Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Bungle in the Bayou

UPDATE: Sept. 4, 2005, 10:40 p.m.
I just came across the Times-Picayune's editorial from Sunday's edition, titled "An open letter to the President." These people lived through this week of Hell in New Orleans so you should read what they had to say.

Well, I have wanted to write something about how badly the Bush administration has bungled its handling of Hurricane Katrina -- from landfall to fallout -- but I had been daunted by the scale of this screw-up, which is rivaled only by that of the disaster itself. However, I will try to do it justice.

How many times do I have to hear Pres. Bush, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) head Mike Brown and Dept. of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff just flat out lie and say there was NO WAY anyone could have foreseen the breach of New Orleans' levees in the wake of a Category 4 hurricane. Here is the best version of this administration line, courtesy of Chertoff...
"...if we had an atomic bomb on top of this...and we could pile on catastrophes...whenever you do a planning process, you have to deal with what is reasonably foreseeable. It is true that you can sometimes have a combination of things that are reasonably foreseeable but that combination is unforeseeable."

Wait a minute! Chertoff did not just say it was as likely for an atomic bomb to be dropped a hurricane-stricken city as it was for levees to be breached in the wake of flooding from the storm, did he?

And here is Dubya himself on Good Morning America (Sept. 1)...
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will."

How is it not reasonable to expect the levees to fail from a Category 4 hurricane? The Bush administration is acting as if the levee breaches occurred at least a day after the storm when, in fact, they started Monday morning as New Orleans was still feeling the wrath of Katrina. All this talk from Bush et al that it was two different disasters is completely fictional.

Examples of people who DID know what was going to transpire include:

New Orleans Times-Picayune
Published a 5-part series in 2002 called "The Big One," which pretty much nailed everything that came to fruition during Hurricane Katrina.

Yup, FEMA, the agency that now refuses to acknowledge any expectation of the levees failing, conducted a simulation of a Category 3 hurricane, named Hurricane Pam, hitting New Orleans a couple of years ago using information from the LSU Hurricane Center, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service. The results were published in July 2004.

Mr. Bill
Pres. Bush may not have known what was going to happen, but that clay character Mr. Bill of "Saturday Night Live" fame appeared in a commercial last year explaining the dangers to the coastal Louisiana area that looks frightening familiar now.

However, that doesn't explain the administration's major problem. It wasn't prepared BEFORE the storm hit! The other line Bush & Co. keep spinning is that Homeland Security and FEMA can only act after services are requested by state and local governments. Well, why does it say this on the Department of Homeland Security Web site:
Preparing America
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

Hmm. That sounds, to me, like Homeland Security is supposed to take charge in the case of a "natural disaster or other large-scale emergency," which you think would be the case in the event of a major hurricane taking dead aim at coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. Unfortunately, Homeland Security decided to wait a few days before getting involved.

But maybe the New Orleans area would have been better off if Homeland Security and FEMA didn't get involved. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday and condemned the efforts of the federal government. Here are Broussard's comments, courtesy of a transcript from Think Progress:
on the bureaucracy of the relief effort:
"Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."

on the government actually hindering the relief effort...
"Three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don’t give you the fuel. Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines…"

And it gets worse. I actually watched this transpire on "Meet the Press" and it was hard to watch as Broussard was reduced to tears while telling this sad, sad tale...
"I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night! She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us! Nobody’s coming to get us…"

I could go on and on with examples of ineptitude on the part of the Bush administration, especially the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, but why bother? Do you need any more evidence that the Bush administration should be held criminally negligent in the deaths of thousands of people in the Gulf Coast as well as thousands of soldiers in Iraq?

If you do, I encourage you to read these blogs:


Crooks and Liars

What Kanye West said on NBC's hurricane relief concert the other night was more information than we needed to know. He could have just stopped at, "George Bush doesn't care."


At 6:52 PM, Blogger mightymerk said...

The whole thing needs to be reviwed for sure.

Andy my take...


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