Our stories on the confusion that marked the response of Federal, state and local governments to Hurricane Katrina drew mail from readers who found fault at all levels. Some who wrote, however, argued against finger pointing, while others hoped the disaster would teach citizens a lesson in civics
Thank you for "4 Places Where The System Broke Down" [Sept. 19]. You provided balanced reporting on how officials responded to Hurricane Katrina. The recovery efforts by the Federal Government were disorganized and sluggish. The disaster has revealed the inefficiency of bureaucracy in times of crisis. fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] was poorly prepared to handle the magnitude of the devastation. Its incompetent performance under the leadership of Michael Brown, who had no credentials or experience, reflects poorly on President George W. Bush, who was responsible for Brown's appointment. The majority of the blame, though, lies with local officials. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has a lot to answer for. Much of the grief his city experienced could have been prevented by responsible preparation.
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
While reading about the Gulf Coast hurricane disaster, I thought about 9/11. In both tragedies, failures of hyperbureaucratic structures resulted in the loss of lives. According to The 9/11 Commission Report, there were loads of information and hints about terrorist activities before the attack. It was the same with Katrina. Meteorologists knew at least 48 hours before the storm hit the Gulf Coast that an exceptional force of nature was aimed at New Orleans. Military and medical aid should have been set up in anticipation. I cannot believe that a civilized and highly developed rich nation was unable to provide people with water, food and medicine over a few days until a broader rescue operation was in place.
Vera K. Mathiszik
It is easy to assign blame for the Katrina relief fiasco there are plenty of targets. It is much harder to accept responsibility. What went wrong? The American people persist in voting for political demagogues who promise them continued services for lower taxes. Government is not, despite what former President Ronald Reagan claimed, the problem. Nor is it, as others have asserted, a beast that must be starved. Government is society's means to collectively address problems that are too large or costly for individuals to handle. In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. By shortsightedly choosing lower taxes and minimal services, we now have only the precarious protection of a hobbled government.
Forestville, California, U.S.
The blame for the Katrina tragedy lies with the people who chose to live in the devastated region. The idea of living below sea level in a hurricane-prone area is insane. The Federal Government should eliminate the National Flood Insurance Program, which encourages construction in flood-prone areas. People shouldn't build fragile houses in tornado alleys, homes on hillsides that are vulnerable to mud slides, or cities in earthquake zones. People should make better choices. I hope, against all probability, that New Orleans is not rebuilt. It would be a waste of lives, resources, effort and money.
West Topsham, Vermont, U.S.
The Wretched and the Dead
Your Katrina photo essay "Ghost Town" [Sept. 19] featured a reprehensible picture of a lifeless body floating facedown in the contaminated muck of New Orleans. That was disrespectful to the dead and their families. You may have intended to show readers the horrors of the aftermath of Katrina, but it was shock journalism.
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Learning from New Orleans
I am a 62-year-old white woman responding to the pitch-perfect words of my black brother Wynton Marsalis. In his Essay "Saving America's Soul Kitchen" [Sept. 19], he wrote, "We always back away from fixing our nation's racial problems. Not fixing the city's levees before Katrina struck will now cost us untold billions. Not resolving the nation's issues of race and class has and will cost us so much more." America, listen to those words or reap the consequences. If the cries of human suffering don't move us, perhaps enlightened self-interest and the bottom line will. Whatever the motivation, we must act now.
Nicole Daines Gibeaut
Fallbrook, California, U.S.
Marsalis' essay struck a chord; in addition to his musical talents, he has amazing insight. Maybe musicians share an understanding that easily transcends racial and class lines. Musicians seem to embrace the soul in one another, the soul of life. They appreciate something that treats race, gender and religion as being as incidental as the clothes we wear. Marsalis is right on the mark. Perhaps if enough people speak out, as he has, they will pierce the tone-deaf arrogance of the powerful.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Caught in a Web
The people of New Orleans were trapped by more than water [Sept. 19]. Long before Hurricane Katrina struck, many of the residents were enmeshed in a web of poverty. The majority of the nation seemed to have the false sense that everything was just fine in America including New Orleans. Now we know that it was not. The best way to honor the dead and help people put their lives back together is to use the devastation caused by Katrina to make people see the marginalization of the poor the real national American disgrace.
Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe caused by the U.S. government's refusal to ensure domestic tranquillity. To do that requires Big Government to maintain coherent transportation and communications systems and coordinate land management that allows the ecosystem to serve as a buffer against natural calamity. Big Government must organize access to medical care for all individuals. But Big Government has been under constant attack for decades, seen as the cause of Americans' woes rather than as part of the solution. Big Government is not the enemy, Bad Government is inept, shortsighted and self-serving.
When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Southeast Asia last December, private citizens went into action without waiting for instruction. We organized medical teams and obtained relief supplies for victims. New Orleans was left in a mess for so long because of a lack of proper and timely leadership.
Candid to a Fault
I was absolutely baffled by the remarks of former First Lady Barbara Bush after she toured the Astrodome complex in Houston, where evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were sheltered [Sept. 19]. She said, "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas... And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Is she scared because poor and black people might want to stay in Texas? I encourage her to live in the Astrodome for a week and then ask herself how she feels.
Rene L. Dalem
Turkish Tourism DVD
In the June 6, 2005 issue of the European edition of Time, you ran a four-page advertisement, placed by the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, promoting tourism in Turkey, together with a dvd. The dvd contained a 70-minute segment that completely denied and distorted the facts of the Armenian genocide. It also contained many heinous allegations against the Armenian people, portraying them as terrorists, liars, killers, racists and pro-Nazis.
In response to complaints from many readers, Time printed, in the June 20, 2005, issue of its European edition, the following letter: "I was rather disappointed to see a dvd in your magazine [June 6] accompanying a Turkish ad that portrayed Armenians as terrorists and the Armenian genocide as a myth. Time has a good reputation for unbiased reporting. The dvd is an insult to all Armenians across the world." The letter was signed Gagik Mikaelian, Chicago. The editors added the following answer: "Time is an independent newsmagazine and does not endorse the views of any organization or government. We regret any offense caused by the advertisement."
We, as representatives of some French associations whose aim is to fight against racism, anti-Semitism and for the memory of the Armenian genocide, were also shocked and disappointed to see that you chose to include in the June 6, 2005, issue of your European edition of Time a dvd spreading such a grotesque denial of the Armenian genocide, and so many heinous allegations against the Armenian people. In our view, the above answer is sufficient neither to explain how a magazine like Time accepted an advertisement that promoted denial of the Armenian genocide, nor enough to evade your responsibility. Let us give some examples of what is unacceptable for us:
- On the dvd, the narrator follows a presentation of Hrand Dink by saying: "In these words there is the longing of people who share a common faith and who live joy, grief and pride together. In these words there is the cry of humanity's wish to live in peace in a fraternity not to be beaten by hatred or resentment." He does not say that Dink is being prosecuted by a Turkish court for writing that Turkey should discuss the Armenian genocide. Dink may be sentenced to up to three years in prison for talking about the Armenian genocide. What is your view, as a journalist, about freedom of the press in Turkey as it relates to the Armenian genocide?
- Justin McCarthy, professor of history at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, says that he thinks that the events were not genocide because some Armenians survived. Can you imagine the same words being said about the Jewish Holocaust? Would such a statement be acceptable to Time magazine?
- The narrator of the dvd says (over images of the genocide monument in Yerevan ) that historical facts were falsified when they were transmitted to the young generation. Can you imagine a dvd presenting images from the Yad Vashem monument, together with an explanation that young Jews don't have to honor the memory of their people? Would such a statement be acceptable to Time magazine?
- The narrator and Samuel A. Weems (a retired judge from Arkansas, who died in 2003) suggested that Armenian people collaborated with the Nazis to exterminate the Jewish people because they're Aryan, and today Armenian people react like Nazis. Do you think that because a few people commit terrorist acts that their entire nation and religion should be called terrorist? We don't believe that a nation is responsible for what 10 people do, but we are sure that states are responsible for their history and here we refer to the genocide committed by the Turkish government in the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian nation. Would Time magazine endorse the outrageous words of the dvd against the Armenian nation, which can be characterized as racial defamation under French law?
We found many other lies, racial defamation, personal defamation and historical mistakes in this dvd, which contains all the techniques of disinformation and propaganda. In circulating these lies on behalf of Ankara's Chamber of Commerce, Time magazine has, for the price of an advertisement, allowed itself to become part of Turkey's worldwide multimillion-dollar effort to undermine truth and evade responsibility for the deaths of 1.5 million innocent Armenian men, women and children. In taking this step, Time magazine has compromised both its moral standing and its journalistic credibility. The fine journalists and staff of your publication deserve better than to be tarnished by this association with genocide denial.
As journalists and media professionals, you know that the Armenian genocide has been extensively researched by scholars around the world, and recognized by the United Nations, the European Parliament and parliaments in Europe and around the world. This year, as Armenians and all people of good conscience in Europe and around the world mark the 90th anniversary of this crime against humanity, Time magazine's decision to disseminate this hateful dvd insults the memory of its victims and offends survivors and their descendants.
More broadly, in perpetuating the precedent set by Turkey of a genocide committed with impunity, Time magazine has helped embolden future perpetrators of genocide with the knowledge that their crimes can be committed without consequence. Time magazine, as a trusted journal of our time, should understand the clear moral imperative to, once and for all, end the cycle of genocide that your journalists have chronicled for too many decades. As smart media professionals, you should have done your homework and known better than to fall into this obvious trap.
Even if you believe that the magazine's executives were misled by the Turks, you cannot deny your responsibilities to all the people who were offended by the Turkish dvd, which was distributed to 500,000 subscribers in more than a dozen European countries. You should now repair the damage you caused. In light of these concerns, we respectfully ask you to promptly take the following steps:
- Disclose, if any, the official standards Time magazine respects when it contemplates issuing an ad. We also would like to know if, for example, Time magazine would have accepted a similarly hateful dvd denying the Holocaust.
- Distribute, free of charge, a dvd prepared by the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (eafjd) regarding the history and modern-day consequences of the Armenian genocide.
- Donate the advertisement receipts from this campaign to nonprofit organizations advocating the truth about the Armenian genocide and other genocides.
President, Mémoire 2000,
This letter, published pursuant to French law ("droit de réponse"), received the support of the following associations: Le Conseil de Coordination des Organisations Arméniennes de France (ccoaf), Le Comité de Défense de la Cause Arménienne (cdca), J'Accuse and Le mrap.
Editor's note: TIME regrets distributing the dvd and we are very sorry for the offense it has caused. The so-called documentary portion of the dvd presents a one-sided view of history that does not meet our standards for fairness and accuracy, and we would not have distributed it had we been aware of its content. Unfortunately, the dvd was not adequately reviewed by anyone at TIME because it was believed to be a benign promotion piece. We have since changed our review process so as to guarantee more vigilance in future. We apologize to the Armenian community, and to our readers.
Your report about China 's use of forced abortions and sterilizations as part of its one-child policy [Sept. 19] painted a horrific picture. Congratulations to brave legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who, despite being blind and living under the threat of personal danger, has worked unselfishly to file a class action against officials to protect women and children. His dedication is something that anyone can respect and strive to emulate.
Carol E. St. Amand
Ludlow, Massachusetts, U.S.
No doubt many readers are as disgusted as I by China's use of coerced sterilization and abortion. But perhaps we should temper our shock by recognizing that China, with more than 20% of the earth's population, has a real and extremely serious population problem for which there may not be any painless or entirely humane solutions. The Chinese have a collective cultural memory of famine and mass starvation. We need to be aware of the reasons and rationale for China's population-control policies.
Marietta, Georgia, U.S.
I was horrified by the incidents described in your story. How can any government justify such barbaric treatment? I understand the need to curb population growth, but that surely could be accomplished in a more humane way.
Williamsburg, Ohio, U.S.