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Saturday, September 13, 2008



Does anyone remember Michael Brown? He was the FEMA Director who initially oversaw the handling of the New Orleans/Katrina disaster. He was also the official scapegoat who paid the price by losing his job for what was considered inadequate management of the aftermath of Katrina. His being blamed was a the real tragedy, and, if anyone should have been the scapegoat, why were it not his boss – the silver tongue Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Let us review what happened.

First, Michael Brown had been an outstanding FEMA official who successfully supervised several other natural disasters.

Second, there was no way anyone could have predicted how serious the Katrina/New Orleans disaster would have been. Katrina was a Category 2 hurricane, and similar hurricanes had hit New Orleans before without the catastrophic results which resulted from Katrina.

Third, Katrina would not have cause the devastation that it did had not the many dykes broke down. It was not the hurricane, but the ruptured dyes which were the real problem. No one could have anticipated this. I take this back. There have been many who predicted that the dykes were in such a state of disrepair that one day they would rupture resulting in great disaster. It was neglect by the so-called “powers at be” who should have known the dykes were old and had not been brought up to standards and that one day they would not hold up. The dykes were a disaster waiting to happen. Katrina was the final straw, and finally what many had feared over the years happened.
I will repeat that even though many have thought the dykes would eventually give way, no one could have predicted that Katrina would have been the catalyst for what occurred. Michael Brown was not at fault for the enormity of what resulted.

Fourth, when Michael Brown realized that enormity of the Katrina event he telephoned his boss to come to New Orleans immediately. But Chertoff was attending a seminar in Florida and would not break away from the seminar even at the pleading of Brown. Brown was alone without adequate resources to correctly handle the disaster. The local officials were completely clueless.

We learn from our experiences. The problems faced with Katrina was eventually going to result in the improvement of response to the next time such an event were to occur. This is what we recently saw when New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Gustav. With the Katrina event there was a lot of blame to go around. The completely-out-of-his competency New Orleans’ Mayor to the inept Governor were not able to mobilize the forces necessary to respond to what was needed to solve the problem. And so, many blamed President Bush especially those who hate him. Once people realized how to solve the problem, it was done and evidenced by the successful Gustav response.

Many people are arrogant. Many believe that people in charge should be able to solve ALL problems. Natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. are truly humbling experiences which tell us we sometimes cannot predict what Mother Nature will and can do. We experience these events, we learn from them, and we respond better the next time we are faced with similar problems. But, let us not get too arrogant for one day Mother nature will present another problem the enormity of which we might not be able to handle adequately the first time.

To return to Michael Brown. He could not have anticipated what happened with Katrina and the dykes rupturing. The inadequacy of the response was not due to any inadequacy on his part. But, he was the ONLY one, a good man, who was blamed. Pity, because we lost a man who could have continued to serve the public. His being fired is another example of the scape goating which occurs in government. The President stuck by Chertoff, but Chertoff did not do likewise to his subordinate, Michael Brown. I lost considerable respect for Chertoff at the time. I believe that deep inside Chertoff realized his culpability, and blaming and firing Brown diverted attention away from him.

nicola michael (c. Tauraso, M.D.)
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic
Web site: www.drtauraso.com
Blog site: http://www.drtauraso.com/blog/index.htm
Email: drtauraso@drtauraso.com

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