Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The worst disaster in American history

On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court effectively appointed a man to be president of the United States who had no business whatsoever being president -- a man who a majority of American voters determined was least qualified to lead the nation -- a date that should be forever remembered as the worst disaster in American history.

It should be profoundly disturbing to every American, living anywhere, of whichever party affiliation or political leaning, that President Bush not only failed to heed the warnings of a hurricane strike on New Orleans, but today continues to cower in the shadows just as he has always done when called to serve his nation.

Air National Guard? Bush was such a chickenshit chickenhawk, he couldn't even bother himself to suit up for that sweet arrangement -- which his daddy worked out for him -- to play soldier boy defending the United States from a Mexican invasion during the Vietnam War.

After ignoring repeated warnings of an imminent strike inside the United States by Al Qaeda, and after President Bush spent the month of August 2001 on the longest presidential vacation since Richard Nixon, Bush whined:

"Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."
Hurricane Katrina? Bush knew about that impending disaster as well. The outgoing Clinton administration alerted Bush to the three most worrisome disaster possibilities: an earthquake in California, a hurricane striking New Orleans, and a terrorist attack on New York City. Furthermore, a hurricane exercise just a year before identified the threat. What did Bush do?
"As a dry run for the real thing, Pam should have been a wake-up call that could not be ignored," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate committee's examination of Pam's findings at a Tuesday hearing. "Instead, it is apparent that a more appropriate name for Pam should have been 'Cassandra' -- the mythical prophet who warned of disasters but whom no one believed."
Let's review President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina as Newsday reported it.

The White House:
Responsibilities:
  • Delegates responsibility for disaster response to government agencies.
  • Declares federal emergency to allow for federal aid in hurricane relief efforts.
Response:
  • President and many top White House staff remain on vacation during initial stages of crisis.
  • White House blames state and local officials for inadequate response.
  • President relies on FEMA's optimistic and can-do assessments.
  • President doesn't expect the levee breaches, despite explicit warnings.

Department of Homeland Security:
Responsibilities:
  • Supervises relief and rescue operations.
  • Support state and local emregency management preparation and response.
Response:
  • Ground teams without working televisions or radios. Planes laden with communications equipment arrive late.
  • Due to communication breakdown, department chief unaware of broken levees in New Orleans for 24 hours, announces highest emergency declaration two days after first levee breach. Government unable to respond swiftly to levee damage.
  • Chief initially unaware of city's convention center evacuees without supplies.

Federal Emergency Management Administration ... well, I shouldn't need to go into that, but feel free to read the rest of the Newsday review "Anatomy of a Disaster."

On this day of revelations that President Bush ignored the grave warnings prior to Hurricane Katrina, this was his familiar excuse for his miserable failure:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
We know President Bush doesn't like to read much, so what excuse could he possibly have when the dire warnings of disaster in New Orleans were in a Powerpoint slide presentation. He didn't even have to read the warnings! All he had to do was watch a slide presentation.

Among the predictions:
  • 60,000 deaths.
  • New Orleans submerged "for weeks or months."
  • A communications blackout that would hamper rescue efforts.
  • At least 100,000 poverty-stricken people stranded in the city.
I'm just summarizing. I'd be surprised if you hadn't read the story already, but if you haven't, start with The Times-Picayune.

I could go on and on, but I'll just close with a few choice quotes from the very timely airing of Frontline's "The Storm", which was re-broadcast tonight on WYES. I just want to say, I'm glad I missed it the first time around (I was either still evacuated, didn't have electricity, or WYES was still off the air). If I had seen it, I think I would have had an aneurism.

What should be the number one priority of George W. Bush? What did he campaign on in 2004? His tenacity in keeping Americans safe from terrorism? At the rate Bush is going, we'll all need a lot of tenacity.

George W. Bush bent the facts about WMD to start a war with a country that was no threat whatsoever to Americans, but has he actually done anything in over 4 years since September 11th to prepare us for another disaster?

On George W. Bush's number one priority, how should he be graded?
MARTIN SMITH: If we believe this president was focused on any one thing, it was certainly preparedness and the war on terrorism. But yet four years after 9/11, we have no results on communications.

WARREN RUDMAN, U.S. Commission on Natl. Security: Yeah. Oh, I think that's a failure. I think it's a failure on the part of the Congress. It's a failure on the part of the administration, specifically, a failure on the part of DHS. People should've paid more attention to that.

I mean, if we ever learned anything, we learned on 9/11 in New York that those valiant people who lost their lives, many of them might not have lost their lives had they been able to talk to each other. They just weren't able to. ...

You've got to get interoperability of communications, or else you're going to have disaster no matter what goes on. ...

If I were in a position to make a decision, the first thing I would do is to start funding interoperability for every major metropolitan area in this country. And I'd get it done this year.

(Full transcript here).

Why do we Hurricane Katrina victims care? For the same reason that Americans everywhere should care. There is a direct lineage of failure from George W. Bush's earliest years through September 11th, the Iraq quagmire, and now Hurricane Katrina. What comes next?

Former White House National Security Council member Richard Clarke:
We have cities that bought air-conditioned garbage trucks with homeland security money without ever solving their communications problems.

And now, as we approach 5 months since Hurricane Katrina, with absolutely no commitment from the Bush administration to do anything significant to get New Orleans the Category 5 storm protection we need immediately for any private investment to take place, with no commitment to help people move back into New Orleans to temporary housing, with no commitment to help getting people back to work, with no commitment to help rebuild people's homes, given George W. Bush's previous failures, should anyone really be surprised?

Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri:
Is anyone out there watching this. Is anyone paying attention? Does anyone care?

There's more strident commentary at Realitique.

3 Comments:

At 1/25/2006 08:15:00 AM, Anonymous Lenny Zimmermann said...

Related to one of yoru other posts, the thing that gets me the most is seeing a car with a Louisiana license plate that still have a "W" sticker in the window. Worse when it's in the New Orleans area. I mean how apologetic can you be before it hits you in the face like a 2x4 that this administration is, and always has been, screwed up.

Other places? Sure, they haven't felt the direct impact and some folks just can't extrapolate that something that might happen here could just as easily have been the same kind of incompetence to hit them there. But New Orleans, where we have first-hand experience of that incompetence?

 
At 1/25/2006 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Mixter said...

First, New Orleans. Next, the rest of the U.S.A. He got a head start there with Katrina. He'll continue to fuck us all over until he can't; then some other neocon will take over.

Mixter

 
At 1/25/2006 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Lenny -- it does confound the hell out of me.

Mixter -- once again, need it be repeated, "we're all wearing the blue dress now."

 

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