September 1, 2005

"What is going on in the United States?

James Ridgeway writes in the Village Voice:
Why won’t Bush take decisive action in the Hurricane Katrina disaster and send in the military? He has control of the world’s mightiest military machine—thousands of planes, trucks, boats, expertly trained men and women. Where are these people? How can the National Guard be so close to providing help, as the public is told, yet still there are people dying on the sidewalks of a major city?

No excuses. Just do it. I'm tired of the talk. It's all very nice that people are raising money, but the military should be there, saving lives. What is going on?
Fights and trash fires broke out at the hot and stinking Superdome and anger and unrest mounted across New Orleans on Thursday, as National Guardsmen in armored vehicles poured in to help restore order across the increasingly lawless and desperate city.

An additional 10,000 National Guard troops from across the country were ordered into the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to shore up security, rescue and relief operations in Katrina's wake as looting, shootings, gunfire, carjackings and other lawlessness spread.

That brought the number of troops dedicated to the effort to more than 28,000, in what may be the biggest military response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.

Where are they? People are dying!


PatCA said...

Ann, I agree with you completely! 30 people have died in the Superdome already. There's even trouble now in Baton Rouge. Why didn't the mayor plan for this when he had weak levees?

Again this afternoon I heard the military say it's not martial law but only aiding the local police. Have politicians become such moral cowards that they can't police a city, whether Baghdad or NO? Drop leaflets, send troops in with guns.

Brendan said...

Well, even the highly successful Berlin Airlift took time to get up and running. The dispossessed are being evacuated from the Superdome (en route to Houston) as we speak, so it's not as if people are sitting on their hands. And I have to believe that the initial attempts to help people have been hurt by maniacs shooting at helicopters and hospitals. A-holes taking advantage of the situation is what's going on. Water and supplies and busses are arriving but it takes time to navigate that area.

Plenty of Guard troops from all over the country are en route as I
type this. As is a naval ship. All told some 50k+ troops are being
deployed to Louisiana. I'd also like to know what the skill set is of oft-mentioned 3000 NG who are deployed overseas. I'm pretty sure they aren't all military police or water damage experts. It's not like the entirety of LA. National Guard is being deployed to the situation.
Only those with specific specialties that will be of help.

Sloanasaurus said...

The whining is unprecedented.

Send in the Marines and hope they are not trigger happy.

Smilin' Jack said...

Damn right...this is a national disaster that will affect us all, and Bush needs to get on top of it now. NO is begining to resemble Baghdad. By now the skies over the city should have been black with C-130s dropping supplies and paratroopers to keep order.

Jennifer said...

Dropping paratroopers to do what? You folks are showing a real lack of understanding of the military. Just like 10,000 random civilians wouldn't necessarily be all that helpful, the same is so with random soldiers.

You need soldiers with specific MOS's and relevant skills. Military police would be very helpful. Amphibious rescue teams would be very helpful. Medics would be very helpful. Transporation batallions would be very helpful. An air defense brigade would have no more idea of how to deal with a crowd of looters than you or I. Nor could they pilot boats or helicopters.

The military is moving the necessary soldiers in as we speak. It takes a wee bit of time, you know. They can't pluck a soldier out of bed in the middle of the night and move his entire unit to LA in a few hours. You have to give them time to gather their TA-50, their vehicles, organize transportation to the affected areas and then effect said transportation. Unless they are mobilizing Concordes, it takes some time to move across the country. Particularly with heavy equipment.

In the meantime, why is it the federal governments fault that people are behaving like animals? Who could have guessed the city would degenerate into roving bands of armed thugs, shooting at medevac helicopters, breaking into hospitals and endangering patients, starting fires and fights outside of the Superdome etc. in a few short days? For god's sake, it took the boys in Lord of the Flies a lot longer than that.

Ann Althouse said...

Time?! The hurricane was Monday. It's Thursday! People don't have water. It's not just looting. It's anarchy, with rescued abandoned because of shooting at the rescuers. Intolerable! What does it say that we leave our own people in this condition?

John Thacker said...

Where are they? People are dying!

You mean the military as opposed to the National Guard? Would not the Posse Comitatus Act hold, absent a formal request by the Governor of Louisiana (or the Legislature, but the Governor will suffice in cases like this)? Several reports say that Gov. Blanco has not asked for the official military. The official request would be pursuant to Article 4, Section 4 of the Consitution: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

That would seem to clearly take care of the Constitutional requirement of the Posse Comitatus Act, but it would require the Governor of Louisiana to request the military. Doesn't apply to the National Guard, though.

rgmb said...

Not to take anything away from those in horrible conditions in NO, but this makes me ponder our ability to handle ANY disaster with our dwindling NG resources. What if a disaster of this type or magnitude were to hit a larger city like Chicago, LA, or New York (again, but worse)? I'm losing faith and have immense empathy for all NOs.

Jennifer said...

What makes you think we are leaving them? The hurricane may have been Monday but things didn't get bad until Tuesday, after the levees broke.

48 hours is a ridiculously short period of time when you are talking about mobilizing thousands of soldiers and their equipment. 24 hours is the quickest time period a Special Forces unit ON RED CYCLE(meaning ready to go at any time) can possibly move - and that's MOVE. Not REACH their destination. And they generally can't even do that.

Add to that the time you need to get the response organized through the proper channels, and the fact that soldiers ARE descending on New Orleans as we speak, and I don't understand what the complaint is.

We live in a digital world where we expect results in nanoseconds. The military isn't capable of that.

John Thacker said...

What does it say that we leave our own people in this condition?

It says, among other things, that various authorities (and it seems mostly state and local, since the national guard seems to be only aiding the police since martial law has not actually been declared) are unwilling to use the force necessary to restore order in the face of rioting at a level that they clearly didn't expect.

John Thacker said...

The hurricane was Monday. It's Thursday!

Yes, but the levees didn't break immediately. Remember how even quite a few newspaper headlines rejoiced that New Orleans had been mostly spared, and that it wasn't that bad? Just like a lot of residents of New Orleans, it seems that many authorities convinced themselves that it wasn't that bad, and then it suddenly got a lot worse very quickly.

John Thacker said...

Just saw a report that Gov. Blanco is now officially asking for federal troops.

Charlie Eklund said...

I just heard from a reliable source that the Oklahoma National Guard is not deploying to Louisiana until Sunday. That puts them in New Orleans no earlier than after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning.

If the Oklahoma Guard is deploying so late, it is reasonable to assume that the other state Guard units are deploying in a similarly
untimely fashion.

Why the delay? Who knows? More to the point...who's responsible?

Ann Althouse said...

True, the levee breaks were on Tuesday, but the potential for that to happen was known and, indeed, that the hurricane was coming was known days in advance. I expect better from the government. The most vulnerable people were left at terrible risk.

Bruce Hayden said...

You can find the meat of the Posse Comitatus Act at 18 USC 1385. It would seem to allow the regular military to aid in relief efforts, but not to participate in law enforcement - such as the prevention of looting, etc.

Jennifer said...

Why the delay?

Charlie: Who knows for sure? But I can tell you that these units just aren't capable of deploying all that quickly.

They need time to prepare their vehicles to deployable status. Even just filling each of their vehicles up with gas is a time consuming effort when you consider how many vehicles a heavy battalion has.

Each of the troops needs time to gather their own TA-50.

Units have to process through their arms rooms - with soldiers each pulling their weapons one at a time. For a battalion sized element - that could take an entire day. They don't just hand them out as you get on the bus.

They probably have supply clerks scrambling to amass the proper amounts of whatever that particular battalion requires - medical supplies for medics, ammunition and law enforcement equipment for MPs, etc.

I'm no expert. A soldier could probably give you another dozen things that need to be done before they could go.

Despite popular opinion, soldiers aren't just always ready to go. That isn't the way our military is currently set up.

I remember asking my husband what would happen if terrorists just started parachuting onto our base. His short answer - we'd be screwed. The weapons are all locked up in the arms room. Only a few people have access to that room. The ammunition is all secured at the ammunition depot on another base - just across the highway from us. But still.

Robert said...

People don't have water. It's not just looting. It's anarchy, with rescued abandoned because of shooting at the rescuers. Intolerable! What does it say that we leave our own people in this condition?

It says that we don't have magical powers. What do you want the federal government to do? As noted, the state governor hasn't asked for the military to step in. Does federalism only count when its federalism we like? Even if they had, it takes time. You are outraged that it's been three whole days since the hurricane and people are suffering. Well, yes, they are - as opposed to other natural disasters when everything is back to normal in three days? What natural disaster do you have in mind?

A 200-mile wide stretch of countryside has been utterly trashed. It takes weeks and months to dig out from that kind of nightmare, not days. And most of the digging has to be done by the people who live there, not by rescuers.

People are acting as if ten square blocks of downtown New Orleans were damaged, and the rest of the infrastructure is all there, ready to go with rescue operations. It isn't. Louisiana is a mess, and a lot more people are going to suffer and die, and yelling at the federal government for not having a fleet of miracle-wielding genies on call 24/7 is not productive.

Brent said...

I agree with Jennifer - what do you people think should have been done differently?

I always raised my children and students to:

1)- realize that the news is only a snapshot of what is going on - things may be worse (e.g. coverage of Katrina on Monday) or better (e.g. current coverage of the entire nation of Iraq) than what anyone else is "informing" them of, and

2)- find despicable the analysis of anyone who nit-picks and complains about the humanitarian efforts of others (including the government's) before those efforts are fully underway. Fault-finding and anger does not equal a greater level of compassion. The New York Times reached a low-point, un-American I believe, with their lead editorial today written along the same lines.

Sounds like them liberals in town are gittin to ya, Ann. It sounds like "the other side" (Daily Kos)that you despised in a post below.

Please follow the lead of Hugh Hewitt and many other bloggers and use your great and wide level of readership to point the way to help.

Ann Althouse said...

Robert: Even if they can't do everything instantly, they need to make a better show of moving things in the right direction. People are going crazy waiting. I can't imagine even going without water in the heat for three days, but not to know when the situation was going to end, while violence breaks out around you, and you're trapped by water and where it's pitch black at night? And what is Bush doing? Getting his father and Bill Clinton to try to raise money? That's pathetic. The government needs to act quickly in a situation like this.

F15C said...

The situation in the Gulf area is horrendous, and we all want our fellow Americans helped as soon as possible. But we also have to be realistic about things. As has been noted, disaster response takes time, and even the quickest of significant response efforts is measured in days in terms of arrival and beginning of efforts.

The looting and thuggery must be controlled before sending in significant numbers of rescuers and aid workers who will be unarmed and unprotected. The police and national guard (and military if necessary) must unfortunately be authorized to use discretionary lethal force to restore order or there will be even greater chaos as aid workers are attacked, hurt, and potentially killed.

And regarding Sloanasaurus: "The whining is unprecedented. Send in the Marines and hope they are not trigger happy."

The comment above is despicable, and beneath contempt especially at at a time like this. We may not know who Sloanasaurus is, but we do know what Sloanasauris is...

Ann Althouse said...

Brent: I'm just watching the news, mostly on CNN. No one is getting to me. This is my plain reaction. I blame the city and the state more than the federal government here, but the federal government needs to move in. If the governor is in some way preventing that, it's despicable.

PatCA said...

It's not the military's fault or the relief workers' fault--it's the mayor and governor, IMO. When the mayor knows that a Cat 5 storm is bound to break a Cat 3 levee, why didnt the mayor have a plan? And why isn't he or some other political leader in a public place appealing for calm and telling people where the food and water is instead of talking to US on TV? and I'm sick of Blanco's tears and all the "on message" BS.

In addition, every situation historically where a power vacuum exists, looting results. Baghdad is just the latest example. NO is a high crime city. They should have known. I am fed up!

AJ Lynch said...

You are spot on! This is like a small drill for a dirty bomb that I hope never hits a larger city. And it appears we are not handling Nawlins well.

Let's agree you can't see the future, but can't we afford (in a $2 Trillion federal budget) to pay for an ever-ready emergency response team of 10,000 or so specialists to respond to events like this?

Ann Althouse said...

"Please follow the lead of Hugh Hewitt and many other bloggers and use your great and wide level of readership to point the way to help."

What's that supposed to mean? Everyone knows how to make donations. Fine. Do that. But don't just pat yourself on the back about how good that it and how wonderful blogging is for pointing to the Red Cross or whatever smaller charity is favored. There's a reason we pay taxes. There are some things government is responsible to do. Keeping basic order and rescuing trapped citizens are obviously two of those things.

Lars said...

Federal relief efforts for Katrina:

You think this should have been all martialed and ready to go at a moment's notice?

We all know the big one is coming to SoCal someday relatively soon. Should we have resources (human and material) and detailed, up-to-date contingency plans available immediately for when H-hour arrives? Should we pre-emptively and forcibly evacuate SoCal now to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths at the unknown future time?

Afterall, people will be dying.

ploopusgirl said...

The delay in a massive response is despicable. The government knew this hurricane was coming and they knew the precarious position that New Orleans was in with its being shaped like a bowl. It is indeed frightening to think about the government's apparent inability to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. In total damage, this is worse than September 11th, but September 11th should have prepared us for something, anything, like this.

Also despicable? Most of you people's total disregard for any and all mistakes made by or simple neglect offered by this administration. They should absolutely be held accountable for how long it's taking to respond to this disaster. Yes, Louisiana state should be handling this as well; however, I don't think Louisiana state has either the finances or resources that the US government does.

Ann Althouse said...

Lars: The hurricane's path was known days in advance. I'm not saying everything must be done instantly or perfectly. You're setting up a straw man.

We need much more activity coming from the White House, now.

Jennifer said...

Alright, ploopus girl, I officially give up. You are absolutely right. Were it not for the "mistakes made by or simple neglect offered by this administration" that you point out, the military could certainly have been activated and deployed faster than humanly possible. I relinquish my formerly despicable realism.

Jennifer said...

Ann: You're probably right. "[M]uch more activity coming from the White House, now." would likely at least make people feel better and that may be worth something.

I disagree that it would accomplish any more than is currently being done. But, perception, after all, is everything.

Art said...

Go back and read the archive on Katrina on the National Hurricaine Center Website.

By the 11 PM discussion Friday Night the forecast included this phrase. "It's hard to imagine a more perfect set of circumstances for rapid intensification" .
Phrases like "throwing high octane gasoline on a fire" were included. The storm track was already shifting to the west.
By Saturday morning New Orleans was in the bulls eye.

Even if you were willing to blow off the predictions of strategic planners, there's no way you should have been surprised by what happened on Monday morning.

Smilin' Jack said...

Jennifer said...
Dropping paratroopers to do what? You folks are showing a real lack of understanding of the military. Just like 10,000 random civilians wouldn't necessarily be all that helpful, the same is so with random soldiers.

Wrong. If you're a looter armed with a pistol or shotgun, and you're confronted by a platoon of soldiers armed with M16s, you're not going to know or care what their training're just going to drop your weapons and do what they tell you. That's what needs to be happening now.

And regardless of how long it takes to mobilize soldiers, it doesn't take long to mobilize supplies. The Superdome should be buried under airdropped food and water by now.

Jennifer said...

If you're a looter armed with a pistol or shotgun, and you're confronted by a platoon of soldiers armed with M16s, you're not going to know or care what their training is.

Right, and after it was all over, and a bunch of soldiers who didn't know what the hell they were doing shot a few too many people, that would be acceptable to you right?

You wouldn't be complaining that if they had just waited one more day, soldiers who were properly trained could have been there to deal with things the right way?

That it was irresponsible to send in untrained troops to deal with an explosive situation?

Regardless, you completely ignore what I've pointed out about the fact that it takes a while to deploy any military unit.

Jennifer said...

And regardless of how long it takes to mobilize soldiers, it doesn't take long to mobilize supplies. The Superdome should be buried under airdropped food and water by now.

It actually does take a while to mobilize supplies, because they don't organize and transport themselves.

In addition, dropping pallets of food and water onto small dry areas where people are clustered seems a little dangerous to me. And, of course, dropping it into the water would be rather futile.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Read this again, folks:

It says that we don't have magical powers.

Not even George W Bush. People were being warned about the possibilities days in advance: why didn't they leave? Because they made a bet that it wouldn't really happen, like the last half-dozen times. They lost the bet.

Why wasn't the National Guard there? Well, actually it was, who do you think was manning the Superdome? Why didn't they mobilize more of it? because when you mobilize tens of thousands of NG, yiou are taking a whole bunch of people with their own lives to live aqnd families to care for, and drag them away from that. Historically, we tend not to do that until we know it's needed, not just when we think it might be needed.

Why wasn't the Navy there with assistance? Becuase hurricanes are big, and ships are little, and when you see a force 5 hurricane coming you and your ship run away. Even the Navy: sinking an aircraft carrier wouldn't do the people in NO any good.

Why aren't the Army and the National Guard helping prvent looting? Besides little legal details like posse comitatus, the fact is that infantry training consists of two basic operations: (1) kill people; (2) blow shit up. Skip over to some of the "shoot to kill order" threads and see how well that would go down.

Now read it again: We don't have magical powers.

Sometimes bad shit just happens.

MD said...

So, from what I'm reading, the Lousiana National Guard has about 8000 troops (3000) in Iraq. The governor calls them up, different from the military (federal)? Jennifer probably knows. The DOD website has the numbers of troops already along the whole Gulf, I think it's like 10-15,000 but I read it quickly, so that may not be accurate. Anyway, it would be nice if we could know all the things that are going on because I think there is a lot of the story we are not getting (because it's hard to cover these things, I'm not blaming the reporters).

I think once the orders were given, people were moving as fast as they possibly could; probably the governor should have requested this stuff much much earlier, but I'm sure she realizes it now. Once the city was ordered to evacuate, perhaps at that point she could have notified the Guard to get ready? Is that reasonable, or does someone who knows more about this think that wasn't viable?

If we drop packages or food, is there a possibility people could riot and stampede? Very difficult situation for the authorities. Very difficult.

And I wonder just exactly how you do an airlift - what are the logistics? First you would need to put in the troops to keep order, right, which would take time. Then you would have to make sure you knew where you could take them and drop them off. Then you would have to organize them and get them into some semblance of order so not rushing or stampeding. I'm guessing all this, I don't know. Anyone else?

ploopusgirl said...

Oh, Jennifer, you're my favorite apologist. I just hope the next time you're in need of emergency care it doesn't take them days to mobilize and prepare to help you out, since everything is such a surprise and difficult to respond to... now... in 2005.

Mary said...

Last night I spent some time reading boxes of local newspapers I had saved after Hurrican Andrew hit Florida in 1992. After a few days, the lack of response time there was criticized too. (And later, the building codes and workmanship on newer houses were examined and found faulty. Standards were upgraded). President Bush, you may recall, lost the election later that year.

Personally, I've never had much confidence in this president, as he was never really "tested" and nothing in his past business, military or political career impressed me. His handling of the Mideast "peace process" should be questioned every step of the way, and should have been questioned long, long ago. That's not Monday morning quarterbacking, that's evaluation of the facts. As the ultimate leader, you bear responsibility for the results of your decisions.

Unfortunately, this cheerleader president has many cheerleaders of his own, and thoughtful dissent is no longer encouraged or permitted, in many cases. He has been given a free pass, no criticism allowed.

I'm glad you're watching your tv and having these thoughts. Where DOES the buck end in our country anymore? Sure, Bush is cute and charming, funny, and all that, but presidential leadership? For ALL the people?

Maybe you're just now seeing how the poorer of our citizens will fare if the "just looking out for my buddies at the top" mentality stands. It's not pretty for anyone, but surely you can't say you didn't see this coming? Next time, let's elect a real LEADER for the job...

Jennifer said...

Ploopusgirl, my husband is IN the military. EVERYTHING takes them forever to respond to. Its a fact of my daily life.

For god's sake, the last time we had a major storm here on our base (with trampolines blowing up onto people's houses, trees falling, etc...) they didn't even release my husband to come home. He belongs to you all more than me. So, I'm quite certain I would be waiting for days if not ever for help in the next emergency.

They are currently trying to move to smaller, more rapidly deployable units with wider skill sets. I think its a good idea. But we're nowhere near there yet.

If you really want massive numbers of troops ready to mobilize on a moments notice at all times, surely you are all about funding the military and giving it operational freedom, right?

Mary said...

Not that you asked "my" advice, but you and your readers might consider turning off your tv/computer tonight, and going out into your communities and finding a way, even a small way, that you can work and help to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate in your community. Volunteering is a beautiful thing, and that old poem about "learning to accept the things we cannot change, but working to change the things we can" applies here.

There's also the bit about the benefits of lighting one small candle vs. cursing the darkness... Just a thought. cheers.

peter hoh said...

Despite all the money that's been spent on homeland security, we seem rather unprepared at the local and state level. What makes this more troubling, however, is that this event was one of the three most likely disaster scenarios identified by FEMA in early 2001.

At least we've kept knitting needles and nail clippers off the airplanes.

I'm not suggesting that Bush is to blame. It's a failure of government, though.

We've had a system in place that everyone seems to like. Disaster strikes. The feds come in to set up temporary shelters or fill some other short-term need, and they dole out a lot of money for rebuilding. And often enough, they cover unisured losses.

Of course I don't expect every state to cover it's own losses from natural disasters, but I have to wonder if state and local governments feel the urge to be fully prepared. They can safely assume that the feds will always step in.

Katrina wasn't much different than any other big hurricane that has moved inland, but it struck a city with unique vunerabilities. And instead of beginning to dry out the next day, the situation got worse.

Local govenments need to take notice: the feds are not good at providing an immediate emergency response. But unless the public puts pressure on their local governments to have better emergency preparation, ain't nothin gonna happen.

Brent said...

I also spent last night reading archives of numerous papers regarding previous response times to disasters, and the complaints of "too long", "poor planning" are in every story, without exception.

So, Mary, Ann, et al . . ., here's the challenge to what we all need to do after this has been declared "handled":

Put your future efforts where your "mouth" now is:
1 - Write about the need for disaster preparedness in your blogs and comments AFTER this disaster leaves the front pages and TV screens.
2 - Hold our elected officials feet to the fire (We ARE the government, baby!)so that the issue doesn't "go away" this time.
3 - Discover your own community's disaster preparedness plans and raise local civic dialouge to the level that it involves your local leaders bugging and involving the next level up (county, state, feds.)

So Mary,and others, I will . . . will you?

"Some of course might feel that if we have a change of President, the government will take better care of us . . . after all, isn't that what government is for?"

Brent said...

Sorry, wrote my comment before your well written comment just above was read. . . well said.

Aaron said...

Didn't anyone else notice shots of rail lines being under water? The three closest airports were deluged with water, debris, and had no power. Biloxi airport just got operational again last night. It is not just getting the military ready to go it is also having transport capacity. Fixed wing aircraft are much more efficient in transporting massive amounts of supplies and personnel than rotary craft. Trains are better than trucks (who also have difficutly getting there). With rail and airports out of commision for the first day or so of the disaster there was going to be an upper limit of what could be done. The only thing I can really think of that might have gotten supplies in in significant amounts up till now would be if we airdropped them from airplanes a la Afghanistan. It would be impossible to coordinate that with people on the ground, much of it would be lost to the flood, and some poor folks in Afghanistan were literally killed by aid packages hitting them - but I suppose it still may have been a good idea.

Jennifer said...

"Some of course might feel that if we have a change of President, the government will take better care of us . . . after all, isn't that what government is for?"

Brent: I think that just about sums it up. I guess everybody has different ideas of what they are personally responsible for and what "big brother" should do for them.

Speaking as someone who grew up in an area that sees hurricanes and floods more often than most, I can't imagine allowing myself to be as unprepared as many people were.

You can make the argument that some people are too poor, and that is likely valid. But, I can assure you as a stay-at-home mom married to a specialist in the Army, we're hardly one of the elite.

And, it doesn't cost anything to fill up containers with water and pack things that you can take with you when you have warning of something coming down your path.

But, I'm also the kind of girl scout that (when we lived on the mainland) always had a box packed in the trunk in case of getting stuck in a snow storm.

I want to point out, though, that I don't disagree with some here that it would be nice if there was less suffering and more assistance. I just disagree that its the fault of a government CHOOSING not to act.

Bruce Hayden said...

Amplifying what Aaron just said, a poster elsewhere pointed out that if we just dumped a bunch of National Guard or Army, etc. in there, without their logistics "tail" in place, they would become refugees too in short order - but with presumably heavier weapons than the looters have.

In other words, you not only have to get them in there, but you have to provide them with everything it takes for them to live, including food, water, power, fuel, etc. And if you send them in before this is all in place, they will be indistinguishable from everyone else in short order.

jeff said...

I love this instant gratification society...

Where are the NOLA cops? Well, some are out looting, others are getting shot at.

Where is the Louisiana National Guard? Big state... wonder how much stuff they had to clear before they could even get to New Orleans... and that's after getting all their vehicles out (how many do they have? what type?) of wherever they were stashed to keep them from blowing away... NOLA wasn't the only part of the state hit of course.

Where is the Army?

In large bases, some distance away. And as for the dude (polite version chosen) who wants to drop the 82nd Airborne in there... man, read something on airborne operations. YOU DON'T DROP TROOPS ONTO CONCRETE OR BUILT UP AREAS. Not without losing a lot of them. Oh, and then you have to support those troops somehow... all of whom are entirely on foot. And NONE of whom have any law enforcement authority.

Oh... and is it just one or two cops that have been shot so far? And have been shooting at National Guardsmen?

So much for the gangbangers dropping their weapons and peeing their pants when confronted by authority.

gs said...

Jennifer wrote, " husband is IN the military. EVERYTHING takes them forever to respond to. Its a fact of my daily life. (Paragraph)For god's sake, the last time we had a major storm here on our base (with trampolines blowing up onto people's houses, trees falling, etc...) they didn't even release my husband to come home. He belongs to you all more than me."

Jennifer, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. Thank you for your husband, and for your service in supporting him in his service.

Ann: While I often do not agree with you, I bookmarked your blog near its inception out of respect for your calm restrained insightful common sense. I don't doubt that good intentions and human concern motivate your remarks about the postKatrina situation.

Aaron said...

Umm - Mary - what country are you living in? "Dissent is no longer permitted in many cases?" Name one case.

You may be glad that this disaster is making people question the President but frankly I don't want folks to politicize this. If anyone has a specific charge to make other than anguish over how horrible the whole thing is and that they wish it had been either prevented or corrected by now I haven't heard it. Anything else is grossly partisan politicking.

The idea that this is some fallout from class warfare is a strange proposition that you should support with some facts or examples otherwise I think you are acting like a vulture.

Government is bad at handling boring expensive problems that can be put off for a while. Like maintaining levies. Or rebuilding other offshore structures that offered storm protection after the last hurricane. This is because people in general put off things like this. The scale of this disaster is the product of decades of neglect.

I have a better idea for you. Rather than going out and discovering the wonder of volunteering to help the less fortunate why don't you go out and discover the wonder of preventive maintenance in your community? Or the wonder of laying up a few bottles of Iodine pills to make water potable in case of disaster. Make sure you and your neighbors keep a radio and some batteries around the house. Lay up some extra if you are worried about the poorer folks in your neighborhood. Or restocking the first aid kit at your local church, office or rec center. It would actually be more germaine to this disaster than your suggestion. I think helping the poor is very laudable but what it has to do with Hurricanes in America escapes me.

But you can certainly interpret natural disasters in terms of class and national politics. Looking at your ideas I feel confident that following them will have helped no one when the next disaster strikes. Of course I may be stupid about root causes.

Ann Althouse said...

Let me just say, I have always tried to avoid second-guessing with respect to anything military. I usually trust the government on the theory that they at least have the experts. There's way too much amateur opinion offered (about the number of troops needed, etc.). I'm not trying to change this practice of mine. But I've also got to cry out about the suffering. Help these people!

Long term, I wish people would pay more attention to the deeply entrenched problems of urban poverty. What we're seeing in New Orleans in emergency form is part of something that is always there in chronic form. I feel very sorry for the people I'm seeing on TV suffering, but I also think those are people who suffer in their ordinary lives too, and it is wrong for us not to care when they are invisible, as they are in ordinary times.

Jennifer said...

Ann: I hear your frustration. We all feel helpless, and it is difficult to know people are suffering so badly.

We gave some money to the Red Cross but it would be nice if we could actually do something.

I remember when the images of refugees in Kosovo were streaming across our screens. I remember specifically saying to my husband - these people had jobs and homes, just like us. You don't think that could happen here, do you? I guess it could and has. And disproportionately affected the poor. Who - as you point out - certainly don't have it easy on regular days, either.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jennifer. And thank you for contributing your expertise to this discussion and for your husband's service (which is also yours). I don't mean to denigrate the people in the service, who will do what they are asked to do. And I'm not slamming the President, who I think means well. But get on it, George!

Simon Kenton said...

Feds cannot send in troops without being asked. National Guard units are mobilized by the governor of the affected state. Because it is impossible for FEMA to maintain expertise about all possible local geography and threat conditions - they are under the command of local people until asked to take over. Condemn where condemnation is due.

In the matter of what you can do, 75% of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers. Your move....

Jason said...

Posted my comments on logistics and disaster relief operations at

Charlie (Colorado) said...

But I've also got to cry out about the suffering. Help these people!

Ann, we all feel that way, honest. But the facts are that we're reacting as fast as we can, faster and more effectively than ever could have been done in history (read about the Galveston hurricane of 1900).

Bemoan the catastrophe; mourn the dead. But you are second-guessing the response.

djs said...


Excellent comments on disaster relief logistics. Good to hear from an Iraq vet who has experience in these matters.

Doug S.

lindsey said...

The issue to me isn't response times or how many National Guard troops there are or anything like that. The issue is that they knew the levees were only built to withstand a Cat. 3 hurricane. They knew a Cat. 5 was bearing down on them. Everything that has happened since is absolutely predictable. There should have been a forced evacuation from New Orleans and other places they knew there would be substantial flooding. I don't care if they had to force people out at the point of a gun. Once they knew the hurricane was stronger than a 3 they should have ordered everyone out. If the mayor wasn't willing to do it, the governor should have done it. If the governor didn't do it they should have gotten a phone call from the president or the vice president. People are dying and common sense said this would happen. They knew this would happen. This has been predicted for decades. I'm filled with disgust and rage at basically everyone.

Elizabeth said...

I know the many of you saying "hey, it's not that long!" and "well, everything was fine until the levees broke" mean well, and want to believe the best. But all was not well before the levees broke. All that relief was over the idea that perhaps that many neighborhoods, homes, and businesses would be saved, and people left in their houses and other shelters might not drown.

But as soon as the hurricane hit, power was gone, and with it, the ability to pump out water, to power cell towers and keep communications going. There was no fresh, drinkable water nor any way to flush toilets and deal with waste as of Monday.

The help is taking too long. FEMA has been useless. If saying that offends your worldview, too bad. We're blowing this, big time, and people are dying. The barbaric bastards in the streets are taking advantage of the chaos, and the more time goes by with no water, with no food, with no tangible help, the more violence will erupt.

Thursday night, at 7 pm, I just watched the FEMA director tell Paula Zahn that he JUST NOW heard about people being sheltered in the New Orleans Convention Center, without water and food. WTF????? There's been film of the people in the damn Convention Center playing every hour on CNN all day!! He's woefully out of touch, and it's unacceptable. Stop defending them, and start demanding some effective action. They must drop water and food, at the very least. The word from New Orleans is that FEMA is simply not present, and that Marines are now housed on Poydras Street. That may be a good sign.

leeontheroad said...

I woud proffer that it is *not* second-guessing the response and people are not just whining when it has been 5 days, not merely of discomfort. Human beings die in 3-4 days when they do not get water. Folks are running out of the potable variety of what surrounds them.

John A said...

I can understand taking three days to organize mass movements of any type - can't just load 30-60K people onto trucks and send them off. NO is worse for several reasons - not least politics. I have heard, for example, that hospitals were told to move their generators from "ground" level to at least three stories up quite some time ago - but without funding it was not done, and when power lines went down the generators did too.
Getting troops, supplies, etc into NO is more difficult than the recent tsunami: the places that need help are still under several feet of water, or surrounded by areas that are - trucks can't get through, even as well as they did the mud after the tsunami.

And NO is not the only place hit. Interstate 90 in Biloxi, for example, is almost useless - the whole bridge was destroyed, as were large parts of other bridges. Trucks don't cross bays and rivers well, either.

I am sure more could be done - but I also suspect we are not being told about what is actualy being done. This national administration is not exactly great at communicating.

ploopusgirl said...

Interstate 10, John.

Jim Gust said...

Given the unique vulnerability of New Orleans, both to flooding and to lack of access by rescuers once a disaster hits, perhaps we should reconsider how the city should be rebuilt? Perhaps instead of a Superdome, the city should be required to have a major facility dedicated to disaster relief, available year round? Perhaps the size of the city itself needs to be limited, so it can't outgrow its disaster relief plans?

There are many reasons that this disaster turned out this badly, most of them local, and most with long histories. What's missing is a Rudy Giuliani figure, the strong local leader to whom the President can deliver effective support.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

There should have been a forced evacuation from New Orleans and other places they knew there would be substantial flooding. I don't care if they had to force people out at the point of a gun.

Yeah, right. And after a few of those people refuse and get shot, what will you be saying then?

Why did New Orleans only build for a category 3 hurricane? Who knows, but it was the LBJ administration that first prioritized the levee improvements down. Might have something to do with the fact that category 5 hurricanes are very uncommon.

We aren't doing anything much about potential cometary impacts that would kill the whole planet either, although the average chance of being killed by one of those is nearly as good as the chance of being killed by a cat 5 hurricane.

Why didn't everyone leave when the evacuaion was called for? Hard to say, but the notion of the police, or even the National Guard, walking through town forcing people out at gunpoint is, well, nuts.

A bunch of people just lost a bet. Soemthing like 50,000 people a year bet they'll survive driving on the streets, and lose.

lindsey said...

"Yeah, right. And after a few of those people refuse and get shot, what will you be saying then?"

I'll be saying that they're blooming idiots.

Pat Patterson said...

I'm wondering just how many people realize the consequences of a shoot to kill policy? Do you just shoot the looters wearing signs on their backs saying "I am a looter", do you shoot the mom with water, diapers, and a qt. of Old Crow, and do you not shoot the kid with Oreos and Air Jordans. It's easy to call for someone else to be blood thirsty, and then be horrified when the nightly news shows someone dying on a street corner. And for a non-bleedding heart I would like to remind some people that these are are fellow citizens first and targets second.

Meade said...

I wonder what the consequences are of NOT shooting to kill, by allowing people to believe they are free to loot without consequence. More looting? More suffering by more innocents?

Perhaps someone will invent a non-lethal dart-like projectile that can only be surgically removed from the citizen looter target.

Brent said...

Perhaps all the criticism of the President and others was best answered by President Clinton on CNN earlier today, when he DEFENDED the present administration's efforts before a more -rude-than-necessary Suzanne Malveaux:

MALVEAUX: But do you think this administration responded quickly enough?

G.H.W. BUSH: Of course I do.

CLINTON: Let me answer this. The people in the Superdome are in a special position. And let me say, I've been going to New Orleans for over 50 years. There's no place on earth I love more. They went into the Superdome, not because of the flooding, but because we thought the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans smack dab and they'd be safe in there if they didn't leave town.

What happened was, when the levee broke and the town flooded, what did it do? It knocked out the electricity and it knocked out the sewage. They're living in hellacious conditions. They would be better off under a tree than being stuck there. You can't even breathe in that place now.

So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too. There were people -- they were worried about people drowning that had to be taken off roofs.

MALVEAUX: So you two believe that the federal response was fast enough?

CLINTON: All I'm saying is what I know the facts are today. There are hundreds of buses now engaged in the act of taking people from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. And you and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there.

All I'm saying is the way they got stuck there, I see why they feel the way they do. But the people that put them there did it because they thought they were saving their lives. And then when the problems showed up, they had a lot of other people to save. Now they've got hundreds of buses. We just need to get them out. I think they'll all be out by tomorrow. Didn't they say they would all be out by tomorrow morning?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yes.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, thank you very much. I'm sorry. We've run out of time. Thank you.

G.H.W. BUSH: Let me -- I just to want finish. I believe the administration is doing the right thing, and I believe they have acted in a timely fashion. And I understand people being critical. That happens all the time. And I understand some people wanted to make, you know, a little difficulty by criticizing the president and the team. But I don't want to sit here and not defend the administration which, in my view, has taken all the right steps. And they're facing problems that nobody could foresee: breaking of the levees and the whole dome thing over in New Orleans coming apart. People couldn't foresee that.

CLINTON: Yes, I think that's important to point out. Because when you say that they should have done this, that or the other thing first, you can look at that problem in isolation, and you can say that.

But look at all the other things they had to deal with. I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this. But what happened here is they escaped -- New Orleans escaped Katrina. But it brought all the water up the Mississippi River and all in the Pontchartrain, and then when it started running and that levee broke, they had problems they never could have foreseen.

And so I just think that we need to recognize right now there's a confident effort under way. People are doing the best they can. And I just don't think it's the time to worry about that. We need to keep people alive and get them back to life -- normal life.

lindsey said...

Pat Patterson, are you referring to my post? I wasn't discussing shooting looters. I was discussing a forced evacuation before the hurrican hits.

Subsunk said...


I lived through Hurrican Hugo. The response to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is about average. It took two days for power to be restored to only the most vital locations (hospitals, command centers, phones). Then it took 6 weeks to get power to the rest of the city in sections. and Charleston wasn't under 15 feet of water. The river was blocked for several weeks. The help has to cut their way in during the first 2 days. Just getting where you need them to be takes time.

After you mobilize the Guard, it takes a couple of days for them to get there. They work for the governor, not FEMA. They do what the governor says, not FEMA. Command and Control is the cities' police function. If that doesn't work, it is the state governments function. If they can't do it, then the federal government will take over. To do that you have to call out the Army and Navy. Since that has already happened, and they have been placed at the State's disposal, when the state of Louisiana gives up trying to control this, then the US government could take over, but only if LA is going to give up.

Those who say Posse Comitatus doesn't apply here are wrong. Federal military authorities have NO authority to operate outside their own bases with federal orders. The governor can't tell them what to do, except to stay off her turf. She is in charge. If the State of LA wants to abdicate their responsibilities here, then I'm sure the Army can commandeer her National Guardsmen and police and go about setting order here.

When the Guard is called up for non federal emergencies, the state which calls them up pays their salaries. Obviously, the Gov. has to worry about where she will get the money to do this from LA's budget. However, since the President mobilized several Guard units outside LA and MS, the federal government will be paying them, and we can assume their officers will give direction to their own folks and coordinate with the desires of LA and MS Guardsmen who will still be in charge in their states. That's just the way the law is.

It took almost 2 weeks after Hugo left town for Charleston to have food and water to all areas of the affected zone. The cops did their level best to help everyone, as I'm sure the NO cops are trying to do now. We aren't seeing all the good things people are doing to help each other because our news comes from the place where we send all the refugees and then wonder why trucks and busses can't get to them, why there are no Guardsmen giving direction? Because they can't get there.

Since the highways are under water, how do the Guardsmen get to these isolated areas? How many boats does a Guard Brigade have? not many, probably less than a dozen. Unless you are a bridging or engineer company, you don't use them in the Army. Trucking boats over the highways takes longer.

You guys and the folks stuck in NO just need to recognize that their lives will be day to day for the next 2 weeks, minimum. People are doing as much as they can to help. But it isn't Star Trek where you can just say "Make it so" and it is so. Men have to work hard to make these things happen. Everytime you moan and complain that things ain't happening to your satisfaction, the guys making the 6 hr trip to Houston to drop off refugees, and the Guardsmen driving 6 hours just to get to the outskirts of NO begin to feel pretty unappreciated. They aren't paid to give up their lives for 6 weeks to babysit people who need to stay in line and follow directions on their own. Striking out at the hand that is coming to help you is not the way to get that hand to move faster. Stop whining and accept the fact that the laws of physics are absolute, hurricanes will always be with us, and you can't push a rope.


Pat Patterson said...

Lindsay;wasn't referring to your post, actually agree with most. Posted here because I felt a rational discussion was taking place. My reaction was based on an overall feeling I get from some blogs that a 'shoot to kill' order will solve all the problems in NO.

mcg said...

I see people saying, "it's been 48-72 hours", and I think to myself, "Right. It's been only 48-72 hours." Our 24/7, immediate media culture has skewed our sense of time perspective here.

I'm OK with all the yelling and screaming that's going on to do more. How can anyone do otherwise when they see people they care about suffering? And yet I frankly believe that people are doing all they can, as fast as they can.

This is simply a monstrous tragedy of incredible proportions that played out in some genuinely unexpected ways. I can no more expect government agencies to turn on a dime and act in a flash than I can expect our fellow citizens to understand that they can't---at least, they can't now, until things start to settle down.

mcg said...

Oh, and in response to someone who might say, "But people are dying!"

Yes, they are. And more will. And the blame goes first and foremost to the storm, to Mother Nature.

Think about 9/11 for a minute. I'll bet there were people alive in those crumpled towers for some time after they fell. If only the entire city of New York converged on those towers to clear the rubble, some of those people would have been saved, right? I mean, please, people were dying!

I think we know now in hindsight that people basically did all that could be done then. No, it wasn't perfect there either, but you frankly have to forgive a lack of perfection, since that is never achievable. Hopefully we will be able to do the same for this disaster as well, sometime.

Sigivald said...

Ploopusgirl: Calling her an apologist does not change one word of what she said.

It doesn't make the logistical arguments one tiny bit less true.

Wanting a magical solution that just happens instantly and saves everyone is not the same as there being such a solution.

mcg said...

If that's what an apologist for Bush is, then President Clinton is sounding an awful lot like one...

mcg said...

I'm sorry, where are my manners: President Bush. Ugh, it's rubbing off on me.

JoBob said...

Ann, I'm surprised at you. You are a law professor so I assumed you understood the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878 proscribes the deployment and use of military personnel on U.S. soil except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. Even then the governor of the state has to request the presence of federalized troops. So what was the President to do? Say "Damn the constitution and the laws of Congress, call in the Cavalry Karl and don't forget to saddle up my white charger?"

What's happening is horrible, it's even worse because President Bush did everything he could to make sure this didn't happen. By declaring the gulf coast a disaster area on Saturday the President gave FEMA the ability to pre-position relief supplies and people. That also gave Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco a two day head start on tapping federal resources for the recovery. Instead of availing themselves of the aide that the President made available they chose a different strategy, the "cross your fingers and pray" strategy. Well it was a bad bet.

Right now most of the suffering down there can be laid at the feet of two people, Mayor Ray Nagin and Terry Ebbert the head of New Orleans Emergency Operations. The President had to practically BEG Nagin to evacuate the city. They failed to stockpile food, water, and gasoline for their shelters. They failed to offer the people a coherent evacuation and relocation plan. They left over 200 school busses in a parking lot to get flooded instead of using them to move indigent residents to safety. On top of that they chose to allow the looting, and as someone who's worked on disaster relief at the state level for years let me say how mind bogglingly stupid that was. Everyone I talked to was stunned when the Mayor decided that S&R was more important than maintaining order because it violates the first rule of disaster management - preserving order preserves life. So I wasn't at all surprised by the wanton destruction, the raping, and the mayhem - after all the Mayor gave his tacit approval to it by allowing the looting. Then for Nagin and Ebbert to try and pin the blame on the Feds? That's beyond gall, it's an audacious attempt to cover their own asses 'cause they know they screwed the pooch.

Ann Althouse said...

JoBob: I'm trying to be even-handed here. I blame the local officials, but I also think the feds could have done more. I'm not an expert on the niceties of procedures here, but I assume there are ways to take leadership. It's lame for Bush to just say it wasn't my job, and in fact, he isn't saying that.

Moneyrunner said...

Ann, being evenhanded may be fine for a lawyer, but crying because people are dying and blaming those who are moving as fast as they can is not only not being even handed, it is being irrational. But the sight of death and destruction can make people irrational. At times like this, playing the blame game is just wrong. Pray for the victimes, help the helpless, but stop the finger pointing at those who are trying to help.

If you want some finger pointing, let me give you some that you may not have considered.

The victims that the press forgot.
It’s amazing what you think about when you don’t let others think for you. For example, based on the national MSM where do you think hurricane Katrina hit? If you answered New Orleans you would be wrong. The hurricane actually missed New Orleans and hit the Gulf coast to the East of the city.

There are towns and cities in the direct path of Katrina. Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula. And here devastation is dramatic and, in some places, complete. But you have to go to local sources and local reporters to become aware of this. You also have to go to local sources to find out what is being done by the good people of this country to come to the aid of those who suffered the most.

Why this disregard for the rest of the Gulf that got the brunt of the storm?

Well, New Orleans was the largest city affected by Katrina.

Then too, the MSM reacted to the extravagant antics - and colorful language - of the major of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, and the weeping of Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco. And the anger ... don't forget the anger; it makes for good images, and draws an audience.

Familiarity may have had something to do with it: New Orleans is nationally known and famous – or infamous – for its customs. There probably isn’t a national reporter who has not been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, sampled its food, and its flesh. Most would have a hard time finding Pascagoula on the map.

Politics may have had something to do with it: Democrats have run Louisiana and New Orleans since Reconstruction. Mississippi has a Republican governor who was actually blamed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for causing hurricane Katrina.

And race may have had something to do with it: New Orleans is about 67% black, the communities on the Gulf coast are majority white.

Whatever the reason, those who were killed, injured or merely dispossessed on the Gulf coast will continue to be ignored while the story is the flooding of New Orleans. But that’s OK. At least the satellite trucks of the ghouls currently exploiting the dead in New Orleans will not be getting in the way of the rescue efforts of the good people of the Gulf coast.