Government says ‘sorry’By Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Admitting something, especially something wrong, is always hard.
Upon hearing Ate Glo's admission a few months ago, I thought she dealt herself a deathblow. Most leaders would have instead stuck by some story denying the facts, especially in the Philippines where admitting one's guilt instantly throws you into the lion's den.
My thoughts were that she should have emulated her ally across the ocean, President George W. Bush who never admits to any wrongdoing. No matter what the facts presented, the news portrayed or the polls suggested, he continued steadfast on staying course at all cost. And if he had trouble defending his cause, he had a strong, unwavering cabinet to fight for him at every turn. Unlike the course taken by our madam presidente, his stance had given his government stability and above all, outright leadership.
Then came last Wednesday. President Bush came out and admitted he held some responsibility at the federal level for the failures to respond to Hurricane Katrina.
It was an amazing admission of sorts. I'm sure not even Las Vegas odds makers had this one on the books.
Now rarely do I go out on a limb and try to defend this administration in any way since I happen to be highly against many of their actions (or inactions). But I'd like to give them a pinch of leeway here.
First of all, let me say as someone who was very involved with meteorology before, it is impossible to predict the exact location a hurricane will strike even with the technologies of today. Many factors -- from water temperature, wind shear to the jet stream -- all play a part in influencing the path of a hurricane. Not only that but many tropical storms enter the Gulf of Mexico every year and no one really knows where they will go and what they will do next. So deciding where to position the National Guard days before impact is nearly impossible. And believe it or not, there are times where the final destination of these storms ultimately rests squarely on luck.
Parts of the gulf from Mobile, Alabama to the panhandle of Florida are much more prone to hurricanes than some parts of Louisiana and western peninsula of Florida. Those parts rarely get hit by hurricanes, and even when one seems headed straight for them, these storms magically change course. Take for instance a year ago when Hurricane Ivan was making landfall. Everyone thought it was going for a direct hit on New Orleans and people fled by the thousands via automobile. Same thing happened with Hurricane Georges in 1998. But the storms veered off into the "more prone" areas of Mississippi saving New Orleans for another day.
This incidentally leads to another problem. It's hard to call for mandatory evacuations. Yes, they are necessary to save lives but calling evacuations too many times would make the public wary of them. Some will start believing that they could ride out the storm the next time it's called since they weren't affected by the last one. Obviously, there's truth behind that short fable of the boy who cried wolf.
But perhaps the thing that may have taken many off guard was the news coverage while the storm was over New Orleans. Prior to impact, forecasters laid out the worst-case scenario where a 20-foot storm surge would rise from three sides of the city leveling much of the low-lying structures to the ground. Calamity seemed eminent.
But as the storm rolled through, it was downgraded to a Category 4 right before its impact. Reporters were standing on Canal Street in the middle of the 100 mph wind telling viewers not about the 20-foot wall of water but some of the falling debris. Our 24-hour news channels had their tickertape roll that New Orleans was spared the brunt of the storm. The city was "saved."
It was at that moment, when many of those involved, including the federal government took their eyes off the ball. For them, this was just going to be like the hurricane relief efforts of old, which have happened hundreds of times before. No one at that moment realized the impact the levy breaks would have upon the city.
So, I'm assuming this is why the government, from the local to federal screwed up. They assumed the worst was over and hadn't realized the disaster was still under way. They came in a relief effort mode, not in search-and-rescue mode. Now, I would have given them credit if they had realized in a day their mistake and switched their priorities by the next morning. But it took them many days. That's completely inexcusable. - PDM
See this article,"Government says 'sorry'" in Philippine News. Click here.