Sunday, February 12, 2006

Vertical Incompetence

Well, well, well...

A draft report of the House investigation into what went wrong in the Katrina disaster is being released Wednesday, and the Washington Post got a sneak peek at it. The blame got spread around, from top to bottom.

Hurricane Katrina exposed the U.S. government's failure to learn the lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as leaders from President Bush down disregarded ample warnings of the threat to New Orleans and did not execute emergency plans or share information that would have saved lives, according to a blistering report by House investigators.

A draft of the report, to be released publicly Wednesday, includes 90 findings of failures at all levels of government, according to a senior investigation staffer who requested anonymity because the document is not final. Titled "A Failure of Initiative," it is one of three separate reviews by the House, Senate and White House that will in coming weeks dissect the response to the nation's costliest natural disaster.

The 600-plus-page report lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council, according to a 60-page summary of the document obtained by The Washington Post. Regarding Bush, the report found that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance.

...The report portrays Chertoff, who took the helm of the department six months before the storm, as detached from events. It contends he switched on the government's emergency response systems "late, ineffectively or not at all," delaying the flow of federal troops and materiel by as much as three days.

The White House did not fully engage the president or "substantiate, analyze and act on the information at its disposal," failing to confirm the collapse of New Orleans's levee system on Aug. 29, the day of Katrina's landfall, which led to catastrophic flooding of the city of 500,000 people.

..."If 9/11 was a failure of imagination then Katrina was a failure of initiative. It was a failure of leadership," the report's preface states. "In this instance, blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horror."
[Emphasis added]

There are a couple of things about this report which makes it so astonishing. First, this was not a bipartisan investigation. Democrats refused to take part because there were to be no subpoena powers. (Two Louisiana Democrats did informally work with the committee for obvious reasons.) This is a Republican report.

Second, the White House did not cooperate, and all of this information was garnered without a subpoena being issued. That these conclusions could be reached under these circumstances raises the question of what would have been found if there had been some teeth in the investigation.

From the Warlock* In Chief to Chertoff to Brown: everyone screwed up, people died, a city was destroyed.

(*Oathbreaker. Scroll down to the next post.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And 3600 people are still missing--and the press mentions that someone's relative is still "missing," but does not mention this horrific total.

That's about 25% more than died in the 9/11 attacks.

This nation is sweeping this into the memory hole.


9:10 AM  
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