Home > Political Ranting > Bush Dawdled. For Five Days.

Bush Dawdled. For Five Days.

September 18th, 2005

A news story from yesterday cleared up something that many suspected but hadn’t been reported yet, as far as I am aware. On this blog, I argued (mostly in the comments section, with conservative visitors), that it doesn’t take the National Guard four to five days to get into New Orleans. One visitor, citing his own experience with military logistics, claimed that four to five days was not excessive considering all the planning and organization that had to be done, and all the obstacles that storm damage would cause, and therefore we could not fault Bush for the storm damage. I responded that when a state of emergency had been declared three additional days earlier, before the storm hit, the NG had that much time to get everything together; I also pointed out that just a day or so after the storm ended, caravans of buses took people from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston in under ten hours, so clearly the obstacles didn’t present that much of a delay.

Turns out I was right, despite my lack of logistical knowledge:

Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, President Bush went on national television to announce a massive federal rescue and relief effort.

But orders to move didn’t reach key active military units for another three days.

Once they received them, it took just eight hours for 3,600 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi with vital search-and-rescue helicopters. Another 2,500 soon followed from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

“If the 1st Cav and 82nd Airborne had gotten there on time, I think we would have saved some lives,” said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1989. “We recognized we had to get people out, and they had helicopters to do that.”

Five days. Two days to announce the effort (as he ended his vacation), and another three days to get the order out. And it only took eight hours for the first forces to get there; from reports of the majority of troops arriving by the fifth day, the main land forces were clearly not far behind.

Maybe Bush was just too fuzzy from his vacation fog. Or maybe he resented his five-week vacation being cut short by three days and decided to just kick back in D.C. till his vacation time was up. Or maybe Bush didn’t want to waste money on moving the rescue effort until he was ready to go in with it for a photo op. Of course, neither of those is true, but the reality is even worse. No wonder he took the “bold” move of accepting responsibility–he knew that eventually, reports of when the NG got activated would reach the public.

So it wasn’t the storm damage. It wasn’t that a state of emergency hadn’t been declared, as the White House dishonestly claimed. It wasn’t because the NG wasn’t ready to move, we’ve seen many reports about how troops from around the country were ready to go, and just awaiting orders to do so. It was Bush not responding fast enough, not pressing the relief efforts as he should have, not giving the orders that he should have. That’s not responsible for everything that happened, but it is for a great deal of it. The disorder in New Orleans was greatly due to the fact that the local officials foolishly believed that federal assistance and NG troops would be there within 48 hours, which was supposed to happen. The NG could have gotten there even faster, as it turns out. Now we know why they didn’t. You can’t argue that it was the governor’s fault, because not only had Blanco asked Bush to send everything he had, but Bush had the authority, all upon himself, to get the Guard moving and into Louisiana.

You might argue that it was someone or something else in government that caused the delay, but that won’t wash. Bush was in charge, and regardless of whether he accepts it, the responsibility was his. If there were problems, they were in his house, and they were his to fix. But frankly, I find it impossible to believe that Bush moved quickly and something else failed to click. Why did it take him two days just to announce the rescue effort, when it should have been in place by then? Either he was not aware that he had the authority to make things move, or he himself waited for two days, doing nothing. Can’t palm that off on someone else. And for the three days following, was Bush completely unaware that the guard troops weren’t moving? Didn’t he get a clue when two days after he made the announcement, nothing was happening? After all, if there’s one thing we know about Bush, it’s that he knows the National Guard. He was in it, remember? No, you can’t say that Bush tried his best and someone else screwed up. At the very least, he should have been briefed on all progress, and therefore known what was and was not happening. This was nothing less than his responsibility, and he sat on his hiney for five days while people suffered, starved, drowned and died.

Of course, I am certain that the Republican-controlled probe to investigate the delay (a independent, bipartisan committee was rejected by the GOP) will get down to the bottom of this.

Bush said the other day: “It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice.” Can you believe that? Again, he’s blaming the fact that local government officials were in charge for what happened. Amazing. He’s also trying to grab powers for the federal government here, away from the states where it has resided; what happened to states’ rights? How about the Posse Comitatus Act? Look, it’s not hard to figure out, folks. A challenge of this scale requires the President of the United States to get off his ass and do his job without dawdling for five full days. Or perhaps I am mistaken on that.

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  1. ykw
    September 19th, 2005 at 03:03 | #1

    I think they need a pre-approval process, where the beaurocracy can decided before the thing, that if x happens, y is authorized.

    Perhaps that is what the “investigation” will recommend.

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