Is the President in charge or not? Where does the buck stop? Political appointees without emergency management experience do not belond at the top of the nation’s premier and primary agency. Read: A disturbing view from inside FEMA – Sep 17, 2005.
Month: September 2005
Evacuee vs Refugee
The choice of "evacuee" over "refugee" is interesting in its portrayal of short-term displacement from some emergency situation. Also, as one humorist noted, "refugee" implies a place of refuge.
The ability of this Administration to spin the media is outstanding and further demonstrates how GW truly deserves the title Teflon President.
Just as "insurgents" are not rebels, "terrorists" are not militia, the
ability to manipulate the nouns distorts the reality to the public, and
apparently to the Administration themselves as they drink their own
The poor (literally, unfortunately) people of New Orleans are
refugees from a natural disaster, just as the people of Sri Lanka were
after the Tsunami.
It is good the press is finally starting to question the
Administration on their handling, on this the fourth anniversary of
9/11. Are we really any safer? Does the color-coded
fantasy warning system really portend anything? Does the Administration
really allow the most effective people within the intelligence and
military ranks do their job to protect us? Are the priorities of the
Administration properly aligned with the realities of our contemporary
threat environment, which, incidently Mssrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and
Chertoff, include natural attacks with WMDs? The answer is clearly no
on all counts (we should not need foreign troops on our soil to help us recover) and hopefully the Fourth Estate stands up and recalls their responsibility.
From David Ignatius in the Washington Post (or Lebanon’s Daily Star to show "outsiders" are reading this too):
The Bush administration, meanwhile, remains in its hunkered-down
defensive crouch, with White House spokesman Scott McClellan treating
any demand for accountability as a partisan "blame game." It’s
outrageous to read that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
has been telling members of Congress that media reports are overstating
the problems for storm survivors — this from a man who was denying on
National Public Radio last Thursday that there was any crisis at the
New Orleans convention center at the very hour reporters were finding
dead bodies and abandoned, starving people there. If the administration
maintains that tone, it will self-destruct.
Tell me again, where does the buck stop? This President is so disconnected from reality ("Brownie, you’re doing one heck of a job") it is beyond frightening. Four years after 9/11 and it is very hard to believe people think were are safer. At the very least, perhaps people are starting to come around, as Newt Gingrich wrote and as a poll by Foreign Affairs indicates.
Now reconsider this in the context of Iraq and counter-insurgency.
Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan
The extreme lack to comprehend the value of public diplomacy, soft power, and the (apparently quaint) concept of action-reaction of the current GW Administration has been emphasized in "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations". As the Washington Post writes in Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan:
A [White House] spokesman said the United States would "respond with overwhelming force" to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its forces or allies, and said "all options" would be available to the president.
Diplomatic finesse, including a real respect for regional beliefs and political freedoms, and strengthening economic foundations of states and regions are completely absent from nearly every bit of communication from this Administration. Practical application of our cultural and economic power to strengthen our country and not the top leadership and their cronies has been replaced by the ignorance the facts ("what has Brownie done wrong?").
Is a bigger stick the real path to making the world safer? Did that work in the school yard? Will it work with people driven to extremes from financial hardships (both domestically and foreign that are apparently invisible to the Administration)? Wake-up and smell the home-brewed explosives symbolizing McVeigh and Osama bin Laden opportunists and undermine their support. The failure to complete the mission in Afghanistan has resulted in handing over a volitile region to the enemy. The failure to properly execute the mission (which was what again?) in Iraq and follow through the appropriate clean-up toward ‘state-building’ is handing over a volitile region to the enemy.
What does this doctrine really solve? Does it help with Latin American super-gangs (also the result of economic desperation and disparity)? Did the legal prosecutions of the first World Trade Center bombers really deter anybody, as the prosecutor claimed when announcing the indictments?
Ah, but who am I really speaking to? The choir or empty cyberspace? Probably the latter…
Powell’s “painful blot”
In a Barbara Walter’s interview, written up on the Telegraph (The Daily Telegraph’s online newspaper):
Asked whether the statement about WMD tarnished his reputation, [Powell] responded: "Of course it will. It’s a blot. I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now."
"[CIA Chief Tenet] didn’t sit there for five days with me misleading me. He believed
what he was giving me was accurate…the intelligence system did not work
well," Mr Powell said.
FEMA and President Bush
Bush, the supreme CEO of the United States of America and especially of the agencies within the Executive branch, placed Mike Brown as head of FEMA through the political favors system.
In days passed by, conspiracy theorists loved to talk about FEMA’s black helicopters and their the future when a make-believe disaster occurred. This would be, according to these folk, the time FEMA would take over the US and a secret cabal of gentlemen would be another step closer to ruling the world.
Alas, President Bush has disproven that theory with his appointment of Mike Brown.
Link: Defense Tech: FEMA Chief’s Sorry Past.
From the Boston Herald:
Brown – formerly an estates and family lawyer –
this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including
interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and
desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.
joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the
commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse
Association, a breeders’ and horse-show organization based in Colorado.
do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold
classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep
records,” explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner’s office. "This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,” she added.
Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.
"He was asked to resign,” Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.
For those wanting to whitewash the Administration’s failure to lead, direct, and support, consider this:
Infrastructure has been one of the lowest priorities of this
Administration. Local officials have been trying for decades to shore
up the levees.
- Local planning for a Katrina-like disaster was in the tabletop
stages. It was not unforeseen. Chertoff’s attempted excuse that an
exact response was not laid out is not valid because they cannot come
with every possible response but must have a toolbox. However, it was
foreseen and the storm had been building and was not all-of-a-sudden.
- FEMA had been feared because of its ability to quickly mobilize and
supercede all laws, etc. What happened? Where is the leadership from
the President? No, he is not a God like some flippant post, but he has
the responsibility to make sure the people in charge are responsible.
What happened to "The Buck Stops Here"? This President is the real
TEFLON President with his ability to dodge criticism. It is his agency,
just like the intelligence services (congressional purse strings or
not) operate for and at the whim of the President. Congressional
oversight is *oversight*. FEMA is Bush’s responsibility.
- Who did Bush put in charge of FEMA, a critical domestic component of Homeland Security?
This was a WMD attack, only by mother nature, not by man. the
response is woefully inadequate no matter how you slice it. Ultimately,
Homeland Security is not, must not be about manmade attacks.
Going beyond budget debates, consider the actualities and realities.
Stories of red tape and failure to respond properly, effectively, or at all, including
local officials bearing arms to prevent FEMA from interferring. Bush, as CEO, as President, puts together his management team to implement his policies. At what point will the blame rest with him? Where does that buck stop again?
The lack of focus on real threats (terrorist, natural, etc) is a core issue here. Focus people. How many days does it take to
respond? How quickly did the President respond to Terry Schiavo and how quickly did he respond to the hurricane? Not directly comparable, but consider what must have been his assumptions. In the Schiavo case, he had to rely on himself. In the hurricane, he figured he could rely on others. Others that he appointed. This includes Brown and it most definitely includes Chertoff.
The "you’re on your own" argument some have put forward to dismiss the response because people didn’t get out of the way is a whitewash, an attempt to obfuscate the issue. This was a WMD attack WITH WARNING and you’re on your own? I
live in Los Angeles, which is likely terrorist target, was a likely
Soviet target, and I’m on my own, right?
The core of the issue is the
RESPONSE, not the prevention. Stay on focus here and follow who is
supposed to react and respond to help the good citizens. Nobody? Let
them linger until somebody gets around to letting the mobile hospital
have permission (all while they are trying to get on location but
can’t)? Let them feel they’ll be rescued while nothing substantial is
really done and chiefs (Mr Brown and Chertoff, etc) talk about how it
wasn’t foreseen when it was in the process of a table top exercise?
While they talk about how a plan wasn’t ready therefore they couldn’t
be responsible for not reacting?
Consider the next time you need emergency
services (fire, police, hospital) and consider if they slow their
response because they hadn’t planned on YOU having to need their
assistance or that you YOU hadn’t filled out the forms or that YOU
should not have been where you where and got injured by your own fault
or somebody elses or if your house caught on fire or… pick a
This is not
about warning civilians and how poor or rich people got away or didn’t or should have or could have. The issue here is
culpability and responsibility for responding to a disaster, man-made
or otherwise, to protect the citizens and infrastructure of our great land. The infrastructure that was damaged is not just the French Quarter, but important oil and natural gas and agricultural terminals the entire country depends on.
It is almost guaranteed that blame could be spread to local and state agencies, but let’s not let the focus be lost. The Feds have the greatest ability to respond and have promised through the magic color board to protect us. Some Some
agencies where hindered and some just moved slowly, or not at all. Others, like the ASPCA and related pet organizations, were
on the ball building on experience from the last hurricane to setup coordinated
Finally people are starting to see the colors of this Administration and their failure to really protect. Unfortunately, it took massive destruction and incurring the jibes of the world, but it happened. Now, let’s not lose the momentum. People, you must remember Katrina.