It is difficult to cut through the corporate media sugar coating and
find out what is really happening in New Orleans. Searching the internet,
I have come up with the following quotes and article excerpts. Jordan
Flaherty, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union and
an editor of Left Turn Magazine, wrote on September 15:
…the worst damage is what is being done now, this confluence of forces
barraging New Orleans and its Diaspora, what some local organizers have referred
to as the Disaster Industrial Complex. This is the
perfect storm created by an orgy of greed and opportunism engaged in by the
jackals of disaster profiteering. The list of those who are gaining from our
loss is large, and it includes everyone from the heavily armed thugs of Wackenhut
Security and Blackwater USA to the often well-meaning but ineffective bureaucrats
of Red Cross and FEMA, to the Scientology missionaries crowding the shelters,
to journalists and disaster-gazers taking up a chunk of available housing, to
the major multinationals such as Halliburton, working in concert with rich elites
from uptown New Orleans seeking partners with which to exploit this tragedy.
These are the institutions and individuals poised to profit from this disaster,
while the people of New Orleans face nothing but further dislocation and disempowerment.
New Orleans is the most militarized city in the United States, probably
since the Civil War. Flaherty continues:
Whether its in the shelters or in the streets of New Orleans, this
may go down as the most militarized “relief” effort in history.
The Chicago police are camped out on a bar on Bourbon Street. Wackenhut security
convoys are riding in and out of town. Israeli security patrol Audubon Place
Uptown. White vigilante gangs patrol the West Bank, with tacit permission of
local authorities. National Guard and Blackwater are on patrol throughout the
city, along with DEA, INS, State police, New Orleans police, NYPD, and countless
Bill Sizemore, writing for the Virginian-Pilot on September 15, adds detail
about the presence of Blackwater in New Orleans and the confusion about their
Anne Duke, a Blackwater spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the company has about
200 personnel in the hurricane-ravaged area. The vast majority—64 employees—are
working under a contract with the Federal Protective Service, a division of
the Department of Homeland Security, to protect government facilities. The 30-day
contract can be extended indefinitely, she said.
In addition, the company has other employees working for a number of private
clients in the hurricane zone, Duke said, including communications, petrochemical
and insurance companies.
Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV program
“Democracy Now!”, reported from New Orleans in a Web posting Monday
that two Blackwater employees told him they had been “deputized”
by the governor to make arrests and use lethal force. If that is what
they said, they misspoke, Duke said.
“They were not deputized. They are not law enforcement,” she said.
“They were hired much like any other security guard is hired, to protect
a place or people.”
It would appear Blackwater personnel are acting as bodyguards for FEMA,
Ministry of Homeland Security, and other bureaucrats in New Orleans, beefing
up an apparently under-staffed or possibly incompetent Federal Protective Service
(FPS). FPS is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under
the Ministry of Homeland Security. “The mission of the Federal Protective
Service is to provide law enforcement and security services to over one million
tenants and daily visitors to all federally owned and leased facilities nationwide.
FPS focuses directly on the interior security of the nation and the reduction
of crimes and potential threats to federal facilities throughout the nation,”
states the FPS web site. FPS
is specifically tasked with “police emergency services in natural disasters,
civil disturbances and terrorist actions.” It appears the Ministry
has privatized at least some of FPS’ responsibilities to Blackwater mercenaries.
“New Orleans is now under military occupation,”
Online correspondent wrote on September 4. “Tens of thousands
of military personnel have been sent in to suppress and control the remaining
residents. Orleans and several surrounding parishes have been put under martial
law. After days of letting the poorest people in a major city struggle to survive
in a sewage-filled, water-soaked, disease-ravaged city, with temperatures approaching
and festering at 100 degrees, with no food, water, or medical supplies, the
government sent in the military. A brother named Reginald spoke what is on many
people’s minds. ‘They’ve got the port here they use to send
things to Iraq every day to kill people. But they can’t use that port
to help the people of New Orleans?’”
According to David
Van Deusen, on patrol with the Vermont National Guard recently back from
Iraq, some residents seem to be resisting the military occupation:
Moving into the side streets of what appeared to be a working class neighborhood
of small ranch houses, it was not long before we heard gunshots. They came in
groups of four and five. Fifteen shots in all, emanating from not more than
a few blocks away. The squad leader called for back up. When the truck arrived
they moved towards the shots. A few residents, those who refused to evacuate,
directed the Guard towards the perceived source. I was given the advice that
“If we get shot at, find cover wherever you can.”… I asked
how long they would be deployed in Louisiana? A soldier replied, “no Idea.
Until they tell us to go home.”
Deusen writes of a trip to the 9th Ward on September 8th:
As we drew closer to the ward, we began to see large “x”s spray
painted on the sides of every house. In each quadrant of the X were written
letters and numbers. In the top it read “9-6.” To the left, “TX-1.”
To the right, “NE.” At the bottom, “1.” We correctly
guessed that these symbols we the record of a search conducted by the military
or other government agencies. The top obviously represented the date of the
search. The left, the unit who conducted it. The right was a code for the type
of contamination found within. The bottom number told the grim tale of how many
bodies were found. Again, these were on every house.
A mile past Esplanade we saw the first other vehicles. Two military trucks
rolled past. In the back we could see the sullen faces of haggard evacuees.
Nobody bothered to wave. We continued.
The deeper into the neighborhood we got, the more debris littered the
deserted streets. “Fuck Bush. Them Bitches Flood Us,” was written
in black spray paint across a battered brick wall.
Finally, contrary to corporate media reports of gun-toting looters stealing
big screen televisions, Jordan
Flaherty wrote on September 12:
According to a report that’s been circulated, Denise Young, one of those
trapped in the convention center told family members, “yes, there
were young men with guns there, but they organized the crowd. They went to Canal
Street and ‘looted,’ and brought back food and water for the old
people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. When the police rolled
down windows and yelled out ‘the buses are coming,’ the young men
with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children
next, men in the back, just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities
of who got out first.” But the buses never came. “Lots
of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding
off. We thought we were being left to die.”