The "Blame Bush for the Katrina Aftermath" bandwagon
Andrew Sullivan is jumping on it! Update: So is Tim Naftali from Slate. Moneyshot: Building the capability? How is it possible that with the fourth anniversary of 9/11 almost upon us, the federal government doesn't have in hand the capability to prepare for and then manage a large urban disaster, natural or man-made? In terms of the challenge to government, there is little difference between a terrorist attack that wounds many people and renders a significant portion of a city uninhabitable, and the fallout this week from the failure of one of New Orleans' major levees. Indeed, a terrorist could have chosen a levee for his target. Or a dirty-bomb attack in New Orleans could have caused the same sort of forced evacuation we are seeing and the widespread sickness that is likely to follow. Chertoff's Department of Homeland Security demonstrated today that it could organize an impressive press conference in Washington, lining up every participating civilian or military service from the Coast Guard to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to promise its cooperation. But on the ground in Louisiana, where it counts, DHS is turning out to be the sum of its inefficient parts. The department looks like what its biggest critics predicted: a new level of bureaucracy grafted onto a collection of largely ineffectual under-agencies. Ouch! What has DHS been doing if not readying itself and its subcomponents for a likely disaster? The collapse of a New Orleans levee has long led a list of worst-case urban crisis scenarios. The dots had already been connected. Over the last century, New Orleans has sunk 3 feet deeper below sea level. With each inch, pressure grows along the levees. Meanwhile the loss of wetlands and the shrinking of the Gulf Coast's barrier islands have reduced the natural protection from hurricane winds. The weakness of the levees was underscored in a 2002 wide-ranging exploration of New Orleans' hurricane vulnerability by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of many grimly vindicated Cassandras. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which built the levees and continues to manage them, told the paper then that there was little threat of a levee's collapse. But the corps admitted that its estimates were 40 years old and that no one had bothered to update them. While a little harsh, this article does raise a valid point: What if this wasn't a hurricane but a WMD attack? The repsonse from the people, in the lack of any help for 4 days, would be extreemly similar to what's going on in NOLA right now. If they didn't have a plan for that, well, then what have they been doing for 3 years now? If there is one upside to this tragedy, i am guessing this is it: It will force them to have better plans for next time. This is a horrible but necessary wake-up call to a department that has gotten lazy in the absence of terrorist attacks on US soil. If they can't handle the evacuation and the relief of a major US city (which is the primary target area for terrorists) then they shouldn't be working where they are right now. Update: President Clinton comes to the defense of George W. Bush and slams CNN for nitpicking and criticizing the relief efforts. Interesting!