09 September 2005

Insert Cricket Sound Effects Here

It's hard to not go deaf in the wake of the screams of "Bush drowned all those people," especially when you are so intently listening, like I am, for examples of what Mayor Nagin or Governor Blanco, through their orders, policies or leadership actually did, actively or passively, that benefited anyone in this mess. Show me the Louisiana resident that can say "If it wasn't for the sure actions of Nagin/Blanco, I would have really been in trouble."

Anyway, part of what makes the blame game such a loser is in the complexities of what's involved in the Who's In Charge debate:

To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.

While combat troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.

But just as important to the administration were worries about the message that would have been sent by a president ousting a Southern governor of another party from command of her National Guard, according to administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials. "Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers. "I need everything you have got," Ms. Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Monday, after the storm hit.
In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that," Ms. Blanco said. "I thought that I had requested everything they had. We were living in a war zone by then."

By Wednesday, she had asked for 40,000 soldiers. In the discussions in Washington, also at issue was whether active-duty troops could respond faster and in larger numbers than the Guard. By last Wednesday, Pentagon officials said even the 82nd Airborne, which has a brigade on standby to move out within 18 hours, could not arrive any faster than 7,000 National Guard troops, which are specially trained and equipped for civilian law enforcement duties.

1 comment:

flamer said...

There's no debate:

A Sept. 5 Los Angeles Times article quoted former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock saying that "[t]he moment the president declared a federal disaster [on Aug 29], it became a federal responsibility. ... The federal government took ownership over the response."

Moreover, DHS' own website declares that DHS "will assume primary responsibility on March 1st [2005] for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort."