Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Cavalry arrives way too late

The scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina down south remind one of a Third World country where rescuers are nowhere to be found, having absconded with millions of dollars in foreign aid.
Those in charge of the assistance effort may not have run off with the loot, but their absence for most of this week is an embarrassment to this nation, whose citizens watched in horror as hundreds of people perished, while many of the survivors huddled in filth and lawless elements looted and raped as if this were an underdeveloped country.

The astonishingly slow response by the federal government to send in troops and help with rescue efforts proves once again that bureaucrats are naturally loath to react to disasters, much less prepare for them.
After 9-11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identified a hurricane and levee failure at New Orleans as one of the three most likely major disaster scenarios. Like the presidentís morning briefing that reported that Osama bin Laden (remember him?) wanted to attack us using commercial airliners, apparently forewarned is not forearmed in this administration.

FEMA and the Homeland Security Department were nowhere to be found long after the hurricane tore through New Orleans. The people in charge made their obligatory statements on TV, but they didnít have the sense to send reinforcements to make life a bit more sustainable there.
Too many people who were drowning in their homes were not rescued. Looters and rapists ran rampant throughout the city.

The administration must bear full responsibility for its inept response to the catastrophe, especially when it was willing to commit more than 100,000 troops to Iraq but hardly a tenth as many to Louisiana and Mississippi.
We conquered Baghdad in seven days and captured Normandy in just one day, and we canít rescue New Orleans? We defended New Orleans against the British, but it took four days to mobilize the National Guard to begin to rescue the poor, sick and elderly left behind in that same city.

Sure, itís easy to point fingers and lose oneís cool as we watch New Orleans disappear beyond the horizon. The suffering humanity that survived the disaster is still in a daze, angry that the authorities did not do more. Weíre angy, too: That a great American city wasnít better protected and helped when help was needed.
President Bush could help restore his own tattered credibility if he fired FEMA director Michael Brown, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose name he canít pronounce anyway.