Bless Me, Father, For I Have Panicked

My veteran journalist dad always says the press can't tell people what to think, but it does control what they think about (another good reason to turn off the tv, radio and papers on a regular basis). In the past few days, I have had the creeping suspicion that I'd been had by the press-created hysteria regarding Katrina, and starting to kick myself for being fooled by what I know the press always does. Now Jack Kelly confirms it in the Washington Times, and it's so good I am just going to give you the whole thing.
Flawed Critics --Jack Kelly in the Sept. 10 Washington Times
It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow. "Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth.
Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes: "The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hours was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne.For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, FL after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002.
Journalists long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris. They apparently have little interest in finding out.
So they libel as a national disgrace the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history. I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:
  • More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast guard helicopters.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.
  • Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 evacuees.

Journalists complain it took a whole week to do this. A former Air Force logistics officer had some words of advice for the Fourth Estate on his blog, Moltenthought. "We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on Star Trek in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grownups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering.

"The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network. You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets in the affected areas since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region. No amount of yelling, crying and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above."

"You cannot just snap your fingers and make the military appear somewhere," Guardsman van Steenwyk said.

Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders, and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.

Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be affected (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and the damage is assessed.

There must be a route to reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks. And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by governors of the afflicted states.

Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.

The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris-strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.

A better question--which few journalists ask--is why weren't the roughly 2000 municipal school buses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?

Doesn't it feel like that's the first sensible thing you've read about Katrina so far --the first real information that helps you understand the process? I accept Mr. Kelly's rebuke and will try to reform.
While were at it on Katrina, I've been wondering if VDH would take a break from Iraq-boosting and let us know what Thucydides would say about New Orleans --and he didn't disappoint me. He even found a way to utter in one sentence fragment something that I blather on and on about as a recurring theme of this blog:
Arson, looting, shooting at helicopters, random murder, gang rape and stampede supposedly only occur elsewhere -- in Baghdad or Rwanda, as if Americans are exempt from the frailty of culture simply because we live in the United States.
That's exactly what I mean when I say the Left believes in America too much --as a geographical imperative, and not as a frail culture that cannot endure infinite insult.