Friday, September 02, 2005

Disaster Relief: Incompetence & Iraq War Caused Failure

Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly explains why FEMA's disaster relief has been so inadequate:

[Bush's] crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

Russia, France and other countries offered assistance, but apparently the Secretary of State wasn't available to accept their offers:

At the State Department’s daily briefing yesterday morning, before the New York incident, spokesman Sean McCormack responded to a journalist who asked whether Rice was involved with hurricane relief efforts by saying, “She’s in contact with the department as appropriate.” He made no mention that his boss had any plans to leave New York.

But yesterday afternoon, Rice had done just that. Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore told us: “The secretary is back in Washington, and she is being briefed on the situation.” Moore did not know whether Condi had planned a longer stay here.

James Wolcott criticizes Armando of Daily KOS for asking the Left to not criticize Bush's lack of response to the crises) and he quotes Paul Craig Roberts, New Orleans Died for Bush's Sins:

"Chalk up the city of New Orleans as a cost of Bush's Iraq war.

"There were not enough helicopters to repair the breached levees and rescue people trapped by rising water. Nor are there enough Louisiana National Guardsmen available to help with rescue efforts and to patrol against looting.

"The situation is the same in Mississippi.

"The National Guard and helicopters are off on a fool's mission in Iraq.

"The National Guard is in Iraq because fanatical neoconservatives in the Bush administration were determined to invade the Middle East and because incompetent Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld refused to listen to the generals, who told him there were not enough regular troops available to do the job.

"After the invasion, the arrogant Rumsfeld found out that the generals were right. The National Guard was called up to fill in the gaping gaps.

"Now the Guardsmen, trapped in the Iraqi quagmire, are watching on TV the families they left behind trapped by rising waters and wondering if the floating bodies are family members. None know where their dislocated families are, but, shades of Fallujah, they do see their destroyed homes.

"The mayor of New Orleans was counting on helicopters to put in place massive sandbags to repair the levee. However, someone called the few helicopters away to rescue people from rooftops. The rising water overwhelmed the massive pumping stations, and New Orleans disappeared under deep water.

"What a terrible casualty of the Iraqi war – one of our oldest and most beautiful cities, a famous city, a historic city."

White House spokesman agreed with Armando of Daily KOS and bobbed and weaved and then finally lied outright when asked to explain the poor response:

REPORTER: There’s a lot of discussion going on about the funding of projects prior to this, whether projects in New Orleans in particular were underfunded because of the Iraq war or for other reasons. Do you find any of this criticism legitimate? Do you think there is any second guessing to be done now about priorities given that [a disaster in] New Orleans was sort of obvious to a lot of the experts?

MCCLELLAN: As I have indicated, this is not a time for politics. This is a time for the nation to come together for those in the Gulf Coast region and that’s where our focus is. This is not a time for finger-pointing or politics. And I think the last thing that the people who have been displaced or the people who have been affected need is people seeking partisan gain in Washington. So if that’s what you’re talking about, that’s one thing. Now, if you’re talking about specific areas, I would be glad to talk about some of those, if that’s what you want.

REPORTER: I’m talking about policy

REPORTER: One project, for instance, is the one where people felt they needed $60 million in the current ‘06 fiscal year, and they were given $10 million. Those types of projects. And a lot —

MCCLELLAN: Which project is this?

REPORTER: Southeast Louisiana Flood Control.

MCCLELLAN: Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one.