The Katrina-Iraq link

Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the war didn't hamper relief and rescue efforts back home. A new report says he was wrong.

Published October 4, 2005 12:47PM (EDT)

Remember how the Bush administration insisted up and down that having all those troops deployed in Iraq didn't make it one bit harder for the military to respond to Katrina? We know this will come as a shock to you, but it turns out that it may not have been true.

As the Independent reported yesterday, a confidential Pentagon report says that a "major factor in the delayed response to the hurricane aftermath was that the bulk of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard was deployed in Iraq."

That conclusion -- made in a report commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- runs completely contrary to the assertions Rumsfeld made in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. The suggestion that the war in Iraq was making the Katrina response more difficult is "just flat wrong," Rumsfeld said at a press conference on Sept. 6. "Anyone who's saying that doesn't understand the situation."

One might ask who does and doesn't "understand the situation" now. And while one is asking that, one might also ponder this: The report, written at Rumsfeld's request by Stephen Henthorne, a former professor of the Army's War College and an advisor to the Pentagon, says that Katrina gave the U.S. military its first real chance to test its "we can fight a war on two fronts at once" plan since World War II. "The results," Henthorne writes, "have been disastrous."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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