Monday, October 03, 2005

The British print the story first

So, why is it that sometimes an foreign paper gets a scoop or a story when it ought to have been found out by reporters here?

I'm surfing along and discover that The Independent, an English paper, has seen a confidential Pentagon report linking problems with Katrina response to problems in Iraq.

((Don't be content with only a teaser of this post;
read more of this musing.))


Here's the reporting by Kim Sengupta as published today by The Independent:

Iraq war delayed Katrina relief effort, inquiry finds

Relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war, an official American inquiry into the disaster has revealed.

The confidential report, which has been seen by The Independent, details how funds for flood control were diverted to other projects, desperately needed National Guards were stuck in Iraq and how military personnel had to "sneak off post" to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission.

The shortcomings in dealing with Katrina have rocked George Bush's administration. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has resigned from his post and polls show that a majority of Americans feel the President showed inadequate leadership.

The report was commissioned by the Office of Secretary of Defence as an "independent and critical review" of what went so wrong. In a hard-hitting analysis, it says: "The US military has long planned for war on two fronts. This is as close as we have come to [that] reality since the Second World War; the results have been disastrous."

The document was compiled by Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the US Army's War College and an adviser to the Pentagon who was a deputy-director in the Louisiana relief efforts.

It charts how "corruption and mismanagement within the New Orleans city government" had "diverted money earmarked for improving flood protection to other, more vote-getting, projects. Past mayors and governors gambled that the long-expected Big Killer hurricane would never happen. That bet was lost with Hurricane Katrina."

The report concludes that although the US military did a good job in carrying out emergency missions, there were some serious shortcomings.

The report states that Brigadier General Michael D Barbero, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Centre at Fort Polk, Louisiana, refused permission for special forces units who volunteered to join relief efforts, to do so. General Barbero also refused to release other troops.

"The same general did take in some families from Hurricane Katrina, but only military families living off the base," the report says. "He has done a similar thing for military families displaced by Hurricane Rita. However, he declined to share water with the citizens of Leesville, who are out of water, and his civil affairs staff have to sneak off post in civilian clothes to help coordinate relief efforts." The report says deployment in the Iraq war led to serious problems. "Another major factor in the delayed response to the hurricane aftermath was that the bulk of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard was deployed in Iraq.

"Even though all the states have 'compacts' with each other, pledging to come to the aid of other states, it takes time, money and effort to activate and deploy National Guard troops from other states to fill in".

Mr Henthorne's report states: "The President has indicated several times that he wants the US military to take a more active role in disaster management and humanitarian assistance.

"There are several reasons why that will not happen easily. (1) Existing laws will not allow the police powers the military will need to be effective. (2) The military is not trained for such a mission and (3) the 'warfighter insurgency' within the US military does not want such a mission and will strongly resist it. Not one civil affairs unit was deployed for either hurricane."

The report concludes: "The one thing this disaster has demonstrated [is] the lack of coordinated, in-depth planning and training on all levels of Government, for any/all types of emergency contingencies. 9/11 was an exception because the geographical area was small and contained, but these two hurricanes have clearly demonstrated a national response weakness ... Failure to plan, and train properly has plagued US efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now that failure has come home to roost in the United States."

Relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war, an official American inquiry into the disaster has revealed.

The confidential report, which has been seen by The Independent, details how funds for flood control were diverted to other projects, desperately needed National Guards were stuck in Iraq and how military personnel had to "sneak off post" to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission.

The shortcomings in dealing with Katrina have rocked George Bush's administration. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has resigned from his post and polls show that a majority of Americans feel the President showed inadequate leadership.

The report was commissioned by the Office of Secretary of Defence as an "independent and critical review" of what went so wrong. In a hard-hitting analysis, it says: "The US military has long planned for war on two fronts. This is as close as we have come to [that] reality since the Second World War; the results have been disastrous."

The document was compiled by Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the US Army's War College and an adviser to the Pentagon who was a deputy-director in the Louisiana relief efforts.

It charts how "corruption and mismanagement within the New Orleans city government" had "diverted money earmarked for improving flood protection to other, more vote-getting, projects. Past mayors and governors gambled that the long-expected Big Killer hurricane would never happen. That bet was lost with Hurricane Katrina."

The report concludes that although the US military did a good job in carrying out emergency missions, there were some serious shortcomings.

The report states that Brigadier General Michael D Barbero, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Centre at Fort Polk, Louisiana, refused permission for special forces units who volunteered to join relief efforts, to do so. General Barbero also refused to release other troops.

"The same general did take in some families from Hurricane Katrina, but only military families living off the base," the report says. "He has done a similar thing for military families displaced by Hurricane Rita. However, he declined to share water with the citizens of Leesville, who are out of water, and his civil affairs staff have to sneak off post in civilian clothes to help coordinate relief efforts." The report says deployment in the Iraq war led to serious problems. "Another major factor in the delayed response to the hurricane aftermath was that the bulk of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard was deployed in Iraq.

"Even though all the states have 'compacts' with each other, pledging to come to the aid of other states, it takes time, money and effort to activate and deploy National Guard troops from other states to fill in".

Mr Henthorne's report states: "The President has indicated several times that he wants the US military to take a more active role in disaster management and humanitarian assistance.

"There are several reasons why that will not happen easily. (1) Existing laws will not allow the police powers the military will need to be effective. (2) The military is not trained for such a mission and (3) the 'warfighter insurgency' within the US military does not want such a mission and will strongly resist it. Not one civil affairs unit was deployed for either hurricane."

The report concludes: "The one thing this disaster has demonstrated [is] the lack of coordinated, in-depth planning and training on all levels of Government, for any/all types of emergency contingencies. 9/11 was an exception because the geographical area was small and contained, but these two hurricanes have clearly demonstrated a national response weakness ... Failure to plan, and train properly has plagued US efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now that failure has come home to roost in the United States."
So how, exactly, does someone like Kim Sengupta get good gouge and everyone else is sitting around. When will the mainstream press get a peek at this Pentagon report and bring a little transparency to the citizenry of this great country?

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