In 2001, FEMA ranked a major hurricane strike on New Orleans as "among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country," directly behind a terrorist strike on New York City.

So what was done after that assessment? The Bush administration made drastic funding cuts in New Orleans hurricane-protection projects to make room for tax cuts for millionaires and the war in Iraq.

The same president who didn't pay attention to a 2001 report that said Osama bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States and the same incompetent Washington gang that has badly bungled the war in Iraq have now bungled hurricane recovery. What a surprise.

President Bush says he is going to be in charge of the investigation into the government's response to the Katrina disaster. That gives me confidence.

Former FEMA director Michael Brown had no experience in disaster management; his previous job was running horse shows. Smart move.

I know one of the fruits of political victory is that you get to reward your cronies with well-paid, do-little jobs, and that everyone does this. But you're supposed to do it with the ambassadorship to Luxembourg, not with running a department of emergency preparedness. It's especially appalling that President Bush didn't bring in someone with expertise after 9/11, when everyone in America, as one, agreed we needed to beef up that area.

Alan L. Light

Iowa City

What Was Different in 2005?

Compare and contrast the 2004 hurricane season in which four hurricanes battered Florida with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 2004, President Bush and FEMA responded promptly. President Bush was there handing out bottled water to the victims. FEMA was there handing out checks.

The president's direct involvement and FEMA's response in 2004 created the standard for the federal response.

As Hurricane Katrina roared into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, President Bush stayed on vacation, while Michael Brown , FEMA director, postured before the national media cameras telling the nation help was on the way.

But no help came. We watched the tens of thousands of people crowded into the Superdome with no water and no food, breathing in the stench of overflowing toilets. We watched people go into insulin shock. We saw others collapse from the heat. We saw bodies of the dead, one a person slumped in a wheelchair holding a note. We watched the anger of survivors grow and anarchy reign in New Orleans.

So what is the difference between 2004 and 2005?

In 2004, President Bush was running for re-election. In 2005, President Bush is a lame-duck president. It is hard, if not impossible, to not politicize President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Mary Orr


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