Russel Honoré, the lieutenant general largely credited with turning around the chaotic situation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, criticized Donald Trump’s administration for its handling of the unfolding disaster in Puerto Rico, Bloomberg reports.
“It’s kind of like Katrina: We got it. We got it. Oh, sh*t, send in the cavalry,” the retired general said Wednesday. “This is a hit on White House decision making.”
Honoré argued the Department of Defense should have mobilized to provide essential supplies to the island, especially as the ports remained closed in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He told Bloomberg “the model you want is what was done in Florida” after Hurricane Irma earlier this month.
“Every town had National Guard in it,” Honoré explained.
In 2005, Honoré coordinated military relief efforts in the Gulf Coast, descending on the region a few weeks after Katrina struck. By that point, New Orleans was already dealing with a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis; police were requesting “more ammo” and believed they had the “authority by martial law to shoot looters,” Capt. James Scott said at the time.
When Honoré arrived, he redirected officials’ efforts, at one point forcefully reminding soldiers brandishing weapons, “We’re on a rescue mission damnit!”
Honoré, who was described by former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin as a “John Wayne dude” who “can get some stuff done,” was awarded the Key to the City of New Orleans for his relief efforts.
At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke defended the administration’s response to Puerto Rico. “There is food and water on the island, there is gasoline on the island,” Duke said. “The challenge for us is getting it distributed.”
Those concerns were the same ones Honoré managed during Hurricane Katrina. “Katrina was about logistics,” he told Mother Jones in 2015. “I just had to get helicopters, buses, and ships and hospitals to take care of people.”
But Honoré urged the Trump administration to develop a strategic plan to handle future storms.
“The government has to be prepared now to handle three Category 4 storms a year,” Honoré said. “The government cannot depend that next year will be a slow year.”
He offered a similar critique of the federal response to Hurricane Harvey last month.
“The American people have put too much confidence in us,” Honoré told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “We have been too successful overseas to come out in amateur hour and incrementally deploy the force.”