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Quote of the Day - The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle

The Psychology Of Laying Blame For Levee Breaks - Or Not

It happened.  It's being fixed.  We're talking levees, that is.  They broke, the town flooded, and now the US Army Corps of Engineers has plugged the dike and is pumping out water. 

Whose fault is it?  President Bush has accepted responsibility for the problems with the response to Hurricane Katrina.  Or, are we trying to lay blame elsewhere?  Apparently, the Senate's Environmental and Public Works Committee sent an email to US Attorneys in the Gulf Coast, asking whether they've had to defend the US Army Corps of Engineers against lawsuits attacking their efforts to strengthen the dike system around New Orleans.   

The Sierra Club seems pretty sensitive to the question.  The press release in that last link begs that question, though, because it doesn't directly respond to the Committee's inquiry.  Another page on the Sierra Club website identifies two lawsuits it filed over such efforts.  The Sierra Club's website concludes with this statement:  "Conservation groups never opposed raising the levees; just the heavy handed way in which the Corps was going to do it."  Other environmental groups are defending themselves, too.  They call it spin

Conservative groups look at it differently.  They point to those lawsuits as evidence that conservation groups may have contributed to the disaster.  Even so, it appears that the lawsuits were not filed over Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans, but over more distant Mississippi River levees. 

Others, however, point back to the government (check the stinging commentary at the bottom of that last link -my point exactly).

Perhaps the better question to ask is how can we get it fixed as quickly as possible, and what can we do to prevent it from happening again.  Does it truly matter whose fault it is?   Pointing the finger rarely leads to a productive result; it may tend to satisfy biblical urgings, but generally doesn't do much to solve or prevent the problem.  Right now, we're fixing it, cleaning it up, getting people back into the affected areas and coming together. 

Is now the right time to investigate?  Where is our collective energy best spent?


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, September 18, 2005

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