The Bush administration's indifference to governance (as opposed to politics) has allowed thousands to die who could have been saved.
I say this will full knowledge that there are still people needing rescue, that thousands if not tens of thousands of bodies still lie undiscovered, that the suffering of those that have escaped will continue for years and that the destruction of a great American city is a calamity that we can barely begin to imagine.
But it needs to be said, starting now, and for as long as it takes, because the Bush spin machine has already started its disinformation campaign, and they certainly won't wait till the wounds are healed to start rewriting history.
Clearly, the idea is to blame it on the locals. There have already been planted stories by "anonymous white house officials" claiming that Governor Blanco never got around to declaring a state of emergency, hampering federal involvement. She declared a state of emergency on August 26, when it was clear that Katrina was going to be big.
They are claiming that federal involvement in a disaster is some kind of elaborate, delicate legal dance wherein all the tees have to be crossed or they are powerless to act. The government's own strategy papers make it clear that the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are tasked with providing command and control, as well as material aid and personnel in the event of a large scale disaster.
There is, still, an aircraft carrier, the USS Bataan, docked off shore, and which has been there since Katrina made landfall. They have helicopters, food, water, hospital beds and doctors. They are still waiting to be asked to help. This is NorthCom Lt. Commander Sean Kelly explaining that the military was ready, but the call never came from the commander-in-chief:
"Northcom started planning before the storm even hit. We were ready when it hit Florida, because, as you remember, it hit the bottom part of Florida, and then we were planning once it was pointed towards the Gulf Coast.
"So, what we did, we activated what we call 'defense coordinating officers' to work with the states to say, 'OK, what do you think you will need?' And we set up staging bases that could be started. We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready. The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission."
It is becoming apparent that to the extent FEMA was on the ground, they made things worse, by not allowing aid in or people out. I have no idea what the thinking there was. Apparently, in the case of not allowing in the Red Cross, FEMA was of the opinion that bringing food into NO would slow the process of getting people out.
We all know that the head of FEMA is a political hack with no experience and who seems to remain almost eerily clueless, but what does that say about the man who appointed him to this critical position?
The Director of Homeland Security has made it a habit to hold press conferences where he says things that anybody with basic cable knows are simply false, as if he were inhabiting a sealed bunker somewhere where no bad news is allowed to penetrate.
We know how the Bush admin can spin. We know that they won't hesitate to put forward bald faced lies, over and over again. The difference is that this time the results of their incompetence are in our own back yard, instead of thousands of miles away. We can see with our own eyes the gulf between their talking points and reality, and we don't have layers of "embedded" reporters and translators and "experts' between us and the truth.
This isn't about ideology. This is about the basic competence to deliver on the functionality of the federal government. This is about people who think that government is the problem, and that tax cuts and gutting programs and filling positions with like minded flunkies is the solution.
And now we see the results. This is personal responsibility writ large. This is the United States of America saying "tough shit, you should have planned better for a rainy day, don't expect the nanny state to bail you out".
The only people they know how to save are themselves. The only damage they can mitigate is political.
Is this really the country any of us want to live in?