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The Politics of Hurricane Katrina


John Simkin
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Like millions of people from all over the world I have viewed with horror the impact of Hurricane Katrina on television. I have just seen a BBC news report where survivors in New Orleans have told their story. Several claimed that they did not have the money to leave the city. Others seemed to be unaware of the dangers posed by the hurricane. This seemed strange as in the UK we have been told for several days about the damage that Katrina was going to cause. The most prosperous members of society have clearly got out in time. The BBC have carried out plenty of interviews with those who escaped. The news footage shows that the vast majority of those left behind were black.

The people are understandably very angry. It seems that many will die over the next few days. They are clearly desperate people and this is reflected by scenes of looting by armed gangs. This morning it was announced that the National Guard were being ordered to direct their efforts to guarding stores rather than in rescuing the people dying in New Orleans. News has just come through that the military is abandoning attempts to pick up survivors as their helicopters having been coming under fire from those being rescued. Yet, this is all happening in the richest country in the world.

According to a report in my newspaper, the American Society of Civil Enginners have been warning the government for years that this disaster was likely to happen. They pointed out that over the last 50 years over 1,500 square miles of natural coastal barriers in the area has been eroded.

The US Corps of Army Engineers have been arguing that they needed to strengthen some of the levees but last year they were refused funding by the White House, which ordered the money to be used for homeland security against terrorism.

It seems that the city of New Orleans had no thought-out plans of evacuation. This includes organizing transport for poorer people who don’t have the means to move themselves. It seems the US government have not learnt anything from the government of Cuba who regularly move large numbers of people out of the path of hurricanes by using a system of buses and trucks.

Another problem seems to be that the local air, navy and army units and the National Guard, had been depleted as a result of the Iraq War. I imagine that American citizens watching these events unfold will start to ask serious questions of their government. It seems a strange sort of government that spends billions trying to sort out the problems of people living in the Middle East, and yet is incapable of protecting its own people.

The image I am left with is of a deeply divided society where the prosperous survive and the poor are left to their own devices. No wonder law and order appears to have broken down in New Orleans? It is clear that they have got the message. It is every man for himself.

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John-

I've been wondering about the reactions of otehr countries to our tragedy. I appreciate your thoughts. However, not all is at it seems. The money to re-inforce the levees had been allocated by our Congress for over 20 years. New Orleans as a city refrained from using it and would frequently take the money from the allotment to go toward other things. Most of New Orleans current plight is their own fault. Yes, the majority of those left behind are black. New Orleans is a primarily black city. I've been there several times. These minorities are not just poor. Many of them are well off and own and run the businesses in the Quarters which are central to the annual Mardi Gras Festivities. The people still in New Orleans for the most part, simply chose not to leave. As I sit here, I am listening to Fox News and a CAUCASIAN man saying, "I ain't never runf rom one before and I ani't gonna run from one now but I'll never live down there again." He chose not to leave. Yes, these people were warned. They made a decison. Our government is helping as much as they can. My husband, a US Marine that ETS's in 2003 may be recalled. He is ready. The city I live in, has already raised over $400,000 in cash and have trucks lined up in over 50 locations in a 150 mile radius, They are asking for water, canned goods, clothes and blankets. I myself have gone through my children's closets and pulled every piece of clothing that they can spare. I have done the same with mine and my husband's closets. I've gathered blankets from us and neighbors and I've made one huge trip to help them AND conserve gas. The government is the main source but communities all over our country are banding together. My fatehr has been out of work for 3 months and he and my mother just donated more than they could realistically afford to the US Red Cross. People are doing all that they can. And yes, we do have lawlessness in New Orleans, probably the same amount as during Mardi Gras. The thugs are the ones preventing the rescue efforts (Also primarily black). Most of these people are still there for the soul purpose of looting, raping, and killing. It's what THEY do whether there is a hurricaine or not.

We are not Cuba. Cuba would move their people but shoot looters on the spot. As for the comment on Iraq. My husband is a veteran of Iraq. My oldest brother is a veteran of Iraq and Afganistan. My sister in law is a veteran of Iraq and she trained teh Iraqi police force. Please do not question what they do. They do what their Commander In Cheif does. And I believe Blair committed the Brits to do the same.

Our damage is higher than the sunami. We ahve recieved no offer of help from any other country. Not the French, not the Brits, not teh Germans. No one. I personally am sick of foreigners judging the US for how they handle things. In reality, without my tax dollars and the blood of my family for centuries past, many of these critical countries wouldn't be as successful as they are. Germany and France would either be one or in rubble without the help of the US and Great Britain. The Sunami victims wouldn't be eating without US donations and US entertainers rasing money and making donations. John, you say this is all teh US's fault. We didn't say that after the sunami. We didn't say that after World War II. We don't say that after earthquakes. Private Citizens and MY government will step up and offer money, troops, food and clothing. Where is OUR assistance? Has anyone in Britain looked at that African American baby and said, "Hey honey. You know, I think maybe we have $30 extra this week. Maybe we can send that to the US Red Cross written to Hurricaine Katrina and buy some formula and diapers to go to her." We haven't even been offered help from the International Red Cross. IF any foreign people decide to help US for a change, write checks to Hurricaine Katrina c/o the American Red Cross. You find a convenient address on the internet. Again, instead of placing blame on anyone, why don't we band together as humans beings and make sure those babies get fed and have schools. We are in our second crisis in 4 years. We are still recovering from September 11. (Are you going to blame that on us too?) Our men and women are still in Iraq. We've had the gas hikes and now we have to listen to the criticizing voices from across the waves telling how we suck. I don;t think we do. I think we take care of everyone else before ourselves. THAT'S why we're in Iraq and THAT'S why that baby is still in New Orleans with no idea of what her future holds.

Thank you and pray for our trgedy stricken brothers and sisters.

Carrie

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Perhaps this article can add information to this ongoing debate started by John Simkin.

It is taken from: National Revue on line ……

http://www.nationalreview.com/script/print...00509020719.asp

Where are the Guardsmen?

Right where they ought to be.

So is the war in Iraq causing troop shortfalls for hurricane relief in New Orleans?

In a word, no.

A look at the numbers should dispel that notion. Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

That’s all? Yes, 10.2 percent. That datum is significant in itself, a good one to keep handy the next time someone talks about how our forces are stretched too thin, our troops are at the breaking point, and so forth. If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.

So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course — the Left wants you to believe that the country has been denuded of its citizen soldiers, and that Louisiana has suffered inordinately because Guardsmen and women who would have been available to be mobilized by the state to stop looting and aid in reconstruction are instead risking their lives in Iraq.

Not hardly. According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies.

In Louisiana only about a third of Guard personnel are deployed, and they will be returning in about a week as part of their normal rotation. The Mississippi Guard has 40 percent overseas. But Louisiana and Mississippi are not alone in this effort — under terms of Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMACs) between the states, Guard personnel are heading to the area from West Virginia, D.C., New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Washington, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan. Thousands have already arrived, and more will over the next day or so.

The New York Times has called the military response “a costly game of catch up.” Catching up compared to what, one wonders. National Guard units were mobilized immediately; 7,500 troops from four states were on the ground within 24 hours of Katrina — a commendable response given the disruptions to the transportation infrastructure. The DOD response is well ahead of the 1992 Hurricane Andrew timetable. Back then, the support request took nine days to crawl through the bureaucracy. The reaction this time was less than three days officially, and DOD had been pre-staging assets in anticipation of the aid request from the moment Katrina hit. DOD cannot act independently of course; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the lead agency. Requests for assistance have to be routed from local officials through FEMA to U.S. Northern Command and then to the necessary components. In practice, this means state officials have to assess damage and determine relief requirements; FEMA has to come up with a plan for integrating the military into the overall effort; DOD has to begin to pack and move the appropriate materiel, and deploy sufficient forces. This has all largely been or is being accomplished. Seven thousand mostly Navy and other specialized assets are currently in the area directly supporting hurricane relief, and a much larger number of other forces are en route. The process has been functioning remarkably smoothly under the circumstances.

It is hard to understand what more should, or realistically could have been done up to this point. A disaster of this magnitude is certain to be politicized, but it seems early in the game to be assessing blame for a response effort that has only been underway a few days in a crisis that is still developing; particularly such a rapid response. Moreover, it is simply not plausible to use the situation to critique the force structure in Iraq. The Guard is demonstrating that it can fulfill both its state and federal responsibilities, as it was designed and intended to do. Of course, it is impossible to win in these situations; critics will always find a way. A year ago after Hurricane Charley, the president was accused of responding too quickly, allegedly to curry favor with Florida voters. Back then only a few fringe characters tried to make the Iraq/Guard connection. It is a shame that the Times has drifted in their direction.

— James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, a trustee for the Leaders for Liberty Foundation, and an NRO contributor.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda
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I think we take care of everyone else before ourselves. THAT'S why we're in Iraq

This is the most extraordinary justification for the illegal invasion and annexation of Iraq by the USA I have yet heard.

I have been horrified by the images of New Orleans over the last days and my thoughts go out to all caught up in it.

Incidentally I do not believe John Simkin was suggesting that the Hurricaine was anyone's "fault".

We will also of course continue to encourage all members of this forum to question the activities and motivations of their respective 'Commanders in Chief' both in domestic and foreign affairs.

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Another article which I hope will improve the knowledge about Katrin disaster in New Orleans.

And which I hope will end the tries to politicised the catastrophy.

Tnhe article is from New York Times and could be found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/national...artner=homepage

September 2, 2005

Government Saw Flood Risk but Not Levee Failure

By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 - When Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, returned in January from a tour of the tsunami devastation in Asia, he urgently gathered his aides to prepare for a similar catastrophe at home.

"New Orleans was the No. 1 disaster we were talking about," recalled Eric L. Tolbert, then a top FEMA official. "We were obsessed with New Orleans because of the risk."

Disaster officials, who had drawn up dozens of plans and conducted preparedness drills for years, had long known that the low-lying city was especially vulnerable. But despite all the warnings, Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the very government agencies that had rehearsed for such a calamity. On Thursday, as the flooded city descended into near-anarchy, frantic local officials blasted the federal and state emergency response as woefully sluggish and confused.

"We're in our fifth day and adequate help to quell the situation has not arrived yet," said Edwin P. Compass III, the New Orleans police superintendent.

The response will be dissected for years. But on Thursday, disaster experts and frustrated officials said a crucial shortcoming may have been the failure to predict that the levees keeping Lake Pontchartrain out of the city would be breached, not just overflow.

They also said that evacuation measures were inadequate, leaving far too many city residents behind to suffer severe hardships and, in some cases, join marauding gangs.

Large numbers of National Guard troops should have been deployed on flooded streets early in the disaster to keep order, the critics said. And some questioned whether the federal government's intense focus on terrorism had distracted from planning practical steps to cope with a major natural disaster.

Disaster experts acknowledged that the impact of Hurricane Katrina posed unprecedented difficulties. "There are amazing challenges and obstacles," said Joe Becker, the top disaster response official at the American Red Cross.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Becker said, the government response "has been nothing short of heroic."

But he added that the first, life-saving phase of hurricane response, which usually lasts a matter of hours, in this case was stretching over days.

While some in New Orleans fault FEMA - Terry Ebbert, homeland security director for New Orleans, called it a "hamstrung" bureaucracy - others say any blame should be more widely spread. Local, state and federal officials, for example, have cooperated on disaster planning. In 2000, they studied the impact of a fictional "Hurricane Zebra"; last year they drilled with "Hurricane Pam."

Neither exercise expected the levees to fail. In an interview Thursday on "Good Morning America," President Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." He added, "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."

Some lapses may have occurred because of budget cuts. For example, Mr. Tolbert, the former FEMA official, said that "funding dried up" for follow-up to the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, cutting off work on plans to shelter thousands of survivors.

Brian Wolshon, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University who served as a consultant on the state's evacuation plan, said little attention was paid to moving out New Orleans's "low-mobility" population - the elderly, the infirm and the poor without cars or other means of fleeing the city, about 100,000 people.

At disaster planning meetings, he said, "the answer was often silence."

Inevitably, the involvement of dozens of agencies complicated the response. FEMA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, were in charge of coordinating 14 federal agencies with state and local authorities. But Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans complained Wednesday on CNN that there were too many cooks involved.

Unlike a terrorist attack or an earthquake, Hurricane Katrina gave considerable notice of its arrival. It was on Thursday, Aug. 25, that a tropical storm that had formed in the Bahamas reached hurricane strength and got its name.

The same day, Katrina made landfall in Florida, dumping up to 18 inches of rain. It then moved slowly out over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, growing by the hour.

Though its path remained uncertain, the Gulf Coast was clearly threatened, with New Orleans a possible target. Officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the Homeland Security Department said they were taking steps to prepare for the hurricane's arrival.

Army Corps personnel, in charge of maintaining the levees in New Orleans, started to secure the locks, floodgates and other equipment, said Greg Breerwood, deputy district engineer for project management at the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We knew if it was going to be a Category 5, some levees and some flood walls would be overtopped," he said. "We never did think they would actually be breached." The uncertainty of the storm's course affected Pentagon planning.

"We did not have precision on where it would make landfall," said Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the head of the National Guard Bureau. "It could have been anywhere from Texas all the way over to Florida."

Some 10,000 National Guard troops were mobilized, 7,000 of them in Louisiana and Mississippi. But the Defense Department could not put soldiers and equipment directly in the possible path of the storm, General Blum said.

On Saturday, at the urging of FEMA, Mr. Bush declared an emergency in Louisiana, allowing the agency to promise financial assistance to state and local governments and to move ready-to-eat meals, medicine, ice, tarpaulins, water and other supplies to the region.

By Sunday, Katrina had become a Category 5 hurricane, with winds of 175 miles per hour. The president extended the emergency declaration to Mississippi and Alabama. Mayor Nagin, who had urged New Orleans residents to flee on Saturday, ordered a mandatory evacuation.

It would have been up to local officials, a FEMA spokeswoman said, to hire buses to move people without transportation out of the city.

Rodney Braxton, the chief lobbyist for New Orleans, said many of the city's poorest "had nowhere to go outside the region and no way to get there." He added: "And there wasn't enough police power to go to each house to say, 'You have to go, come with me.' "

In a city with so many residents living in poverty, the hurricane came at the worst possible time: the end of the month, when those depending on public assistance are waiting for their next checks to be mailed on the first of the month. Without the checks, many residents didn't have money for gasoline, bus fare or lodging.

City officials said they provided free transportation from pick-up points publicized on television, radio and by people shouting through megaphones on the streets. In addition to the Superdome, officials opened schools and the convention center as shelters.

Mr. Braxton said he believed the city was "aggressive enough" in conducting the evacuation. "We had everything we thought we needed in place," he said. "I don't think anybody could ever plan for the magnitude that Katrina ended up being."

But Susan Cutter, a geography professor at the University of South Carolina and an emergency preparedness expert, said Mayor Nagin should have ordered a mandatory evacuation on Thursday or Friday.

"Evacuation is a precaution," she said. "I don't think they would have taken a political hit if they had ordered it, and it helped."

While New Orleans residents fled the city or gathered in the Superdome, federal agencies positioned search and rescue teams and medical assistance teams from Tennessee to Texas, according to Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security.

Before it made landfall on Monday, the storm turned slightly to the east, avoiding a direct hit on New Orleans. The winds had eased slightly to 140 miles per hour, reducing Katrina's strength to Category 4, and officials counted themselves lucky.

But on Tuesday, when the levees breached, a desperate situation became catastrophic. There was no fast way to fix them, Mr. Breerwood of the Army Corps said, because delivery of heavy-duty equipment was hindered by the destruction.

The National Guard was having similar troubles. While troops were stationed in the region, they could not move quickly into the New Orleans area. And in Mississippi, the zone of destruction was so widespread, it was difficult to cover it all quickly, officials said.

"It is not a function of more people, but how many people can you move on the road system that exists now in Louisiana and in Mississippi," said General Blum of the National Guard. "How many people can you put through that funnel that a storm has taken four lane highways and turned them into goat trails?"

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush, having cut short his vacation, convened a federal task force. With looting spreading throughout New Orleans, Guard officials said they were doubling the call by this weekend, to 21,000 forces, one-third of them military police officers. On Thursday, General Blum said more than 32,000 Guard members would be deployed in the gulf region by Monday.

Currently, the states' governors control their National Guard, with the Pentagon and other federal agencies like FEMA, coordinating operations with the state. The administration has resisted federalizing the relief operation, in large part because officials say it would severely limit the National Guard's ability to conduct law enforcement missions for which they are specifically trained.

"Federalizing the National Guard for purposes of law enforcement would be a last resort, not a first resort," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, told reporters on Thursday.

A 1878 law restricts active-duty military forces from performing domestic law enforcement duties. But in extreme emergencies, like some of the race riots and civil disorders in the 1960's, federal troops have been sent in to restore order.

The administration has also balked at ordering active-duty military forces, such as the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., to intervene in a civilian law enforcement role to stop looting and restore order. Late Tuesday, the Pentagon dispatched five ships to the gulf, but four of the ships are coming from Norfolk, Va., four days' sailing time away.

Some military analysts criticized the Pentagon's response.

"Is the problem that they are only just now beginning to understand how serious the damage was?" said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity .org, a national security policy group in Washington. "Did they not have a contingency for a disaster of this magnitude?"

The chaotic response came despite repeated efforts over many years to plan a coordinated defense if the worst should occur. As recently as July 2004, federal, state and local officials cooperated on the Hurricane Pam drill, which predicted 10 to 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of one million people.

Martha Madden, who was the Louisiana secretary of environmental quality from 1987-1988, said that the potential for disaster was always obvious and that "FEMA has known this for 20 years."

"Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, in studies, training and contingency plans, scenarios, all of that," said Ms. Madden, now a consultant in strategic planning.

The Army Corps, she said, should have had arrangements in place with contractors who had emergency supplies at hand, like sandbags or concrete barriers, the way that environmental planners have contracts to handle oil spills.

While his agency is facing harsh criticism, Patrick Rhode, FEMA's deputy director, defended its performance as "probably one of the most efficient and effective responses in the country's history."

He recalled that after Mr. Brown, his boss, returned from his tsunami tour, he asked if the United States was better prepared for a disaster than the ravaged countries he had visited. "We felt relatively comfortable that this country could mobilize the response necessary," he said.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Thom Shanker and Matthew L. Wald from Washington; Christopher Drew and Susan Saulny from Baton Rouge; Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans; and David Rohde from New York..

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda
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This is the most extraordinary justification for the illegal invasion and annexation of Iraq by the USA I have yet heard.

I have been horrified by the images of New Orleans over the last days and my thoughts go out to all caught up in it.

Incidentally I do not believe John Simkin was suggesting that the Hurricaine was anyone's "fault".

We will also of course continue to encourage all members of this forum to question the activities and motivations of their respective 'Commanders in Chief' both in domestic and foreign affairs.

It was not an "illegal" invasion. What exactly is a "legal" invasion. I believe it's an oxymoron to call something a legal invasion. And since we annexed them, when do they start paying taxes? And joining our military to help fight with us for THEIR freedom?

Secondly, I agree. John wasn't casting blame. I apologize for cmoing across as such. I will also correct myself in saying that NO other countries were helping us. Fox News just announced that China, Canada, Sweden and Australia have all offered aid. There is at least one American that sends heartfelt thanks to those citizens and governments for assisting us in this tragedy.

I stand by the fact that our military follows the directives of the Commander In Chief. They should. But whether you agree with or support the war in Iraq it has nothing to do with Hurricaine Katrina. John was bringing attention to how foreigners view us and our tragedy. I hope you will focus on that. Very few of us see African American, Vietnamese American, Korean American, French American, Iraqi American or any other perfix to the word American. We see AMERICANS in need. We are guilty of ignoring that quite a bit. I am simply saying, question the government when these people are safe and out of harms ways. THEN, write letters, send e-mails, get the media on your side! Paper the streets! This country was founded on that. But we MUST help our fellow HUMANS. I'm wrong. Let's not even look at them as Americans. See PEOPLE. And pray for them. Help if you can. Save the questions and lip service until next week or month if neccessary.

Again, pray for YOUR brother and sisters in New Orleans AND Biloxi!

-Carrie Driscoll

Greenville, SC, USA

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It was not an "illegal" invasion. What exactly is a "legal" invasion. I believe it's an oxymoron to call something a legal invasion. And since we annexed them, when do they start paying taxes? And joining our military to help fight with us for THEIR freedom?

An illegal invasion is one which has no justification in international law. You may remember that the invasion took place without a UN mandate.

One might also add that the legality of a war may be brought into broader question when the stated justification for it (in this case the weapons of mass destruction) is based on deliberately constructed falsehoods.

Furthermore I feel the Iraqis have "payed" the United States quite enough already with the rape of their natural resources by American capitalists, the loss of their right to self determination, and the descent of their country into civil war

Do you really believe that the muddle headed adventurism of those chumps Bush and Blair has anything to do with emancipating Iraqis???!! :D

It is likely that the slow reponse of the American authorities to the crisis in New Orleans has been in part caused by resources being overstretched by this illegal and unnecessary war of aggression. I see from CNN today that despite some improvements there is still a great deal of anger in New Orleans regarding this slow response.

I also believe these tensions are made worse by the existing massive division between rich and poor in the USA.

I understand there have been significant offers of help from many countries

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Another article which I hope will improve the knowledge about Katrin disaster in New Orleans.

And which I hope will end the tries to politicised the catastrophy.

Tnhe article is from New York Times and could be found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/national...artner=homepage

September 2, 2005

Government Saw Flood Risk but Not Levee Failure

By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 - When Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, returned in January from a tour of the tsunami devastation in Asia, he urgently gathered his aides to prepare for a similar catastrophe at home.

"New Orleans was the No. 1 disaster we were talking about," recalled Eric L. Tolbert, then a top FEMA official. "We were obsessed with New Orleans because of the risk."

Disaster officials, who had drawn up dozens of plans and conducted preparedness drills for years, had long known that the low-lying city was especially vulnerable. But despite all the warnings, Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed the very government agencies that had rehearsed for such a calamity. On Thursday, as the flooded city descended into near-anarchy, frantic local officials blasted the federal and state emergency response as woefully sluggish and confused.

"We're in our fifth day and adequate help to quell the situation has not arrived yet," said Edwin P. Compass III, the New Orleans police superintendent.

The response will be dissected for years. But on Thursday, disaster experts and frustrated officials said a crucial shortcoming may have been the failure to predict that the levees keeping Lake Pontchartrain out of the city would be breached, not just overflow.

They also said that evacuation measures were inadequate, leaving far too many city residents behind to suffer severe hardships and, in some cases, join marauding gangs.

Large numbers of National Guard troops should have been deployed on flooded streets early in the disaster to keep order, the critics said. And some questioned whether the federal government's intense focus on terrorism had distracted from planning practical steps to cope with a major natural disaster.

Disaster experts acknowledged that the impact of Hurricane Katrina posed unprecedented difficulties. "There are amazing challenges and obstacles," said Joe Becker, the top disaster response official at the American Red Cross.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Becker said, the government response "has been nothing short of heroic."

But he added that the first, life-saving phase of hurricane response, which usually lasts a matter of hours, in this case was stretching over days.

While some in New Orleans fault FEMA - Terry Ebbert, homeland security director for New Orleans, called it a "hamstrung" bureaucracy - others say any blame should be more widely spread. Local, state and federal officials, for example, have cooperated on disaster planning. In 2000, they studied the impact of a fictional "Hurricane Zebra"; last year they drilled with "Hurricane Pam."

Neither exercise expected the levees to fail. In an interview Thursday on "Good Morning America," President Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." He added, "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."

Some lapses may have occurred because of budget cuts. For example, Mr. Tolbert, the former FEMA official, said that "funding dried up" for follow-up to the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, cutting off work on plans to shelter thousands of survivors.

Brian Wolshon, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University who served as a consultant on the state's evacuation plan, said little attention was paid to moving out New Orleans's "low-mobility" population - the elderly, the infirm and the poor without cars or other means of fleeing the city, about 100,000 people.

At disaster planning meetings, he said, "the answer was often silence."

Inevitably, the involvement of dozens of agencies complicated the response. FEMA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, were in charge of coordinating 14 federal agencies with state and local authorities. But Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans complained Wednesday on CNN that there were too many cooks involved.

Unlike a terrorist attack or an earthquake, Hurricane Katrina gave considerable notice of its arrival. It was on Thursday, Aug. 25, that a tropical storm that had formed in the Bahamas reached hurricane strength and got its name.

The same day, Katrina made landfall in Florida, dumping up to 18 inches of rain. It then moved slowly out over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, growing by the hour.

Though its path remained uncertain, the Gulf Coast was clearly threatened, with New Orleans a possible target. Officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the Homeland Security Department said they were taking steps to prepare for the hurricane's arrival.

Army Corps personnel, in charge of maintaining the levees in New Orleans, started to secure the locks, floodgates and other equipment, said Greg Breerwood, deputy district engineer for project management at the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We knew if it was going to be a Category 5, some levees and some flood walls would be overtopped," he said. "We never did think they would actually be breached." The uncertainty of the storm's course affected Pentagon planning.

"We did not have precision on where it would make landfall," said Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the head of the National Guard Bureau. "It could have been anywhere from Texas all the way over to Florida."

Some 10,000 National Guard troops were mobilized, 7,000 of them in Louisiana and Mississippi. But the Defense Department could not put soldiers and equipment directly in the possible path of the storm, General Blum said.

On Saturday, at the urging of FEMA, Mr. Bush declared an emergency in Louisiana, allowing the agency to promise financial assistance to state and local governments and to move ready-to-eat meals, medicine, ice, tarpaulins, water and other supplies to the region.

By Sunday, Katrina had become a Category 5 hurricane, with winds of 175 miles per hour. The president extended the emergency declaration to Mississippi and Alabama. Mayor Nagin, who had urged New Orleans residents to flee on Saturday, ordered a mandatory evacuation.

It would have been up to local officials, a FEMA spokeswoman said, to hire buses to move people without transportation out of the city.

Rodney Braxton, the chief lobbyist for New Orleans, said many of the city's poorest "had nowhere to go outside the region and no way to get there." He added: "And there wasn't enough police power to go to each house to say, 'You have to go, come with me.' "

In a city with so many residents living in poverty, the hurricane came at the worst possible time: the end of the month, when those depending on public assistance are waiting for their next checks to be mailed on the first of the month. Without the checks, many residents didn't have money for gasoline, bus fare or lodging.

City officials said they provided free transportation from pick-up points publicized on television, radio and by people shouting through megaphones on the streets. In addition to the Superdome, officials opened schools and the convention center as shelters.

Mr. Braxton said he believed the city was "aggressive enough" in conducting the evacuation. "We had everything we thought we needed in place," he said. "I don't think anybody could ever plan for the magnitude that Katrina ended up being."

But Susan Cutter, a geography professor at the University of South Carolina and an emergency preparedness expert, said Mayor Nagin should have ordered a mandatory evacuation on Thursday or Friday.

"Evacuation is a precaution," she said. "I don't think they would have taken a political hit if they had ordered it, and it helped."

While New Orleans residents fled the city or gathered in the Superdome, federal agencies positioned search and rescue teams and medical assistance teams from Tennessee to Texas, according to Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security.

Before it made landfall on Monday, the storm turned slightly to the east, avoiding a direct hit on New Orleans. The winds had eased slightly to 140 miles per hour, reducing Katrina's strength to Category 4, and officials counted themselves lucky.

But on Tuesday, when the levees breached, a desperate situation became catastrophic. There was no fast way to fix them, Mr. Breerwood of the Army Corps said, because delivery of heavy-duty equipment was hindered by the destruction.

The National Guard was having similar troubles. While troops were stationed in the region, they could not move quickly into the New Orleans area. And in Mississippi, the zone of destruction was so widespread, it was difficult to cover it all quickly, officials said.

"It is not a function of more people, but how many people can you move on the road system that exists now in Louisiana and in Mississippi," said General Blum of the National Guard. "How many people can you put through that funnel that a storm has taken four lane highways and turned them into goat trails?"

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush, having cut short his vacation, convened a federal task force. With looting spreading throughout New Orleans, Guard officials said they were doubling the call by this weekend, to 21,000 forces, one-third of them military police officers. On Thursday, General Blum said more than 32,000 Guard members would be deployed in the gulf region by Monday.

Currently, the states' governors control their National Guard, with the Pentagon and other federal agencies like FEMA, coordinating operations with the state. The administration has resisted federalizing the relief operation, in large part because officials say it would severely limit the National Guard's ability to conduct law enforcement missions for which they are specifically trained.

"Federalizing the National Guard for purposes of law enforcement would be a last resort, not a first resort," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, told reporters on Thursday.

A 1878 law restricts active-duty military forces from performing domestic law enforcement duties. But in extreme emergencies, like some of the race riots and civil disorders in the 1960's, federal troops have been sent in to restore order.

The administration has also balked at ordering active-duty military forces, such as the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., to intervene in a civilian law enforcement role to stop looting and restore order. Late Tuesday, the Pentagon dispatched five ships to the gulf, but four of the ships are coming from Norfolk, Va., four days' sailing time away.

Some military analysts criticized the Pentagon's response.

"Is the problem that they are only just now beginning to understand how serious the damage was?" said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity .org, a national security policy group in Washington. "Did they not have a contingency for a disaster of this magnitude?"

The chaotic response came despite repeated efforts over many years to plan a coordinated defense if the worst should occur. As recently as July 2004, federal, state and local officials cooperated on the Hurricane Pam drill, which predicted 10 to 15 feet of water in parts of the city and the evacuation of one million people.

Martha Madden, who was the Louisiana secretary of environmental quality from 1987-1988, said that the potential for disaster was always obvious and that "FEMA has known this for 20 years."

"Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, in studies, training and contingency plans, scenarios, all of that," said Ms. Madden, now a consultant in strategic planning.

The Army Corps, she said, should have had arrangements in place with contractors who had emergency supplies at hand, like sandbags or concrete barriers, the way that environmental planners have contracts to handle oil spills.

While his agency is facing harsh criticism, Patrick Rhode, FEMA's deputy director, defended its performance as "probably one of the most efficient and effective responses in the country's history."

He recalled that after Mr. Brown, his boss, returned from his tsunami tour, he asked if the United States was better prepared for a disaster than the ravaged countries he had visited. "We felt relatively comfortable that this country could mobilize the response necessary," he said.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Thom Shanker and Matthew L. Wald from Washington; Christopher Drew and Susan Saulny from Baton Rouge; Joseph B. Treaster from New Orleans; and David Rohde from New York..

Mr. Svoboda

I respectfully suggest, this natural disaster WILL become a political football, as did the 9/11 tragedy and the aftermath -- to many horrific pictures are out the now [which I'm sure the current administration would like suppressed, try shutting up the Jesse jacksons of the world -- better yet, How about the coalition of black congress folks, of which there are PLENTY - as demonstrated by their Washington D.C. press conference yesterday]. Whether the current administration dragged it's feet or NOT, is immaterial, they're [the GOP-Repugnicans]in the majority, hence, in charge. Makes not one wit of difference here in the states who wrote WHAT, WHEN or WHERE above - what is, IS.

Only the naieve believe it won't be politicized, GB got a lot of breaks after 9/11 from the "so-called liberal media", don't expect that ,this time. Keep your chin up though, it'll be over when the next crises pops up or the current adminstration leaves office, or we can find someone, anyone to impeach...

Wanna emmigrate? :D

David Healy

Edited by David G. Healy
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I believe I'll sign off after the last two. It shouldn't be the "politics of Katrina". You are all missing the point. There ARE troops there. There ARE supplies and people who care. Unfortunately, the countries that owe the US the most (Germany and France) offer nothing. Perhaps it's because Chirac just can't SEE the big picture. Hopefully that is being fixed. I leave you all to your political squabblings, your impertinent opinions whil those that you debate ABOUT perish.

Good day and God Bless.

Carrie

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I believe I'll sign off after the last two. It shouldn't be the "politics of Katrina". You are all missing the point. There ARE troops there. There ARE supplies and people who care. Unfortunately, the countries that owe the US the most (Germany and France) offer nothing. Perhaps it's because Chirac just can't SEE the big picture. Hopefully that is being fixed. I leave you all to your political squabblings, your impertinent opinions whil those that you debate ABOUT perish.

Good day and God Bless.

Carrie

I don't believe I have any 'impertinent opinions' about those who are perishing. I have great sympathy for them in their plight and I have already done what I can to help.

I have however plenty of questions (some of which the less intelligent citizens of the world's Superpower may indeed find "impertinent") to ask of the corrupt politicial elite which rules that blighted country.

The fact that the poor and discriminated against of the USA are suffering disproportionately makes me more rather than less likely to continue asking them.

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We are not Cuba. Cuba would move their people but shoot looters on the spot. As for the comment on Iraq. My husband is a veteran of Iraq. My oldest brother is a veteran of Iraq and Afganistan. My sister in law is a veteran of Iraq and she trained teh Iraqi police force. Please do not question what they do. They do what their Commander In Cheif does. And I believe Blair committed the Brits to do the same.

    Our damage is higher than the sunami. We ahve recieved no offer of help from any other country. Not the French, not the Brits, not teh Germans. No one. I personally am sick of foreigners judging the US for how they handle things. In reality, without my tax dollars and the blood of my family for centuries past, many of these critical countries wouldn't be as successful as they are. Germany and France would either be one or in rubble without the help of the US and Great Britain. The Sunami victims wouldn't be eating without US donations and US entertainers rasing money and making donations. John, you say this is all teh US's fault. We didn't say that after the sunami. We didn't say that after World War II.

Of course, the National Guard were ordered to shoot looters. In America you get the worst of both worlds. They leave you to suffer and shoot them if they attempt to get food and drink for their families. Today we have had several British tourists arrive back home. They have pointed out the looters were seen as heroes by those in danger of dying from starvation and from dehydration.

This is indeed a problem of ideology. People in Europe believe in a welfare state where no one falls below a certain level. This is a expensive policy and needs high levels of progressive taxation. It is this level of taxation and the resulting government protection it provides that makes countries civilized. It is no coincidence that America responds to natural disasters like a third world country. That is why it relies on calls for charity donations in times of crisis. That is what third world countries have to do at times like that. What we know is that charity is not the way to solve these problems. Research shows that rich people and rich countries are always the meanest when it comes to giving charity. I suspect America will get a poor response from its calls for help. People will understandably say, why has the American government been spending billions of dollars in invading other countries when it cannot afford to protect its own citizens.

It is also noted that it was not long ago that only recently the American people elected this moron to remain in office for another four years. I suppose therefore that Bush’s values reflects those of the American people. That means you have a government that refused to help the poor people get out of New Orleans. As they have been telling us on the television and in the newspapers, they did not have the money to get out of New Orleans. As they also pointed out, where would they go when they got out of the city. They don’t have money to stay in motels. They also claimed they would not have been made to feel welcome outside of New Orleans. What does that tell us about American society?

In an European country the government would have paid to evacuate the people of New Orleans. They would have also paid for their accommodation while away from home. That is why we have a welfare state? It is not for the rich. It is for the poor who do not have the money to protect themselves from situations like this.

I find the moral code of your leader repulsive. This is reflected in his decision to redirect funding away from building up the defences of New Orleans. Bush is also an incompetent politician. First he continues his holiday at the beginning of the crisis. Then he appears and with that repulsive smirk of his, makes completely inappropriate comments. Then it takes him five days to get people stranded in places like the New Orleans Convention Centre. Yet, as Tony Allen-Mills, wrote in today’s Sunday Times, he had no difficulty driving to New Orleans and interviewing people stranded in the city. If he could do it, why couldn’t they have got buses and helicopters into the area?

Soon after the 1927 flood in New Orleans the people voted into power Huey Long whose campaign slogan was “Share the Wealth”. I expect something similar will happen this time. If I was one of the right-wing millionaires concerned with keeping my wealth, I would at this moment be secretly plotting the removal of George Bush from office. He is so incompetent he poses a real threat to the power elite in America.

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I believe I'll sign off after the last two. It shouldn't be the "politics of Katrina". You are all missing the point. There ARE troops there. There ARE supplies and people who care. Unfortunately, the countries that owe the US the most (Germany and France) offer nothing. Perhaps it's because Chirac just can't SEE the big picture. Hopefully that is being fixed. I leave you all to your political squabblings, your impertinent opinions whil those that you debate ABOUT perish.

Good day and God Bless.

Carrie

The GOP is in major damage control Ms. Carrie -- there is NO political sqabbling, unnecessary dead are NOT impertinent opinions -- if the current GOP leadership below the Mason Dixon Line/Wash D.C. don't wake up ...

When did you say that next election was?

What is FEMA, again? Who might fall on their sword tomorrow?

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By using Republican disinformation agents like Tim Gratz. Apparently a poll shows that 45% of Americans are pleased with the way George Bush has handled the crisis so far. It seems that the Americans do have a lot of people like Tim who are incapable of logical thought. I suppose some could use the excuse that they only get their information from media outlets like Fox News, but Tim has the benefit of reading the thoughts of the wise people who make up this forum. But as I have long suspected, Tim does not actually read these posts. If he does, he clearly does not understand them.

In England, and I suspect every country in the world bar the USA, expect the prime minister or president to take charge in a national crisis. They are then judged on their ability to do that. I have little time for the policies of Tony Blair but no one would question his ability to lead from the front in a crisis.

This goes for all countries. Two months ago Hurricane Dennis approached the coast of Cuba. This is of course a country with few cars. Yet the Cuban government moved over a million people out of its path and only ten people died as a result of this hurricane. Castro did not appear on television and blame the local mayors for the loss of these people. He did not need to because he had been able to lead effectively during the crisis. Cuba is a poor country and has been devastated by the economic boycott imposed by its powerful nations for over 40 years. The reason it could do this was the way it uses the resources available. It does not only protect the rich, it takes care of its poor. That is what happens in Europe. That is the way it works in all civilised countries.

It took five days of hesitation before the national guard and troops reached New Orleans in the numbers needed to search for survivors. That is an appalling fact that would disgrace a third world country. But this has happened in the richest and most powerful country in the world.

Ronald Reagan once said: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. George Bush reflects this ideology more than anyone since Reagan. Bush has constantly argued that by reducing taxes the government would then do less. It is this ideology that explains this crisis.

When the Army Corps of Engineers asked Bush for $105m to reinforce the levees, he gave them $40m. The reason this money was unavailable was because he had been giving tax cuts to the rich and the cost of the war in Iraq.

When you see corpses floating in the streets for five days, it is clear for the world to see that the American government cannot look after its own people. The world appears to be turned upside down when Bush has to ask Sri Lanka to send emergency aid, the humiliation of a once proud country is complete. I wonder if Bush has accepted Castro’s offer of sending 1,100 doctors to Houston with 26 tonnes of medicine to treat victims.

The response by the American government has been mixed. Some of course are always willing to help in times of crisis. Others, especially the more conservative members of community, ask the same kind of questions that they asks when these pleas of help come from military dictatorships in the third world. Should we bail out countries that have spent such large sums on the military? Will our money be used to subsidize bad government?

Aaron Brousard, the president of Jefferson parish, told NBC: “We have been abandoned by our own country. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans. Bureacracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now”. I think he is right, I believe George Bush should be impeached. After all, this is not some sort of sex scandal. This man should be removed from office before he does your country even more damage.

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I believe I'll sign off after the last two. It shouldn't be the "politics of Katrina". You are all missing the point. There ARE troops there. There ARE supplies and people who care. Unfortunately, the countries that owe the US the most (Germany and France) offer nothing. Perhaps it's because Chirac just can't SEE the big picture. Hopefully that is being fixed. I leave you all to your political squabblings, your impertinent opinions whil those that you debate ABOUT perish.

Good day and God Bless.

Carrie

Why so many people with different opinions often after trying to argue their point of view decide to leave???

This happened here and there and I feel sad. Debates tend to be one sided and unjust. Is this forum a megaphone for one single view? Or should this forum be a multitude of opinions and debates and ideas and views?

Why it’s not so then? How much are we all loosing in our intellectual ability when the “right views” are forcing different other views away?

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Why so many people with different opinions often after trying to argue their point of view decide to leave??? 

I don't know. When they leave it becomes hard to engage with them on this or any other matter :devil3

How much are we all loosing in our intellectual ability when the “right views” are forcing different other views away?

No one has been "forced away" from this forum.

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