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The True Failures of the Federal Response to Katrina

And five reforms to prevent a repeat of it all.

Having watched the news for the past week, I now believe that Hurricane Katrina represents a colossal failure of the Federal Government.  At first, I thought that maybe local government, through the police and fire departments (a.k.a. “first responders”), had the immediate role in saving people, but I was wrong.  The way the mainstream media has hammered away on me with constant wailing repetition has really been persuasive.  If having small children has taught me anything, it’s that authoritative speech is marked by great volume and numbing reiteration.  So yes, Mama Media, it’s all about a Federal failure.

But what, exactly, was that failure?

Mama Media has taught me the correct answer to that: the response was too slow — inexcusably slow, criminally slow.  But the response to Katrina was perhaps the fastest ever to a major hurricane; and the size of the response was the largest ever mounted to any hurricane. So if the largest, fastest response ever is too little, too late, perhaps we need to look deeper to find the real Federal failure — because we all know that it was a huge Federal failure.

After having considered the issue at depth, I believe I have identified several areas of true Federal failure.  Always being one who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, I present here a list of proposed changes in Federal response that would have, in hindsight, prevented the Katrina debacle.

Reform 1: Assume any municipal government involved is blatantly and irretrievably incompetent.

Looking back, this one should have been obvious for any disaster involving the city that elected Ray Nagin mayor.  America was lulled into a false sense of security by the magnificent response of Rudy Giuliani on September 11th. Since then, we have always assumed that it was some sort of natural law that there was, for every disaster, a Churchill-like figure that would rise to the occasion.  This neglects the fact that most major metropolitan areas in America are one-party fiefdoms in which offices are essentially assigned in the primaries based on a political and racial spoils system.  This selects for know-nothing back-scratching butt-kissers with no other known skill set.

So in the future, the Federal Government must create an Emergency Mayor Reserve (EMR).  The EMR would consist of a small group of competent former-mayors (small by necessity) that would be kept in a state of cryogenic preservation in an undisclosed location with Dick Cheney.  Upon the outbreak of any attack or disaster, the bozo mayor of the afflicted city would have the option of hitting a “Competency Alert” button kept on a lanyard around his neck.  A Real Mayor Reservist will then be thawed, briefed, loaded onto a cruise missile and fired at the troubled city.  The good-times mayor can then be sent to a secret “War Room” with a case of Johnnie Walker Red to wait out the crisis, then take credit for any eventual solution after the hard work is done.

Reform 2: If, after 12 hours, the Governor of the afflicted state has still not acted, assume she is an indecisive weenie and declare Federal military control of her state under the Insurrection Act.

This implied suggestion was a favorite of the media this week and it would save time and lives –but no one will notice because the media would become immediately obsessed examining the “Constitutional Consequences” of such an ugly power grab.  The Governor of the seized State will join Cindy Sheehan at “Camp Democracy,” where speakers will make comparisons to Caesar, Hitler, and (half-heartedly) Stalin.  A spontaneous march will begin in which 10,000 people will carry pre-printed signs reading “Bush is not MY Governor!,” “States’ Rights, not Bush’s Wrongs!,” and “Indecision is NOT Insurrection!”.

Reform 3: Create a special “Inner-City Response Team” (ICRT) to assist in any disaster involving a high-crime urban area.

The greatest single mistake of the whole New Orleans debacle was assuming that all the victims of the flood saw a breakdown of order as a bad thing. 

If a future disaster afflicts lower Manhattan, we can send in regular cops, firefighters, and paramedics with water, medicine and food.  There, they will be welcomed as a restoration of necessary order and the vanguard of civilized co-operation.  If, however, a disaster afflicts one of our high-crime, low-morality population centers, these do-gooders will need to be held back until the ICRT arrives.  The ICRT will then club most of the populace into a state of stupor that will render them more appreciative of the selfless help of the cops, firefighters and paramedics subsequently sent to aid them.  There will thus be no one shooting at cops, guardsmen, helicopters, humvees, and engineers.  Nor will there be any looting, raping, robbing, burning or beating (except by the ICRT). 

Afterwards, we can prosecute the ICRT members for overreacting and pretend that they were not really needed at all — thus preserving the illusions that are central to our current political order.

Reform 4: Assign escorts to any media personnel entering a disaster area with a live satellite feed.

These escorts would consist primarily of those that had been discharged from the ICRT for “anger management” issues.  Whenever some scum-bag panic-monger reporter then began whipping people into a thoughtless foamy-mouthed frenzy with references to “an American Atlantis,” “tens of thousands dead,” or “total chaos,” his escort could generously apply a 2×4 in a manner known to relieve panic, and say something reassuring like “Geraldo, you aren’t helping things, are you?  Why can’t you be more like Shepherd Smith?”

Reform 5: Create a “Crack” Response Team.

According to a well-publicized radio interview with good-times Mayor Ray Nagin, conducted at the height of the crisis, New Orleans fell apart in large part because:

. . . one of the things people — nobody’s talked about this. Drugs flowed in and out of New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area so freely it was scary to me, and that’s why we were having the escalation in murders. People don’t want to talk about this, but I’m going to talk about it.

You have drug addicts that are now walking around this city looking for a fix, and that’s the reason why they were breaking in hospitals and drugstores. They’re looking for something to take the edge off of their jones, if you will.

And right now, they don’t have anything to take the edge off. And they’ve probably found guns. So what you’re seeing is drug-starving crazy addicts, drug addicts, that are wrecking [sic] havoc. And we don’t have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city and form a perimeter around them and hope to God that we’re not overrun.

There is simply no excuse for the Federal Government allowing a Hurricane to interrupt a major American City’s supply of crack, pot, heroine, hashish and oxycontin.  If we can transport morphine to our troops in the furthest corner of Iraq, then surely we can get a hit of methadone to our own civilians scratching at invisible spiders in a flooded flophouse in New Orleans.  We need a Crack Response Action Center Headquarters (CRAC-Head) set up immediately to make sure that the first Helicopters into a disaster-hit region don’t waste all their valuable cargo space on water, blankets, food and stretchers.  There should be an assortment of narcotics and dosing paraphernalia dropped — via tiny parachutes– onto any future disaster area in which the supply of reality-blocking substances has been impeded.  This will also make the job of the ICRT easier.

Together, these reforms can stop a future New Orleans-style failure of the Federal Government.  The days when one can assume that Mayors and Governors are people of ability and resolve, or that our cities are not full of criminal nutcases and drug-starving crazy addicts are clearly over.  It is time to satisfy the critics and reform the Federal Government into the sort of absolute heavy-handed central authority that can properly rule the nation we’ve become.

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Written By

Mr. Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in Cambridge, Mass., is a regular contributor to HUMAN EVENTS. His column generally appears on Tuesdays. Archives and additional material can be found at www.macjohnson.com.

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