Thursday, September 08, 2005

After W 

New Orleans (AP) – With the destructive force of Hurricane W seemingly largely spent, a stunned America began this week to assess the damage and ask how it could possibly have happened in the first place.

Until it finally hit two weeks ago, W had been seen by most self-appointed experts mostly as an impressive, erratic, but generally harmless force, capable of inflicting apocalyptic damage on defenseless Third World countries, but not prone to do the same to the US.

That comforting illusion has now been shattered for all but the most blinkered souls.

With economic damages in the trillions of dollars and counting, and a cumulative death toll in the tens of thousands, it is now clear that W is the worst domestic disaster ever to strike the US. What makes it worse, say a legion of long-ignored critics, is that the destructive potential of Hurricane W was foreseeable years ago. They point to a long, increasingly destructive pattern of damage left by W everywhere it touched down, from its early years as a fluky offshoot of a larger Texan weather system, "El Pendejo," where it first appeared to stagger up and down the East Coast before drying out and gathering strength over Houston from a growing up draft of political hot air generated by a thousand point sources of toxic think tanks and noxious cable TV emissions. By the time W was done, dry oil wells and bankrupt companies formed a swath across the region. Still, W was written off as a local disturbance that would ultimately end up spending itself out in irrational baseball trades and pension fund scams.

Unbeknownst to those with intact defenses against infection from bovine fecal matter, however, these foul-smelling but seemingly innocuous phenomena were gradually eroding much of the country's skepticism and native common sense, which historically have buffered the country from periodic outbreaks of flummery and hogwash. Thus, when W finally struck in 2000, seizing Washington and quickly destroying its fiscal infrastructure, little natural protection remained.

What surprises so many now is how slow the country was to react even then. "It was like everyone had taken stupid pills," said one witness, who like others, tried in vain to get fellow countrymen to pay attention. Even after W had wound up contributing to the collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York, people refused to believe what was happening right before their eyes. Instead, many claimed that the real cause was "El Clenis," a rogue system thought to be behind countless, seemingly unrelated phenomena during the 1990s.

This was a fateful miscalculation. Misunderestimated by millions, W. was able to continue gathering strength from the very destruction he wreaked, whipping the atmosphere into a blinding combination of xenophobia, illusions of omnipotence, and astonishing short-sightedness that it then unleashed on the Middle East, destroying possibly forever what was once the cradle of civilization and bringing death and destruction to millions and plunging world energy markets into chaos. As a horrified world watched W stall over Iraq, it was thought that at least the worst was over, and that the US would dodge a bullet.

Why anyone thought that will be a question historians will ponder for generations.

Now, as people begin to dig out, the full extent of the damage is only just now coming into view. Gutted bureaucracies, empty coffers, blighted schools, and overstretched military forces, once hidden from view, now lie exposed, stretching as far as the eye can see. The long-neglected environment itself lies in ruins. The once-mighty dollar, already plunging as a result of W's four-year rampage, teeters on the brink.

Amidst the desolation, however, some bright spots shine forth. Rescuers report that a tiny elite have not just survived W., but seem to have thrived, through a combination of inherited wealth, tax shelters, and legalized looting. Even they, however, express doubts about the future of the country. When asked if they are staying to rebuild, one such survivor laughed. "If by 'rebuild', you mean 'cash in,' you bet. I'm long Halliburton for a cool $20 mil. Otherwise, are you nuts? It's off to the Caymans for us. But hey, thanks for all the tax cuts. They meant a lot."

[UPDATE:Sky TV picks up the story]:

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