"I've instructed them to work closely with state and local officials, as well as with the private sector, to ensure that we're helping, not hindering, recovery efforts. This recovery will take a long time. This recovery will take years," Bush admitted.
While conditions have been compared to those following the December tsunami in Asia, the scene more closely resembles that of some far-out, doomsday science fiction movie. Looters are scrambling through New Orleans neighborhoods, stealing electronics they can't use, clothing they can't carry, and weapons they seem all too eager to use.
Police officers are forced to fend for themselves, cut off by communication systems that aren't working, siphoning gasoline for their cruisers from abandoned cars and scavenging food and drink or accepting handouts from remaining residents willing to share.
Marshall law has been declared in a city where living conditions appear to be going from terrible to unbearable. Stranded survivors, suffering from a lack of food, shelter and water, continue to beg for help, some dying while they wait. Reports of car-jackings, carried out by those desperate to leave the city, are becoming all-too commonplace. Some remaining residents and store owners are arming themselves against looters, threatening to shoot anyone who comes near their property.
"We are out here like pure animals. We don't have help," Rev. Issac Clark told CNN while standing said outside the Morial Convention Center, where the bodies of those who could wait no longer for help were either left in the open or covered by blankets by loved ones or passing strangers.
Reports have as many as 60,000 people descending on the Superdome, where buses are arriving to carry people to other shelters – in San Antonio and Houston, Texas – where they hope to find food, water and fresh clothing. Fights have allegedly broken out among those waiting for the buses. Evacuation was halted at the city's largest public hospital, Charity Hospital, when snipers began shooting.
The Pentagon promises that by next week, 24,000 regular and National Guard troops would be in the hurricane-stricken areas to help with security. The federal response appears to be too little and too late for many.
"You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people," said New Orleans refugee Daniel Edwards of President Bush. "You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."
In New Orleans, a city beloved by millions, where the good times have rolled for nearly 300 years, only misery, despair and desperation remain.