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Katrina Meets Kucinich

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In the back of your head have you ever thought that abandoning an American city and nearby towns to a predictable and predicted natural disaster, and then refusing to repair the damage, ought to be considered unacceptable behavior.  On a grander scale, does it strike you that there is something seriously wrong with the Bush Administration's failure, not just to acknowledge global warming, but to take significant action to stop increasing it and begin reducing it?  If we destroy our home will it matter that there wasn't a specific statute on the books banning the exacerbation of global warming?

For a refreshing view of Hurricane Katrina and of global climate change, I highly recommend the following two articles of impeachment, introduced in the House of Representatives on Monday evening by Congressman Dennis Kucinich.  

Article XXXI
KATRINA: FAILURE TO PLAN FOR THE PREDICTED DISASTER OF HURRICANE KATRINA, FAILURE TO RESPOND TO A CIVIL EMERGENCY  

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution  "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed", has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, failed to take sufficient action to protect life and property prior to and in the face of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, given decades of foreknowledge of the dangers of storms to New Orleans and specific forewarning in the days prior to the storm.  The President failed to prepare for predictable and predicted disasters, failed to respond to an immediate need of which he was informed, and has subsequently failed to rebuild the section of our nation that was destroyed.

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Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,282 people, with 2 million more displaced. 302,000 housing units were destroyed or damaged by the hurricane, 71% of these were low-income units. More than 500 sewage plants were destroyed, more than 170 point-source leakages of gasoline, oil, or natural gas, more than 2000 gas stations submerged, several chemical plants, 8 oil refineries, and a superfund site was submerged. 8 million gallons of oil were spilled. Toxic materials seeped into floodwaters and spread through much of the city and surrounding areas.

The predictable increased strength of hurricanes such as Katrina has been identified by scientists for years, and yet the Bush Administration has denied this science and restricted such information from official reports, publications, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency's website.  Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science, wrote in 2006 that "hurricane intensity has increased with oceanic surface temperatures over the past 30 years. The physics of hurricane intensity growth … has clarified and explained the thermodynamic basis for these observations. [Kerry] Emanuel has tested this relationship and presented convincing evidence."

FEMA's 2001 list of the top three most likely and most devastating disasters were a San Francisco earthquake, a terrorist attack on New York, and a Category 4 hurricane hitting New Orleans, with New Orleans being the number one item on that list.  FEMA conducted a five-day hurricane simulation exercise in 2004, "Hurricane Pam," mimicking a Katrina-like event. This exercise combined the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the LSU Hurricane Center and other state and federal agencies, resulting in the development of emergency response plans. The exercise demonstrated, among other things, that thousands of mainly indigent New Orleans residents would be unable to evacuate on their own. They would need substantial government assistance. These plans, however, were not implemented in part due to the President's slashing of funds for protection. In the year before Hurricane Katrina hit, the President continued to cut budgets and deny grants to the Gulf Coast.  In June of 2004 the Army Corps of Engineers levee budget for New Orleans was cut, and it was cut again in June of 2005, this time by $71.2 million or a whopping 44% of the budget.  As a result, ACE was forced to suspend any repair work on the levees. In 2004 FEMA denied a Louisiana disaster mitigation grant request.

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The President was given multiple warnings that Hurricane Katrina had a high likelihood of causing serious damage to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.  At 10 AM on Sunday 28 August 2005, the day before the storm hit, the National Weather Service published an alert titled "DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED."  Printed in all capital letters, the alert stated that "MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. … POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS. … WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS."

The Homeland Security Department also briefed the President on the scenario, warning of levee breaches and severe flooding.  According to the New York Times, "a Homeland Security Department report submitted to the White House at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the storm hit, said, 'Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching.'" These warnings clearly contradict the statements made by President Bush immediately after the storm that such devastation could not have been predicted.  On 1 September 2005 the President said "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."  

The President's response to Katrina via FEMA and DHS was criminally delayed, indifferent, and inept. The only FEMA employee posted in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Marty Bahamonde, emailed head of FEMA Michael Brown from his Blackberry device on August 31, 2005 regarding the conditions  The email was urgent and detailed and indicated that "The situation is past critical…Estimates are many will die within hours."  Brown's reply was emblematic of the administration's entire response to the catastrophe: "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?" The Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, did not declare an emergency, did not mobilize the federal resources, and seemed to not even know what was happening on the ground until reporters told him.

On Friday August 26, 2005, Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a State of Emergency in Louisiana and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi followed suit the next day.  Also on that Saturday, Governor Blanco asked the President to declare a Federal State of Emergency, and on 28 August 2005, the Sunday before the storm hit, Mayor Nagin declared a State of Emergency in New Orleans. This shows that the local authorities, responding to federal warnings, knew how bad the destruction was going to be and anticipated being overwhelmed.  Failure to act under these circumstances demonstrates gross negligence.

In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.

ARTICLE XXXII
MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, SYSTEMATICALLY UNDERMINING EFFORTS TO ADDRESS GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE.

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In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed", has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, together with the Vice President, ignored the peril to life and property posed by global climate change, manipulated scientific information and mishandled protective policy, constituting nonfeasance and malfeasance in office, abuse of power, dereliction of duty, and deception of Congress and the American people.

President Bush knew the expected effects of climate change and the role of human activities in driving climate change.  This knowledge preceded his first Presidential term.

1.   During his 2000 Presidential campaign, he promised to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 

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