More to read

There are a lot of links in this Kos diary which back up Bob’s assertion below — New Orleans is a casualty of the war in Iraq. I’m just going to post excerpts here, you can click through for the source links.

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.
— Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

* * *

The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president’s 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.

“The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink,” he said. “I’ve got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we’re going to have to pay them interest.”

* * *

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.
But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

* * *
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.

And then there’s this:

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it’s too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:

“We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater,” Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.

Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool’s errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich.

And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here.

The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet — after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf — there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisiana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?

The first time I went to New Orleans, my reaction was probably similar that of most tourists: the city is below sea level? The only reason it’s not flooded is because of machines that operate twenty four hours a day?

We used to call San Francisco “the city that waits to die.” But New Orleans was a city on 24/7 life support. And what George Bush did, effectively, was pull the plug because he needed to spend the money elsewhere.

My emotions today run the gamut from anger to despair. Goddamn these incompetent motherfuckers.

* * *
…here’s one more, via the same Kos diary:

JACKSON BARRACKS — When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem. “The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard.

That article was datelined August 1.

You’ll hear plenty of administration officials insisting that they have all the Guardsmen and equipment they need. And if you believe that, you probably also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The right-wing noise machine will do their best to drown out and discredit anyone who points this out now, but I promise you, within six months it will be conventional wisdom and the right wingers will simply clear their throats and look away when the topic comes up.