Pages

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Troubling, To Say the Least

This is worrisome:
In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage. Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
I'd love to see the tapes and/or transcripts, but the video clips online aren't really working very well. This definitely doesn't reflect well on Bush, who 4 days later commented that "nobody anticipated the breach of the levees."

It seems that officials - particularly Mike Brown (the infamous "Brownie") did a very good job of warning the government of what difficulties may come up in the Superdome, with the levees, and with other areas of disaster. The governments (federal, state, and local) felt they were prepared enough. Brown had termed the problem a "catastrophe within a catastrophe", which very much implies that he felt that even if they were prepared to handle a large number of people, they weren't prepared to handle what that meant (such as the chaos that ensued at the Superdome afterwards, for example).

Would it have changed the outcome? Unclear. Would more lives have been saved? Possibly - it's really hard to gauge. I'm not sure that had the government recognized just how unprepared they were it would have helped - as it is, Chertoff is on tape asking if they could use more DoD people, and Brown answers that they have and that they are "fully engaged" (as in, they're okay). Would response time have been quicker? Possibly - but then again, they weren't able to truly assess the damage right away either. Would knowing that the levees would breach on August 28th have changed anything? Again, to hard to gauge.

Based on the limited information available, it seems that everyone, top on down, suffered from the same thing: Overconfidence. Bush was overconfident, state officials were overconfident, local officials were overconfident. Brown and others raised issues, and people thought that it was something they were prepared for.

Sadly, they were wrong.

Technorati tags: , , , .

6 comments:

  1. Unfair...

    The levees around New Orleans were never truly deemed apropriate protection to begin with. The setup of the city was so ludicrous that it has been deemed a hazardous spot for over 2 decades.

    A city set below sea level, flanked by two large bodies of water with a minimalist levee system for safeguarding cannot expect to not face the inevitabe disaster. All anyone needed to know is that a large storm was coming.

    I truly doubt that there was any serious surprise when the inevitable became actual.

    Judgement should be passed only on the post-storm actions taken and by those actions that should have been taken but werent.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Xvi - true. I think the point here is that as they should have expected it, and were clearly warned, they should have been ready to move in as necessary afterwards. The question is to what extent, and how much of that is different than what actually happened.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What? Infallible Bushie caught red handed lying to the country? Im am so not mekabel

    ReplyDelete
  4. ezzie, it doesn't really matter what the federal government knew or didn't know, it was the state's responsibility to handle it. The federal government really had no jurisdiction here until they called in they were called in. The federal government cant send in military personnel to take over a city or state's command unless the state says it's necessary. Before the hurricane hit, the state explicitly said that they were prepared and didnt need federal support. At that moment, the federal government did not have any jurisdiction to intervene or force intervention. They could only suggest.

    So, none of this matters. The state also knew the levees were at at serious risk to break. I've known it for over ten years. So did they. They said that they were prepared to deal with the hurricane and its after-math, and they failed miserably. Again, the second the state government said that they were ready to handle the situation, the federal government could do nothing but take a back seat and wait to be called upon regardless of what information they had. Because, believe me, whatever information Bush had, the state had that much more. This is nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking on the back-up guy who played for 2 minutes the entire game. Bush isn't the first guy to look at for what went wrong. He's the last one in a very long line, and everyone up front works on the city and state level.
    -OC

    ReplyDelete
  5. i wouldn't call it overconfidence; more like incompetence.

    ReplyDelete
  6. TTC - Figured someone would say that...

    OC - That's true, but only to an extent. It sounds as if Bush was overconfident about their ability to do so once they were called in.

    Sara - Sorry, there's nothing here that shows incompetence. Clearly, they thought they were prepared, based on whatever formulations they had come up with until then. What is incompetent about what they did? They didn't miss anything; they simply thought that whatever preparations they had made were enough. They were wrong.

    ReplyDelete