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A Wager on Hurricane Katrina - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Osama Bin Laden congratulated his colleague in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi for the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on the United States, described by President Bush as the worst natural disaster to hit the country.

The question is could a hurricane fulfill the dreams of Washington”s enemies? According to Bin Laden, we are currently witnessing the downfall of a superpower, the end of Bush”s regime and the beginning of a political blizzard that will target the interests of the USA in every sector. Is this a reasonable prediction?

Personally, I believe that this is propaganda and an invigorating pump for the Bin Laden camp that has suffered severely since the attacks of 9/11. Since then, Washington has raided the lands of Al-Qaeda, toppled the governments that have sheltered them dispersing the terrorist group all over the world. Their financial accounts have been suspended, their leaders pursued and the security bodies all over the world have mobilized to track down the perpetrators.

There is no doubt that Hurricane Katrina has caused the Americans much difficulty and embarrassment, disabling their capabilities, and exhausting their immense power and finance. Furthermore, it had created great debate amongst citizens of the country concerning their rights; however, the disaster has not caused that which Bin Laden has predicted.

Within one week, the hurricane has caused the Americans huge financial and human losses. The human losses have exceeded those incurred in America”s war in Iraq over the past three years. The reserves nevertheless are still grand in this superpower both militarily and financially. The American economy remains solid despite the frantic soar in oil prices. The problem that has remained unsolved is that of public political support of which the Bush administration is currently lacking.

The president needs public opinion to support military projects such as that of Iraq. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, if the public oppose the Presidents actions or lack of actions in handling the disaster, he will come under intense pressure from the senators. He will come under strong attack from the media that will demise his military campaign”s morale. In addition, this disaster will have a great effect on the elections of Congress that take place every two years and the elections of the Senate. Hurricane Katrina with its snowball effect may force Bush to withdraw from Iraq partially or completely.

However, those who argue that the natural disaster will lead to the downfall of the government are mistaken as the American system is unlike that of Europe where governments are toppled during crises. Conversely, the president continues with his duties in government despite the magnitude of his mistakes and criticism that he endures.

Other claims that the hurricane will destroy the American economy is merely an exaggeration as the grand economy of this country is prosperous enough in handling crises such as this one. For example, the 30 million barrels that were released lately is a minor percentage in comparison to the oil reserves that reach 700 million barrels.

Fears of Hurricane Katrina”s repercussions are mainly politically based, as there will be a decline in the government”s popularity. There is no doubt that Bush could have transformed this disaster into a reaffirmation of his leadership, however his delayed actions that came only as a result of severe criticism will forever cast doubts upon it.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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