News Release

The Neglected Levees of New Orleans: A Victim of Iraq War Spending


“It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”
— Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

Today the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote: “No one can say they didn’t see it coming. For years before Hurricane Katrina roared ashore Monday morning, devastating the Gulf Coast, officials from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have been warning about their vulnerability to the storms…”
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Will Bunch is a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News. The article states: “Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? Times-Picayune Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues” for Editor & Publisher. He wrote: “After 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA [Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project] dropped to a trickle. The Corps 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.” Bunch is continuing to write on his blog.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune ran a five-part series in 2002 titled “Washing Away” about the threat of a major hurricane. The series is available online.
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Director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management, Holdeman wrote the article in the Washington Post yesterday titled “Destroying FEMA.” He wrote: “The country’s premier agency for dealing with such events — FEMA — is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security.”
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Professor of political economy and economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, Dumas is author of the book Lethal Arrogance: Human Fallibility and Dangerous Technologies and an expert on crisis management.

Co-author of the just-released report “The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops,” Leaver is a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. The study finds: “According to current estimates, the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion. In current dollars, the Vietnam War cost U.S. taxpayers $600 billion.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167