Friday, September 02, 2005

Link between Iraq war and Katrina damage

The Editor and Publisher, a meta-news service about the news industry, is running a story about the Times-Picayune and its coverage of the build-up to a disaster. Apparently, the newspaper had been publishing articles since 2003 about how the Bush administration had been siphoning off money from the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) in order to pay for the war in Iraq and its federal tax cuts for the rich.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

...with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the [Army Corp of Engineers] Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune: "The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

...The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Yesterday, NPR had a story that belied Bush's speech yesterday where he asserted that no one could have forseen that the levees would break. As evidence, NPR rolled out a series of people and organizations who had been doing disaster scenario preparations to figure out a plan for just such an emergency, and the scenario they played out assumed that the levees would be unable to hold back the water. Heck, even I - a guy living in the middle of the desert - had heard of the levee-breaking scenario. It was in an issue of Scientific American I read a few years ago about the eventual-disaster that New Orleans faced.

Two years ago, I would have been outraged, but now, I'm just weary.

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