Editorial Roundup for Friday – September 30, 2005

• FEMA; gays as priests; accountability

FEMA; gays as priests; accountability

Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, Sept. 27

The Federal Emergency Management Agency acquired a tarnished image after Hurricane Katrina, and it has not distinguished itself with its performance after Hurricane Rita. The retention of former director Michael Brown shows the administration still doesn’t grasp the cause of FEMA’s impairment. …

After criticizing Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Brown even took a potshot at the Homeland Security bureaucracy for failing to budget for needed disaster response equipment. As for his own responsibility for the delay in getting federal manpower and assistance into the storm zone, the best Brown could come up with was not recognizing that Louisiana authorities were dysfunctional and not calling enough media briefings. …

In Washington, both Republicans and Democrats criticized Brown. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., contrasted Brown’s performance as FEMA director with that of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani during the 2001 terrorist attack.

Brown responded, “So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans.”

“What I wanted you to do was do your job and coordinate,” Shays answered.

It seems Brown’s continuing FEMA duties include pointing fingers everywhere except where the blame for the woeful federal response belongs. He and other unqualified political appointees failed to provide necessary leadership for an agency crucial to the safety of millions of Americans. For that, they and the president who hired them must accept ultimate responsibility.

Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Saturday, Sept. 2

News stories about a document to be released by the Vatican in the next several weeks indicate that Rome will reaf-firm the Catholic Church’s belief that homosexuals should not be priests. …

It would be the height of hypocrisy for Pope Benedict XVI to lend his important voice to the issue of homosexuality but remain silent about the hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests in the United States. …

Pope Benedict must not allow this injustice to prevail. If he only focuses on the issue of keeping homosexuals from becoming priests and says nothing about the child-abuse crisis in the American church, he will be opening himself up to justified criticism from the Catholic faithful and those outside the faith.

The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Tuesday, Sept. 27

The disturbing report of prisoner abuse in Iraq from U.S. Army Capt. Ian Fishback is now on the record, shifting the onus to the Bush administration. It must not only answer his credible charges about continued abuse but refute the logical conclusion: that this pattern of behavior is not the exception to the rule, but national policy.

If U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners were the result of a few renegades, the aftermath of Abu Ghraib would have put an end to it. When news broke 18 months ago about mistreatment of prisoners there, it would have been a comparatively simple thing for the military to put an end to the practices that shocked Americans and battered America’s world standing. It didn’t happen. When Fishback told commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners, he was told such rules could be evaded. He complained up the chain of command and to military peers and ultimately concluded that violations of the Geneva Conventions were “systematic and the Army is misleading America.”

This summer he blew the whistle, notifying Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. Last week he authorized the Senate Armed Services Committee to make public his allegations. The Army said it would investigate. Not good enough. Congress needs to investigate and the target should not be limited to the Army. The Pentagon must be held answerable, and if the trail leads higher, that’s where investigators need to go. It needs to start now.

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