In the weeks that have followed Hurricane Katrina, every government official playing a role in relief effort has been blamed for the way the disaster was handled.
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown has been taking the brunt of the backlash, along with President George W. Bush, former New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
Throughout the blame shifting, not one of the officials has taken any personal responsibility for his or her actions and mistakes.
Brown, in a congressional hearing last Tuesday, said that his biggest mistake in handling the relief efforts was not convincing the governor and the mayor to order a mandatory evacuation. He also said that it was not the federal government’s responsibility to evacuate citizens, thereby totally excusing himself of responsibility for the people left stranded in Louisiana.
During the hearing, Brown also said that he found Louisiana devoid of anyone in charge. He should not have expected to find anyone in charge, as he was appointed to his position to be the one responsible, to make the hard decisions and to take a leadership role.
Brown was asked to step down from his position by the President and has been made the quintessential scapegoat in the media for this event. But perhaps Brown is not the only one to blame.
President Bush appointed Brown as FEMA chief knowing that he had no experience handling natural disasters. Furthermore, Gov. Blanco failed to order a mandatory evacuation of Louisiana, even after it was apparent that one was needed. Former police chief Compass could not keep his force from abandoning their positions and breaking laws that they were supposed to uphold.
These officials did not do their jobs; they made the wrong decisions while they were on duty. Each of these men and women are responsible for the breakdown that occurred at every step of the relief effort. Because of this, lives were lost, homes were destroyed and a natural disaster that could have been managed spun out of control.
Despite this knowledge, this is not the time to place blame. The Gulf Coast area needs to be completely rebuilt. Family members remain separated and lives are still on hold. Instead of focusing on who is responsible, the government now needs to contain the situation and help these people whose lives have been forever changed.