The short answer, based on articles published in recent years by the New Orleans Times-Picayune: Yes.
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. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.George Bush is not responsible for natural disasters. He is responsible, however, for presidential decisions that threaten our country's security and the well-being of its citizens.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
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.
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.
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." - Editor & Publisher
In 2003 the president and his gang of chicken hawks plunged the country into a preemptive war -- an unforgivable mistake with an altogether predictable outcome. Not only did he needlessly and foolishly sacrifice thousands of lives in an unjustified war and poorly planned occupation, he squandered our country's resources with a foreign misadventure that makes the United States less safe at every imaginable level, from fighting terrorism to coping with a crisis like Hurricane Katrina.
Making an unavoidable disaster worse, many National Guard units from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and other states, along with their equipment and resources, are deployed to the avoidable disaster of Iraq. Guardsmen in Iraq include policemen, firemen, medical personnel and other professionals with skills and organizational experience needed in their own devastated communities. Tragically, they are unavailable to assist their own families and neighbors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or any other emergency at home.
As the White House public relations machine goes into overdrive to convince us that the aw shucks president is a competent and caring man, we must not overlook this fact: George Bush's presidency is itself a national disaster, and no amount of PR can change that.