New Orleans Underwater
“No One Can Say they Didn't See it Coming”
In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New
Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But
the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by
44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.
An aerial view of the New Orleans airport underwater.
Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope,
Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for
food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With
its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has
become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the
hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.
A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed
to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic
hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research
not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995,
Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control
Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and
renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal
Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a
hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely
disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York
City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control
project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war.
In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New
Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding
back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent.
Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total
reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New
Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The
Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees,
but it was too late.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the
hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and
whose presses are now underwater, reported online: "No one can say
they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst
storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of
The Bush administration's policy of turning over
wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the
heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force
began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two
miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a
surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands,
a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by
President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003,
unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the
Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no
longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to
In response to this potential crisis, four leading
environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in
2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be
devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane.
"There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it
comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors.
The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality
dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted,
"Everybody loves what we're doing."
"My administration's climate change policy will be
science based," President Bush declared in June 2001. But in 2002,
when the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a study on
global warming to the United Nations reflecting its expert
research, Bush derided it as "a report put out by a bureaucracy,"
and excised the climate change assessment from the agency's annual
report. The next year, when the EPA issued its first comprehensive
"Report on the Environment," stating, "Climate change has global
consequences for human health and the environment," the White
House simply demanded removal of the line and all similar
conclusions. At the G-8 meeting in Scotland this year, Bush
successfully stymied any common action on global warming.
Scientists, meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressive
data on the rising temperature of the oceans, which has produced
more severe hurricanes.
In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading
scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement,
"Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": "Successful
application of science has played a large part in the policies
that have made the United States of America the world's most
powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and
healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by
presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and
implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has,
however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of
scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease." Bush
completely ignored this statement.
In the two weeks preceding the storm in the Gulf, the
trumping of science by ideology and expertise by special interests
accelerated. The Federal Drug Administration announced that it was
postponing sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill, despite
overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and its approval by
the FDA's scientific advisory board. The United Nations special
envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa accused the Bush administration of
responsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda -- the result of
the administration's evangelical Christian agenda of "abstinence."
When the chief of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the Justice
Department was ordered by the White House to delete its study that
African-Americans and other minorities are subject to racial
profiling in police traffic stops and he refused to buckle under,
he was forced out of his job. When the Army Corps of Engineers'
chief contracting oversight analyst objected to a $7 billion
no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq to Halliburton (the firm
at which Vice President Cheney was formerly CEO), she was demoted
despite her superior professional ratings. At the National Park
Service, a former Cheney aide, a political appointee lacking
professional background, drew up a plan to overturn past
environmental practices and prohibit any mention of evolution
while allowing sale of religious materials through the Park
On the day the levees burst in New Orleans, Bush
delivered a speech in Colorado comparing the Iraq war to World War
II and himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt: "And he knew that the
best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by
bringing freedom to Japan." Bush had boarded his very own
"Streetcar Named Desire."
Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior
advisor to President Clinton and the author of "The Clinton Wars,"
is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.
The above article was printed in Spiegel Online on August 31, 2005
earlier advance warnings
Scientific American Oct., 2001
“Drowning New Orleans” by Mark Fischetti
“New Orleans: A Disaster Waiting to Happen” - Year Old Report
Yet on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America” on Sept. 1, 2005, George
“I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees”.
recommended solutions that were presented in the Scientific
American article had been implemented, it is highly probable
that New Orleans would still be fully habitable today. However,
as part of “The Republican War on Science”, “Scientific
American” and anything printed in it are classified as “The
Enemy”. Nothing was done. To make things worse, funds for normal
maintenance of the levees were severely cut. Next question - how
to you restore New Orleans and resurrect all the people who
See “The Republican War on Science” by Chris Mooney and other
related books at:
Also please see: George Bush Misrepresents Science and Knowledge
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