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Did Iraq Hurt Hurricane Katrina Response?

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The answer is simply: yes.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that “arguably” a day or so of response time was lost due to the absence of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.

“Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear,” said Blum.

Blum said that to replace those units’ command and control equipment, he dispatched personnel from Guard division headquarters from Kansas and Minnesota shortly after the storm struck.

Blum also said that in a worst-case scenario up to 50,000 additional Guardsmen per month will be needed in Louisiana or Mississippi over the next four months to continue providing relief, law enforcement and other post-hurricane services.

Those 200,000 troops, if needed, would represent nearly two-thirds of the approximately 319,000 Guard troops available nationwide.

But Donald Rumsfeld disagrees.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week the Pentagon has the ability to cope with both Katrina and the Iraq war: “We can and will do both.”

Asked Tuesday about critics who said the commitment of large numbers of troops to the Iraq conflict hindered the military’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Rumsfeld said, “Anyone who’s saying that doesn’t understand the situation.”

Forgive me Mr. Rumsfeld, but I think you’re playing politics on this one. It only stands to reason that if the people were closer to the situation, the response would have been faster. Instead they had to come from Kansas and Minnesota.

Now, forget the distance from Kansas and Minnesota for moment and think of the knowledge these people had about their own states and cities. That alone is worth SO MUCH when you’re running house to house rescue missions.

Sure, this is the hindsight game. But we need to start playing it so we make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.