The Washington Post has a huge story on the Katrina relief fiasco.
It is gripping reading but much of it is lightly sourced and some is sourced to anonymous Bush administration officials (clearly worse than no source). It is clear that FEMA was unprepared and that state and local governments were overwhelmed partly because their assets were destroyed or flooded. The story is long, so I will excerpt some key points.
A key problem was the collapse of communications.
The federal disaster response plan hinges on transportation and communication, but National Guard officials in Louisiana and Mississippi had no contingency plan if they were disrupted; they had only one satellite phone for the entire Mississippi coast, because the others were in Iraq
They had ONLY ONE SATELLIGHT PHONE ON THE ENTIRE MISSISSIPPI COAST BECAUSE THE OTHERS WERE IN IRAQ !!!! I dare anyone anyone to claim that the Iraq adventure didn't kill American civilians by crippling disaster responce. How many lives would have been saved if the Bush administration had been willing to buy replacement phones so the guardsmen left behind in the unimportant USA could communicate.
At 8:14 a.m. [Monday], the National Weather Service reported a levee breach along the Industrial Canal, and warned that the Ninth Ward was likely to experience extremely severe flooding.
days later Chertoff claimed the levees were breached Tuesday or in the night between Monday and Tuesday. The Post does it's best to help. They even write "dodged the bullet" just after noting that the bullet hit. Still I would say that the 8:14 AM is the end of the "dodged the bullet" spin which has been hit right between the lies.
"We're facing the storm most of us have feared," Nagin told an early-morning news conference, the governor at his side. Katrina was now a Category 5 hurricane, set to make landfall overnight.
Minutes earlier, Blanco had been pulled out to take a call from the president, pressed into service by FEMA's Brown to urge a mandatory evacuation. Blanco told him that's just what the mayor would order.
This totally unsourced assertion implies that, say Powerline, was half right. Bush called Blanco requesting a mandatory evacuation. She said that Nagin had already called the press to announce one. I would have guessed that Blanco had called Bush to inform him. As it is a strange coincidence. The day earlier Bush had been informed that the voluntary evacuation was proceeding and Nagin had discussed the possibility of using the word mandatory that morning. Anyway rare for powerline to be even half right, so I thought I should note it.
Translation: Even if one allows that "everything you have" does not imply "everything you have including active duty military personel," the White House acknowledges that they were discussing whether they could send the 82nd airborn even if the governor had not requested active duty military personel hours (and days) after the governor made that request in words so explicit that they can not pretend that they were misunderstood.
"7:21 that morning" is the final blow to the Posse Comitatus spin. They have added their last epicycle and their story has been destroyed by the facts. The Posse Comitatus act does not bind if there is a national disaster and a request from the governor, the governor had declared a state of emergency (Friday), the governor had declared that state resources would be overwhelmed and requested Federal assistance (Saturda), the Governor had requested "everything you have" and the governor had specifically requested active duty military personel after someone had finally explained to her that the Bush administration does not understand the word "everything."
Also note the number 40,000 on another page of the story "Blanco publicly pleaded for 40,000 National Guard troops." See post below. I think the New York Times, on the 9th, misreported this plea as a request for 40,000 active duty military personel. That would explain why the NYTimes story on the 11th did not include the number 40,000. They should print a correction. I will check if they have and, if so, update the post below.
As has been noted FEMA was significantly worse than worthless blocking aid rather than speeding it.
But assistance that was available was often blocked. In the Gulf, not 100 miles away from New Orleans, sat the 844-foot USS Bataan, equipped with six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients. Starting Wednesday, Amtrak offered to run a twice-a-day shuttle for as many as 600 evacuees from a rail yard west of New Orleans to Lafayette, La. The first run was not organized until Saturday. Officials then told Amtrak they would not require any more trains.
I assume the officials are FEMA officials.
Anger was also rising at federal officials, who often seemed to be getting in the way. At Louis Armstrong International Airport, commercial airlines had been flying in supplies and taking out evacuees since Monday. But on Thursday, after FEMA took over the evacuation, aviation director Roy A. Williams complained that "we are packed with evacuees and the planes are not being loaded and there are gaps of two or three hours when no planes are arriving." Eventually, he started fielding "calls from airlines saying, 'Well, we are being told by FEMA that you don't need any planes.' And of course we need planes. I had thousands of people on the concourses."
I think the effort to blame Blanco, for not agreeing to a total federal take over of the relief efforts, might end up getting the first woman President elected. Imagine how many people would have died if she had let FEMA take over and mismanage everything ?
The government of the city of New Orleans did mess up big time on Saturday and I mean big time.
In fact, while the last regularly scheduled train out of town had left a few hours earlier, Amtrak had decided to run a "dead-head" train that evening to move equipment out of the city. It was headed for high ground in Macomb, Miss., and it had room for several hundred passengers. "We offered the city the opportunity to take evacuees out of harm's way," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. "The city declined."
So the ghost train left New Orleans at 8:30 p.m., with no passengers on board.