It has been one year after the largely ineffectual response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the failures on all levels of government, it seems that history shows that Bush bears the full brunt of the blame for the failures. While Bush and FEMA do bear some blame for the aftermath, there are many failures that must be noticed if they are to be rectified. It may be politically helpful to pick a favorite scapegoat for political gain, however, lives are lost if all the lessons aren't learned. After action reports have been discarded for political talking points.
First, the United States is a grouping of 50 sovereign states. The president has no authority, absolutely none, to tell a governor what to do with their own resources. Governors cannot be selected by the President, they are not accountable to the President, and most importantly, they cannot be removed by the President. It may be simple to say "The buck stops at the top" but it reflects a sad lack of understanding of the US governmental system. Bush is responsible for some aspects of the aftermath, but Louisiana Governor Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin bear a good chunk of the blame themselves. They were elected to be sole stewards of their governmental assets and they utterly failed their constituents.
Second, it is important to note that the disaster plan was written by the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans alone. It was their plan. They are responsible for what their governments do leading up to a disaster, it was their responsibility to be prepared to deal with a disaster as much as possible, and it was their responsibility alone to deal with evacuation. FEMA responds after a disaster strikes; it is the local and state governments which must take action to mitigate the potential damage.
Third, the failure to call for an evacuation until virtually the last effective moment only maximized the number of people in harms way. Mississippi managed to handle the disaster effectively with minimal loss of life. Florida did as well. All the tales of horror came from Louisiana, and in particular, New Orleans. This was largely because those officials did not call for an evacuation. In fact, the President got on the phone to ask them to evacuate when it was clear they weren't doing so. An extra 24 to 48 hours would have been more than enough to evacuate every man, woman, and child from the New Orleans area.
Fourth, the decision to leave fleets of unattended school buses in parking lots to get destroyed was a critical failure of Mayor Nagin. There were enough buses to evacuate every single person without their own transportation from New Orleans. The fact the buses went unused and the images of buses floating in the Mayor Ray Nagin memorial parking lots should serve as a testament of local government failure spearheaded by Mayor Ray "School Bus" Nagin.
Fifth, when disaster struck, Governor Blanco simply did not lead. Not only did she get on national TV and cry, she was clearly unable to make necessary decisions. The state government and disaster planners looked to her for leadership as the head executive of the state of Louisiana and she failed them. When 9/11 struck, there was no doubt that Rudy Giuliani was firmly in charge. When Katrina struck, no one knew who was in charge because the local and state government fell apart.
Sixth, when Katrina struck from one to two-thirds of the New Orleans Police Department simply walked off the job. For their efforts, they were given free family vacations to Vegas and are portrayed on billboards as symbols of courage. In the military, if a soldier walks off the job during war in a forward area, they can be summarily executed. In New Orleans, they get rewarded.
Seventh, patients were summarily executed by medical professionals. This was called "euthanasia" by the press and the medical community, however, they were not killed for being terminal, they were killed because the conditions of the storm made them "too difficult" to care for or move easily. They were killed because they were too high maintenance.
Eighth, everyone remembers the stories of carnage and rioting in New Orleans that permeated the media. When those stories turned out to be, at best, exaggerations, the organ most responsible for spreading the deceptions, the media, was not taken to account. It is unknown how many lives were lost simply because the media's stories of Armageddon had scared off people from helping. The media needs to thoroughly examine how it gets news and how it presents news. The media is known for sensationalizing stories to produce fear or anger in their audiences. This needs to be addressed.
Ninth, Louisiana and New Orleans have a long and "distinguished" history of corruption and embezzling funds. In fact, before Katrina federal officials were trying to find out were millions of dollars "disappeared" to when sent to Louisiana for homeland security and disaster preparedness. Since Katrina, $77 billion has been spent or is available, yet only one-third of hospitals and one-half of schools are actually open. How much of the money the government and aid organizations spent on New Orleans after Katrina just "disappeared"? The population of Louisiana is 4.5 million and New Orleans is 500,000 of that. Should it really cost hundreds of millions to build a city for that few people?
A year has passed since Katrina; if we truly want to prevent such an event from happening again we need to take a look at the failures. All of them.