“I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach in the levees.”
The senate investigation of Hurricane Katrina is turning out to be
another White House whitewash. The senate strategy has been to characterize
the Bush administration’s response as “a national failure”
or “bureaucratic bungling” when in fact the evidence proves that
the top officials in the administration, including George Bush himself, are
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of New Orleans residents.
Most of the relevant facts are not in dispute. Bush was advised by experts
before the hurricane touched ground that even a Force-4 storm would breach the
levees. He knew, as the New York Times says, “If the levies breached and
flooded a large portion of the city, then the flooded city would have to be
completely evacuated….Any delay in confirming the breaches would result
in a delay in the post-landfall evacuation of the city”. Clearly, the
evacuation should have been ordered, unless there was some hidden motive for
leaving the city’s people in imminent danger.
We know now that Bush was told on Aug 29, the day the storm hit, that “a
major section of the 17th Street Canal levee had collapsed” and was flooding
the city, although, at the same time, he was still misleading reporters that
the levees had held. (“We dodged a bullet”)
The media has papered-over Bush’s refusal to respond to the disaster
by implying the administration was merely “slow to react” or “in
a fog” or “not fully involved”. But how likely are these assertions?
Bush and his FEMA director, Michael Chertoff, completely grasped the urgency
of the catastrophe, and yet, stubbornly refused to disperse funds, deploy troops,
or call for an immediate evacuation.
That may be an impossible question to answer without engaging in unproductive
conspiracy theories. But, we know that the administration was still pleading
ignorance about the broken levees while an 8 ft river was coursing through New
The senate investigation attempts to spread the blame equally to state and
local officials and excuse the conduct of the Bush administration as a “litany
of mistakes, misjudgments, lapses, and absurdities.” This theory, of course,
conflicts with everything that people remember about the withholding of aid,
the willful obstruction of the relief effort, and the racist imprisoning of
poor black residents in the squalid-confines of the Superdome.
Once again, we see that the media narrative closely matches the political agenda
of the Bush White House obfuscating the widely-acknowledged facts. Katrina was
not “a failure of imagination” as the media would have us believe.
Rather, it was a blatant act of criminal negligence.
How could it be otherwise?
“FEMA was warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the
three most likely disasters in the US (in a 2001 report But the Bush administration
cut New Orleans flood control by 44%”. (Sidney Blumenthal: “No one
Can Say they didn’t see it coming”)
Bush consistently chopped funding to the Army Corps of Engineers as well as
Federal Flood Control even though he was warned repeatedly that the levees were
sinking. As Paul Krugman notes, “In 2002 the Army Corps of Engineers chief
resigned, reportedly under threat of being fired, after he criticized the administration’s
proposed cuts in the corps’ budget, including flood-control spending”.
FEMA Blocks Relief Effort
The media’s “failure of imagination” theory is an interesting
bit of revisionism which conflicts with eyewitness testimony. Consider the comments
of Mitchel Cohen in “People of the Dome”:
“The government, which could have and should have provided water and
food to residents of New Orleans, has not done so intentionally to force people
to evacuate by staring them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.
We need to understand that the capability has been there from the start to
drive water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads have
been clear. It’s how the National Guard drove into the city.
On Wednesday a number of Greens tried to bring a large amount of water to the
Superdome. They were prevented from doing so, as have many others. Why have
food and water been blocked from reaching tens of thousands of poor people?
They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people
in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday….and had to be
“convinced” at gunpoint to “cease and desist”. There
is something sinister going down….its not just incompetence or negligence.”
Cohen’s reflections are undoubtedly closer to what most people remember
of those first few days following the hurricane than those of the senate. The
fantastic claim that the Bush administration was simply “slow to respond”
was effectively challenged by Aaron Broussard, President of Jefferson Parish
LA in his Sept 4, testimony on Meet the Press:
“We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go
down in history as one of the worst storms to ever hit an American coast, but
the aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans
on American soil ever in US history.
We had Wal-Mart deliver 3 trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned
them back. They said we didn’t need them. FEMA had 1,000 gallons of diesel
fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, “Come
and get the fuel right away.” When we got there with our trucks, they
got a word. “FEMA says don’t give you the fuel”. Yesterday…yesterday…FEMA
comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without
notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts
armed guards on our line and says, “No one is getting near those lines.”
Still think that Katrina was “a failure of imagination”?
Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com reported, “Citing security concerns, the Department
of Homeland Security barred the American Red Cross from entering New Orleans
with food. 500 Floridian air-boaters were ready to rescue people stranded in
inundated homes, but FEMA turned them down”.
Still not convinced?
“The Homeland security Department has requested and continues to request
that the Red Cross not come back to New Orleans,” said Renita Hosler,
spokeswoman for the Red Cross. “Right now access is controlled by the
National Guard and local authorities. We have been at the table every single
day. We cannot get into New Orleans against their orders.” (Homeland Security
won’t let Red Cross deliver Food, Ann Rogers, Pittsburg Post-Gazette)
Bush was not “misinformed” nor was the “White House in a
fog” as the media insists. The evidence clearly demonstrates that the
warnings were deliberately delayed, aid was deliberately obstructed, rescue-efforts
were deliberately sabotaged, and the entire action was part of a broader government
operation to achieve an “unknown” objective.
Some have suggested that FEMA has been transformed under Homeland Security
and operates as a secret government “spending 12 times more for ‘black
operations’ than for disaster relief. It spent $1.3 billion building secret
bunkers throughout the United States in anticipation of government disruption
by foreign or domestic upheaval.” (FEMA-The Secret Government, by Harry
Under executive orders, in the event of a national emergency, FEMA now has
the ability to suspend the constitution, detain American citizens, and declare
martial law. It is therefore entirely possible that FEMA no longer functions
as a disaster-relief agency at all, but, has been recalibrated to address the
problems that may arise from massive civil unrest following a terrorist attack
or (more likely) an economic meltdown. (Note: A contract was just issued by
Homeland Security to Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, for $385 million to build
detention Centers within the United States. Someone in the Bush administration
is definitely expecting trouble.)
Whatever the reasons may have been for obstructing the relief-effort, the results
are painfully obvious. The unprepared were left to die in the flood, the poor
and black were shunted into filthy detention centers, and the city was transformed
into a war-zone replete with armored vehicles and 70,000 military personnel
roaming the streets.
The men and women who lost their lives in New Orleans were not the
victims of a “dysfunctional reaction to the storm” (NY Times) or
of a “sluggish response” (Wa Post) from the administration. Rather,
they are the blameless victims of a government strategy that is as abstruse
as it is lethal.
Many of the facts for this article were found at “BushCo. Nukes New
a great resource for details on Katrina
Read from Looking Glass News
Disaster in New Orleans
A comprehensive compilation of the most insightful stories about Hurricane Katrina
and the political impact it has had on the American people