Katrina exposes security flaws
A few days ago we were exalting in man's ability to outwit nature. It appeared then that evacuation efforts had resulted in a minimal loss of life when hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast. Obviously, we spoke too soon.
Even now, a week later, thousands of people remain trapped in New Orleans. The tens of thousands who escaped in the last two days did so only after surviving horrendous conditions. Many didn't make it.
A nation that in the past has watched in horror as rescue efforts dragged on after natural disasters in Third World countries watched in horror and disbelief as the United States failed in too many ways to respond to the suffering of its own people.
Now, while people are still marooned in hotels, dormitories apartment building, convention centers and arenas, is not the time to point fingers. It is the time to get those people out.
But as Congress reconvenes in Washington, one of its first priorities should be a bipartisan inquiry into what went wrong -- especially in New Orleans -- and why.
This is important for two reasons.
First, obviously some heads must roll. Too often in the past, government has responded to disasters by acknowledging that mistakes were made, but without holding anyone responsible. (NASA did it twice after shuttles broke up, killing all aboard.)
But beyond punishing incompetence, it is important to find out why the emergency response to Katrina was so terribly flawed.
Missing its mission
The Department of Homeland Security was organized in an effort to prevent acts of terrorism against Americans and to respond to catastrophes regardless of origin -- terrorism or natural.
It took nearly a week for Homeland Security to respond with manpower and equipment to the needs of Katrina's victims? How long would its response time be to a surprise terrorist attack -- especially if it were nuclear or biological? Homeland Security knows there are going to be hurricanes in the South during the summer and fall and it knew for nearly a week that Katrina was going to strike the Gulf Coast with potentially devastating force.
"The results are not acceptable," President Bush acknowledged Friday after seeing firsthand the inadequate response. OK. So, who was responsible, and what is going to be done about it?