Federal response to Katrina not enough

By on September 14, 2005

When I see the destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused to Louisiana and other parts of the country, I can not help but wonder if somehow some of the damage could have been prevented and causalities kept to a minimum. Needless to say, I was not shocked when I read that government officials were warned of the possibility of this happening and neglected to do anything about it.

In 2001, FEMA sent a letter to the Bush administration explaining that if a category four or five hurricane ever hit New Orleans, it will be one of the top three biggest disasters this country can ever experience. Right up there with a terrorist attack in New York City (the latter which of course happened shortly after that memo).

But the Bush administration responded to that by cutting flood control funding to New Orleans by 44% because they needed every possible penny to pay for the impending war in Iraq that they were going to get involved with.

For those people who do not know about New Orleans geography, the city is run by levees and if the levees fail then New Orleans, essentially, floods since the city is below sea level. A major hurricane, if ever hit, would knock out two of the biggest levees and send the city into chaos, which of course ultimately happened.

In 1995, after a few people were killed due to a flood in New Orleans, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project which would give government funding to make sure that the levees were working correctly. According to Salon.com, by 2003 that Project was practically non-existent as all its money went into the Iraq War funding. Then finally last year, the administration denied a request by the New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers to help then further protect their city and cut that funding by 80%. All in all, by early this year, a total of almost 42% of all funding that was being sent to the city to help save them from a hurricane disaster was cut and moved into the war efforts.

But that was all before the hurricane hit. Obviously sometimes corners need to be cut so other projects can get off the ground, but think about this. Is the health, safety, and survival of Americans more important than making sure Iraqis have a new constitution? Is having our NATIONAL Guard available for us in this country more important than having them take five days to get back from protecting other people? The answer to these questions should be no. Our president preaches keeping America safe, but if that is the case then why was New Orleans left so vulnerable to this possibility, and after it happened, why weren’t there thousands of American personnel there to help find people?

There are stories on the news everyday about people who have their neighbors’ bodies rotting in the house next to them because no one was able to get there to clean it up yet. The manpower that the American government should be providing is not there because they are helping “defend” America where it counts. Last time I checked more people died from this hurricane than any terrorist attack in this country’s history.

So the next time you choose to defend the war in Iraq because of how it is keeping us safe, just think of the programs being cut that hurt Americans quite like all the funding to help New Orleans from a disaster quite like the one that is dominating our news stations now.


About Rob Ettman