Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina: a short-lived reprise

Ok, I'm sorry. In the previous entry I expressed concern that now was not the time to politicize the tragedy that Katrina has wrought. But this has pushed me past my limits of moderation:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." - George W. Bush

You don't? Well goll, shucks, gee whiz. Nobody must a seen it coming, then. Except everyone that requested greater funding for the levees which President Bush chose not to fund.* Sorry, Mr. Bush, but you will not get a pass on your empty rhetoric. Not today.

Via Yahoo:

Bush administration funding cuts forced federal engineers to delay improvements on the levees, floodgates and pumping stations that failed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters, agency documents showed on Thursday.

The former head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that handles the infrastructure of the nation's waterways, said the damage in New Orleans probably would have been much less extensive had flood-control efforts been fully funded over the years.
But then there are the wetlands, or more accurately, there aren't the wetlands, which is the problem

"This was predicted. It is not surprising that a Category Four storm like Katrina would result in such devastation," said Robert Twilley, director of the Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute at Louisiana State University. "But it is difficult to comprehend the extent of the damage."

However, it would have been much less had Louisiana not lost a third of its coastal wetlands, Twilley told IPS.
The article goes on to state:

"Minor storms that had no impact 20 or 30 years ago cause flooding today," he said. "It's alarming a lot of people."

That alarm, and plenty of scientific evidence, produced a 14-billion-dollar, 30-year plan in 2002 to construct new barrier islands, improve levees and reroute up to one-third of the river to help restore coastal wetlands.
So what happened?

...the George W. Bush administration balked at the costs, supporting only a two-billion-dollar expenditure.
Paul Krugman, in his op-ed for the New York Times, writes

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.
And this entry at the MoJo blog puts this all into perspective

... if Katrina makes anything clear, the federal government—Homeland Security, FEMA, the DoD, whatever—has no plan to deal with a major disaster, terrorist or otherwise. Think about it: after an catastrophic event—and this one, at least, was entirely predictable—we've got a major city degenerating into lawlessness, with conditions that make bringing medical attention and other forms of relief very difficult.

That's an accurate description of what's going on in New Orleans now. But it could also describe what might happen in the aftermath of say, a dirty bomb or a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack. Of course there are some differences. But think of the similarities in what would look like an adequate response. Where is the fleet of helicopters? Where are the plans to press gang every bus in a 500-mile radius? Where are the airlift-ready hospitals, water sanitation plants, and tents? Where are the air drops of non-perishable food?

*lt hasn't escaped my attention that previous administrations also failed to adequately fund the Army Corps of Engineers. What is intolerable to me, however, is President Bush's refusal to acknowledge this or take any accountability for his administration.


John Lombard said...

"Well goll, shucks, gee whiz"

Hah! You're starting to sound like me.

Hume's Ghost said...

The wetlands thing in combination with Bush's disconnect from the reality of the situation has set me over my limit. It reminded me of how outraged I was after reading Bush vs. the Environment.

I may be one of the few people around who thinks that Bush's environmental policies alone are grounds for impeachment.