Friday, September 09, 2005

More commentary on Katrina repsonsibility

No, I don't mean holding someone responsible for the fact that a hurricane formed and hit the coast. (That seems to be the area of expertise for the MoveOn, Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground crowd.) As I mentioned yesterday, however, it is becoming apparent that the federal agencies - FEMA, Coast Guard, etc. - aren't where the problems lay in the immediate aftermath of Katrina's landfall. FEMA's not the party responsible for keeping the Red Cross from providing assistance to those poor souls who relied on the Superdome for shelter at the Mayor's suggestion. The idea that the problem was positioned a little closer to the issue than Washington is supported more each day as the facts get examined. Peter Ferra writes:

::::::::A few basic facts will help to detox the political environment:

(1) FEMA is not an agency of first responders. It is not the agency responsible for bringing people bottles of water and trays of fresh food, or transporting them out of harm's way. It also has zero law enforcement authority, or personnel.

These first-responder jobs are the responsibility of local and state government -- city police and firemen, city transportation and emergency services personnel, state police, and ultimately the state National Guard.

FEMA has always been primarily a federal financing agency, providing funding to the locals after the crisis hits to help them respond and rebuild. That is why FEMA's Web site baldly states don't expect them to show up with their aid until three or four days after the disaster strikes.

(2) Moreover, the National Guard is under the command of each state's governor, not the president. The president can federalize control of a state's guard on his own order, but doing so without a governor's consent to deal with an intrastate natural disaster would be a supreme insult to the governor and the state. In addition, using federal troops for local police actions is against the law and has been since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
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His commentary continues with an examination of who actually did what (or didn't do, as the case may be) in the aftermath of Katrina. I've already covered some of it here, but he's got a good article you'd be well served reading.