With officials declaring the devastation of the U.S. gulf coast from Hurricane Katrina "our tsunami," comparing it to Pompeii and Hiroshima, estimates of casualties in the hundreds if not thousands, and predictions that it will take YEARS to fully recover, my guess is that the political pressure on President Bush to pull troops and resources from Iraq, and send them to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama will become powerful. Already there are complaints that he has acted too slowly to leave his vacation and send in the military.
"Analysts now estimate the damage at more than $25 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with an additional $4 to $10 billion in uninsured losses topping the bill." (Gil Kaufman, MTV News)
Certainly, after the October elections and adoption of a Constitution in Iraq, the symbolism of Americans sending $100 billion a year or more to rebuild Iraq while citizens on the Gulf coast tread water, perhaps literally; with dramatically rising gas prices hurting family pocketbooks and fueling inflation, will become powerful. It could fuel a political hurricane at mid-term election time in 2006. A majority of Americans, 53 percent, currently disapprove of President Bush's performance in office, while 45 percent approve. Forty percent wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq before the hurricane hit. That number is sure to increase. This natural disaster may turn into a political disaster for President Bush. The American people will be far less inclined to support the expenditure of American lives and resources to provide long-term stability for what looks like an Islamic republic in Iraq. Americans are likely to ask, with a growing sense of outrage: "We went to Iraq, for what exactly?"
Here's what the Associated Press reports:
Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said the president should have had troops and supplies on the ground Monday. "President Bush's wake-up call came awfully late," he said....Trichia Key, 60, of Batesville, Miss., who has taken in family from hard-hit Biloxi, Miss., says: "If we didn't have all our National Guard troops in Iraq, we could probably do a lot more."
Editor and Publisher reports that the disaster could be blamed directly on budget cuts made necessary by the war in Iraq. The report is mostly a spin-off from the blog of the Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch:
"After 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward the Southeastern Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project dropped to a trickle," . "The (Army Corps of Engineers) 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, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness."MORE