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.

To be honest, I don’t consider this a very strong argument against the war in Iraq, since no one suggests that National Guard troops should be kept permanently in the U.S. to deal with natural disasters. Still, we now have a pretty authoritative statement that it did make a difference. It’s something people should know.

Via Professor Bainbridge, who offers a somewhat harsher assessment: “Even if Iraq won’t prevent us from sustaining the response to Katrina, for a senior military official with Blum’s evident experience to admit that it delayed the response is a pretty stunning admission. It’s probably going to give the criticism of the administration and the GOP real traction with people of good sense and good will … as it should.”

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