Where the System Broke Down
Our stories on the confusion that marked the response of Federal, state and local governments to Hurricane Katrina drew mail from readers who found fault at all levels. Some who wrote, however, argued against finger pointing, while others hoped the disaster would teach citizens a lesson in civics
Thank you for "4 Places Where the System Broke Down" [Sept. 19]. You provided balanced reporting on how officials responded to Hurricane Katrina. The recovery efforts by the Federal Government were disorganized and sluggish. The disaster has revealed the inefficiency of bureaucracy in times of crisis. FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] was ill prepared to handle the magnitude of the devastation. Its incompetent performance under the leadership of Michael Brown, who had no credentials or experience, reflects poorly on President George W. Bush, who was responsible for Brown's appointment. The majority of the blame, though, lies with local officials. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has a lot to answer for. Much of the grief his city experienced could have been prevented by responsible preparation.
BEN ROBINSON Montgomery, Ala.
TIME's cover headline, "System Failure," suggested a self-deception as old as humankind. There was no system available. Believing that government agencies, however competent, can prevent human suffering and loss only causes more of both.
PETER L. SLOAN New York City
It is easy to assign blame for the Katrina relief fiasco--there are plenty of targets. It is much harder to accept responsibility. What went wrong? The American people persist in voting for political demagogues who promise them continued services for lower taxes. Government is not, despite what Ronald Reagan claimed, the problem. Nor is it, as others have asserted, a beast that must be starved. Government is society's means to collectively address problems that are too large or costly for individuals to handle. In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. By choosing lower taxes and minimal services, we now have only the precarious protection of a hobbled government.
STEVE KRAUS Forestville, Calif.
Abraham Lincoln understood what post--Civil War Reconstruction would demand. Franklin Roosevelt understood what recovery from the Depression would require. This President doesn't seem to understand what recuperating from Katrina is all about. I wish he were as interested in helping the country come to grips with it as he appears to be in saving his own political skin.
DAVID OLIVER Kansas City, Mo.
The blame for the Katrina tragedy lies with the people who chose to live in the devastated region. The idea of living below sea level in a hurricane-prone area is insane. People should make better choices. I hope, against all probability, that New Orleans and other flooded areas are not rebuilt. It would be a waste of lives, resources and money.
WALTER JEFFRIES West Topsham, Vt.
Make no mistake about it: Hurricane Katrina didn't destroy New Orleans; the breaches in the levees did. Maybe it's time the U.S. government spent its money on what is broken in our own country rather than trying to fix things in other nations far away.
NANCY H. BABENDIR Skokie, Ill.