The New York Times is out this morning with an exhaustive, detailed look at how, in the face of Hurricane Katrina, the "federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force." It's a must-read, of course, and it's important to connect the dots in the way the Times has. That having been said, it's the smaller, more anecdotal stories of outrage that are likely to linger longer in the minds of most Americans.
We reported on one last week: the one about all those firefighters FEMA requested from around the country and then assigned -- for day after day after day -- to an Atlanta hotel while people were dying in New Orleans. Today, Carlos Guerra brings us another.
In his column in the San Antonio Express-News, Guerra says that Mexico responded to Katrina by sending 195 people trained in disaster medicine. They arrived Thursday with 47 vehicles, three huge field kitchens and portable emergency water treatment equipment -- enough to provide clean water and three meals a day for 7,000 people for 20 days. And the federal government has assigned them to ... San Antonio, Texas.
Guerra tried to find out why. As he points out, San Antonio has plenty of perfectly potable water, and the evacuees who have arrived in the city have been provided hot meals from the start. Why not send the Mexican specialists to a place without clean water, a place where their services might actually be needed? "Good question," a FEMA press officer told Guerra before referring him to the State Department. A State Department spokesman referred Guerra to a State Department press briefing at which another State Department spokesman said questions about the Mexican workers should be directed to any of several other government agencies, including FEMA. "Left Hand, let me introduce you to Right Hand," Guerra writes. "You should talk before you embarrass us even more."