Katrina: Poor Communications Hobbled the Cavalry

No answer: James Kitfield, writing in the “National Journal,” makes some interesting observations in the course of examining why the military response was so slow in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

What follows are some of the juicier excerpts. Read the whole article here.

  • “My biggest mistake is having a fundamental assumption that … in the country of the United States, that can move whole fleets of aircraft carriers across the globe in 24 hours — that my fundamental assumption was to get as many people to safety as possible, and that the cavalry would be coming within two to three days,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And they didn’t come.”
  • The conclusion of the many post-Katrina investigations now under way is likely to be that in a time of mass chaos — just as Iraqis found in the spring and summer of 2003 — even the world’s best military cannot instantly and simultaneously stop the looting, restore order, transport mountains of supplies, and repair badly damaged infrastructure in a place approximating a war zone.
  • “Given that the tsunami killed 150,000 people [in Southeast Asia], I frankly think we responded pretty well to a storm that might have done the same, given the density of the population in the area where it hit,” said James Carafano, a homeland-security expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “Essentially, Katrina was a nuclear bomb without a mushroom cloud or radiation.”
  • “People may want to simplify the chain of command and make one person accountable, but under our federal system,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, “responsibility starts at the local level and works its way up from the bottom. And unless you are willing to quickly federalize police, firefighters, and other first responders in a crisis, and re-examine the Constitution and the federalist system that has been embedded in our ethos since 1776, we may have to live with that fact. In the meantime, the sad truth is that the terrorists are likely looking at our response to Katrina and taking notes. As bad as Mother Nature is, she doesn’t intentionally plan to kill people.”

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