Thursday, September 01, 2005

How New Orleans was Lost: Another Terrible Casualty of the Iraq War

From an article by Paul Craig Roberts on CounterPunch:

Chalk up the city of New Orleans as a cost of Bush's Iraq war.

There were not enough helicopters to repair the breeched levees and rescue people trapped by rising water. Nor are there enough Louisiana National Guards available to help with rescue efforts and to patrol against looting... The National Guard and helicopters are off on a fools mission in Iraq...

Now the Guardsmen, trapped in the Iraqi quagmire, are watching on TV the families they left behind trapped by rising waters and wondering if the floating bodies are family members. None know where their dislocated families are, but, shades of Fallujah, they do see their destroyed homes...

Why can't the US government focus on America's needs and leave other countries alone? Why are American troops in Iraq instead of protecting our own borders from a mass invasion by illegal immigrants? Why are American helicopters blowing up Iraqi homes instead of saving American homes in New Orleans?...

All Bush has achieved by invading Iraq is to kill and wound thousands of people while destroying America's reputation. The only beneficiaries are oil companies capitalizing on a good excuse to jack up the price of gasoline and Osama bin Laden's recruitment.

What we have is a Republican war for oil company profits while New Orleans sinks beneath the waters.

Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

He's reaching, in this one. I get his point, but it's not necessarily a valid or logical one.

I understand what he is saying about pulling the Guard over to Iraq to fill in the gaps, but admittedly, that is a base part what the Guard exists for, whether or not we morally agree with troops currently being in Iraq. Yes, it is too bad that they had to do that, but who else were they going to send? Yes, a misjudgement on numbers required was made, but even if it had not been made, I ask again, who would have made up the difference to bring those numbers up to par? It matters not that we don't think they should have gone - the GOP were sending troops in regardless, and the numbers had to be filled because of that.


Were we able to make the assumption that at the time the National Guard was called away, the hurricane could have been predicted to strike exactly when and how it did, maybe there would be some validity to his claim. However, since that was rather impossible to do, one cannot suggest that they should have been left behind for reasons of such a disaster.

As well, could the extra helicopters have really made that huge a difference? The levies were mostly damaged during the storm, at which point flight by helicopter was quite impossible. In the aftermath, the city was mostly already flooded - those helicopters may not have been able to repair much at all - those that were already trying to do so had difficulty. With the number of people trapped in attics and on rooftops, who's to say all helicopters wouldn't have been diverted to that, much more pressing, task?

I agree with Roberts that the war has many costs, is unjust, and the US should not be in Iraq. I disagree that the Guard being back home would have made a huge difference. Especially when most of what we see in the aftermath (ie the flooding) was created directly by the storm, and was already there during the end moments of the storm. I don't buy it.

Roberts does have a point about the errors made in war planning, and the war's illegitimacy. However, he is going about making that point in a most obtuse and inaccurate manner.

Anonymous said...

A quick add-on:

Rather than focus on the Guard, how about on funding cuts? Levees that were minimally maintained, whose funds were greatly slashed, despite warnings for years over the potential impact?

How about enviromental groups, warning, also for many years, that selling and developing the wetland areas would remove a key natural barrier to flooding effects of a hurricane?

These warnings going unheeded is a bit more problematic than the lack of a National Guard that may not have made a huge difference - were the warnings heeded, minimal flooding would have occurred, compared to the New Atlantis we see now.

barefoot hiker said...

He's reaching, in this one. I get his point, but it's not necessarily a valid or logical one.

You'd have to support the war in the first place to accept that. While the National Guard has been used abroad, its principal role during peacetime is as a reserve force to prevent invasion, deal with insurrection, and address domestic emergencies. If this were peacetime, those soldiers would be home. But they're not, because the current US administration has sent them abroad, pointlessly, in a war of choice. They are not home looking after the people of Louisiana and Mississippi because they are in Iraq, a country which never attacked the United States.

No less a conservative source than USA Today states that:

The Pentagon said Wednesday that it will add 10,000 National Guard soldiers from around the country to areas of Louisiana and Mississippi ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

And why? Because...

More than 5,900 Guard soldiers from the two states, about a third of the total, are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In other words, ten thousand soldiers are being sent now to mop up what six thousand might have forestalled yesterday. How many people would be alive now if six thousand more troops had been available in the Gulf States from the outset, instead of ten thousand being sent in after the storm has already come and gone over Canada? We'll never know, but I'm reasonably confident it would have made a difference.

The United States has seen category 5 hurricanes before, three others them since the 1930s. Yet this one, tracked by satellite from the very start, emerges as the most devastating, likely to steal the crown from Camille. Despite the fact that the US Army was unequal to the task of subduing Iraq and told the president so, he sent them and the National Guard anyway. These are the results. Roberts is quite correct in pointing this out. Plainly: men and resources were not where they needed to be in time of national emergency. They were off working to secure the future of the petrodollar and controling access to a strategic asset.

Rather than focus on the Guard, how about on funding cuts? Levees that were minimally maintained, whose funds were greatly slashed, despite warnings for years over the potential impact?

What's the difference? These are both symptoms of the very same disease.