"The Terrorist Katrina Is One of the Soldiers of Allah" is one of the reactions to the hurricane that has ravaged our Gulf Coast. It is the title of an article by one Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the research center at Kuwait's Ministry of Endowment. His article has been translated and posted on the Internet by the Middle East Media Research Institute. Mr. Al-Mlaifi reckons Katrina is "not an adherent of Al-Qaeda" but is upset with America for its unbelievers.
Well, it's just one of the galling comments to emerge on the Web as Congress races back into session to deal with the catastrophe. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. rushed out a comment blaming the Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, for "the central role" Mr. Kennedy reckons he played in "derailing the Kyoto Protocol" and putting the kibosh "on President Bush's ironclad campaign promise" to regulate carbon dioxide.
Mr. Kennedy has been joined to at least some degree by a small chorus, as columnist James Glassman has noted. The choir includes Ross Gelbspan (who wrote in the Boston Globe that although this storm was called Katrina, "its real name was global warming"), a scientific adviser to the British government, Sir David King (who told the Independent of London that "global warming may be responsible for the devastation reaped by Hurricane Katrina"), and the German environment minister, Juergen Tritten (who wrote in the Frankfurter Rundschau that "by neglecting environmental protection, America's president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflict on his country and the world's economy").
The implication is that if only President Bush had accepted the Kyoto Protocol, we could be free of the scourge of destructive storms. All of them seem to place so much faith in the powers of government that they can't accept that Mother Nature moves in a realm outside the jurisdiction of political leaders' green-inked legislating pens.
New Yorkers can look no further than their own history to see the nuttiness of all this. It has had no shortage of destructive storms. The "Long Island Express" hit in September 1938, decades before there were two sport utility vehicles in every suburban garage. An 1893 hurricane antedated the Model T by a decade and a half. A storm that made landfall in 1821 arrived decades ahead of heavy industry.
Our hurricane history offers anecdotal evidence of a conclusion many reputable scientists have reached: To the extent that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more severe - and there's debate on this - greenhouse gases and global warming are not the culprits. Decades long cycles in Atlantic water temperatures are most likely to blame.
A trip to the New York Public Library yesterday afternoon disclosed another remarkable aspect of the early storms - namely, how little political hyperventilating there was about them. Press coverage of those weather tragedies focused on recovery efforts. Absent were quotes from self-aggrandizing politicians hogging the spotlight to show off how much they were doing to "help" the recovery.
Those storms, traumatic as they were, may not have caused damage on par with Katrina (though the storm that hit Galveston in 1900 did). But politicians of that era didn't have to resist the temptation that cable news channels present to their modern counterparts. Today's sophisticated forecasting and climate-modeling technologies often create the impression that we can change the weather as efficiently as we can now observe, and sometimes even predict, it.
Americans expect, and welcome, a debate on how best to facilitate rescue and recovery now, and on how to be better prepared the next time. Even the scope, causes, and effects of global warming might warrant discussion. But hurricanes have come and gone since time immemorial. They haven't worried about environmental policies or lack thereof, and they haven't cast a single vote for either party. That weather itself was beyond the political sphere was honored throughout the history of our republic until environmentalists joined forces with the left wing and the Islamists in the middle of a war.