John Kerry has been in Iraq for the past week (see below) on a follow up from his January visit. I was told by a contact in his office that he “wanted to go again to thank our troops for their service, talk with military commanders about the situation on the ground and meet with Iraqi government officials as they work to establish a democracy in Iraq.”
Upon returning to the U.S., John Kerry released the following statement today on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts:
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the citizens of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as they struggle with the aftermath of this devastating storm, and to their loved ones and families viewing the disturbing photos coming out of the region. I also would like to commend the brave men and women who are leading the rescue operations; from emergency service officers to health care professionals to the power and water crews working around the clock to save lives.
“Hurricane Katrina devastated significant portions of the Gulf Coast and disrupted millions of lives. The situation in New Orleans is heartbreaking.
“We cannot and must not give up on the people left stranded and destitute by this storm. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. At home in Massachusetts, citizens and corporations are donating time, money and their expertise to help out and I know the same thing is happening in every state in the country.
“Now is the time for all of us to come together to help our fellow Americans rebuild the communities that have lost so much.
“Elected officials, emergency personnel and incredible volunteers are working round the clock. These emergency workers are heroes.
“While Americans are united and determined to help the people who are suffering, there is no question that we share a collective anguish and frustration over the inadequate response of the federal government over these past several days. Federal officials must act swiftly in coming hours and days to direct more aid to the region as rapidly as possible.
“Last night the Senate allocated $10.5 billion to help fund immediate relief efforts. Although that is a welcome first step, I plan to work in coming days to find more ways that we can help joining with my colleagues in the Senate to support those who have lost so much and those working so hard to help them.
“I am also directing my team at johnkerry.com and my leadership committee Keeping America’s Promise to help. This week we have sent out fundraising appeals for the Red Cross and teamed up to help victims find housing at www.hurricanehousing.org. The response has been incredibly heartening. We will be doing more in coming days as we learn more about the best to provide assistance.
“I just returned from spending the week in Iraq, seeing firsthand the bravery of our troops as they face chaos and destruction. Our country has a huge heart and an incredibly strong spirit. We came together to support of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, now we will come together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We will endure and we will survive but we can’t stop working until we get help to all those left suffering. For more information on how to help, visit FEMA’s website at http://www.fema.gov/ or visit the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org. Thank you for your support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”