"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class
Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside
the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any
killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent
of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."
Well, we now have final confirmation that the horror stories about
stabbings and rapes in the dome were fictitious:
After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable
living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas
Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency
Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and
gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember
his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler
and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron
recalls the doctor saying.
The real total was six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed
and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally
oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop
melting bags of ice.
As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath
has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees
have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according
to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions
"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt.
1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian
work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I
didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ...
Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."
Well, anyway, the rumours served their purpose. The aid was withheld
and survivors prevented from leaving, while troops built up around the city
to 'retake' it and quell the 'insurgency'. And now that they have 'retaken'
the city, what is afoot? Well, much
And we started to hear this very early on after Katrina hit, where, not just
from evangelical Christian sides, we started to hear, "maybe this is punishment
for Mardi Gras and sodomites and we've cleaned the city", but you
hear it from the mayor, Ray Nagin, "for the first time New Orleans is free
of crime and violence and we're going to keep it that way". There's almost
a sense that free of people, the city has become this blank slate.
In that context, this fantasy can be built from scratch.
The buzzwords to listen for in terms of the reconstruction of New Orleans
are "smaller", "safer". And the idea is that in
the city, wealth really buys altitude, and so the effect of the flood was not
at all democratic. The people who were able to buy land on high ground, their
neighborhoods are relatively unscathed, and many of them never left or have
been able to return. The people who were hit hardest were the people who we
saw on television, you know, in the Superdome. These are the people who lived
in the low-lying areas. So, the idea now is, okay, maybe we won't rebuild those
areas at all, and when -- on September 15, when the mayor said that certain
areas are able to be re-inhabited, this is before Rita presented itself as the
threat that it, it was clear that the people re-populating New Orleans didn't
look very much like the people who lived there before. It was overwhelmingly
white, whereas the people still in shelters were overwhelmingly black. So,
I think that the overall vision is massive land grabs, radical gentrification,
and as Jeremy's piece makes clear, the gentrification is happening with privatized
So I started researching what the battles were in New Orleans before
the hurricane. And, of course, there were very, very fierce, an you
know you've covered this on your show, very fierce battles going on around housing
projects, and gentrification in the city where conflicts between people who
were demanding affordable housing and particularly the tourism sector on the
French Quarter, and over the course of the research, I saw the staggering feature,
which is that the French Quarter, which as you said is 90% white, is also almost
half empty. In the most recent census, and the market hasn't changed since then,
the French Quarter had a 37% vacancy rate, which means that 37% of the apartments
and homes in the French Quarter are sitting empty. They're sitting empty because
the people who own the buildings have decided that they would rather board up
the apartments than take reduced rent, because they're making enough off the
commercial rents, renting to restaurants and bars and so on.
So when I saw this massive dislocation happening, and all of these people saying,
"well, there's nowhere for them to return to", I looked at the census
again, and looked at all of these other areas that the mayor has said are dry
and inhabitable and found that there were comparably high vacancy rates in other
areas, like the Garden District and Central Business District. What we found
was that in fact there are 12,000 empty apartments and houses in the dry areas.
Which means that those -- those could be affordable houses for people.
So, what's the plan? Well:
The plan is to reopen dried-out neighhorhoods inhabited by 250,000 to 300,000
of the city's half-million residents.
And how do you propose to keep out up to half of the population? By
purging the poor:
New Orleans is already displaying signs of a demographic shift so
dramatic that some evacuees describe it as "ethnic cleansing."
Before Mayor Ray Nagin called for a second evacuation, the people streaming
back into dry areas were mostly white, while those with no homes to return
to are overwhelmingly black. This, we are assured, is not a conspiracy; it's
simple geography--a reflection of the fact that wealth in New Orleans buys
altitude. That means that the driest areas are the whitest (the French Quarter
is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent;
neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65
percent). Some dry areas, like Algiers, did have large low-income African-American
populations before the storm, but in all the billions for reconstruction,
there is no budget for transportation back from the far-flung shelters where
those residents ended up. So even when resettlement is permitted, many may
not be able to return.
Orleans is to be rebuilt without its "underclass". God
has, at long last, cleaned
up public housing in New Orleans, with a little help from his loyal
lieutenants in the Bush administration, whose confederates continue to reap
Unsurprisingly, some of the most morally serious and angry reactions
to this have come from hip hop, so here's a bit of listening and reading:
Mos Def: Katrina
Klap; K.O. remixes Kanye West: George Bush
Doesn't Care About Black People; Immortal
Technique: Katrina and the Hand of God.
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