At this this time, shortly after the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina as we head into another hurricane season, the BBC publishes a recently released video of events prior to Katrina. The Bush Administration is once again in the news, with Vice President Cheney once again defending himself after the release of more documents as makes the rounds of friendly talk shows, but little attention is paid (still) to Katrina.
The video, obtained by the Associated Press is of Bush being briefed about the upcoming arrival of Hurricane Katrina: the expected damages, preparations being made, what still needs to be done, and what cannot be avoided. He is told of risks to evacuees in the Superdome, and most tellingly, is told that the levees could be breached. Evidently--and this was made very clear to Bush by the Army Corps of Engineers and Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)--prior to the Hurricane, modeling suggested minimal flooding to New Orleans during the storm, but that counter-clockwise winds and storm surges after the storm could either breach the levees of Lake Pontchartrain or cause them to overfill, thus flooding the city--which is what happened. Bush was told that a breach was a "very, very, grave concern."
The video shows that not once during the briefings did Bush ask any questions nor express any concerns, but at the end, stated forcefully that the federal government was prepared to provide all necessary assistance with the clear implication that the assistance was based on the needs expressed by FEMA and the other agencies. As he always was during every August of his presidency, Bush spoke via video-link from his home in Crawford, Texas where he was vacationing.
The article by the BBC said:
In the past, the president has said that nobody anticipated a breach, but the video shows Michael Brown, the top emergency response official who has since resigned, saying the storm would be "a bad one, a big one".
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, shown the footage for the first time at a press conference, told Reuters he was "shocked" by what it revealed.
"It surprises me that if there was that kind of awareness, why was the response so slow?" he asked.
Mr Bush has accepted he shared some of the responsibility for the flawed response to Katrina and the White House has talked of the "fog of war" rendering decision-making difficult.
Michael Brown told AP this week that he did not "buy the 'fog of war' defence".
"It was a fog of bureaucracy," he said.
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