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Charles Cutter

Katrina Disaster? Just Blame Bush
By Charles Cutter (
Sep 2, 2005 - 3:04:00 AM

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George W. Bush admits that he "rarely" reads newspapers. This may explain why, in a television interview regarding Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans, Bush was able to say: "I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But those levees got breached. And, as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded."

Watching Mr. Bush’s interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Good Morning America, the initial response of any rational person had to be: America has got to get a new president. How can we survive another three years of this guy?

I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of those levees?

The breach of the levees protecting New Orleans has been a serious issue for years, and was prominently discussed not only during last year’s spate of hurricanes, but most recently throughout Katrina’s approach.

The vulnerabilities of the levees protecting New Orleans - and Mr. Bush’s apparent lack of knowledge concerning them - will now follow the pattern of Iraq’s WMDs, or the Saddam-Osama connection. If the mainstream media even bothers to challenge Mr. Bush on his assertions, we’ll no doubt hear that he was misinformed by some underling. (Who will admit to their failure and end up with a promotion - or the Medal of Freedom.)

The issue here, however, is not whether Mr. Bush was uninformed, or making a misstatement, or simply lying. In fact, there are far more pressing issues to be addressed regarding the Katrina disaster.

One issue has to do with national priorities. Consider this, from the Washington Post (9/1/05): "Despite continuous warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit New Orleans, the Bush administration and Congress in recent years have repeatedly denied full funding for hurricane preparation and flood control…[T]he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for this fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and Congress eventually approved $5.7 million…Because of the shortfalls, which were caused in part by the rising costs of the war in Iraq, the corps delayed seven contracts that including enlarging the levees, according to corps documents."

Note those numbers again: The initial request of $27 million was countered, by Bush’s people, with $3.9 million. The senseless war in Iraq, on the other hand, has cost us over $200 billion, with no end in sight. Bush & Co. will commit hundreds of billions of deficit dollars to destroy a foreign country, but offer a pittance to protect an American city from a long-foreseen disaster.

Another issue revolves around disaster preparedness. Unlike September 11, the approach of Hurricane Katrina offered days of preparation time. Despite Mr. Bush’s protest, the breach of the levees was a much-anticipated threat; the effects of that breach were well understood. And still the death toll is reportedly in the thousands, the rescue efforts paltry, the long-term picture grim. (A CNN headline reads: "Scene of anarchy: Despair, death pervade New Orleans.") If you want to imagine how the much-touted Department of Homeland Security would respond to another significant terrorist strike, just look at the unfolding chaos in New Orleans.

Finally, there is the storm itself. Obviously, one can’t blame Mr. Bush for the weather. However, there is increasing evidence that global warming may be the culprit behind the spike in hurricane strength. An Associated Press report notes, "At least one prominent study suggests that hurricanes have become significantly stronger in the past few decades during the same period that global average temperatures have increased." And a New York Times editorial (9/1/05), criticizing Bush’s response to the disaster ("George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday…He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end") closed on this somber note: "Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won’t acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership are minimal."

George W. Bush did not cause the destruction of New Orleans, just as he did not cause the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, however, he had ample warnings that he ignored. On the other hand, he did cause the destruction of both Iraq and the American budget.

Like Hurricane Katrina, George W. Bush has been a foreseeable disaster.

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