Cindy, Katrina and the War in Iraq

Cindy, Katrina and the war in Iraq have converged in a summer storm, awakening the American people to the insensitivity and incompetence of Mr. Bush and his administration. During the month of August, Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother of one of the nearly 1,900 US soldiers to have died in Iraq, camped in front of Mr. Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas and called upon the President to take some time off from vacation to tell her the “noble cause” for which her son died in Iraq.

While Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star mothers waited at Camp Casey and watched Mr. Bush speed by in his caravan on his way to play golf and attend fundraisers, more US soldiers and Iraqi civilians were dying in Iraq.

After Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the President cut his five-week vacation two days short. But this was after it was already apparent that preparations for relief efforts were too little, too late for the people trapped in New Orleans and elsewhere.

While spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the Iraq War, the Bush administration cut funding from the budget to shore up the levees in New Orleans. Instead of saving thousands of lives by spending a few hundred million dollars to strengthen the levees protecting New Orleans, lives have been lost and it will cost thousands of times as much to rebuild the city.

Mr. Bush’s slow response and unscripted comments on Katrina helped emphasize his callousness. “The good news,” he said, “is ­ and it’s hard for some to see it now ­ that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubble of Trent Lott’s house, there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”

Surely, the thought of Mr. Bush someday sitting on the porch of Senator Lott’s rebuilt house cannot be overly reassuring to the American people, particularly those who are stranded by the flooding and who have lost loved ones and their homes in this disaster.

Since about a third of the Louisiana National Guard is deployed to Iraq, along with many of their helicopters, neither these troops nor the equipment available to help with the rescue effort in New Orleans. As a result, there weren’t enough helicopters or troops on hand to both repair the levees and rescue stranded citizens.

The Bush policies in Iraq have been good at destroying cities, including Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit and Fallujah. Now it is apparent that these policies in Iraq are also contributing to the destruction of American cities.

We don’t yet know how many Americans have died as a result of the incompetence of the Bush administration in handling the rescue effort following hurricane Katrina, but it will undoubtedly be far more than it needed to be because of the war in Iraq. Whatever the number turns out to be, it should be added to the number of needless American and Iraqi deaths in the war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush’s response to Katrina has been no more satisfactory than his response to Cindy Sheehan. Cindy concluded that “George and his band of incompetent and dangerous thugs need to resign.” While many serious Americans may believe this is true, it is an unlikely possibility. Mr. Bush’s plummeting numbers in the polls, however, do suggest that a healthy majority of Americans are recognizing that his policies and lack of competence are undermining the levees that protect our democracy, our security and our international standing.

DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( He is the author of Today Is Not a Good Day for War.


David Krieger is president emeritus of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (