Monday, September 12, 2005

The Katrina reaction: what's the real truth

Jack Kelly of the frequently contrarian Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (if you can find their editorial obit of Katharine Graham -- it's a classic) asks the question if FEMA's reaction, and the National Guard deployment, were better than expected. Here are some clips:

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.

I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:

More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.

The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.

Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.

And the blog Moltenthought, which Kelly quotes, contains these thoughts on the relief effort (with some emphases added):

As a former Air Force logistics officer, let me clarify the following for the idiots in the Left Wing Media:

1. Things can get destroyed far more swiftly than they can get fixed.
2. The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network.
3. You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region.
4. We do not yet have teleporter nor replicator technology like you saw on "Star Trek" in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grownups actually engaged in the recovery effort today were studying engineering.
5. Getting people out of the stricken areas is the most pressing concern, since we cannot get enough supplies into it to safely sustain them.
6. Getting the airport, bridges, and roads repaired is the next priority, since the supplies and people needed to fix levees, drain the city, and repair the infrastructure cannot be transported via aircraft. You need to truck them in.
7. Once the infrastructure is repaired, it is vital to get the ports in working order. Equipment and supplies can only be moved into the area in large quantities by sea.
8. Only then can recovery efforts begin in earnest.
9. The above will take weeks and months, not days or hours.
10. No amount of yelling, crying, and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above. Facts are facts. Opinion is cheap.
11. You could do more help actually keeping your damned satellite trucks out of the way of the folks doing the real work.
12. If you must vent your indignation, how about targeting the Louisiana officials who did absolutely nothing to protect their constituents? At least you can help ensure the populace doesn't elect these clowns again.

HT: Protein Wisdom.

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