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Nearly Five Years Later Still No Levee Commission, Why?

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BP Commission Highlights Need for 8/29 Commission in New Orleans

New Orleans-- It's commendable that President Barack Obama has formed an independent commission to look at the root causes of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the proper process for combating such catastrophes in the future.

The hearings begin in New Orleans today, Day 84 of the BP oil gusher.

Imagine such an independent commission created by President George Bush 84 days after the levees failed in metro New Orleans! Imagine an independent commission formed to look at the root causes of the flood protection failures that flooded 80% of New Orleans, destroyed 204,000 homes and killed over 1,500 people.

But no such commission ever happened. The White House did nothing while the organization responsible for the flood protection's performance, the Army Corps of Engineers, convened and led an investigation of its own work.

Inexplicably, neither Louisiana's governor nor the Louisiana congressional delegation protested such a clear conflict of interest even while Steve Ellis (Taxpayers for Common Sense), Scott Faber (Environmental Defense) and Ivor van Heerden (LSU Hurricane Center) all howled in unified protest. They wanted "to see some sort of independent federally authorized commission look into the levee breaches, in addition to the Corps."

And with 500,000 families displaced from their support base (family, neighborhood and place of worship), citizens could not collectively recognize the travesty, nor do anything to stop it.



NOaftermath011
Oct 10, 2005 - Mark Allain and Stanford Rosenthal near the 17th Street Canal
levee breach in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans. Photo by Francis James

To date, there has still been no truly independent analysis of the failures, and the decision making that led to those failures.

Not that that's strange or surprising. As noted by Steve Gorelick, Professor of Media Studies at Hunter College, bureaucracies trying to avoid facing some painful and inconvenient truth have a whole host of self-serving responses all prepared and ready to go:

- we need to move on and not be diverted from ____.

- to open old wounds only re-victimizes the survivors

- too many of the voices and witnesses are either unavailable or have moved on with their lives

- we'd like to investigate, what would you suggest we spend the money on looking backward rather than building forward?

And finally,

- too much time has passed. What is the point now? (Obviously avoiding the fact that all the time that passed was because of their negligence.)

But Levees.org continues to demand the 8/29 Investigation Act, a truly independent bipartisan investigation of the flood protection failures during Katrina. And we emphasize that investigations taking place 5, 10, 15 years or more after the fact is not uncommon. Look at the recent long awaited results of a judicial inquiry into the killings of 14 unarmed demonstrators forty (40) years ago by British soldiers in North Ireland.

And as noted by historian and author John Barry, "a study five years out would have the benefit of fresh looks at the evidence collected for similar studies conducted in the immediate aftermath of the flooding."

Levees.org will continue its call for the 8/29 Investigation because history has a way of repeating itself. The strenuous objection to a thorough investigation coming from powerful interests needed to play itself out. And the folks pushing for truth needed to prove they were strong, were right, and would not give up.