Bush drops the ball " again | PostIndependent.com

Bush drops the ball " again

In its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the Bush administration has once more demonstrated its incompetence.

It started with the intelligence failures that made the 9/11 attacks possible. The excuses we heard were that they had inherited a dysfunctional security system from the previous administration, and had no warning that terrorists might hijack airplanes to use as weapons.

It is incumbent on an incoming administration (which invariably finds fault with its predecessor) to investigate and correct any deficiencies, something it had several months to do. The Bush administration also had been warned of the possibility of terrorist attacks using hijacked planes, but did not take that warning seriously. An alert to all flight schools and airport security systems ordering them to tighten screening and report any suspicious activities might have prevented the 9/11 disaster. Competent leadership should consider all possible enemy actions and develop countermeasures to thwart all of them.

In Iraq, the administration had no plan for what to do to maintain order following the defeat of Saddam’s army. It disbanded the Iraqi army, but provided no security force in its place to maintain order and prevent looting. And we still have no coherent plan in Iraq, except to keep blundering along.

It soon became obvious that the vehicles being used by our troops in Iraq lacked adequate armor to protect them against roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s comment was, “You fight your wars with the weapons you have.” But by then, the defect had been known for two years, and nothing had been done to correct it, except for what the troops were able to improvise on their own.

Then we come to Hurricane Katrina, for which it appears that the Bush administration had made no advance preparations whatsoever. Their excuse is that they didn’t expect the levees to fail, and it was all the hurricane’s fault.

How could they have been so ill-prepared when they had three days’ warning from hurricane trackers that New Orleans, several feet below sea level, was in the direct path of the hurricane, and it was a known fact that the levees were designed for only a category 3 hurricane, while Katrina was a category 4 to 5, which would completely inundate the city? Without buses being provided, merely issuing an evacuation order for New Orleans ignored the plight of more than 100,000 people who had no other means of getting out of the city. Thousands of these people were jammed into the Superdome with no power, and no provision had been made for food, water, sanitation, or security against lawlessness and looting for any of the people who were stranded in the city. This condition went on for four days ” a total of a week after the warning of impending disaster. In view of the destruction predicted from Katrina, all of these needs should have been anticipated and relief should have been mobilized and on its way even before the storm hit.

That is exactly what a real president would have done, issuing orders to all agencies to get their acts together and take them on the road. Instead, like Nero, who reportedly fiddled while Rome burned, President Bush bicycled while New Orleans drowned. As Joseph de Maistre observed in 1811, “Every country has the government it deserves.” We should strive to deserve better.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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