Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to Militarize FEMA

by Last Night in Little Rock

James Lee Witt, former FEMA director and current Louisiana recovery director and director of his own disaster recovery firm, said in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he opposes President Bush's plan to militarize parts of FEMA's mission:

(The ADG does not have free access, so I'll quote more):

A former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that he’s uncomfortable with President Bush’s proposal to give the armed forces a broader role in disasters after the federal government’s handling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

James Lee Witt, an Arkansas native who is advising Louisiana’s governor on that state’s recovery from the Aug. 29 storm, said governors shouldn’t have their powers taken away from them during a natural disaster.

Witt said he mostly agrees with the proposals the president made during a live nationally televised address from New Orleans, but he disagrees with the idea of expanding the military’s role.

"A governor of a state is responsible for the people of a state," Witt said in a telephone interview from Louisiana. "I don’t think it’s necessary to tax the military with even more than what they’re already doing. "

Witt, who served as FEMA director under President Clinton for eight years, said he also had hoped the president would have proposed restoring the federal agency to its Cabinet-level status. In 2002, a reorganization put FEMA under the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

"I think it would have been a different response" if FEMA was a Cabinet-level position, Witt said. "Anytime you take away not only leadership, but you also take programs and assets out of an agency, it really does hurt them in the sense of having capability to fulfill their role. I think that hurt them."

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  • The Bush administration's quest to transfer as much power as possible to the executive branch is frightening. Keeping in mind that loyalty to Bush, not the country, is of paramount importance and that the top brass in the pentagon have been screened, and those oficers perceived as not being on the "Bush team" purged, the proposed militarization of FEMA makes one wonder if the Bush administration isn't gathering their forces and preparing for a bigger coup.

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#2)
    by soccerdad on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:57 PM EST
    Bush administration isn't gathering their forces and preparing for a bigger coup.
    What bigger coup is there than the 2000,2004 elections. I think its more for the protection of the Republican regime. As the government starts cutting social services to pay for Iraq and Katina there will be more and more poor left to fend for themselves, more people without health insurance, and in general many more unhappy people. Throughout history, elitest, fascist regimes have all had a military force to protect the elite and its power rom the rabble (i.e everyone not an elite). This is a clever way to get more military presence at home in the streets. The military has been transformed to a right wing play toy in which they are trying to foster right wing "christian" attitudes. God this is fascist techniques 101.

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:57 PM EST
    Atrios point to a distillation of the NYT article at blah3 which starts with:
    NYT has a lengthy article about how FEMA is unable (or unwilling?) to get their sh*t together and help people. It's a long read, so I boiled it down for you.
    link ends with this:
    The only other reason for the delays - and it's a nasty notion - is that FEMA is intentionally foot-dragging the response so people will get fed up and give Bush the 'expanded role of the military' he seems to want so badly. Even I don't want to admit to that level of cynicism. But does anyone have any ideas why FEMA can't seem to organize itself, let alone coordinate a recovery? I can't think of one.
    Sounds right on to me. via atrios

    "makes one wonder if" Have no doubts about it. "What bigger coup is there than the 2000,2004 elections." Stolen elections are one thing. A conspiracy to dissolve the American Constitution is quite another. "If there is another terrorist attack, Americans will demand the cessation of the Constitution, for their own safety." -- General Treason, 2002 Don't kid yourselves. The gov't is being run by people quite clearly guilty in capital crimes.

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#5)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:57 PM EST
    Didn't one of the Top 10 Wingnut Conspiracies used to be that FEMA was a plot to suspend the Constitution? I guess a "guy you can have a beer with" would never do a thing like that!

    I'm a the son of a German immigrant. My entire life I've heard the same Question. "how could Germans let that happen". Here a few things Hitler did to usurp democracy in Germany. Hitler Established the ministry of propanda to spread deceitful or distorted views in order to control public opinion and to instill national pride by using constant references to flag and country. He gained the loyality of Germany's largest corporations. Used fears of a communist take over to gain power and to marginalize opposition parties. Hitler used such terms as you "stand with me or against Germany" and I'm your leader by God's hand" to gain legitimacy of his agenda. He dismissed the League of Nations and countries who opposed German expansion as irrelevant, corrupt, and out of touch. Used national securty as means to limit Germans right to privacy and enhance the governorment's right to spy on it's own citizens. Hitler also expanded the Military's role in government, law enforcement, and public policy. He also used national security as a reason for preemptive strikes into other nations. Labeled gays, actors, minorities, any one who voiced opposition, and of course Jews as anti-German. Does any of this sound familiar? After all it was George Bush who said that for him a dictatorship would be easier. Let's not forget that Hitler was a right winger. The only difference I see between Germany in the 1920's and the U S now is that Germany had no experience with democracy. The Weimar Republic it's first democratic government and had only been in power for 10 years. Hopefully our democracy is strong enough to survive control by the Republican Party.

    yes-it would be a tragedy if the military, which so efficiently did and continues to do its job, got such control. as everyone's hero Sheehan says, end the military occupation of New Orleans. what is more important to the nutjobs here-lives saved or bush bashing opportunities(my guess the latter-tears will probably flow if the death toll doesn't reach 10k). when did Witt get to be the gold standard anyway?

    by the way, Hitler was a socialist. while not directly analagous to the modern era, that is usually on the left end of the spectrum-Hitler analogies are always welcomed here though.

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#9)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:57 PM EST
    WatchMSTB-Sadly, Goebbels developed a sure fire formula that can, and will work again and again. In a Democracy all the leader has to do is arrange for a terror threat or act and his ratings will skyrocket making him or her a shoe in for victory. Goebbels said:
    There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be "the man in the street." Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#10)
    by desertswine on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST
    Yeah, Adolf was a socialist in the same way Pat Robertson is a Christian pastor.

    Charley- Take a history class. Hitler used the name "socialist" to increase the appeal of his party in the early days, but I challenge you to find two examples of socialist economics in Nazi Germany (The use of slave labor is not uniquely socialist. It also occurred in Il Duce's "Fascist" Italy and the Right Wing militaristic state of Tojo's Japan. Also in the pre civil-war American South, among others) Nazi Germany claimed to be "socialist". Hitler also claimed to be "Christian". I'll be waiting. Remember the words of our Ambassador to Germany in 1938, consider the Liberty League, and watch history repeating itself.
    “Fascism is on the march today in America. Millionaires are marching to the tune. It will come in this country unless a strong defense is set up by all liberal and progressive forces… A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government, and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. Aboard ship a prominent executive of one of America’s largest financial corporations told me point blank that if the progressive trend of the Roosevelt administration continued, he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism to America.”
    Former ambassador to Germany William Dodd, 1938

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#12)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST
    Charley, You are so old news. Do you know how many times wingrunts like you have come along here and used that Hitler/Socialist analogy? Are you paid or are you really that naive?

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#13)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST
    the military, which so efficiently did and continues to do its job
    Reeealllay. Can you say iraq? afghanistan? Please provide links for this absurd allegation. In the mean time:Squeaky, did you comment at one time that 'charlie' was slang for vietnamese irregulars? If so, you were correct in that. But it was derived from VC, which in the phonetic alphabet is 'victor charlie', hence 'charlie. I prefer 'Mr Charlie', which as a much different etymology.

    Charley is a WHINER. As for Hitler, one small problem: THIS IS NOT GERMANY IN THE 1930s. Hitler took over a country with at best thirty years of statehood, a population 'educated' in racism for hundreds of years, no tv, no Internet, no cellphones, no atom bomb, no integration, very little airline travel, and thirty million instead of 300 million people. The techniques are the same. We are not. Furthermore, Weimar Germany was a republic, but the states were not sovereign, as they are in the United States. Their constitution was barely enforceable, and their courts were a joke. It's harder than it looks. We KNOW what Bush has done, we have the evidence -- all we need is a little JUSTICE, and he is going down in flames. That's very little like Germany or Hitler. 'Hitler was a socialist'! That's hilarious. A socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. I guess the Pledge of Allegiance is one of Hitler's tools, eh, Charley? Or, for that matter, eh, Tool?

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#15)
    by wishful on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST
    My theory is that Bush was trying to sneak an "expanded military role" past Blanco in the first place. While her citizens were dying on teevee, by withholding emergency responders, Bush thought he could get her to agree to about anything, possibly not even recognizing his planned coup. She wasn't as stupid as the Bush advisors thought. (They must have been too used to dealing with the intellectual and moral midget himself.) Now he wants to trick us, by using vague language regarding expanded military roles, which really means his use of the military against our own citizens. Nice. Real nice. Can the Democratic representatives choose a few of their own to take one for the team and call the fascists out on their plan to destroy all that we hold dear, or are they just too dang lazy, or worse?

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#16)
    by wishful on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:58 PM EST
    Oh, yeah, the reason that Bush knows that he needs an expanded military at his disposal here on our own streets is because he is creating unprecedented numbers of Americans with nothing left to loose. He is well and truly frightened of a critical mass of such creatures of his own making, as well he should be.

    I forgot to mention that the Germans had just suffered a 1 in 4 death toll from WWI. If Bush can push up the US death toll, that will help in his cause. Hmm...how could he do THAT?

    Re: Ex-FEMA Director Witt Uneasy With Bush Plan to (none / 0) (#18)
    by SeeEmDee on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:01 PM EST
    The dangers of ceding more and more control of national matters to the military was the subject of a paper delivered at the War College by Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. titled the The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. An article about it appears here: The Coming Military Takeover of America by John W. Whitehead with a complete text of the paper itself here: The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. Keep in mind Dunlap is a military officer concerned about the obvious drift of the military into the realms of government in which it was previously abjured from, and for damn good reason. IMNHO, there's been far too much inclusion of the military in traditionally civil affairs of governence and the trend of allowing more will be the death knell of this Republic.