For shame, for shame
The American Red Cross, CBN's Operation Blessing, The Salvation Army, and others were all positioned near the disaster areas ready to roll in even before Katrina made landfall. They did roll into Mississippi on Monday, but not into New Orleans. Why Mississippi and not New Orleans? Because Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, had declared a state of emergency and had designated evacuation areas as well as pre-positioned national guard and equipment outside of storm areas prior to Katrina making landfall. He had ordered state troopers and local police to treat looters "ruthlessly" and law and order were largely maintained. As a result, rescuers could move in as soon as wave and wind permitted it. By Thursday streets in Biloxi were being cleared of debris and power lines were being repaired. This was not the situation in Louisiana.
Unlike her eastern neighbor, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco did not declare a state of emergency until Saturday, essentially too late to evacuate, through primarily three escape routes, the over 400,000 people who remained in New Orleans. When the levees burst Monday night after Katrina had swept through, New Orleans and surrounding parishes were utterly unprepared for the imminent disaster of flooding. Why? Because the governor and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagil had apparently no plans except to depend on the federal government to bail them out. Lawlessness prevailed in New Orleans for four days and nights and refugees from the flooding had no way to escape the city. Herded into the Superdome and the convention center, they were left there with no food, no water, no medicine, no instructions, and no way out. There were no plans evident as to what the next step was to have been. Due to lack of clear instructions, support, relief, and leadership many police officers simply walked off the job, making the situation not only worse, but downright dangerous.
While rescue and recovery efforts proceeded apace in Mississippi, New Orleans was left to flounder because of the lack of foresight of the state's politicians. Rescue workers, medical teams, and volunteers, feared entering the city because of the great risks involved. Some were shot at as looters and snipers fired at apparently anyone and everyone. As a result, people died needlessly while awaiting rescue, medicine, food, water, and the arrival of law and order in the form of national guard troops which finally arrived on Friday.
When the inevitable New Orleans flood of 2005 hearings get underway expect plenty of finger pointing, blame gaming, and recriminations. The Army Corps of Engineers who maintain the levees will be blamed. The various federal bureaucracies established to deal with national emergencies will be blamed. Corporations and auto manufacturers will blamed for creating the conditions that cause global warming which generates more violent tropical storms. Racism will be blamed because the majority of displaced persons are African American. President Bush will be blamed endlessly. But know also that a large measure of that blame will lie at the feet of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagil and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco. They may not be corrupt in the grand tradition of Louisiana politics, but they are assuredly incompetent.
As those hearings take place as they surely will, remember this. The human suffering continues. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people will be without work, without homes, without possessions, without even family members lost to Katrina. Relief and recovery efforts will, and must, continue for the forseeable future. Dig deep and thank God for your blessings.