BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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After a week of indecision, the Bush administration finally mobilized relief to more than 150,000 people stranded in New Orleans. Only a few weeks earlier, the administration had cut funds to reinforce the city's defenses and to study a viable protections against a category 5 hurricane of Katrina's proportions. The money, the White House argued, was needed to shore up the president's failing efforts in iraq. The White House has now tried to shift blame to Louisiana state and city officials. The real lesson, however, appears to be the near total ineffectiveness of the administration's much vaunted Homeland Security apparatus.
Relief workers pleading for help in New Orleans the day after Katrina hit
FRED KAPLAN IN SLATE ON WHAT WENT WRONG WITH HOMELAND SECURITY
"...Part of the problem is the consolidation of FEMA—an agency that deals with natural disasters—into a superagency set up primarily to deal with terrorist attacks. The head of FEMA used to be a Cabinet-level job and as such would sit in on meetings of the National Security Council and—at least theoretically—have a direct line to the president. When DHS was created in March 2003, all that was taken away; communiqués, bulletins, alerts, and so forth, from FEMA and 21 other federal departments and agencies, would henceforth be filtered through the secretary of homeland security..." (Fred Kaplan, Slate, September 2, 2005)
A TROUBLED HOMELAND SECURITY THAT WASN'T THERE
"Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts..."
(Susan B. Glasser and Josh White, Washington Post, September 4, 2005)
AN UNNATURAL DISASTER
"...In June 2004, FEMA privatized its hurricane disaster plan for New Orleans, contracting the work to the Baton Rouge, La., firm Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) whose motto is “Managing Risk in a Complex World.”IEM announced the contract on its Web site on June 3, 2004, trumpeting that the company “will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).” (Joel Bleifuss and Brian Cook, In These Times, September 2, 2005)
CHRONOLOGY OF FEMA'S DESTRUCTION
Starting with the appointment
of a political crony with no disaster management experience in 2001, the administration's ability to deal with disaster has been consistently emascualted. Kevin Drum provides a timeline of what was done in the Washington Monthly. (Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly, September 1, 2005)
FEMA HAD ALREADY PREDICTED NEW ORLEANS DAMAGE
A computer simulation with a virtual hurricane named Pam, last year, predicted just how deadly a hurricane like Katrina was likely to be. The administration cut resources anyway. (FEMA news release, July 2004)
-Louisiana State University's hurricane center participated in the Pam simulation
LSU's conclusion: the hurricane would: cause flooding that would leave 300,000 people trapped in New Orleans, many of whom would not have private transportation for evacuation; send evacuees to 1,000 shelters, which would likely remain open for 100 days; require the transfer of patients from hospitals in harm’s way to hospitals in other parts of the state; trigger outbreaks of tetanus, influenza, and other diseases likely to be present after a storm; create 30 million cubic yards of debris and 237,000 cubic yards of household hazardous waste. (LSU, July 2004)
--LSU asked if New Orleans could really be destroyed by a flood (read their analysis)
BUSINESSWEEK ON WHAT THE DISASTER SAYS ABOUT WASHINGTON
Engineers have known for years that New Orleans levees couldn't withstand anything above a Category 3 hurricane... Yet not only have these warnings gone largely unheeded but for years government policies have been putting the country at a greater risk of both natural disasters and energy shocks. (Businessweek, September 5, 2005)
L.A. TIMES: THE WARNINGS THAT WENT UNHEEDED
Tim Rutten writes in the L.A. Times: "Three years ago, New Orleans' leading local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, National Public Radio's signature nightly news program, "All Things Considered," and the New York Times each methodically and compellingly reported that the very existence of south Louisiana's leading city was at risk and hundreds of thousands of lives imperiled by exactly the sequence of events that occurred this week..." (Tim Rutten, L.A. Times, September 2, 2005)
WERE THE PEOPLE OF NEW ORLEANS ABANDONED BECAUSE THEY WERE BLACK?
Jason DeParle notes in the New York Times News of the Week in Review: "THE white people got out. Most of them, anyway.... Poor black people, growing more hungry, sick and frightened by the hour as faraway officials counseled patience and warned that rescues take time. What a shocked world saw exposed in New Orleans last week wasn't just a broken levee. It was a cleavage of race and class, at once familiar and startlingly new.." (Jason De Parle, The New York Times, September 4, 2005)
NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE: "WE ARE ANGRY MR. PRESIDENT..."
"...The people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach....
"We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame..."
(Times-Picayune, September 4, 2005)
NEW ORLEANS MAYOR LOSES IT
Josh Levin reports in Slate that after getting no help from Washington, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin expressed the prevailing sentiment of the city in an impassioned radio interview, Monday night: "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here! They're not here! It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and let's do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country!" Nagin didn't stop until he broke down in tears. (Josh Levin, Slate, September 2, 2005)
ADMINISTRATION TRIES TO SHIFT BLAME TO LOCAL OFFICIALS
"Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government... "
(Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, Washington Post, September 4, 2005)
COMPARING THE LOOTING IN IRAQ AND NEW ORLEANS
Juan Cole notes that the administration's reaction to the looting of Baghdad was one of general indifference, except where the Ministry of Petroleum was concerned. In New Orleans, a much smaller band of looters hitting Walmart stirred an instantaneous outrage from the president. Iraqis, says Cole, have noticed the difference. (Juan Cole, Informed Comment, September 4, 2005)
CARNEGIE MAPS THE PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION IN THE WORLD TODAY
Deadly Arsenals provides an up-to-date and comprehensive assessment on global proliferation dangers, with a critical assessment of international enforcement efforts. The atlas includes strategic and historical analysis; maps, charts, and graphs of the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and missile delivery systems; descriptions of the weapons and regimes—and policies to control them; and data on countries that have, want, or have given up these deadly weapons.
--Press conference with Joseph Cirincione, Jon Wolfsthal, Miriam Rajkumar, available as an MP3 audio download
(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Summer 2005)
TAKING A FRESH LOOK AT THE MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY'S EMBARRASSING RECORD
It's been nearly three years since the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has had a successful flight-test of its nascent ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD). In a December 2002 test, the kill vehicle did not separate from the interceptor; in December 2004 and February 2005, the interceptors didn't even get off the ground. Three years, three tests, and three frankly pathetic failures seem to have inspired a search for answers. Two official reports, released in March, take a look at the beleaguered GMD, which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the Bush administration's effort to protect the United States against long-range missiles...." (Lisbeth Gronlund, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September-October, 2005)
BESLAN TRIES TO OVERCOME TRAUMA OF HOSTAGE MASSACRE
Former child hostages in Ossetia are wetting their beds at night. Some are overeating to cope with painful memories. Many are obsessed with water..."I still dream about those men," Alan Yesiyev, 11, said, staring into space as if to separate himself from what he had witnessed. "When they lifted up a child and said, 'Everyone shut up, otherwise I'll kill him,' the boy fainted from fear. I wanted to cry, but I had to swallow my tears because I didn't want that child to be killed."(Francesca Meuru, Moscow Times, September 2, 2005)
CHINA'S ENERGY ACQUISITIONS
India and China, the world's most populated countries, are in a flurry of activity to purchase energy assets since both of their economies are achieving tremendous growth, boosting their demand for energy. Additionally, as they become more dependent on energy, they become more vulnerable to energy disruption. By acquiring foreign energy assets, India and China will be in a better position to secure their energy stability, especially when buying influence in energy stakes near their borders. (Erich Marquardt, Power and Interest News Report, September 2, 2005)
PUTTING SADDAM ON TRIAL
The trial slated to start October 19, will focus on the murder of Shiites in Dujail in 1982, by focusing on a single incident, the prosecution may hope to avoid embarrassing issues such as U.S. collaboration with Saddam under the Reagan administration when Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to reassure Saddam of U.S. administration support, despite the fact that the U.S. knew he was employing poison gas against Iran. (Al Jazeera, September 5, 2005)
--Declassified U.S. briefing papers to Rumsfeld, during his diplomatic mission to talk with Saddam
--Saddam's lawyers want more time to prepare, considering that the prosecution charges took place more than two decades ago...(Beirut Daily Star, September 4, 2005)
The day after Katerina, President Bush posed for a photo-op with Country Western singer Mark Wills in Coronado, California. By the end of the week, Bush had decided to cut short his 5-week summer vacation and return to Washington.
WHAT ABOUT THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF?
David Remnick writes in the New Yorker: "...Over five days last week, from the onset of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast on Monday morning to his belated visit to the region on Friday, Bush’s mettle was tested—and he failed in almost ever respect
Obviously, a hurricane is beyond human blame, and the political miscalculations that have come to light—the negligent planning, the delayed rescue and aid efforts, the thoroughly confused and uninspired political leadership—cannot all be laid at the feet of President Bush. But you could sense, watching him being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America” —defensive, confused, overwhelmed—that he knew that he had delivered a series of feeble, vague, almost flippant speeches in the early days of the crisis, and that the only way to prevent further political damage was to inoculate himself with the inevitable call for non-partisanship: “I hope people don’t play politics during this period of time.” (David Remnick, The New Yorker, September 5, 2005)
PAUL KRUGMAN: THE DISASTER TOUCHES ON MORE THAN PRESIDENTIAL FAILURE "...The federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?" (Paul Krugman, New York Times, September 5, 2005)
WHY THE ADMINISTRATION OBJECTED TO FUNDING FOR THE PROTECTION OF NEW ORLEANS
Less than two months ago, the administration strenuously objected to spending money to reinforce the damaged coastline that placed New Orleans in imminent danger. (Michael Scherer, Salon, September 1, 2005)
President Bush tried to make up for lost time by flying to New Orleans airport and hugging two young girls, apparently carefully selected refugees from the catastrophe. Kevin Drum reports, in Washington Monthly, that the photo-op did not seem credible to anyone outside the United States.(Kevin Drum, September 4, 2005)
LOUISIANA SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU ACCOMPANIED THE PRESIDENT
Senator Landrieu later commented: "Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.
"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims -- far more efficiently than buses -- FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.
"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government..."
(Senator Mary Liandrieu, Democrat- Louisiana, September 3, 2005, press release)
THE HOMELAND SECURITY THAT WASN'T THERE
Brad Delong writes in the Financial Times: "What is more unbelievable? Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson parish, reporting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was still blocking relief supplies to this Louisiana district: "We had Wal-Mart deliver three trailer trucks of water. Fema turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. We had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said: 'Come get the fuel right away.' When we got there with our trucks, they got a word: 'Fema says don't give you the fuel.' Yesterday, Fema comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines"?
Or Fema's decision to keep the Red Cross from sending supplies and medical personnel into New Orleans. The Red Cross reports: "We simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders . . . [They say] our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city"?
(Brad Delong, Financial Times, September 7, 2005)
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