Thursday, September 08, 2005

Who Will Be the Stephen Hayes of the Katrina Catastrophe? 

We have the answer for you. Major Garrett.

No, he's not a military man, that's his actual name. He's a mainstream journo who always skewed a bit right, and today, openly so, as one of Fox News ace reporters. He's even written a book.

Stephen Hayes, you will remember, is one of those faux-journos hatched by various right-wing affrimative action programs. In his role as staff writer at The Weekly Standard, he wrote an article that purported to show that there were substantial ties between Al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein. It's title was "CASE CLOSED."

The story, highly detailed, in fact, tendentious to the point of being almost impossible to follow, was clearly based on a leak from the DOD, and within what seemed like only hours, most of the information carried in the story was denied by its institutional source, if not the specific leaker. We covered the initial dust-up here.

No problem that Hayes's closed case was immediately shown to be leaky, his book telling exactly the same story, "The Connection," was forthcoming on schedule, and Hayes has continued to push the story, as have other right-wing faux journos continued to pretend that its argument is founded on facts, in exactly the same way as both the President and Vice-President continue to talk as if Saddam Hussein has something to do with 9/11.

That's the falangist way; fashion a story, ignore all critiques of its logic and presented facts, and then constantly cite it in vicious attacks on what has already been established as historical fact, and anyone who dares to believe it..(See all major 20th century analyses of totalitarianism and propoganda from Orwell to Jacque Ellul.)

So, what was Major Garrett's big bombshell as reported yesterday, Sept 7, 2005 on Brit Hulme's Special Report?

Let Hugh Hewitt, on whose radio show Garrett made an appearance within minutes of appearing on Fox, tell you all about it, as reported on Radio Blogger, who provided this introduction to the transcript: (emphasis mine)
Explosive revelation by Fox News' Major Garrett.

On the Fox News Channel just a little while ago, Major Garrett, one of Fox's star reporters, and author of The Enduring Revolution, broke a very disturbing story for those on the left that want to play the blame game regarding the reaction to the Katrina.
Here's the gist of the bombshell:
HH: You just broke a pretty big story. I was watching up on the corner television in my studio, and it's headlined that the Red Cross was blocked from delivering supplies to the Superdome, Major Garrett. Tell us what you found out.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They're not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdome, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuaees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don't I see that?

HH: And the answer is?

MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

HH: Now Major Garrett, on what day did they block the delivery? Do you know specifically?

MG: I am told by the Red Cross, immediately after the storm passed.

HH: Okay, so that would be on Monday afternoon.

MG: That would have been Monday or Tuesday. The exact time, the hour, I don't have. But clearly, they had an evacuee situation at the Superdome, and of course, people gravitated to the convention center on an ad hoc basis. They sort of invented that as another place to go, because they couldn't stand the conditions at the Superdome.

HH: Any doubt in the Red Cross' mind that they were ready to go, but they were blocked?

MG: No. Absolutely none. They are absolutely unequivocal on that point.

HH: And are they eager to get this story out there, because they are chagrined by the coverage that's been emanating from New Orleans?

MG: I think they are. I mean, and look. Every agency that is in the private sector, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Feed The Children, all the ones we typically see are aggrieved by all the crap that's being thrown around about the response to this hurricane, because they work hand and glove with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When FEMA is tarred and feathered, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are tarred and feathered, because they work on a cooperative basis. They feel they are being sullied by this reaction.
And what here is new or newsworthy, you may be asking yourself? As far as I can tell, it's the fact that Major Garrett got an interview with someone in the higher echelons of the American Red Cross.

Did we not know that the Red Cross, as it always does, prepositioned supplies all over the hurricane's likely target areas? Did we not know that they were prevented from delivering them by a combination of the intensity of the on-going damage in New Orleans, which extended into the second day after Katrina had moved on, and the lack of a mode to deliver supplies to those trapped in a city largely underwater? So, what has Major Garrett added to this narrative. Presumably, it's the fingering of the state government of LA as the ones responsible for all the went wrong in New Orleans by the Red Cross itself.

If you find yourself a bit surprised that an organization like the Red Cross, which works closely with both local, state and federal officials, would take sides so decisively, you might want to read this explanation they offer on their own website to the frequently asked question of where they were during those first days after Katrina hit.
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.

The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.

As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.
Let's do a little compare and contrast between this unexceptional explanation of the situation and what Garrett and Hewitt make of what those sources of Garrett's are supposed to have disclosed to him, (again, emphasis mine):
HH: (edit)Now Major Garrett, what about the Louisiana governor's office of Homeland Security. Have they responded to this charge by the Red Cross, which is a blockbuster charge?

MG: I have not been able to reach them yet. But, what they have said consistently is, and what they told the Red Cross, we don't want you to come in there, because we have evacuees that we want to get out. And if you come in, they're more likely to stay. So I want your listeners to follow me here. At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass, and state officials were saying you can't come in.

HH: How long would it have taken to deliver those supplies, Major Garrett, into the Superdome and possibly the convention center?

MG: That is a more difficult question to answer than you might think. There were areas, obviously, as you approached the Superdome, that were difficult to get to, because of the flood waters. And as the Red Cross explained it to me, look. We don't have amphibious vehicles. We have trucks and ambulance type vehicles. In some cases, after the flood waters rose as high as they did, we would have needed, at minimal, the Louisiana National Guard to bring us in, or maybe something bigger and badder, from the Marines or Army-type vehicle. They're not sure about that. But remember, Hugh, we were transfixed, I know I was. I'm sure you were and your listeners were, by my colleague, Shep Smith, and others on that overpass.

HH: Right.

MG: ...saying, wait a minute. We drove here. It didn't take us anything to drive here.

HH: Right.

MG: Why can't people just come here?

HH: I also have to conclude from what you're telling me, Major Garrett, is that had they been allowed to deliver when they wanted to deliver, which is at least a little bit prior to the levee, or at least prior to the waters rising, the supplies would have been pre-positioned, and the relief...you know, the people in the Superdome, and possibly at the convention center, I want to come back to that, would have been spared the worst of their misery.

MG: They would have been spared the lack of food, water and hygiene. I don't think there's any doubt that they would not have been spared the indignity of having nor workable bathrooms in short order.
Here's a Red Cross official explaining just that point last Wednesday on Hardball:
MCCRUMMEN: Well, right now, people are in shelters. And we prefer hard structures like that that we can—that are easier to maintain than a tent city.


MCCRUMMEN: But I think the federal government and the Red Cross are working through some of those issues right now to ensure that people have safe places to stay.

MATTHEWS: Look at these people right now. We're just seeing this footage. It's depressing. Look at the age of some of these folk here. They're fragile to begin with.

What would—what would you like to be able to do in the next week, with the help that the money people give, to change that situation to a more hopeful situation?

MCCRUMMEN: We have got to ensure that those people that are vulnerable right now have safe places to stay, food to eat and life-sustaining things that the whole coordinated effort is trying to bring to them. That's what's most important right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you have helicopters?

MCCRUMMEN: Red Cross does not. But we rely on our partners to bring those to us when we need to get supplied in and out.

MATTHEWS: What's going on right now? If you want to give me—give me a visual picture right now of what the Red Cross is doing, now that you've got this $72 million pledged.

MCCRUMMEN: Right now—before the storms hit, we had things prepositioned all throughout this area, because we knew it was going to be bad. So, right now, we're moving that stuff and volunteer—disaster-trained volunteers into those affected areas to make sure that those people get what they need.


MATTHEWS: Tell me what you had ready to go.

MCCRUMMEN: We had millions of heater meals and cleanup kits and hygiene kits and the kinds of things that people are going to need just to survive for the next two, three days, until federal assistance can get there and until people can get through the bad infrastructure and get the things they need.
Granted, the discussion is less than pointed, given Matthews' chronic inability to conduct an interview with any entity more challenging than a mirror. Still, it's very clear that as of Wednesday, the Red Cross was kept from delivering needed supplies within New Orleans, and in particular to the Superdome and the Convention Center, by the lack of a means to do so, which would have to have been provided by either the state of LA or by the Federal government.

So, where's the story, where's the bombshell?

Oddly, as Hewitt and Garrett continue their colloquy, they seem to expose the threadbare nature of the story, except that they manage not to notice. (emphasis mine)
HH: Now Major Garrett, let's turn to the convention center, because this will be, in the aftermath...did the Red Cross have ready to go into the convention center the supplies that we're talking about as well?

MG: Sure. They could have gone to any location, provided that the water wasn't too high, and they got some assistance.

HH: Now, were they utterly dependent upon the Louisiana state officials to okay them?

MG: Yes.

HH: Because you know, they do work with FEMA. But is it your understanding that FEMA and the Red Cross and the other relief agencies must get tht state's okay to act?

MG: As the Red Cross told me, they said look. We are not state actors. We are not the Army. We are a private organziation. We work in cooperation with both FEMA and the state officials. But the state told us A) it's not safe, because the water is dangerous. And we're now learning how toxic the water is. B) there's a security situation, because they didn't have a handle on the violence on the ground. And C) and I think this is most importantly, they wanted to evacuate out. They didn't want people to stay.
And once again, can we ask, where is the story here, where the bombshell? No matter, if the substance makes no sense, Hewitt is on the case to push forward with this devastating indictment of everyone but Bush & co:
HH: Now off the record, will the Red Cross tell you what they think of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin?

MG: No.

HH: Will they tell you what they think about FEMA director Brown?

MG: No.

HH: Will they tell you any...will they give any advice of how to make sure this doesn't happen again?

MG: Well, there is something, Hugh, that I think we have to be honest with ourselves about. New Orleans is a situation, because of its geography, utterly unique in America. We don't build cities in bowls, except there. This complicated the Red Cross efforts, and the FEMA efforts, from the start. In the mid-90's, the Red Cross opened a shelter in South Carolina that was eventually flooded. And there was a big controversy about that. After that, the Red Cross made a policy decision that it would never shelter, or seek to shelter, any evacuee from any hurricane, anywhere where flooding was likely to occur. High ground is where they were going to be, and where they were going to go. Well, that basically rules out all of New Orleans.

HH: Sure. Does the Red Cross, though, assist in evacuation, Major Garrett?

MG: Not under the state plan in Louisiana. And not very many other places, either, because again, the Red Cross is a responding private charity. It is not an evacuation charity. It does not assume, as you can well imagine, Hugh, the inevitable liability that would come with being in charge of evacuating.

HH: How senior are your sources at the Red Cross, Major Garrett?

MG: They're right next to Marty Evans, the president.

HH: So you have no doubt in your mind that they have...

MG: Oh, none. None. And I want to give credit to Bill O'Reilly, because he had Marty Evans on the O'Reilly Factor last night. And this is the first time Marty Evans said it. She said it on the O'Reilly Factor last night in a very sort of brief intro to her longer comments about dealing with the housing and other needs of the evacuees now. She said look. We were ready. We couldn't go in. They wouldn't let us in, and the interview continued. I developed it more fully today.

HH: And the 'they' are the Louisiana state officials?

MG: Right.

HH: Now any in the 'they'...is the New Orleans' mayor's staff involved as well? Or the New Orleans police department?

MG: Not that I'm aware of, because the decision was made and communicated to the Red Cross by the state department of Homeland Security and the state National Guard. Both of which report to the governor.

HH: Do they have any paper records of this communication?

MG: I did not ask that. It's a good question. I'll follow up with them.

HH: I sure would love to know that. And if you get it, send it to me. We'll put it up on the blog. Major Garrett, great story. Please keep us posted. Look forward to talking to you a lot in the next couple of weeks on this story. Thanks for breaking away from the Fox News Channel this afternoon.
Is it just me, or is it not so that either they're crazy, or we are. Or perhaps its a certain habit of mind.

Obviously none of what Garrett reported contradicts the main outlines of the story of who and what failed New Orleans. The local authorities continuously asked for Federal help because they didn't have the means to get what relief was there to the people who needed it. Blame enough to go around, but none of that speaks to the responsibility of the President and his administration.

That isn't stopping this bombshell from exploding all over the rightwing blogisphere. For a nice sampling you can take a look at The Corner here here,here,here, here,here,andhere

All comments that fill in more of the actual story as against this faux version of it are most welcome.

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