"There was a systematic failure at all levels of government to understand the magnitude of the situation," Bahamonde testified. "The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch."It certainly isn't meant to reach to the Secretary of Homeland Security:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended his actions before and after Hurricane Katrina, telling lawmakers Wednesday he relied on Federal Emergency Management Agency experts with decades of experience in hurricane response.Marty Bahamonde was sent to New Orleans by Brown to coordinate FEMA's response. Bahamonde was the only FEMA official on the scene until August 30.
"I'm not a hurricane expert," Chertoff said several times in responding to criticisms from members of a special House panel set up to investigate the dismal federal response to Katrina, which killed more than 1,200 people, flooded New Orleans and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands.
As Katrina's outer bands began drenching the city Aug. 28, Bahamonde sent an e-mail to Deborah Wing, a FEMA response specialist. He wrote: "Everyone is soaked. This is going to get ugly real fast."Bahamonde's response (to a co-worker, not "Brownie"; and, as Jon Stewart says, "We are not making this up"):
Subsequent e-mails told of an increasingly desperate situation at the New Orleans Superdome, where tens of thousands of evacuees were staying. Bahamonde spent two nights there with the evacuees.
On Aug. 31, Bahamonde e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."
"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote. "The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."
A short time later, Brown's press secretary, Sharon Worthy, wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," Worthy wrote.
"Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."
In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but did not get a response.
"He just said, 'Thank you,' and that he was going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.
"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!" Bahamonde messaged the co-worker. "I just ate an MRE" — military rations — "and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants."(and credit to greatscat for the catch!)
But wait, as the ads say, there's more:
In e-mails, Bahamonde described to his bosses a chaotic situation at the Superdome. Bahamonde noted also that local officials were asking for toilet paper, a sign that supplies were lacking at the shelter.Only because Brownie and Chertoff were in charge; and W. was the President. As for Chertoff's denial of responsibility: this is real simple. You take authority over the agency, you are responsible for what it does. The people you relied on failed you? You still take responsibility. Nobody cares whether or not your an expert in hurricanes, or earthquakes, or quoits. What they expect is that you belly up to the bar and take it like a man. You're the boss. If it goes well, you get the credit. If it goes wrong, you take the blame.
"Issues developing at the Superdome. The medical staff at the dome says they will run out of oxygen in about two hours and are looking for alternative oxygen," Bahamonde wrote regional director David Passey on Aug. 28.
Bahamonde said he was stunned that FEMA officials responded by continuing to send truckloads of evacuees to the Superdome for two more days even though they knew supplies were in short supply.
"I thought it amazing," he said. "I believed at the time and still do today, that I was confirming the worst-case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans."
The most serious problem in this country today is the problem of responsibility. Nobody wants to take it.
Nobody. Tom DeLay blames Ronnie Earle. Chertoff blames "Brownie." Bush blames everybody. But no one is in charge, because no one is responsible for what happens.
It's like everything is just an "Act of God." And who are you gonna blame then?