It’s all fun and games until thousands die.
There have been three momentous events in the past five years that have resulted in the otherwise avoidable deaths of many Americans. There is the current crisis in Louisiana & Mississippi, which Paul Krugman details here:
Second question: Why wasn’t more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. “The corps,” an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, “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.”
In 2002 the corps’ chief resigned, reportedly under threat of being fired, after he criticized the administration’s proposed cuts in the corps’ budget, including flood-control spending.
Third question: Did the Bush administration destroy FEMA’s effectiveness? The administration has, by all accounts, treated the emergency management agency like an unwanted stepchild, leading to a mass exodus of experienced professionals.
Last year James Lee Witt, who won bipartisan praise for his leadership of the agency during the Clinton years, said at a Congressional hearing: “I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared.”
I don’t think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn’t rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn’t get adequate armor.
At a fundamental level, I’d argue, our current leaders just aren’t serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don’t like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.
Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.
So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can’t-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.
Then there was Condoleezza Rice spinning axels and triple toe-loops explaining away why a memo that said Bin Laden determined to strike in US was disregarded and then attempting to explain her failure of imagination and lack of due dilligence as a failure of not speaking clearly:
KEAN: I’ve got a question now I’d like to ask you. It was given to me by a number of members of the families.
Did you ever see or hear from the FBI, from the CIA, from any other intelligence agency, any memos or discussions or anything else between the time you got into office and 9/11 that talked about using planes as bombs?
RICE: Let me address this question because it has been on the table.
I think that concern about what I might have known or we might have known was provoked by some statements that I made in a press conference. I was in a press conference to try and describe the August 6 memo, which I’ve talked about here in my opening remarks and which I talked about with you in the private session.
And I said, at one point, that this was a historical memo, that it was — it was not based on new threat information. And I said, “No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon” — I’m paraphrasing now — “into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile.”
As I said to you in the private session, I probably should have said, “I could not have imagined,” because within two days, people started to come to me and say, “Oh, but there were these reports in 1998 and 1999. The intelligence community did look at information about this.”
To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.
I cannot tell you that there might not have been a report here or a report there that reached somebody in our midst.
Part of the problem is — and I think Sandy Berger made this point when he was asked the same question — that you have thousands of pieces of information — car bombs and this method and that method — and you have to depend to a certain degree on the intelligence agencies to sort to tell you what is actually relevant, what is actually based on sound sources, what is speculative.
RICE: And I can only assume or believe that perhaps the intelligence agencies thought that the sourcing was speculative.
All that I can tell you is that it was not in the August 6 memo, using planes as a weapon. And I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons. In fact, there were some reports done in ’98 and ’99. I was certainly not aware of them at the time that I spoke.
Finally you have Paul Wolfowitz dismissing advice from Gen. Eric K. Shinseki on manpower needs for the occupation of Iraq:
In a contentious exchange over the costs of war with Iraq, the Pentagon’s second-ranking official today disparaged a top Army general’s assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq. House Democrats then accused the Pentagon official, Paul D. Wolfowitz, of concealing internal administration estimates on the cost of fighting and rebuilding the country.
Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, “wildly off the mark.” Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war’s duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.
“We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground,” Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. “Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion.” Mr. Wolfowitz’s refusal to be pinned down on the costs of war and peace in Iraq infuriated some committee Democrats, who noted that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the budget director, had briefed President Bush on just such estimates on Tuesday.
“I think you’re deliberately keeping us in the dark,” said Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia. “We’re not so naÃ¯ve as to think that you don’t know more than you’re revealing.” Representative Darlene Hooley, an Oregon Democrat, also voiced exasperation with Mr. Wolfowitz: “I think you can do better than that.”
At a Pentagon news conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld echoed his deputy’s comments. Neither Mr. Rumsfeld nor Mr. Wolfowitz mentioned General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, by name. But both men were clearly irritated at the general’s suggestion that a postwar Iraq might require many more forces than the 100,000 American troops and the tens of thousands of allied forces that are also expected to join a reconstruction effort.
“The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: “I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point â€” something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers â€” are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.” He also said that the regional commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, would determine the precise figure.
A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. “He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment,” Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that “stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,” but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. “I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.
Jesus. Dick Morris is correct more often than these people.