Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pre-Hurricane Videos and the Fog of Bureacracy

My students and I were just discussing the amazing new video released by the Associated Press. It shows FEMA director Mike Brown briefing Bush, Michael Chertoff, and local officials 19 hours before Katrina hit.

I believed for the past six months that this administration was grossly unaware of the potential catastrophe that Katrina, while still in the gulf, could bring, and the urgency that was needed to prepare for the approaching disastor. Now it is clear that they did fully understand. Brown voices concern that "this is, to put it mildly, the big one," and he's worried about the health infrastructure and architectural structure of the Superdome. Also Brown is almost heroic, telling people to cut through bureacracy and help evacuees and in the end he would take responsibility: "I'll figure out some way to justify it. ... Just let them yell at me." They discuss the breaching of levees and enormous loss of life. The video also shows Max Mayfield, the National Hurricane Center Director. He claims the storm is much bigger than Hurricane Andrew, and he predicts the possibility of a "large loss of life on coastal areas." Throughout the conference, Bush asks no questions, but at the end he states:
I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm to help you deal with the loss of property and we pray for no loss of life of course."

This footage, coupled with seven days of transcripts of briefings, shows that federal officials anticipated the catastrophe. They understood the magnitude and urgency, and accurately predicted the outcome. The problem was that they didn't know how inept they were. So, it is baloney when Bush claimed four days after the storm to ABC news that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." And it is baloney when the Dept. of Homeland Security claims that they didn't understand the severity due to a "fog of war." Wednesday Brown stated in an interview "I don't buy the `fog of war' defense...It was a fog of bureaucracy."
So in class we discussed catastrophic events recorded in the Bible, such as 586 BCE, and how knowledge about historical events disseminates. Again, Katrina has made the biblical world so much easier to grasp for my students. I would also like to apologize to Mike Brown. It seems much of my earlier anger towards him was missplaced. I still won't send him a Christmas card, but I hate him less.


Editor B said...

Maybe Brownie's new nickname could be "My Pet Scapegoat."

Hey, isn't scapegoat a biblical term?

Bigezbear said...

So how do you think the administration is going to spin this one? I woke up to this news this morning and could barely make it through a morning meeting having to do with finding jobs, living accomodations, and transportation for people with disabilities in our region.

Sometimes it just seems more weight than any of our shoulders can sustain. But, by God, we will go on.

I've been visiting your blog for several weeks now and never fail to be moved and uplifted. Keep up the good work.