CommunityFDL Main Blog

Sorry Gulf Coast: He Does Wars


[This is another great guest post from Scout Prime from First Draft.  Accountability is sorely lacking for the entire Bush Administration — most of all, perhaps, for Donald Rumsfeld.  Thanks so much to Scout for shedding some light on his role in this.  — CHS]

by Scout Prime of First Draft

Don Rumsfeld has flown under the Katrina Blame Radar and not rightly so. I always imagined that if he would have been truly called to account for his inaction he’d probably say something to the effect that he was too busy fighting wars to be engaged in responding to a storm. A Washington Post article today gives some insight into Rumsfeld’s perceived priorities which would likely support my imagined scenario.

Through a FOIA request The Post obtained a previously deleted transcript from a 2005 Senate hearing on a tanker lease scandal which included this….

The topic was the largest defense procurement scandal in recent decades, and the two investigators for the Pentagon’s inspector general in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s office on April 1, 2005, asked the secretary to raise his hand and swear to tell the truth.

Rumsfeld agreed but complained. "I find it strange," he said to the investigators, on the grounds that as a government official "the laws apply to me" anyway.

It was a bumpy start to an odd interview, as Rumsfeld cited poor memory, loose office procedures, and a general distraction with "the wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan to explain why he was unsure how his department came to nearly squander $30 billion leasing several hundred new tanker aircraft that its own experts had decided were not needed.


But the scandal never tarnished Rumsfeld, and in the previously undisclosed interview, conducted with principal Deputy General Counsel Daniel J. Dell’Orto at his side, the defense secretary makes clear that he does wars, not defense procurement. As a result, he could not recollect details of what subordinates told him about the tanker lease or what he said to them.(emphasis mine)

Yes, he does wars. That is about how I would have imagined Rumsfeld to have explained his disengagement regarding Katrina which was on a par with guitar playing Bush, fly fishing Cheney and shoe shopping Condi. Here again it never tarnished Rumsfeld as it should have.

Under the National Response Plan as head of the Department of Defense, Rumsfeld’s role in disaster response would have begun accordingly….

Initial requests for assistance are made to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Executive Secretariat. If approved by the Secretary of Defense, DOD designates a supported combatant commander for the response. The supported combatant commander determines the appropriate level of command and control for each response and usually directs a senior military officer to deploy to the incident site.

In the crucial days of Katrina however Rumsfeld was not engaged in disaster response. Where was Rumsfeld? On Monday August 29 he was in St. Louis speaking to a group of conservationists. There was no mention of Katrina though ironically he closed his speech with……..

With new partnerships, the Department of Defense is seeking to fulfill a mission that is as old as the military. In the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, and on the order of our Commander and Chief, George W. Bush, the United States Armed Forces can and will continue to work to protect America — both our lands, as well as our fellow citizens.

He then went on to Fort Irwin California to speak to the troops(See above photo for Rumsfeld’s look of concern and care.  Classy. — CHS)

On Tuesday August 30 Rumsfeld was in San Diego with Bush. There is no evidence he jammed with the guitar playing Bush though.

So who was minding the shop? According to Sen. Lieberman’s press release of Feb. 9 entitled “MILITARY ROLE IN KATRINA RESPONSE SEEMED COBBLED TOGETHER”………

On Tuesday of Katrina’s week one, the military recognized that the rescue of the Gulf Coast was uncertain and foundering under the administration of the Department of Homeland Security. We are especially indebted to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who, because he was watching Katrina’s impact on television, concluded that troops and equipment needed to be deployed immediately without the normal paperwork. (emphasis mine)

So as a result of watching TV the Deputy Secretary of Defense kicked-started the military response. This is allowed under the National Response Plan. (errr the Deputy part not the TV part) But the military response was slowed. In fact recently Michael Brown had this to say of the military’s response…

Brown said he also should have "gone public" when his agency didn’t get the response he needed from the Defense Department and military for help. His biggest mistake was not leveling with the American public like he should have, he said.

The House committee which investigated Katrina had subpoenaed Rumsfeld’s communications last December. In the end they never received them.

When it came to documentation of how Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Donald Rumsfeld responded to Katrina, however, congressional investigators got a different answer from the administration. The House committee established to investigate Katrina was “informed that neither Secretary Chertoff nor Secretary Rumsfeld use e-mail,”


The Democrats’ report added that despite investigators’ requests for other documentation, “We received no other records we requested, such as phone logs, e-mail records of assistants, or other internal communications that would show how Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Rumsfeld received information, communicated with other government officials, or gave orders.”

Donald Rumsfeld will never be officially held to account for his role in the Katrina debacle. He may be one who walks between the raindrops, a not so special a feat in today’s Washington, though Rumsfeld executes it better than anyone. However his name and portrait ought rightly be added to the Katrina Hall of Shame in our public mind.

UPDATEHere’s some updated library information from Scout Prime.  I appended some inaccurate information to a prior post that I had received from another blogger — and I wanted to be certain that we corrected it for everyone.  — CHS

One very important thing you can do is go to this link to send an e-letter to your reps on the need for better levees. To donate to

Another good group you can donate to is the Urban Conservancy which supports local businesses, neighborhoods and planning efforts. The Children’s Defense Fund (Donate Here) and the Children’s Health Fund (Donate Here) are doing great work with kids. There are an alarming number of kids with mental health issues.

These would be great ones to donate For those wanting to keep the music alive in NOLA is the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic. They are innovative in that they are addressing the health care needs of musicians and their families Donations can be made here

To donate to the NOLA Library go to this link .

Previous post

Bush Approval Map - Coming Soon

Next post

Observations of a batsh*t homophobe

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com