Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: It Wasn't the Breach of the Levees, or the Hurricane Itself, It Was the Criminal Negligence and Calculated Indifference

Image: Hurricane Katrina

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you understood three years before Katrina hit, what it meant for what actually happened and what it means for today?
JOHN McQUAID: Well, it was common knowledge in the disaster management community that New Orleans was incredibly vulnerable to a large hurricane, and my co-author and I looked at that issue. We looked at the levee system and specifically weaknesses in the levee system. Was the Corps of Engineers really telling us the truth when it said we were well protected? We concluded that it was not. And, in fact, it turned out that things were far worse than even we had anticipated, because there were actually flaws, engineering flaws, in the levee system that caused walls to collapse prematurely and flooded vast areas of the city that otherwise would not have flooded.
Democracy Now, 8-29-07

Hard Rain Journal 8-29-07: It wasn't the Breach of the Levees, or the Hurricane Itself, It was the Criminal Negligence and Calculated Indifference

By Richard Power

It wasn't the breach of the levees, or the hurricane itself, that did the most damage to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and to the soul of this troubled nation, two years ago, it was the criminal negligence and calculated indifference at the highest levels of government.

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans’ Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.
Bush didn’t ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: “We are fully prepared.”
The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.
Associated Press, 3/1/06

But even worse is the painful fact that this profound cravenness has gone unanswered in any meaningful way, i.e., serious investigation, censure, or personal accountability of some kind for Bush or the other ring-leaders.

It should be astonishing (but isn't any longer) that the US political establishment and mainstream news media is so sick it could let this crime against our own humanity stand without consequences.

As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has squashed attempts to get at the deeper, uglier truth of this debacle. (Read Jane Hamsher's Joe Lieberman Betrays Hurricane Katrina Victims, 8-27-07)

And what of the federal effort Bush delegated to Karl Rove in the aftermath of the devastation?

Two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, “none of the 115 ‘critical priority projects’ identified by city officials” for publicly funded rebuilding efforts “has been completed.” Of the $34 billion “earmarked for long-term rebuilding,” less than half “has made its way through federal checks and balances to reach municipal projects.” Think Progess, 8-27-07

But perhaps worst of all is that the USA is not prepared for the next catastrophe, whether it comes in the form of a natural disaster, a critical infrastructure failure, a pubic health emergency or a terrorist attack; and if such an event occurs while the Bush-Cheney regime still occupies the White House, the response will be predicated on the same cravenness exhibited when Katrina hit.

Meanwhile, in recent days --

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued an important report, Broken Promises: Two Years After Katrina, that exposes numerous post-Katrina civil rights violations, including reports of heightened racially motivated police activity, housing discrimination, and prisoner abuse.

"Two years ago, Americans were glued to their television sets, outraged at the images of poor people of color cast aside in the aftermath of Katrina," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Politicians made promises, but they failed to fix the problems that Katrina's fury made painfully clear. The government must be held accountable for its mistakes rather than allowed to perpetuate the systemic racism and discrimination that only added strength to the storm." ACLU, 8-20-07

Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films and a national coalition of social justice organizations have released a powerful viral video, When The Saints Go Marching In, marking the second anniversary.

The three minute YouTube video reveals the devastating reality of hurricane survivors still struggling to rebuild their lives and the amazing hope they maintain about the future. ... When The Saints Go Marching In includes footage of NOLA residents working to make the city home again, and ends with a call to action for viewers to urge the Senate to pass Senator Chris Dodd's (D-CT) Gulf Coast Recovery Bill (S. 1668). Common Dreams, 8-28-07

To sign the petition urging passage of Senator Dodd's Gulf Coast Recovery Bill of 2007 (S1668) to assist the Gulf Coast region in rebuilding the infrastructure lost after the Katrina and Rita disasters, click here.


To channel that rage into helping Katrina survivors, go to the Katrina Information Network and Acorn Katrina Survivors Association.

For a comprehensive Hurricane Katrina timeline from Think Progress, click here.

Some Related Words of Power Posts

Hard Rain Journal 6-29-07: Katrina, 9/11 and Iraq -- An Almost Incomprehensible Truth

Words of Power #31: Ghosts of Christmas Past (Katrina) and Future (Iran)

Hard Rain Journal 8-24-06: Updates on Darfur & Katrina, Failures of the Human Spirit

Words of Power #5: Failed Leadership Invites Disaster

Words of Power #1: Truths Salvaged from Post-Katrina Debacle

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