Obama and the BP Spill: General Custer’s Last Stand?


Do the lies and arrogance of admiral-turned-BP-apologist Thad Allen know no bounds? At least we now have – thanks to Oil Spill Commission co-chair and former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) – an appropriate historical analogy: Gen. George Armstrong Custer. But if you think the man preparing for a last stand against the natives is the pathetic admiral, you’re misreading the war drums. He will soon desert the battle, joining outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward, on the ash heap of history.

No, it’s the Obama Administration that better be circling the wagons. There’s political fallout coming as the extent of the Gulf coverup becomes known, coupled with the slow-and-low damage claims process and government agencies virtually becoming BP divisions.

Mr. Graham nailed the damage done by those low estimates during a Presidential Commission hearing this week as he observed that early low-ball estimates of the oil flow were “…a little bit like Custer underestimating the number of Indians on the other side of the hill and paying a price for that.”

The Associated Press offered this background: “Government agencies have come under sustained assault from independent scientists for initial estimates that put the size of the spill as low as 1,000 barrels a day – even as footage from the ocean floor showed a huge cloud of oil and gas billowing out of the BP well. A team of scientific experts assembled by the government eventually raised the estimate to more than 60,000 barrels a day.”

Apparently mistaking the Commission for a group of pre-school children, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen stuck to his story. He expected the group to believe that the projected size of the spill had NOTHING to do with the response.

That brought this from the other Commission co-chair William Reilly, who was EPA administrator under the first President Bush: “I would assume that it’s common sense that a flow rate will determine how many skimmers you think you need, how many thousand feet of boom you bring into the area, what you are going to do with respect to dispersants…how do you deploy your resources if you don’t know how serious the threat is?”

Here’s what Allen COULDN’T say to refute the Gen. Custer analogy: “But guys, don’t forget, Custer actually made a mistake! Not us – we knew we were lying! So, no, it didn’t change our response one bit. The plan was to lie all along, and use the dispersants to hide the oil and eventually coverup the extent of the spill. And you have to admit, it took a while, but we’ve accomplished that goal.”

Both Mr. Graham and Mr. Reilly pointed out that the disconnect between official assertions and the footage from the seabed severely undermined public confidence in the oil-spill response.

Continuing the exchange, Mr. Graham correctly noted that the low spill estimates – which clearly slowed both the logistical and political responses to the spill – quickly eroded public confidence. An AP story quoted him as saying: “I think it set a context for public skepticism about future information.”

My point is this: The lies continue unabated. Even at these hearings, a senior scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stood by that totally discredited report that 75 percent of the oil is gone – “captured, burned, dissolved or dispersed.”

To its credit, the Commission also had an expert on hand to immediately shoot down that ridiculous assertion. Again from the AP: “Over 50% of the total discharge is a highly durable material that resists further dissipation,” Ian MacDonald, a scientist at Florida State University told the commission. “Much of it is now buried in marine and coastal sediments. There is scant evidence for bacterial degradation of this material prior to burial.”

The U.S. mainstream media is on the story, but as usual the British press is a bit less concerned with offending the Obama Administration.

Try this from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/28/barack-obama-gulf-oil-spill

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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