Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Dismantling of FEMA

This week brings with it much deserved attention to the memory of Katrina and the failure of government to adequately plan for, and respond to the crisis. Pictures of the president first playing the guitar in California in the first hours of the natural disaster and later peering out an airplane window at the chaos below are again circulating on the Internets, on TV, and the print media.

But the high crime of this administration pertaining to Katrina can be found in the first months of the administration, back in 2001 as a new cadre of political appointees found their way into FEMA and in various ways sought to undermine the agency's history, purpose and structure, intending indeed, to reduce the agency to the figurative rubble much like the literal rubble that would in four years characterize New Orleans. Nor was this intent to dismantle FEMA a secret--Bush's first appointee to the job stated his belief that FEMA had essentially become a welfare provider, a role he no longer wanted the agency to play.

Long-time investigative journalist Russ Baker last year contributed a thoughtful essay on what happened to FEMA prior to Katrina, and it makes for some horrific reading.