As the residents of New Orleans prepare to observe the Hurricane Katrina Anniversary, attention has been drawn to the newly opened George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.
Specifically, there is consternation over how the gleaming structure -- which operates with $6 million of taxpayer support every year -- barely mentions any federal failures relating to New Orleans eight years ago.
The Museum, housed on the campus of Southern Methodist University, describes the federal response in the city of New Orleans as one of compassion and focuses mainly on the heroic rescues of the Coast Guard. It misses the first five days of terror and trauma before federal help arrived.
The exhibit does not examine the catastrophic failure of levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers; rather it only describes the new flood protection structures put in place since Katrina.
Regarding the flooding devastation in New Orleans, a graphic highlights that $121 billion of federal money was reinvested in the region. However, it does not delineate that the money was relief for three different storms (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma) and divided among five states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida).
While President Bush is not personally responsible for the failure of the Army Corps' levees -- built over the course of decades -- they certainly failed under the president's watch. And Bush is clearly responsible for the disastrous failed federal response that led directly to much of the death.
Senate and House congressional investigators unanimously found that major failures by FEMA, in addition to overwhelmed city and state officials, are the reason why the city experienced the darkest days of its nearly 300-year history.
There is more. If you type the word 'Katrina' into the search box of the Bush Presidential Library website, nothing relating to New Orleans or deadly catastrophic flooding, comes up. If you visit the Photo Gallery page of the website, photo albums sport images for the cute White House canines and for Tee Ball on the front lawn, but Hurricane Katrina is noticeably absent.
It's one thing to rewrite history, but the people who created and constructed the Bush Presidential Library have erased it.
While it is true that the Library and Museum were built with private funds, it will be operated and maintained with taxpayer support. Therefore, there is an ethical duty to illustrate the vetted facts, and it is the curators who hold responsibility for this, since curators are technically the ones who create and manage the exhibits. Nonetheless, the entire hierarchy should be held accountable, from the Dean of the SMU library system, to the director of the Bush Library, to the Bush Library curatorial staff and to the National Archives and Records Administration who partner with the Bush Library.
Our group, Levees.org, has been working for several years to list two of the Katrina levee breach sites to the National Register of Historic Places. We can attest that the process is grueling in its requirements. The prestigious register holds paramount the veracity of documented evidence and nominations to the Register must undergo a long, rigorous review.
As stated last week by Dr. Alexandria Lord, the National Park Service is interested in both the good and bad in American history. But the Presidential Libraries appear to have a different standard.
They deserve better. They who survived the water, they who lost everything they had, and they who are still displaced from their homes eight years later.