Former Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the response to Hurricane Katrina, saying “a lot of failures” occurred at all levels of government.
Powell, the highest-ranking black official in President Bush’s first term, also said he does not believe race was a factor in the slow delivery of relief to the hurricane victims.
“I think there have been a lot of failures at a lot of levels — local, state and federal. There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done,” Powell told ABC News’ Barbara Walters in an interview to be aired Friday night.
“I don’t think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don’t know why,” said Powell, who recently visited storm survivors at Reunion Arena in Dallas.
“I don’t think it’s racism, I think it’s economic,” he told Walters.
“When you look at those who weren’t able to get out, it should have been a blinding flash of the obvious to everybody that when you order a mandatory evacuation, you can’t expect everybody to evacuate on their own.
“These are people who don’t have credit cards; only one in 10 families at that economic level in New Orleans have a car. So it wasn’t a racial thing — but poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor,” he said.
In the interview, Powell also said his prewar speech to the United Nations accusing Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction was a “blot” on his record.
“I’m the one who presented it to the world, and (it) will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It is painful now,” he said.
Powell’s presentation to the U.N. in February 2003 lent considerable credibility to Bush’s case against Iraq and for going to war to remove Saddam Hussein.