Now, let's cut through the cry-baby crap.
Here's what happened two years ago - and what's happening now.
This is what an inside source me. And it makes me sick:
on Monday, the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency
Operations Center and nobody was aware that the
levees had breeched. Nobody."
The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005, the White House withheld
from the state police the information that New Orleans was about to flood. From
almost any other source, I would not have believed it. But this was not just
any source. The whistle-blower is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the
Louisiana State University
Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising
the state on saving lives during Katrina.
I'd come to van Heerden about another matter,
but in our talks, it was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one.
He charged that the White House, FEMA and the Army Corp hid, for critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding
New Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city.
Understand that Katrina never hit New
Orleans. The hurricane swung east of the city, so the
state evacuation directors assumed New Orleans was now safe - and evacuation could slow while emergency efforts moved east
with the storm.
But unknown to the state, in those crucial
hours on Monday, the federal government's helicopters had filmed the cracks that would become walls of death by Tuesday.
Van Heerden revealed:
"FEMA knew at 11 o'clock on Monday that the levees had breeched. At 2 p.m. they flew over the 17th Street
Canal and took video of the breech."
Question: "So the White House wouldn't tell you the levees had breeched?"
Dr. Van Heerden: "They didn't tell anybody."
Question: "And you're at the Emergency
Dr. Van Heerden: "I mean nobody knew.
The Corps of Engineers knew. FEMA knew. None
of us knew."
I could not get the White House gang to
respond to the charges.
That leaves the big, big question: WHY? Why on earth would the White House
not tell the state to get the remaining folks out of there?
The answer: cost. Political and financial cost. A hurricane is an act of God - but a catastrophic failure of the
levees is an act of Bush. That is, under law dating back to 1935, a breech of
the federal levee system makes the damage - and the deaths - a federal responsibility.
That means, as van Heeden points out, that "these people must be compensated."
The federal government, by law, must build
and maintain the Mississippi levees to withstand known dangers - or pay the
price when they fail.
Indeed, that was the rule applied
in the storms that hit Westhampton Dunes, New York, in 1992. There, when federal sea barriers failed, the flood waters wiped away 190 homes. The feds rebuilt them from the public treasury. But these
were not just any homes. They are worth an average of $3 million apiece - the
summer homes of movie stars and celebrity speculators.
There were no movie stars floating face
down in the Lower Ninth Ward nor in Lakeview nor in St. Bernard Parish. For
the 'luvvies' of Westhampton Dunes, the federal government even trucked in sand to replace the beaches. But for New Orleans' survivors, there's the aluminum gulag
of FEMA trailer parks. Today, two years later, 89,000 families still live in this mobile home Guantanamo
- with no plan whatsoever for their return.
And what was the effect of the White House's
I spoke with van Heerden in his university
office. The computer model of the hurricane flashed quietly as I waited for him
to answer. Then he said, "Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line."
They could have survived Hurricane Katrina. But they got no mercy from Hurricane George.