- It's been two years. And America's media is about to
have another tear-gasm over New Orleans. Maybe Anderson Cooper will weep
again. The big networks will float into the moldering corpse of the city
and give you uplifting stories about rebuilding and hope.
- 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:
- "By midnight 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
- 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 2p.m. they flew over he 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
- That leaves the big, big question: WHY? Why on earth
would the White House not tell the state to get the remaining folks out
- The answer: cost. Political and financial cost. A
hurricane is an act of God - but a catastrophic failure of the levees is
a 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
- The federal government, by law, must build and maintain
the Mississippi levees to withstand known dangers - or pay the price when
- 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
- 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 self-serving
- 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
- They could have survived Hurricane Katrina. But they
got no mercy from Hurricane George.
- For the rest of the story, get the DVD, " BIG
EASY TO BIG EMPTY: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans
," as reported by Greg Palast from Louisiana for Democracy Now - with
Amy Goodman and the music of "the city that care forgot." Watch
a clip at http://www.youtube.com/GregPalastOffice
- And read the full story of our investigation in the added
chapter on New Orleans in the paperback edition of "Armed Madhouse:
from Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White
House Gone Wild." Click here
to donate to our Investigative Fund and receive a book signed by Greg Palast
as a gift from us.