While the relief effort continues in New Orleans, the local government is fighting a war of words against the federal government. It’s the age old game of blame, and nearly everyone in authority is running for cover. No one wants to own up to the bad decision, the bad call, the inaction, the ineffectiveness, or the absurdity that is New Orleans.
So for now, the media as messengers deliver one outrageous story after another into the public domain.
Guardsmen ‘played cards’ amid New Orleans chaos: police official
A top New Orleans police officer said that National Guard troops sat around playing cards while people died in the stricken city after Hurricane Katrina. W.S. Riley said that for the first three days after Monday’s storm, which is believed to have killed several thousand people, the police and fire departments and some volunteers had been alone in trying to rescue people.
“We expected a lot more support from the federal government. We expected the government to respond within 24 hours. The first three days we had no assistance,” he told AFP in an interview.
Riley went on: “We have been fired on with automatic weapons. We still have some thugs around. My biggest disappointment is with the federal government and the National Guard. We have people who died while the National Guard sat and played cards. I understand why we are not winning the war in Iraq if this is what we have.”
But Commander Riley failed to mention the other reason why the local police department had so much difficulty in the early hours after Hurricane Katrina hit the Big Easy. The National Guard expected to provide a supporting role to a full order of police officers, fire fighters and emergency rescue officials. But that expectation was clearly wrong. Two thirds of the New Orleans police force either left New Orleans before the Hurricane hit or turned in their badges and quit within the first 48 hours of the disaster.
“The real issue, particularly in New Orleans, is that no one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans,” National Guard commander, Lieutenant General Steven Blum told reporters in Washington.
“Once that assessment was made … then the requirement became obvious,” he said. “And that’s when we started flowing military police into the theatre.”
Since Thursday some 7,000 National Guard and military police had moved into the city. President George W. Bush on Saturday ordered an additional 7,000 active duty and reserve ground troops. Blum said any suggestion that the National Guard had not performed well or was late was a “low blow”.
“The initial priority of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard forces was disaster relief, not law enforcement, because they expected the police to handle that,” he said.
The anger burning in New Orleans over the past few days is justifiable. Refugees deserve an explanation.
But, their anger should not be directed at George W. Bush. Their anger should be directed at the criminals in their city, the drug addicts who held up their neighbors at gunpoint, the looters who stole from their neighborhood businesses, and the bad decisions, the bad calls, the inaction, and the ineffectiveness of their disconnected and dysfunctional local government.
MORE: Blanco refused to act.
UPDATE: Blanco delayed the response offer made by Bush for additional 24 hours.
Related: Delusional, Dysfunctional, Divisive, and Defiant