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Re: E-M:/ A National Catastrophe and Responsibility

Enviro-Mich message from "Thomas W. Stephens" <tstephens@sugarlaw.org>

I sent this short note to about a dozen or so papers nationwide yesterday,
and if you read on you'll see that a bunch of others were thinking along
similar lines...

Today's New York Times reports that "Pentagon officials asserted that
deployment of thousands of National Guard members from the gulf states to
Iraq and Afghanistan had not affected relief efforts. But on Tuesday the two
hardest-hit states, Louisiana and Mississippi, which each have more than
3,000 National Guard troops in Iraq, requested military specialists and
equipment from other states..."

To what extent is the impact of this massive hurricane and flooding disaster
on the Gulf Coast, including its immediate effect on national fuel prices as
well as the deaths and suffering of people in the affected areas, made even
worse by the lack of resources available to prepare for and respond to such
events, because of the waste of Bush and Cheney's elective war in Iraq?

If there are any real journalists still left in the USA, who don't simply
accept what Pentagon officials "assert" as the truth, this may be one of the
biggest stories of our life time.  And it could help us reach a new, and
better, understanding of what "national security" really means.

Tom Stephens

"Despite continuous warnings that a catastrophic hurricane could hit New
Orleans, the Bush administration and Congress in recent years have
repeatedly denied full funding for hurricane preparation and flood control.
That has delayed construction of levees around the city and stymied an
ambitious project to improve drainage in New Orleans' neighborhoods.  For
instance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $27 million for this
fiscal year to pay for hurricane-protection projects around Lake
Pontchartrain. The Bush administration countered with $3.9 million, and
Congress eventually provided $5.7 million, according to figures provided by
the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).  Because of the shortfalls,
which were caused in part by the rising costs of the war in Iraq, the corps
delayed seven contracts that included enlarging the levees, according to
corps documents.  Much of the devastation in New Orleans was caused by
breaches in the levees, which sent water from Lake Pontchartrain pouring
into the city. ... Joseph Suhayda, an emeritus engineering professor at
Louisiana State University who has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers,
said the corps simply didn't have enough money to build the levees as high
as the designs called for.  "The fact that they weren't that high was a
result of lack of funding," he said, noting that part of the levee at the
17th Street Canal--where one of the breaches occurred--was 4 feet lower than
the rest. "I think they could have significantly reduced the impact if they
had those projects funded. If you need to spend $20 million and you spend $4
or $5 million, something's got to give."


 Flood-control funds short of requests
By Andrew Martin and Andrew Zajac
Washington Bureau
Published September 1, 2005

"... on Tuesday night the newscasts were reporting that in a city whose
desperate state is akin the Dacca in Bangladesh a few years ago, there were
precisely seven Coast Guard helicopters in operation. Where are the National
Guard helicopters? Presumably strafing Iraqi citizens on the roads outside
Baghdad and Fallujah.  As the war's unpopularity soars, there will be
millions asking, Why is the National Guard in Iraq, instead of helping the
afflicted along the Gulf in the first crucial hours, before New Orleans,
Biloxi, and Mobile turn into toxic toilet bowls with thousands marooned on
the tops of houses."
- Alexander Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair

"National Guard troops don't belong in Iraq. They should be rescuing and
protecting in Louisiana and Mississippi, not patrolling and killing in a
country that was invaded on the basis of presidential deception. They should
be fighting the effects of flood waters at home -- helping people in the
communities they know best -- not battling Iraqi people who want them to go
away.  Let's use the Internet today to forward and post this demand so
widely that the politicians in Washington can no longer ignore it:  Bring
the National Guard home. Immediately."
- Norman Solomon

"In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush
proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for
Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans
CityBusiness. 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."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the 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." "
- Will Bunch

August 31, 2005

A Reverence for Property Over People
New Orleans After Katrina

Tuesday night, as water rose to 20 feet through most of New Orleans, CNN
relayed an advisory that food in refrigerators would last only four hours,
would have to be thrown out. The next news item from CNN was an indignant
bellow about "looters" of 7/11s and a Walmart.

The reverence for property is now the underlying theme of many newscasts,
with defense of The Gap being almost the first order of duty for the forces
of law and order.

Maybe the terrible disaster along the Gulf coast will awaken people to the
unjust ways in which our society works. That's often the effect of natural
disasters, as with the Mexican earthquake, where the laggardly efforts of
the police prompted ordinary citizens to take matters into their own hands.

Bring Them Home...NOW!
The National Guard Belongs in New Orleans and Biloxi. Not Baghdad.

The men and women of the National Guard shouldn't be killing in Iraq. They
should be helping in New Orleans and Biloxi.

The catastrophic hurricane was an act of God. But the U.S. war effort in
Iraq is a continuing act of the president. And now, that effort is hampering
the capacity of the National Guard to save lives at home.

Before the flooding of New Orleans drastically escalated on Tuesday, the
White House tried to disarm questions that could be politically explosive.
"To those of you who are concerned about whether or not we're prepared to
help, don't be, we are," President Bush said. "We're in place, we've got
equipment in place, supplies in place, and once the -- once we're able to
assess the damage, we'll be able to move in and help those good folks in the
affected areas."
Let's use the Internet today to forward and post this demand so widely that
the politicians in Washington can no longer ignore it:

Bring the National Guard home. Immediately.

Norman Solomon is the author of the new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents
and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 by the Editor & Publisher
Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?
'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues

By Will Bunch

PHILADELPHIA - Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the
city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans late on Tuesday.
That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long
break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the
Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop
until it's level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct
hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with
state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major
hurricane and flood relief efforts.
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington
heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection,
including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage
might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

Will Bunch (letters@editorandpublisher.com) is senior writer at the
Philadelphia Daily News. Much of this article also appears on his blog at
that newspaper, Attytood.

© 2005 VNU eMedia Inc. / Editor and Publisher


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