KANSAS TORNADO RECOVERY EFFORTS – LATEST VICTIM OF IRAQ WAR
By Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund
My ancestral homeland, Kansas (my great-great grandparents were Quaker abolitionists who helped found Kansas as a free state) is often devastated by tornadoes (in fact I witnessed a powerful one in Topeka when I was a little boy visting my great grandparents).
This tragedy is compounded by the lack of equipment the Kansas National Guard should have on hand but is instead in Iraq, and then compounded again by Sen. Sam Brownback’s denunciation of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’s analysis of the situation.
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — A shortage of trucks, helicopters and other
equipment — all sent to the war in Iraq — has hampered recovery in a
U.S. town obliterated by a tornado, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said on
“There is no doubt at all that this will slow down and hamper the
recovery,” Sebelius, a Democrat, told Reuters in Kansas where officials
said the statewide death toll had risen to 12 on Monday.
“Not having this equipment in place all over the state is a huge
handicap,” Sebelius said.
The tornado that devastated Greensburg, 110 miles west of Wichita, started
a weekend of violent weather in Kansas, a state in the heart of the
central United States region known as “Tornado Alley.”
Ten died in Greensburg, a town of 1,600 people. An 11th died in nearby
Pratt County and a 12th in a separate tornado in Ottawa County.
The twisters were accompanied by widespread flooding on Sunday and Monday
that required more than 200 water rescues and closed many roads and
shuttered several schools in another part of the state.
“We’re getting pounded in Kansas. We have the need for National Guard in
two different parts of our state now. This is really going to be a
problem,” Sebelius said.
Sebelius and other Democratic governors earlier this year assailed the
Republican Bush administration for the strains they said the war had
placed on their states’ National Guardsmen, frequently mobilized for state
On Monday, anti-war groups, including the National Security Network and
Americans Against Escalation in Iraq cited the shortage of equipment to
deal with the Kansas disaster as the latest example of what they see as
the war’s detrimental impact on domestic security.
A Pentagon spokesman in Washington said other states were supposed to help
provide resources in an emergency. White House spokesman Tony Snow said
the administration was doing what it could and equipment would arrive if
it was needed.
Kansas Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson said because of the
shortage of National Guard equipment, the state was rushing to hire
contractors to help clear debris.
Nearly 70 Kansas National Guard troops were arriving in Greensburg on
Monday to supplement about 40 troops already on the ground, and some guard
Humvees were available to start clearing wreckage, Watson said.
Sebelius said the failure by Washington to replace or return state
National Guard equipment deployed to Iraq was “not a very satisfying
The governor said Kansas lacked about half the large equipment it could
use for recovery efforts and debris removal, including dump trucks and
front loaders. More than 20 percent of its Humvees and 15 of 19
helicopters were sent to Iraq, the governor said.
The National Weather Service said the twister that hit Greensburg on
Friday about 9:45 p.m. was an F5, the highest on the scale. With winds of
205 mph (330 kph), it stayed on the ground about an hour, traveling 22
miles and wreaking a path of destruction nearly 2 miles wide.
“It’s been one of the most destructive tornadoes in the last 10 years,”
said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Gerard.
BROWNBACK DISPUTES CLAIM THAT TORNADO EXPOSED GUARD SHORTAGES
May 8, 2007
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback disputed
claims by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that a deadly Kansas tornado
exposed holes in National Guard readiness caused by the Iraq war.
Sebelius said Monday that Kansas is missing about half its National Guard
trucks and many well-trained personnel that could have helped respond to
last weekend’s tornado in Greensburg, Kan. The twister killed at least 10
people and razed the farming town.
“The issue for the National Guard is the same wherever you go in the
country. Stuff that we would have borrowed is gone. It’s gone across the
country,” she said Monday.
Brownback said Tuesday that local officials and the Kansas National Guard
commander all told him they have the resources needed to respond.
“That’s what really got me, is her saying that,” Brownback said in an
“So I asked, privately and publicly, the adjutant general, do you have the
equipment you need?” he said. “Because if you don’t, we’re going to hit
Fort Riley and McConnell (Air Force Base) and other places to make sure we
have all the equipment we need to respond to disasters. Everybody there
said no, we have the equipment we needed.”
He added: “I think what we need to do is to focus on what we need here
now, and not draw a broader political question in. We’ve got a disaster,
and we need to all pull together to get everything we need from the state
and the federal for the local need.”
After visiting the town Monday, the Kansas senator said he asked about
resources because, “I think FEMA has a lot of proving to do after
President Bush intends to visit Greensburg on Wednesday.
As governor, Sebelius has control over her state’s National Guard and has
repeatedly raised concerns about shortages caused by the Iraq war.
She asked President Bush about the shortages in person last year when he
visited Topeka, Kan.
“He assured me that he had additional equipment in his budget a year ago.
What the Defense Department said then, and continues to say, is that
states will get about 90 percent of what they had,” Sebelius said.
“Meanwhile, it doesn’t get any better. I’m at a loss.”
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state’s adjutant general, said the Kansas
National Guard was equipped to about 40 percent of its necessary levels,
down from the 60 percent it had at the start of the war. About 850
soldiers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It just leaves you pretty tight,” he said. “We’re fine for now.”