Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Why they were slow to act

We can clear up the mystery of why federal officials, many of whom were still on their summer vacations, including President Bush, didnít react more quickly to the hurricane disaster on the Gulf Coast.
Like many of us, they were watching the cable news channels, which told us that New Orleans had ďdodged a bullet.Ē

We let out a sigh of relief, glad that earlier predictions about Hurricane Katrina destroying New Orleans didnít come true.

Homeland Security Department and Federal Emer-gency Management Agency officials, who didnít feel the urge to put relief operations in place before the storm arrived, must have congratulated themselves that they didnít waste money and manpower on the Gulf Coast.

They might have even read the New York Times editorial Tuesday before last about how lucky New Orleans was that it had survived pretty much intact, but the paper warned that the city could do a lot worse the next time a hurricane came through.

The Times had hardly hit the streets when the levee broke in New Orleans, flooding the city and destroying it just as many forecasters had predicted.

You can blame local and state officials for not doing more before the hurricane, but the Homeland Security Department and FEMA should have known better and moved in much sooner.

Those departments have no leadership. The hapless Michael Brown runs FEMA at this writing but is probably headed out the door, while the execrable Michael Chertoff may keep his job at Homeland Security a little while longer. Both are a disgrace and should have resigned just as the Japanese do when they bring shame to their government or businesses.

Buses, planes and trains should have evacuated all of New Orleans two weeks ago with assistance from our military, which can perform miracles when itís asked to help. Look how much the American people, including the people of Arkansas, have done after they rolled up their sleeves and helped thousands of victims get out of New Orleans, and fed them, clothed them and sheltered them.

Airdrops should have started a week ago instead of last weekend, with tent cities going up like those after the recent tsunami.

An airman puts things into perspective in an e-mail to us: ďWhat I canít believe is that C-130ís werenít flying several sorties per day airdropping supplies into New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. I served at LRAFB and Keesler. Being an old combat controller, I know the capabilities of C-130ís, and this mission was made for them.Ē

The C-130ís have gone into action, at last, delivering food and supplies and ferrying people to safety. Foreign aid is pouring into Little Rock Air Force Base.

One of the sad missions for our airmen might include recovering bodies from the waters in New Orleans, way too many of them, perhaps 10,000, most of whom would have lived if their government had figured out in time how to save them.