Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

September 20, 2005

How Did Bush Respond So Fast?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:05 pm

Yes, you read that right.

Jack Kelly has pretty much definitively resolved the issue of why the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was so slow: It wasn’t. He quotes Jason van Steenwyk of the Florida Army National Guard:

“The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne.”

Kelly continues:

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 1992. 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.

Stranded school busesThis underscores one of the main flaws of modern journalism — journalists write about what’s going on now — preferably dramatic, scandalous, emotion-tugging events (“If it bleeds, it leads.”) — but they give, and often have, absolutely no perspective on how “today’s events” fit in with the rest of the world. That’s easy to do, and even easier of not having a perspective makes it easy to blame someone you don’t like. They show what they can show, and ignore what they can’t. In this case, they showed the tens of thousands who were stranded, not the hundreds of thousands who got out safely; the three days it took the military to get there, not the five days it took in past storms; and most dramatically, the mayor denouncing the president for allegedly not caring about the stranded poor, not the hundreds of unused schoolbuses, municipal buses, and even a passenger train that could have been used to evacuate them.

“In fact, while the last regularly scheduled train out of town had left a few hours earlier, Amtrak had decided to run a “dead-head” train that evening to move equipment out of the city. It was headed for high ground in Macomb, Miss., and it had room for several hundred passengers. “We offered the city the opportunity to take evacuees out of harm’s way,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. “The city declined.”

So the ghost train left New Orleans at 8:30 p.m., with no passengers on board.”

This is a general problem, not limited to Hurricane Katrina coverage. Another example: In Abu Ghraib, they showed the humiliation inflicted by National Guardsmen taking pictures of naked prisoners when the U.S. held the prison, but not the innocent men being fed feet-first into industrial shredders when Saddam was in charge. (It’s not that the latter weren’t recorded; Saddam’s torturers videotaped them to show other political prisoners what they had coming to them — but those videos are way too gory for American TV.)

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