Closer scrutiny reveals the lies surrounding Katrina evacuation and recovery
By Linda Prussen-Razzano
Having lived on Long Island for most of my life, I weathered only the most minor effects of hurricanes. Typically, their devastating strength drained along the coastline as they churned northwards. When I was a child, my father comforted me through Hurricane Belle; not by holding me and telling me everything would be alright, but by his activity in securing our house, his purchase of supplies and preparations, and his explanations of hurricanes and their threats.
While the storm whipped overhead, my piqued curiosity prompted me to ask about all different kinds of natural disasters. We passed the time discussing typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. I never thought I would use this information, but I did; twice.
At 19, my passenger and I found ourselves caught in the only flash flood in the history of Long Island. What started as a heavy rain became an overwhelming downpour within minutes. Not unlike the City of New Orleans, the patch of road on which I traveled was nestled in a natural funnel. In the space of minutes, we experienced more rain in that small bit of road alongside Eisenhower Park than all of Long Island had received in a year. With traffic surrounding me, I had not choice but to inch forward to the overpass that would take me to higher ground. Just moments before my car cleared the water now pouring in under my doors, the engine stalled, and my Monte Carlo sank back down the embankment, eventually to be completely submerged.
We had to wait until the water rose inside the car and the pressure stabilized before we could get out.
The gas pumps at the corner station began bubbling up, turning the water so black you couldn’t see your hand just two inches under the surface. An elderly man, trapped in his car, didn’t want to leave. Plodding through chest deep water, my passenger and I managed to get his door open and help him slog back to safety.
Everyone caught in that mess experienced a loss, but it is nothing compared to Katrina.
The second time I used my father’s sage advice came when I moved to Texas. In the bottom tip of the tornado belt, I knew what to do when the sky turned an ominous shade of green, the clouds started rotating above my head, and where to seek shelter to maximize my potential for living. It was in those few moments, when the doors and windows rattled and I imagined that my new house would be reduced to kindling around me, that all my priorities changed…forever.
The folks in Louisiana and Mississippi experienced wide scale devastation during Katrina. New Orleans, and other parts of the coast, experienced a second, even more devastating blow from the horrible flooding. One is bad enough, but both? It’s a catastrophe beyond comprehension, and our fellow Americans need our compassion, our generosity, and our understanding as they rebuild their entire lives.
We should be coming together, as we did after other catastrophic events in the last decade, to help and heal.
Sadly, that is not the case.
What I find astonishing is the almost immediate response from Bush Bashers to blame everything that happened, from the actual hurricane itself, to the anarchy that quickly erupted, on the President and his administration. When they do so, they not only distort the truth, they outright lie to the public, and they are doing so daily through any media venue that will give them the opportunity.
Lie #1: President Bush doesn’t care about the people of New Orleans.
This outrageous lie is thoroughly debunked by the fact that it was President Bush who pushed for a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans.(1) Governor Blanco issued only a voluntary evacuation order, but admitted that she received a call from the President on August 27, 2005, urging her to make it a mandatory one. He wanted as many people as possible out of the path of the storm.
So much for the President not caring.
Despite the fact that New Orlean’s own Emergency Response Guidelines call for a mandatory evacuation of the City if a strike by a Category 3 Hurricane is projected, with 72 hours advance notice to all residents, Mayor Nagin didn’t order a mandatory evaluation until Sunday. Further, he only did so after Max Maxfield, the National Hurricane Director, called Nagin at his home to plead that he empty the City. (2)
Why did Nagin wait so long? He was worried about the legalities. If people want to affix blame, perhaps they can look at lawyers.
How ironic, that The Drudge Report (3) and Free Republic (4) have pictures of dozens of New Orleans’ submerged and now useless school buses, buses that could have been used to transport residents out of the City prior to the storm, bring in supplies after the storm, and help evacuees escape the flooding. Meanwhile, Governor Blanco issued a request to the State of Louisiana to provide her with buses from local school districts.
According to a Washington Post report on Sunday, September 4, “Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.”
Bush’s offer to have the federal government aid in the evacuation was rejected. (5)
Lie #2: The Bush Administration was slow in coordinating help.
Mike Brown, Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Response and Preparedness, received the order from President Bush on August 27, two full days before the storm hit the region, to prepare for Katrina disaster relief. (6) The President also declared the entire region under a State of Emergency, so that FEMA could coordinate efforts at the request of the Governors. (7) Under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the Federal Government and FEMA are not allowed to interfere with local operations unless they are authorized by state and local leaders.
Blanco did not authorize this until September 1, 2005.
Further, according to an Association Press report on August 30, “The federal government began rushing baby formula, communications equipment, generators, water and ice into hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with doctors, nurses and first-aid supplies. The U.S. Defense Department sent experts to help with search-and-rescue operations.” (8) FEMA was there and helping, in the capacity that was allowed by local officials, but could not swing into full gear until after Blanco gave them permission.
Lie #3: The Bush Administration did nothing to control the anarchy.
The local and state governments have control over law enforcement activities in their state, and such activities could only be coordinated through the federal government with their permission. It was not until terrible reports of rapes and violence, videos of looting, and reports of shoots being fired at rescue workers did Governor Blanco relinquish any claim of control on an out-of-control city.
An August 31, 2005 Fox News Report reveals, “The looting prompted authorities to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city. One police officer was shot in the head by a looter but was expected to recover, authorities said. Blanco said she will ask President Bush for military troops to help keep looting under control.” (9) Almost immediately thereafter, FEMA, the military, and the Bush Administration began to restore order.
Further, on September 2, 2005, the Bush administration “sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law.” (10)
Lie #4: The Bush Administration did nothing to prevent the flooding.
Predictions of wide spread devastation have been known since Hurricane Camille in 1969. Despite these, it was local officials who reportedly appropriated funds designated for levee improvements towards such necessary purchases as a casino, hotel, and other projects.
Amazing, isn’t it?
From the carnage inside the Superdome, to the massacre of the truth on television, this is a sad time for all of America.
Just don’t forget who helped all this to happen….because despite what the media wants you to believe, it wasn’t President Bush.
Linda Prussen-Razzano is frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and a number of other online magazines.
1. Associated Press, “Mandatory Evacuation Ordered for New Orleans,” August 28, 2005, 10:48 a.m. CT.
2. Knight Ridder Newspapers, “National Hurricane Director had to call Nagin at home Saturday night to plead: "Get people out..." by Marc Caputo, David Ovalle, and Erika Bolstad, August 28, 2005
5. Washington Post, “Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting, White House Shifts Blame to State and Local Officials,” Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writers, Sunday, September 4, 2005; Page A01
6. FEMA Press Release, “Emergency Aid Authorized For Katrina Emergency Response In LA” August 27, 2005
7. Associated Press, “Bush Declares Emergency in Louisiana,” August 27, 2005
8. Associated Press, “Federal Government sent emergency supplies to Louisiana as early as Tuesday,” August 30, 2005
9. Fox News.com, “It’s Not Safe In New Orleans,” August 31, 2005
10. Washington Post, Ibid
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