Even if you were paying attention yesterday, you may have missed a couple big news items. First of all, Philip Zelikow, an aid to Condoleezza Rice when she was Secretary of State, messed up. He actually thought that the Constitution was the Constitution. He thought that because we sign treaties and have more than 200 years’ history of not embracing torture that that actually meant something. He thought, amazingly enough, that the Geneva conventions, which we signed, actually bind us to uphold them. That notion is kind of quaint and laughable now, but back in the day, he wrote this memo. Shortly after he wrote it (memo is here), someone, somewhere in the White House decided that they needed to destroy every copy of the memo. They missed a few copies. The importance of this memo, in my mind, is twofold – First, it is possible to be a conservative and not embrace torture. Secondly, it is possible to be a conservative and not embrace everything that came out of George W. Bush’s mouth (or Dick Cheney’s, for that matter).
For some reason, all that stuff having to do with torture seems to be relatively recent in my mind compared to Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath seem to be a distant memory. I don’t know why. Yesterday, five New Orleans police officers were sentenced to relatively long prison terms because they fired on unarmed civilians during a famous incident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not only did several officers fire on unarmed civilians who were trying to flee the city via the Daniziger Bridge, but they also tried to cover up the incident. In my opinion, this whole incident stems from a lack of oversight in which many people believed that they were on their own. Simple communications (telephone, cell phone, walkie-talkie, radio) were simply unattainable, not working or functioning incorrectly. People were desperate. In desperate times people do extremely stupid and regrettable things. The role of government is to prevent this feeling of desperation.
Fun video: Who would’ve thought you could combine Rita Hayworth and the Bee Gees? Who knew?
We are all focusing on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as we remember Hurricane Katrina. Let me start by saying I love NOLA. I love the people and the culture. I started blogging just a couple months before Katrina. I knew that the levees had broken hours before MSN reported it because of discussion boards on the Internet.
I took this picture in 9th ward 3 years ago.
So what are the lessons?
there should be no political considerations when doling out aid
experts are experts for a reason. They should be in charge of planning and resource management.
we as Americans do a bad job of planning for future problems. Money was consistently diverted from the levees into projects that would give politicians “more to run on.”
there is no excuse … We must get help to everyone within 48 hrs. There is no excuse.
this could happen again.
What are your thoughts? What lessons have you learned?
We’ve also made tremendous progress since Katrina and Rita in improving our country’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from major disasters of all kinds.
An example of this progress is the recovery efforts this summer following the worst flooding in more than a century in Nashville, Tenn. These floods took the lives of more than 30 individuals, devastated communities, and threatened the safety and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of residents. Despite this historic damage, our swift and effective response demonstrated what a difference preparation, coordination between federal, state, and local governments, and the quick deployment of resources to local communities can make.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, played a key role in the government’s response. But as our FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate would be the first to say, preparing for — and responding to — disasters truly is a shared responsibility. While we continue to strengthen and streamline efforts to prepare for disasters at the federal level, citizens, families, communities, faith organizations, and businesses all have an important role to play in our collective response to emergencies.