The rescues the media missed in New Orleans
DO you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopter landings at the Superdome, as soon as Katrina passed, to drop off tens of thousands saved from certain death? Of the corpsmen running with stretchers to carry the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? Or the reports on how the operation - with Coast Guard helicopters, regular military units and local first responders, too - went on for more than a week, saving more than 50,000 lives?Easy. It did not advance their story line. When the media gets fixed on a story line they tend to follow it instead of the real story. Their story line in New Orleans involved an attack on the competance of FEMA and the Bush administration and they tended to ignore any evidence to the contrary. They listened to corrupt New Orleans officials make false statements about crime and conditions. They blamed FEMA for not bringing relief supplies when it was the Louisiana officials who did not want them brought in because they felt it would encourage people to stay. They blamed Michael Brown for the failures of local officials conviently forgetting that the man had performed with competance in at least four previous hurricanes when dealing with competant officials in Florida and Alabama. Katrina should go down in history as the medias worst performance since the Tet offensive where they turned a victory into a strategic defeat.
No? That's because the national media imposed a near-total blackout on the nerve center of what may have been the largest, most successful aerial search-and-rescue operation in history.
In fact, they got the Katrina timeline exactly backwards: Help wasn't late to arrive. The most important work - lifesaving, search and rescue - got done in the first four days after the hurricane passed.
On this anniversary week of Hurricane Katrina, we'll hear endless rehashing of the manifold failures of FEMA and the Bush administration - much of it deserved - and endless chanting of the "help was late" meme. What we won't hear is what congressional reports have since shown: Three other agencies anticipated the crisis and swung into action as soon as the storm passed.
THE Coast Guard rescued about 30,000 New Orleans residents stuck in attics, on rooftops, and clinging to trees as floodwaters rose; the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, another 20,000-plus. The Louisiana National Guard and the National Guard Bureau (its federal overseer) accounted for 17,000 more, as well as providing critical stockpiles of food, water and support for volunteers, local police and firefighters. Even FEMA rescuers played major roles. How many were saved from death is unknowable, but tens of thousands clearly faced death from drowning, dehydration, heat stroke and disease.
At the center of all this was the Superdome, supposed ground zero for governmental incompetence and bad behavior by the locals. In fact, it is a symbol of how badly the press can misrepresent reality.
It wasn't just a shelter of last resort. The National Guard moved its headquarters there on Monday, after its Jackson Barracks in the 9th Ward was flooded out. Hundreds of helicopters landed daily to unload survivors. How could the media miss it?
There is much more in Doliner's piece.