Thursday, September 08, 2005

Louisiana State Officials Refused to Let Red Cross Enter New Orleans with Supplies

Yesterday, Major Garrett, a reporter for Fox News Chennel, broke the story that Louisiana state officials blocked the Red Cross from delivering supplies to the Superdome in New Orleans. Shortly after breaking the story on Fox, Garrett was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt on his radio show. A transcript of part of the interview follows (HH is Hugh and MG is Major Garrett):

HH: You just broke a pretty big story. I was watching up on the corner television in my studio, and it's headlined that the Red Cross was blocked from delivering supplies to the Superdome, Major Garrett. Tell us what you found out.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They're not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdome, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don't I see that?

HH: And the answer is?

MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

HH: Now Major Garrett, on what day did they block the delivery? Do you know specifically?

MG: I am told by the Red Cross, immediately after the storm passed.

HH: Okay, so that would be on Monday afternoon.

MG: That would have been Monday or Tuesday. The exact time, the hour, I don't have. But clearly, they had an evacuee situation at the Superdome, and of course, people gravitated to the convention center on an ad hoc basis. They sort of invented that as another place to go, because they couldn't stand the conditions at the Superdome.

HH: Any doubt in the Red Cross' mind that they were ready to go, but they were blocked?

MG: No. Absolutely none. They are absolutely unequivocal on that point.

...

HH: ... Now Major Garrett, what about the Louisiana governor's office of Homeland Security. Have they responded to this charge by the Red Cross, which is a blockbuster charge?

MG: I have not been able to reach them yet. But, what they have said consistently is, and what they told the Red Cross, we don't want you to come in there, because we have evacuees that we want to get out. And if you come in, they're more likely to stay. So I want your listeners to follow me here. At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass, and state officials were saying you can't come in.

HH: How long would it have taken to deliver those supplies, Major Garrett, into the Superdome and possibly the convention center?

MG: That is a more difficult question to answer than you might think. There were areas, obviously, as you approached the Superdome, that were difficult to get to, because of the flood waters. And as the Red Cross explained it to me, look. We don't have amphibious vehicles. We have trucks and ambulance type vehicles. In some cases, after the flood waters rose as high as they did, we would have needed, at minimal, the Louisiana National Guard to bring us in, or maybe something bigger and badder, from the Marines or Army-type vehicle. They're not sure about that. But remember, Hugh, we were transfixed, I know I was. I'm sure you were and your listeners were, by my colleague, Shep Smith, and others on that overpass.

HH: Right.

MG: ...saying, wait a minute. We drove here. It didn't take us anything to drive here.

HH: Right.

MG: Why can't people just come here?

HH: I also have to conclude from what you're telling me, Major Garrett, is that had they been allowed to deliver when they wanted to deliver, which is at least a little bit prior to the levee, or at least prior to the waters rising, the supplies would have been pre-positioned, and the relief...you know, the people in the Superdome, and possibly at the convention center, I want to come back to that, would have been spared the worst of their misery.

MG: They would have been spared the lack of food, water and hygiene. I don't think there's any doubt that they would not have been spared the indignity of having nor [sic] workable bathrooms in short order.

HH: Now Major Garrett, let's turn to the convention center, because this will be, in the aftermath...did the Red Cross have ready to go into the convention center the supplies that we're talking about as well?

MG: Sure. They could have gone to any location, provided that the water wasn't too high, and they got some assistance.

HH: Now, were they utterly dependent upon the Louisiana state officials to okay them?

MG: Yes.

HH: Because you know, they do work with FEMA. But is it your understanding that FEMA and the Red Cross and the other relief agencies must get tht state's okay to act?

MG: As the Red Cross told me, they said look. We are not state actors. We are not the Army. We are a private organziation. We work in cooperation with both FEMA and the state officials. But the state told us A) it's not safe, because the water is dangerous. And we're now learning how toxic the water is. B) there's a security situation, because they didn't have a handle on the violence on the ground. And C) and I think this is most importantly, they wanted to evacuate out. They didn't want people to stay.
(Hat tip to Cynical Nation)

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