More on FEMA

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Lew always wants us bloggers not merely to report material, but to add our own commentary to it. In this case I will ignore Lew’s request, and, instead, merely inform you of a passage that appears in this refereed journal article (Block, Walter and Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. 2007. “Katrina and the Future of New Orleans,” Telos, Vol. 139, Summer, pp. 170–185):

One week after the hurricane, FEMA ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to buy 211 million pounds of ice from IAP Worldwide Services of Florida. Trucking companies were notified of a grand opportunity since the government was paying the bills for delivery, and the dispatchers sent out the word. There is no space to explore the workings of IAP Worldwide, but the company, which relies heavily on tax dollars as a federal contractor, has a new CEO who most recently held the position of vice president of national security programs for the notorious Kellogg Brown and Root. His name is David Swindle.

But back to the story of the ensuing chaos. One trucker picked up ice in Greenville, Pennsylvania, and was told to drive it to Carthage, Missouri. But when he arrived in Carthage, he was told by a FEMA official to go to Montgomery, Alabama. After a day and a half sitting in Montgomery, he was told to go to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, after which he was sent to Selma, Alabama, after which he was sent to Emporia, Virginia, where he stayed for a week burning fuel, until he was sent to North Carolina, and finally to Nebraska, where he dropped the ice in a government storage unit. That’s 4,000 miles over a period of two weeks. This was hardly the only case.

The news media chronicled the stories of these truckers. A truck full of ice was sent from Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian, Mississippi, then to Barksdale Base in Louisiana, then to Columbia, South Carolina, and finally to Cumberland, Maryland, where he waited for six days before being sent to Bettendorf, Iowa, where the ice was unloaded. Another truck was sent from Wisconsin to Missouri to Selma to Memphis, Tennessee, before finally dropping off the ice in a storage unit. There were 4000 drivers enlisted in this incredible charade. No one knows for sure how much ice ever got through or how much if any good it did.

In one of the first incidents reported of what was to be two weeks of catastrophe, a group of volunteer fire fighters from Houston came to New Orleans wanting to help. They were told to wait. They waited 48 hours and were ordered to go back. A group of doctors from Maryland tried to get in but FEMA sent them on to the Red Cross, which said it could do nothing without the approval of federal health officials.

After the New Orleans mayor made a call for firefighters to come help, 1,000 volunteers were sent to Atlanta, where they were put in a conference room at the Sheraton hotel and subjected to seminars on sexual harassment and other bureaucratic matters. They were then told that their job would be to distribute flyers with a message on it: call 1-800-621-FEMA. Many or even most of these well-trained people left town. Those who stuck it out and headed for Louisiana were aghast that their first assignment was not to fight fires, which had been raging for a week, but to escort President Bush on his TV-laden tour of the area. All the photos can be seen on WhiteHouse.gov.

In fact, FEMA refused offers of help of all sorts, mainly because of issues of control. FEMA declined help from Amtrak in evacuating people from New Orleans. The Chicago municipal government wanted to send volunteers from the fire department, police department, and hospitals all over town, but FEMA said no. The same happened to New Mexico, whose governor volunteered equipment and personnel.

FEMA prevented Wal-Mart from delivering three tank trucks full of water, and the Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel. As for the National Guard, for days it would not allow reporters into the Superdome where tens of thousands were trapped. People were hungry and thirsty, but the National Guard would not allow the Red Cross to deliver any food. Here is the astounding statement from the spokesperson of the Red Cross: “The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans… Right now access is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities…. We cannot get into New Orleans against their orders.”

The Salvation Army attempted to rescue two of its own officers trapped in a building and on dialysis. They rented three boats for a rescue. But they were not allowed through , though to be fair the Salvation Army didn’t specifically name the government as at fault, but it did point out that all private efforts were running into similar kinds of obstacles, so the message was clear. Meanwhile, the USS Bataan, a floating hospital for 600 patients, that happened to be at sea and rode out the storm, was still sitting empty by the third day, not permitted to do its job.

An astounding case of ineptness comes to us from the case of three Duke University students who drove to New Orleans to help but were turned away by the National Guard. They had seen the news and knew that they could help, and wondered why they should be pushed around by bureaucrats. Being college sophomores, they took a risk. They forged press credentials, with fake IDs and shirts and the works. They went back and adopted a haughty tone. The National Guard waved them through immediately. Then the students drove to the Convention Center. There they found thousands of sick, hungry, thirsty, and dying people in desperate need. They found a man who had welts all over his body. He was in a tree covered with fire ants as the flood waters rose, and there he stayed being bitten repeatedly for up to 24 hours.

The boys picked him up along with three others and drove them to a Baton Rouge hospital. They made another trip there and back with more people before they began to become frightened of what the government might do to them. On one return trip, they observed 150 empty buses driving the other way – and they have a video to prove it.

One can only express astonishment at how the government treated the tens of thousands of people it had herded like cattle into large public spaces. For reasons still unclear, the government couldn’t seem to get its act together on transporting them out even as the people themselves were forbidden to leave. Once the central planners decided to move all these people from the Superdome to the Astrodome, no means of transport arrived, even as aerial photos showed miles and miles of public buses available.

Indeed, the first bus to reach Houston was not driven or approved by the government. It was commandeered by 20-year-old Jabbar Gibson, who drove it from the floods and picked up as many people as he could and drove all the way to Houston, a 13-hour drive! He beat the government’s system by a day. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of people who had been shoved into the Superdome on Sunday, before the floods came, were still suffering in that massive calamity by Friday and Saturday.

Perhaps the most astounding case of incompetence has received the least attention. It relates to a 500-boat flotilla stretching over 5 miles that left for New Orleans from Lafayette. It involved 1,000 people who had hoped to rescue hospital patients and take them to safety. It consisted of private boaters, fishermen, hunters, and others who had spent their entire lives navigating Louisiana waterways. Once this caravan arrived, they were turned away by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which was now being run by FEMA. All five hundred boats were turned away and ordered out.

Now keep in mind that this was three days after the hurricane hit. There were hundreds of people inside the Charity Hospital in New Orleans alone. They had no supplies and only three had been rescued. At this very time, the head of the FEMA-ized Wildlife and Fisheries Department announced to the world on television that it needed no help from anyone and that it had all matters under control.

Ron Paul’s criticisms of FEMA were VERY accurate, the MSM to the contrary notwithstanding.

2:16 pm on August 28, 2011
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