Pity about Bush and the New Orleans levees
We have all been having a knowing chuckle over the widely published story about President George W. Bush having been briefed well before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans about the danger that the levees would be breached, apparently giving the lie to Bush’s subsequent assertion that nobody had foreseen that this might happen. Thus the BBC reported on 2 March:
Video shows Bush Katrina warning
Video showing President George W Bush being warned on the eve of Hurricane Katrina that New Orleans’ flood defences could be overcome has emerged. The footage, obtained by the Associated Press, also shows Mr Bush being told of the risk to evacuees in the Superdome.
Speaking by video link from his Texan holiday ranch on 28 August, Mr Bush tells federal disaster officials: "We are fully prepared to help." Critics say more could have been done sooner to evacuate the city. Mr Bush does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.
"I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" — George W Bush, speaking after the disaster.
The BBC’s Justin Webb reporting from Washington said the footage did the president no favours. It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans’ flood barriers.
Sadly for those whose admiration for the President is in short supply, including me, the story turns out to be wrong. AP has now issued the following correction:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a March 1 story, The Associated Press reported that federal disaster officials warned President George W. Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees in New Orleans, citing confidential video footage of an Aug. 28 briefing among U.S. officials.
The Army Corps of Engineers considers a breach a hole developing in a levee rather than an overrun. The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking.
The day before the storm hit, Bush was told there were grave concerns that the levees could be overrun. It wasn’t until the next morning, as the storm was hitting, that Michael Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Bush had inquired about reports of breaches. Bush did not participate in that briefing.
How many of us have seen the correction printed or broadcast by any of the media who ran the original story? Perhaps I’ve missed it.
Less seriously, it’s faintly irritating to hear 99 per cent of the British television and radio newsreaders and pundits, including some actually speaking from New Orleans, continuing to pronounce the name of that city "NeworLEENS" (or sometimes, a shade pretentiously, "NeworLEEYuns". Has none of them heard Americans say the name, or read about President Bush going even further and calling the place "NyORlins"? They can’t all have cloth ears, surely.