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Donald Rumsfeld going to MS, LA

Man, the PR machine is on full blast now. CNN just reported that Rummy is dropping by for some face time in the disaster zone. He goes tomorrow.

Am I jaded, or is this just ridiculous? Does the Secretary of Defense need to be down there, other than to polish his tarnished image? Reuters reports that Bush said he will send in 7,000 additional active duty troops in the next three days, and the Pentagon said it would send an additional 10,000 National Guard troops to Louisiana and Mississippi to assist in hurricane relief efforts — that brings the total up to the requested 40,000 that Governor Blanco asked for.

The troops are desperately needed, since two-thirds of the NOLA police force have abandoned their posts. Really, who can blame them? They have lost their own homes, family members and are suffering from the same shock as civilians. They were left unprepared to deal with the social order breakdown — without adequate support from the state and feds. One cop, in an article on, describes the horror.

The New Orleans police sergeant compared the situation to Somalia and said officers were outnumbered and outgunned by gangs in trucks. “It’s a war zone, and they’re not treating it like one,” he said, referring to the federal government.

A New Orleans police officer keeps watch over a section of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. Officials called for a mandatory evacuation of the city, but many residents remained in the city and had to be rescued from flooded homes and hotels and remain in the city awaiting a way out.

The officer hitched a ride to Baton Rouge Friday morning, after working 60 hours straight in the flooded city. He has not decided whether he will return. He broke down in tears when he described the deaths of his fellow officers, saying many had drowned doing their jobs. Other officers have turned in their badges as the situation continues to deteriorate.

In one incident, the sergeant said gunmen fired rifles and AK-47s at the helicopters flying overhead. He said he saw bodies riddled with bullet holes, and the top of one man’s head completely shot off.

I haven’t seen much coverage on the lack of preparation for communications breakdowns in a situation like this, even after 9/11 and the lessons learned from that. Phones down, cells down, no internet, etc. This played a huge role in the breakdown of order that made it impossible for local law enforcement to do their jobs.

Before the storm, a few thousand satellite phones at most were in use across the three-state region hit by the hurricane, and perhaps only a few hundred of those were in the hands of local authorities, including at least four Louisiana Parishes.

Though government officials have never before had to contemplate a communciations breakdown of this magnitude, it was not immediately clear – with $8.6 billion in federal money handed out to states since September 11 for emergency preparedness – why more satellite communciations systems were not in place.

…In New Orleans, police officers crowded a single frequency on their patrol radios.

“That has posed some problems with people talking over each other,” said Warren Riley, the deputy police chief. ”We probably have 20 agencies on one channel right now.” Worse, with little power to recharge their batteries, some of those radios were running out of juice. Riley said the police were setting up a new communication system next to the Superdome and waiting for a generator to fire it up later Thursday.

In storm-ravaged southern Mississippi, the national guard was doing things the old-fashioned way. “We’ve got runners running from commander to commander,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Cross of the Mississippi National Guard. “In other words, we’re going to the sound of gunfire, as we used to say during the Revolutionary War.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding