Four years of federal budget cuts at home, 3 years of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan --and tripling of funds for the war-- has torn-open the United States, and the wound was exposed when hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, LA.
Conservative estimates on 2 September put more than 500,000 homeless indefinately, and as many as 850 dead across the Gulf Coast. Body counts from the storm itself have not begun in New Orleans.
With having three days to prepare for the hurricane's strike, most residents evacuated New Orleans beforehand. The federal government continued their August vacations. President George W Bush abandoned his vacation in Crawford, TX, not due to a pending storm in neighboring Louisiana, but to avoid growing numbers of protesters led by Cindy Sheehan outside his ranch. President Bush went to San Diego, CA, for a celebration with WWII veterans in an attempt to bolster support for Iraq.
Katrina hit and dissipated quickly, leaving New Orleans less damaged than predicted minus downed trees, power lines, damaged roofs and windows. The full force of the hurricane devastated neighboring cities in Mississippi and in Alabama. But flood waters were too much for levees in New Orleans --meant to protect the city from flooding-- and post storm events turned New Orleans upside down. Two breaks in the levees inundated New Orleans within hours after the storm had passed making it impossible to reach survivors and burying neighborhoods with toxic water.
Subsequently, New Orleans is rife with illegal drugs and according to its mayor, drug addicts took to the streets for a fix, causing more mayhem. Meanwhile, as residents lost their only shelter to flooding, they too took to the streets to find any remaining food and supplies left behind in grocery stores. The federal government did not respond initially.
"They are feeding the public a line of bull and people are dying," said Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. He said he was told the federal emergency management along with military aid were to patch up the 17th Street Canal levee break. "I flew over that break and nothing had been done" 48 hours after he was told repairs were underway.
Five days later, President Bush's promise of National Guardsmen and supplies began to arrive in New Orleans. The death toll from the storm and subsequent floods is not known as of press time. However, on Thursday 1 September, 100 people perished in New Orleans simply due to heat exhaustion, lack of supplies, and four days without food or water.
The federal government was focused on shoring-up oil supplies ahead of the nation's final summer holiday weekend approaching.
On 2 September, President Bush admits that the federal government's response to help the Gulf Coast was "not acceptable."
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"
Congress rushed to provide $10.5 billion in emergency funds on 1 September for Gulf Coast victims and President Bush worked closely with energy suppliers to prevent the flow of gasoline to the United States.
"Don't buy gas if you don't need it," President Bush said.
The Army Corps of Engineers continued to work on repairing levees in New Orleans. In May 2005 the Corps argued with the White House over lack of funds to shore-up seven projects intended to secure New Orleans from possible future floods. According to the Corps' complaint, they said President Bush's proposed $3 million in funds was "insufficient to fund new construction contracts."
Maintaining the levees as they were would cost $20 million, the Corps said, but the President's cuts prevented them from revisiting the proposed fixes until 2007.
Louisiana's corps said that where the levees had failed, weren't even part of the reinforcing plans. The design in place was not adequate to protect against Katrina's strength.
But the White House defended itself. President Bush, according to federal budget cut records in 2004 and in February 2005, cut a total of 20 percent combined for future projects. President Bush said the cuts did not cause the disaster and praised the efforts of the Corps of Engineers.
"Flood control has been a priority of this administration from day one," said Scott McClellan a White House spokesman.
In 2002, Mike Parker, a former Mississippi congressman, was kicked-out of the Corps when he criticized the White House for its proposed budget cuts at home.
Former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston said, "I fought every (censored) administration when they tried to use the Corps of Engineers as a piggy bank to pay for other projects." He said he'd also battled the Clinton administration on the same issue as Republican representative of New Orleans' suburbs.
In May, President Bush and the Senate approved another $350 billion spend on Iraq, which was $82 billion more than anticipated in 2004. In November the White House plans to seek additional funds for Iraq and send approximately 2,000 more troops to the region without indicating when troops or funds would be reduced in Iraq.
---This content is copyrighted by Think & Ask, reproduction of any kind is not permitted without written consent.---