Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The costs of war

One of the most intriguing aspects of the war in Iraq, aside from the misinformation which served as its raison d'etre and the incompetence with which its been run, has been its impact on the average citizen: zero.

Fought by an "all-volunteer" army (stop-loss aside) and financed by the national credit card of foreign debt, BushCorp™'s war of choice has had strikingly little impact on most US citizens.

But hidden though they have been, the costs of war are beginning to dawn on the American people, at least some of them.

And I don't mean that I believe my fellow Americans have come to a belated understanding of this geo-political disaster's ramifications for America's standing on the world stage.

What I mean is this (from McClatchy):

With much of their equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, state National Guards face profound shortages in responding to natural disasters, particularly as they get ready for the hurricane season, which begins June 1.

The Guard has been shipping gear to hurricane-prone states in an effort to ease concerns, but a large disaster affecting several states would tax the Guard's ability to respond, according to National Guard officials and government reports. Some deficiencies aren't correctable. The Texas National Guard's helicopters, for example, are in Iraq and can't be replaced easily.

The potential impact of the equipment shortages became apparent over the weekend when a tornado devastated Greensburg, Kan. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that the state's National Guard couldn't respond as quickly as it should have because much of its equipment is overseas. About 300 Kansas National Guardsmen have been sent to Greensburg.

"Fifty percent of our trucks are gone. Our front loaders are gone. We are missing Humvees that move people," Sebelius told NBC's "Today" show. "We can't borrow them from other states because their equipment is gone. It's a huge issue for states across the country to respond to disasters like this."

That problem is likely to worsen in the event of a major hurricane, which generally affects a much larger area than a tornado does. Guard officials in hurricane-prone states say they're ready, but only if they can get help from other states. That will slow critical response times, emergency managers say.

We got a taste of things to come with Katrina, but the top to bottom incompetence of the emergency response served to mask the effect the depletion of national guard personnel and equipment had on the disastrous disaster relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. "Heckofa job" Brownie's incompetence is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Your Caliblogger finds it especially ironic that shortages of Guardsmen and equipment are most acute in the states of the deep south most supportive of the president's warmongering:

In interviews with McClatchy Newspapers, National Guard representatives in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas said they had at least 50 percent of the equipment they needed. Only North Carolina officials said they expected to have all the equipment they needed by June 1.

Those hurricane-prone states also benefit because most of their Guard units aren't currently in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Alabama is in the weakest position, with 4,000 of its 11,400 Air and Army National Guard deployed, or about to be, overseas. Total deployments for the other states total only about 2,000, state National Guard officers said.

And as global warming (now generally accepted as fact, Bush's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding) increases the intensity of any hurricanes that might impact these states, one wonders just how bad the suffering will have to get after the next national disaster before Bush loses the support of the die-hard 28% who still support him.

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