Hurricane Katrina; “National Failure” or Criminal Negligence
By Mike Whitney
02/14/06 "ICH" -- -- “I don’t think anyone anticipated the
breach in the levees.” George Bush
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
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
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 Orleans.
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
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
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
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 V. Martin)
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
a great resource for details on Katrina
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)