Sunday, September 02, 2007

Katrina versus Dunkirk

It's not difficult to tell the difference between "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" and "This was their finest hour."

Nor between the chaos, hunger, and scandals in the aftermath of Katrina, and the brilliant coordination of Naval ships, civilian craft (often sailed by Navy officers), and volunteer fishermen and yachtsmen who rescued hundreds of thousands of French and British soldiers in the evacuation of Dunkirk in June 1940. Or even, to give recent and American examples, the rescue efforts at the Oklahoma City bombing and the Minnesota bridge collapse -- in both places, locals on the spot rushed in and helped with no thought of danger or reward.

But it's useful to know that we won't have to contend with the Dunkirk spirit any longer. Not satisfied with gutting programs that would mobilize the Federal government in disasters, or heading them up with people whose qualifications go beyond laughable and into absurd, FEMA has now proposed a plan that would keep volunteers away from disasters.

To be fair, I can imagine situations in which volunteers could be counterproductive. But I know that even untrained volunteers can be of great help in cleaning up after a disaster. Moreover, the FEMA response has been consistently useless -- which is not surprising, really. This administration has made it 100% clear that they loathe any central government (except the kind that legislates private sexual behavior), so performing government functions well has to be the lowest possible priority for them.

But I would have thought that they would encourage volunteerism if only to spare the pockets of the taxpayers. Then I spotted the kicker: "Construction and demolition companies want to see a disaster ID card program succeed."

And who gets the contracts for cleanup? Everybody's favorite corporation, of course.



Moultrie Creek said...

I recommend reading Popular Mechanic's special report reviewing the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. You might learn that the federal government did an amazing job during and after Katrina. Were there problems? Of course - I've never heard of a well-organized disaster. Most of the problems were created by the media - many out of thin air.

Lynn Kendall said...

Moultrie Creek -- Thanks for the reference; I will look up the Popular Mechanics report.

Unfortunately, much of my information on the disaster did not come through the media but from people onsite, and many of them skilled and knowledgeable about disasters and disaster preparedness. But we do need to thank the government that it wasn't worse.