It is with a heavy heart that I make this post.
Because after a week of absorbing it all in a brain which became like a sponge and couldn’t get enough, I have the answer.
I now understand what went wrong. With tongue only slightly in cheek, I offer the answer.
Before, let me caution that over the coming weeks and months there will be squabbles and finger-pointing and general nastiness across all corridors of America over the mess after Hurricane Katrina.
Readers of this Blog post do not have to participate in such debates as the answer is here.
The premise of this country’s entire disaster plan has been wrong.
I watched Michael Chertoff, a man who I don’t know whether to love or hate, gave yet another press conference.
He knows it too.
The failure of an efficient reaction to the New Orleans disaster was due to a faulty premise made by the Department of Homeland Security. Although it must be emphasized that the failure rises way over the Department up to the highest echelons of goverment.
It also reaches down through the bureaucracy layer and down onto each and every American citizen.
The assumption had been that all reaction to a disaster would be based on the local people in charge with the federal government ASSISTING at their direction.
You have all heard through the years since 9-11 the proud pronouncements of the many public officials about increased funding and training of local officials?
It was assumed that a disaster in, say, Chicago, would best be responded to and coordinated by local Chicago authorities.
Not that the premise was a bad one as logic and analysis would have it. Local officials would, after all, be the most knowledgeable about the area, the population density, the geography of the region.
What would a kid from Texas, a weekend warrior who never thought he’d one day be expected to help evacuate Chicago know about the Loop?
So the premise was wrong.
It was the local authorities that failed in New Orleans.
Proving the premise was wrong.
This happened one day after the hurricane and that’s the truth.
The local authorities on the ground in New Orleans during the days after the flood was virtually nil. Many of the cops quit, yes they did and soon enough it will be widely known. Common sense, duh, should make it understandable that many of the local authorities were THEMSELVES affected by disaster.
The premise failed us folks.
Chertoff as much as said today that from now on all disasters will be dealt with immediately at the federal level.
A week ago I would be ranting and raving about constitutions and “posse comitas” and, of course, states’ rights.
The cure might require a bit of new legislation over the coming years. Permissions and grants and federal laws are going to have to be re-thought.
God taught us a lesson in New Orleans. And on the brighter side, the mistake was not really that costly. Assuming the loss of NO was not the fault of man, although it probably was. Also assuming, more stridently, that the hurricane was not the fault of man.
There’s not going to be an overwhelming death toll because of this bad premise. Because amazingly the federal government was able to recover quite quickly after it realized the deadly truth. Some people died because of the delay. There was a cost in lives.
It could have been way more horrific.
It does little good to cast aspersions on the Bad Premise. Before Katrina I’d have backed the Bad Premise with my heart and soul.
It does little good to cast aspersions on the NO police and Louisiana State police. Sure there’s issues with the social strata and how it’s policed in that region but the Bad Premise makes it practically moot. There will rightly be a lot of shame but our understanding of the Bad Premise sprang from the failure of local authorities. Thereby preventing the Bad Premise from resulting in millions of deaths should another horrific attack occur without the current lesson learned.
Let the debates rage on. I’ll likely have something to say about it in due course.
Way I see it, we all made a mistake on this one.
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