The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.
Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.
Read the whole thing for a small sense of just how utterly gutted FEMA capabilities became under the Bush administration, and specifically under the political appointees involved.
And there's this, from FEMA head Michael Brown, discussing the Cat 5 hurricane arcing directly towards the city of New Orleans...
Brown, the agency's director, told reporters Saturday in Louisiana that he did not have a sense of what was coming last weekend.
"I was here on Saturday and Sunday, it was my belief, I'm trying to think of a better word than typical -- that minimizes, any hurricane is bad -- but we had the standard hurricane coming in here, that we could move in immediately on Monday and start doing our kind of response-recovery effort," he said. "Then the levees broke, and the levees went, you've seen it by the television coverage. That hampered our ability, made it even more complex."
But other officials said they warned well before Monday about what could happen...
Yeah, you know, category 5, no big deal. It's not like anyone could have foreseen that would cause levee failures and major flooding, despite, you know, having been predicted for decades.