Laura Bush’s Katrina Amnesia: Slams Burmese Govt. For Ignoring ‘Warnings’ Of Impending Natural Disaster

In an “unusual foray into foreign policy” yesterday, First Lady Laura Bush admonished the Burmese government for its “inept” response to the recent cyclone that killed over 20,000 people. The First Lady heaped particularly harsh criticisms on the Burmese government for not adequately warning residents about the incoming storm:

It’s troubling many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path.

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In fact, equally harsh criticism could be leveled at President Bush. As Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005, Bush was on vacation, and the White House ignored warnings about the dangers ahead:

2001: FEMA ranked a major hurricane strike on New Orleans as “among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country.”

Two days before landfall: Federal officials told the White House “that the city’s levees might be overtopped or breached.” Bush later famously said “nobody could have predicted” the breaches.

Hours before landfall: Federal officials warned the White House that flooding “could leave the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months.”

Laura Bush added, “I hope that the military will realize they have to accept aid from everybody they can possibly accept it from.” The White House, however, turned down aid from other countries offering to help after Katrina:

Turned down foreign aid: After Katrina, the administration rejected many “allies’ offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars,” the Washington Post reported. The most common responses: “sent letter of thanks” and “will keep offer on hand.”

“The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs,” she concluded. Yet the Bush administration has also turned its back on the hurricane survivors:

Undermined workers: President Bush issued an order in 2005 suspending application of the Bacon-Davis Act, allowing contractors to pay less than prevailing wages in Katrina-damaged areas.

Toxic trailers: FEMA “suppressed warnings” about levels of formaldehyde in FEMA-provided trailers to Katrina refugees.

Laura Bush’s Katrina amnesia went unchallenged by the press corps, who instead proceeded to ask about daughter Jenna’s upcoming wedding.


Dan Froomkin notes “Laura Bush’s Disastrous Diplomacy.”

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