Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Pussyfooting about accountability

To hear Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Director Mike Brown tell it, the delayed response to the devastation of hurricane Katrina was simply that they were ambushed by unforseen (infer unpredictable) events —i.e. the severity of the storm and the New Orleans levee collapse. That is sheer baloney!

Days before Katrina slammed into the gulf coast, the National Hurricane Center advised FEMA and Homeland Security that the expected storm surge could top the antiquated levee protecting the city. More than thirty-six hours before landfall, the NHC marveled at the historic dimensions of the storm and reported winds of 100 mph at the edges of the hurricane—---some one hundred miles from its eye!

As for President Bush, he appeared to be more worried about the rising resentment of the Iraq war than the potential destruction of a monster hurricane poised to strike the most venerable city in America.. Katrina ripped into the gulf coast on Monday. Tuesday, Bush flew to California for a fund raising dinner and another rote speech on “staying the course” in Iraq. (Contrast that to standing amid twin towers rubble the day after 9-11.)

There are many hard questions that demand answers. Why didn’t President Bush federalize the disaster effort and immediately send in the elite 82nd Airborne unit from Ft. Bragg, who’s mission is being ready for “instant” deployment? Why didn’t he tap into the Helicopter units at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky? Why didn’t he order the Navy and Marines to immediately dispatch their small water craft loaded with food and water? Why did he wait four days to set foot on the gulf coast ground?

The call for accountability by the Bush Administration for its shameful response to the human suffering left in the wake of Katrina, floats like a bloated corpse in the flood waters of New Orleans–---untouched and largely not confronted by the hordes of television commentators and politicians who speak on the subject.

Oh, there is plenty of cursing the darkness----everyone speaks loudly and clearly there—but few are willing to name the person who’s finger is on the switch.

For example, New York times columnist David Brooks put it this way, “On September 11th Rudy Giuliani took control. The Government response was quick and responsive. Last week in New Orleans, by contrast, nobody took control. Authority was diffuse and action was ineffective.” I wonder who Mr. “Nobody” was? I wonder who Mr. “Authority” was?

The Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin , in a rare departure from political protocol, demanded the Federal Government “get off your ass and let’s do something!” Interesting. Even hunkered down in the stench, suffering and isolation of his own people he could not bring himself to pronounce the words “President Bush”.

As the horrific scenes of death and suffering give way to more visual space of evacuation, rescues and food and water distribution—it is vital that specific accountability move to the front on our national consciousness.

Politicians aspire to the pinnacle of our system because it where the power lies for their agenda for our country and their personal ambition. They embrace the responsibility for running our government and protecting our people. And “we”—including the media—should not be timid about calling them to account when they screw it up! The collective “we” elected George Bush—who appointed Michael Chertoff—who was approved by Congress

The last thing we should do is accept “The dog ate my homework!” .

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