Ex-Katrina commander slams "amateur hour" of federal Harvey response

"There are people hanging on the trees, and politicians are patting each other on the back"

By Jeremy Binckes
September 1, 2017 4:15PM (UTC)
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(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As Texas deals with deadly floods caused by the powerful Hurricane Harvey, one expert in disaster relief is blasting the federal government for its more-show-than-substance response.

Russel Honore, a retired Army lieutenant general who led the military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, said that he's irritated by the government's recent habit of "congratulating each other politically."


In a disaster, governments don't have control of what's going on. They're responding. My irritation with that is to see politicians patting each other on the back while we're in search and rescue. Because in a disaster, you lose. People are dying. Infrastructure broke. You can't go where you need to go. You don't have food and water where you need it.

And to see people congratulating each other politically, it's just — it doesn't fit well with me knowing there are people hanging on the trees, and politicians are patting each other on the back.

It's not meant to be an affront to anybody. It's just bad karma to go around while people are hanging on the trees and say, boy, we're doing a good job.


The night before, Honore went on CNN and said that "something is significantly wrong" with the command-and-control system in response to Hurricane Harvey's aftermath.

"We need to stop patting each other on the back while these poor people out here are waiting to be rescued."


Intentional or not, the response is certainly a swipe at President Donald Trump, who earlier this week visited Corpus Christi, Texas — hundreds of miles from the devastation in Houston. During that trip, the president bragged about the size of his audience while standing by fire trucks not being used to help suffering people.



The president has also been crowing about the hurricane response on Twitter.





While meeting with disaster response officials, Trump was especially eager to pat Brock Long, his FEMA chief, on the back, telling him, "You're now very famous."

Jeremy Binckes

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Donald Trump Houston Hurricane Harvey Katrina Texas