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I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees – G.W. Bush


Reuters. A whole New Orleans
neighbourhood submerged.

The people on the ground know. In the words of a long-time New Orleans resident:

Today my sadness turned to anger. I saw several unbelievable things on CNN and Fox.

Bush was acting like he had no idea this was going to happen. He may be able to lie to the rest of the country, but he can not lie to the New Orleanians. We were there in 2002 when he was warned that this could happen and he still reallocated our levee money to Iraq. Our levees have needed to be reinforced for years because of coastal erosion.

Bush claimed as late as 1 September “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”

As the already limited federal funds were reappropriated for Iraq, there was no doubt about the risk to New Orleans. In 2000, Risk & Insurance magazine ran an article entitled The Lost City of New Orleans?

New research by the U.S. Geological Survey, however, indicates that New Orleans is sinking faster than many realize and could be under water within 50 years. The city is facing a series of issues–disappearing wetlands that protect from hurricanes, levees that are too low to hold back flood waters, rising water tables, to name a few–that if not addressed soon could have New Orleans suffering the same fate as Atlantis.

Dramatic, yes. But not unlikely, according to Shea Penland, geologist and professor at the University of New Orleans. “When we get the big hurricane and there are 10,000 people dead, the city government’s been relocated to the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, refugee camps have been set up and there $10 billion plus in losses, what then?” he asks.

“It would cost a billion or two dollars to make the levee 30 feet high. A major flood with loss of life could cost $10 billion. What’s wrong with this picture? If we know the worst-case scenario is billions and it would take a billion or two to prevent it, why don’t we do it? I don’t think anyone’s thinking about it.”

One could say the scenario is eerily prescient, but it’s not. That was the best scientific information available at the time, to all parties, including the federal government. There was an award winning five part special report entitled Washing Away published by the Louisiana Times in June 2002.

This disaster seems to have finally turned the lights on in the newsrooms of America. There but for the grace of god go I. Where Americans couldn’t identify with Iraqis and accepted the absurd designations like enemy combatant. Even token gay republican Andrew Sullivan is losing confidence in his president.

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd poses some tough questions to America:

Why does this self-styled “can do” president always lapse into such lame “who could have known?” excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.’s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans’s sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy’s uneasy fishbowl.

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