been any better molded to so accurately describe the profound social and ideological failures and complete societal decay in France, currently on display for the whole world to see?

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