Chris's Rants

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Destroying FEMA

From yesterday's WaPo -- Destroying FEMA:
In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort. This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.

Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.

Apparently homeland security now consists almost entirely of protection against terrorist acts. How else to explain why the Federal Emergency Management Agency will no longer be responsible for disaster preparedness? Given our country's long record of natural disasters, how much sense does this make?

What follows is an obituary for what was once considered the preeminent example of a federal agency doing good for the American public in times of trouble, such as the present.


This year it was announced that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission.

FEMA will be survived by state and local emergency management offices, which are confused about how they fit into the national picture. That's because the focus of the national effort remains terrorism, even if the Department of Homeland Security still talks about "all-hazards preparedness." Those of us in the business of dealing with emergencies find ourselves with no national leadership and no mentors. We are being forced to fend for ourselves, making do with the "homeland security" mission. Our "all-hazards" approaches have been decimated by the administration's preoccupation with terrorism.

To be sure, America may well be hit by another major terrorist attack, and we must be prepared for such an event. But I can guarantee you that hurricanes like the one that ripped into Louisiana and Mississippi yesterday, along with tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, windstorms, mudslides, power outages, fires and perhaps a pandemic flu will have to be dealt with on a weekly and daily basis throughout this country. They are coming for sure, sooner or later, even as we are, to an unconscionable degree, weakening our ability to respond to them.
See, here's what I don't get. What difference is there between a natural disaster, such as that unfolding in the gulf states, and a terror attack which could result in devastation and loss of life, etc as we have in New Orleans today? After all, isn't BushCo constantly warning against the prospect of terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapon?

So, Cheney Bush puts all his eggs in one basket, and dismantles one of the few government agencies that does really good work? Does that even begin to make sense to you? I know I am confused.

What seems clear though is that despite the fact that the prospect of a hurricane hitting New Orleans being one of the top disaster planning scenarios (until BushCo), that the federal government seemed woefully unprepared. Further, the policies of this administration are going to come back to haunt them big-time. The cutting of funding for the Army Corps of Engineers work on the levees, the reprioritization of FEMA's disaster preparedness work, and the gutting of our nation's National Guard to pursue Bush's folly in Iraq... all will be placed into stark contrast with the Rove machine's marketing messages about Bush being so manly-man strong on terrorism, etc.

It is clear that the BushCo policies have weakened us considerably, both at home and abroad. Yet, despite the fact that this administration has pissed on just about every other country on the planet, and pissed on the UN by sending that cretin Bolton to be our ambassador, the other countries of the world are responding to our tragedy with gracious offers of assistance.

What amazes me though, is that to date none of the offers have been accepted. GHWB would have already sent thank-you letters to each of the nations that offered assistance, even if he chose to decline it (I may not have liked his policies, but he was a gentleman and he knew foriegn policy... he just hadn't the first clue when it came to domestic policy). Dubya was too busy clearing brush on his "ranch" to even notice that there was a problem of unprecedented proportions in the state next door.

Bush said tonight that the recovery would take years. Sorry asshole, that simply isn't an acceptable answer. No amount of expectations management is going to get you a pass on this one.

I feel saddest for the victims in all this... because BushCo will forget about them as soon as the disaster fades from the front pages and 24/7 coverage on cable when some new pretty white girl goes missing.


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