Saturday, August 29, 2009

Resistance Is Futile

As advanced as we like to think we are, thee are several forces that still kick our butt and Mother Nature is the greatest of these.  Whether it is an earthquake, tsunami, volcano, tornado or hurricane, nothing is the same afterward.  Lives are lost, property is destroyed and everyone runs around blaming someone other than themselves.  The further from the event, the more likely it will be perceived to be the victim's fault.  And the more likely it is that someone will take advantage of the circumstances.

Katrina had my bells going before she made landfall.  Actually, ever since and probably for the rest of my life.  Four years later and American citizens are still suffering from the effects of both Mother Nature and deliberate criminal negligence on the part of the government.  Make no mistake, the federal government took full advantage of the opportunity to rearrange a city and state to their advantage.

Mother Jones has an article fleshing out some of the background on the situation in New Orleans after Katrina that deliberately escaped the notice of the media.  True to form most people are upset about the racial implications, which are pretty bad and more than likely to be true, whereas I find the police state aspect to be even more frightening.  All the people currently proudly strutting around with their firearms on display would be in for a rude awakening if the same tactics were used in their area as were used against the citizens of New Orleans.
It started immediately after the storm and flood hit, when civilian aid was scarce—but private security forces already had boots on the ground. Some, like Blackwater (which has since redubbed itself Xe), were under federal contract, while a host of others answered to wealthy residents and businessmen who had departed well before Katrina and needed help protecting their property from the suffering masses left behind. According Jeremy Scahill's reporting in The Nation, Blackwater set up an HQ in downtown New Orleans. Armed as they would be in Iraq, with automatic rifles, guns strapped to legs, and pockets overflowing with ammo, Blackwater contractors drove around in SUVs and unmarked cars with no license plates.

"When asked what authority they were operating under,'' Scahill reported, "one guy said, 'We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security.' Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, 'He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary.' The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck.''

The Blackwater operators described their mission in New Orleans as "securing neighborhoods," as if they were talking about Sadr City. When National Guard troops descended on the city, the Army Times described their role as fighting "the insurgency in the city." Brigadier Gen. Gary Jones, who commanded the Louisiana National Guard's Joint Task Force, told the paper, "This place is going to look like Little Somalia. We're going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control."

Ten days after the storm, the New York Times reported that although the city was calm with no signs of looting (though it acknowledged this had taken place previously), "New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers." The local police superintendent ordered all weapons, including legally registered firearms, confiscated from civilians. But as the Times noted, that order didn't "apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property…[who] openly carry M-16's and other assault rifles."
Isn't it fascinating how some people on the right are so worried about Obama taking their guns at will when Bush had already accomplished it and there wasn't a peep from the NRA before, during or after he did it?

The poor, not necessarily black (Barry Cowsill being one sad example), people had no way to get out of town before the storm.  Not being able to drive, they're the ones who use public transportation the most, they were dependent on those who had cars or the aforementioned public transportation.  Since history seems to show that disaster plans are practiced but rarely implemented, it is no surprise that bus drivers were evacuated with the rest of the middle class and there was no one left to drive the buses that everyone later saw underwater.  After the levees broke the poor's only hope was a coordinated rescue.  And we all know how well that turned out.

Rescue and return was never the point.  Collection and dispersion was the goal, even to the point of separating children from their parents.  Katrina is a shameful chapter in American history and the ramifications will not be going away soon.  Now that the government has had a satisfying taste of martial law and seen how willing the citizens were to turn on each other, any disaster can be turned into a public relations tool to convince the citizenry that everything will return to normal as long as they follow the directions of those wearing uniforms and carrying weapons.  You will be assimilated.

Or you will die. From the elements, be they weather related or lead poisoning.


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