Saturday, September 03, 2005

"The police were in boats...laughing at us"

This article is from the UK Guardian. This is the story that needs to be told. Best summary I've seen so far...and notice how they treat the idea of "looters" and "criminals".


'They're not giving us what we need to survive'

Jamie Doward reports on the fury of New Orleans residents who say they were ignored and mistreated by the authorities

Sunday September 4, 2005
The Observer

Only now, a week after Hurricane Katrina roared across the Deep South, leaving a trail of devastation across America's psyche, is the true story of the Battle of New Orleans emerging.

As convoys of commandeered school buses and Greyhound coaches transported tens of thousands of refugees out of the submerged city yesterday, in a belated and much-criticised relief operation, each vehicle brought with it new tales of horror.

Those trapped inside the two main shelters, the Superdome and the Convention Centre, paint a picture of a city that was subsumed beneath waves of violence, rape and death and accuse the police and National Guard of standing by, ignoring their pleas for help.

The claims are rejected by the federal and state authorities, who instead suggest the looting and lawlessness which followed the extensive flooding of the city was the result of a series of isolated incidents perpetrated by a few.

But it is clear from talking to survivors that what happened in New Orleans last week was far more extensive, bloody and terrifying than the authorities have admitted so far.

'We had to wrap dead people in white sheets and throw them outside while the police stood by and did nothing,' said Correll Williams, a 19-year-old meat cutter from the Crowder Road district in the east of the city, who waded two miles through waist-high water to make it to the Convention Centre after hearing on the radio it was being turned into a refuge.

'The police were in boats watching us. They were just laughing at us. Five of them to a boat, not trying to help nobody. Helicopters were riding by just looking at us. They weren't helping. We were pulling people on bits of wood, and the National Guard would come driving by in their empty military trucks.'

Williams only left his apartment after the authorities took the decision to flood his district in an apparent attempt to sluice out some of the water that had submerged a neighbouring district. Like hundreds of others he had heard the news of the decision to flood his district on the radio. The authorities had given people in the district until 5pm on Tuesday to get out - after that they would open the floodgates.

'We thought we could live without electricity for a few weeks because we had food. But then they told us they were opening the floodgates,' said Arineatta Walker, who fled the area with her daughter and two grandchildren.

'So about two o'clock we went on to the streets and we asked the army, "Where can we go?". And they said, "Just take off because there's no one going to come back for you." They kicked my family out of there. If I knew how to hotwire a car I would have,' Walker said.

Once inside the Convention Centre, Walker confronted a new hell. 'People were being raped, there were cries and screams, there were gunshots, but the police did nothing,' Walker said.

'The police were afraid to do anything,' said Chantelle, a black 22- year-old. 'They wouldn't come in. They took two white guys out one night but left the rest of us in here.'

Williams said: 'The floor was a swamp, you couldn't live in there. The police kept telling us buses were coming but they didn't. People started getting aggravated and then one policeman got mad, he caught an attitude with somebody and they caught an attitude back and started banging on his car, and that's how it started. He called for back-up and the next thing I know the military are down there throwing stun grenades. Everybody started running, bumping into each other, hurting each other.'

As the repeated promises of buses failed to materialise, people in the shelters started stealing cars. 'How do you expect people to act right when they're starving to death?' asked Williams. 'There were bodies all over. We were just throwing them out the front. They (the authorities) are blaming it on the people, making it look like it was the people's fault, but it's really their fault because they're not giving us what we need to survive. So now people are going and getting guns in order to fight back, in order to survive cos they don't want to help us.'

Outside the Convention Centre, where an estimated 15,000 people were seeking refuge, bodies lay ignored. A woman in a wheelchair and an elderly man on a chaise longue could be seen festering in the heat. On Wednesday, eight 11-strong teams from the Louisiana State Police entered the centre, where they were repelled by angry gangs, some of whom were armed. Yesterday scores of police officers were said to have resigned from the force, complaining their jobs had become too dangerous.

Until Friday morning only two buses had arrived at the Convention Centre to transport those inside out of the city, according to several trapped inside. The revelation suggests that the police and National Guard's inability to handle the crisis stemmed from chronic paralysis at the highest levels of the relief operation.

Outside the Superdome, which was at one stage home to some 25,000 people, a member of the National Guard was shot in the leg by his own gun as he was rushed by a crowd angry at the wait for buses to take them to Houston.

The authorities' failure to respond to the situation has prompted outpourings of national revulsion and calls for high-level resignations.

There was confusion yesterday as to why thousands of people had made for the Convention Centre. Officials said it was never intended that the centre be used as a refuge.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the much-criticised body charged with coordinating the relief effort, told US television networks they had not been aware of the crowds in the centre until Thursday.

'The federal government did not even know about the Convention Centre people until today,' New Orleans major Ray Nagin told CNN on Thursday evening.

The shock confession prompted calls for Brown to be fired. 'That was just a boneheaded statement,' said Mississippi Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson. 'The President will have to change the leadership so that a response this bad will never, never happen again for the American people,' Thompson added.

On Friday evening 1,000 members of the National Guard and 60 police officers arrived outside the centre to restore order.

The chronic failure to resolve the situation in the Convention Centre - and to a lesser extent the Superdome, where the situation was apparently more calm - was described as a 'national disgrace' by the increasingly angry Nagin.

'You would think that on day five of the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States, and possibly the world, we would not still be waiting for troops and buses,' Nagin said on Thursday.

Friday, September 02, 2005

FEMA and CNN listing charity of Pat Robertson for Hurricane Relief

Last night I saw that, among the charities listed on a CNN graphic was "Operation Blessing." Sounded a little iffy to me. Boy was that an understatement.

Turns out that Operation Blessing is an operation of Rev. (sic) Pat "Kill chavez" Robertson. Here's an article about it. I will add to this article that I have checked the mailing addresses of both the Christian Broadcast Network and Operation Blessing and they are both the same:

Operation Blessing International
977 Centerville Turnpike
Virginia Beach, VA 23463

You can check yourself:

CBN (scroll down to bottom)

Operation Blessing (on right toward top)

Please DO NOT credit me with this discovery. The article that I found this on is here: Sploid

I post the whole article below. I've written the author and I'll remove the article if he asks me to, but I'm hoping since I have the link, he won't mind.

SPLOID EXCLUSIVE: FEMA is directing Katrina donations to none other than the Rev. Pat Robertson …

Millions of Americans and people around the world have rushed to donate money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which is shaping up to be one of the worst U.S. disasters in history, if not the worst.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is the lead federal agency in the rescue & recovery operation at work in New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast.

FEMA has released to the media and on its Web site a list of suggested charities to help the storm’s hundreds of thousands of victims. The Red Cross is first on the list.

The Rev. Pat Robertson’s “Operation Blessing” is next on the list.

“It’s an outrage,” said privacy watchdog Bill Scannell, who alerted Sploid to the FEMA / Robertson scam. “Operation f**cking Blessing? And it’s right underneath the Red Cross link!”

Scannell, currently campaigning against the Transportation Security Administration’s refusal to turn over personal information illegally collected from 100 million U.S. air passengers, noted that Operation Blessing’s board of directors is dominated by the televanglist and his family.

The chairman, “MG Robertson,” is none other than the Rev. Pat — Marion Gordon Robertson is his real name — while Pat’s wife DeDe is vice president and son Gordon Robertson is also on the board.

The front operation for the radical, pro-assassination televangelist and Republican power broker is also based in the Rev. Pat’s headquarters, Virginia Beach.

Robertson’s shell organizations have already collected more than $25 million from the federal government under various “faith based” federal-handout programs. And with millions of distraught citizens looking to FEMA for help in finding reputable organizations to help Katrina survivors, Robertson stands to profit magnificently from the horror that has fallen on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Here's a link to the FEMA site where they recommend Operation Blessing.

Here's a link to the CNN list of suggest charities. To their credit, at least they have a larger list!

Please spread this news to all whom you know.

What are we seeing here?

I think the key is in the mysterious gunshots.

At several times today, key operations were stopped because of alleged shots at rescue workers. On at least two occasions, FEMA itself was said to be directly responsible for the orders to cease the vital services. For example, a literal flotilla of volunteers on boats were poised to go in. Allegedly someone shot at a boat and FEMA then told them it was too dangerous to continue rescue operations.

A Salvation Army officer explained to CNN that they had hundreds of volunteers and lots of food to distribute but FEMA would not allow them in. Too dangeous.

A hospital was in the middle of airlifting patients when someone took a shot at an ambulance. (by the way, these stories change quite a bit, so I'm putting them out as the media is last I heard it.)

Finally, the actual bus caravan from the Superdome was halted for awhile due to a shot being fired at a helicopter. This story was later denied by the FAA.

Chilling, isn't it? These "criminals" in the streets are taking time out from their busy schedule of stealing things they cannot possibly transport out of the city to take shots at relief workers at strategic moments which cause important rescue operations to halt.

If you believe this is actually what is happening, please move to another article somewhere...this one is not for you.

Why is this really happening? Several reasons.

First off, I was simply appalled at the level of incompetence at this operation. But it got so bad that clearly, incompetence is not enough to explain what we are seeing. Simple matters such as dropping water and food to those at the Convention Center, from which reporters have been broadcasting all day, were not taken. There were no helicopters with loudspeakers explaining to people where to go to receive aid and transport out. Again, a trivially simple operation avoided even as Shepherd Smith from FOX News was pleading with officials for hours yesterday to send someone to his easily accessible location to tell the thousands massed there where to go for help.

No food or water was airlifted into the Superdome, despite FEMA Head Brown saying food and water had been collected ahead of the storm while explaining how well prepared they were and how efficient this operation was going. (Seriously, he said that.)

Several press conferences are held while CNN and others split screen with images that directly contradict the statements being given by these various Secretaries and Department heads. The reporters openly laughed at one point to FEMA statements.

Another element that we need to understand before coming to our hypothesis about what is really going on, is the drumbeat about looting. Yes, racism is an element and an important one (see the "white people find things, black people loot" gem circulating all over the internet). But this started yesterday. News reporters kept talking about looting but providing few images and making no careful or quantitative distinctions between "looting" of life sustaining necessities and looting of luxury items. And, of course, no one questioned the rationale of protecting property to the extent of pulling all of the NOPD off of rescue work and onto looting prevention.

A funny thing happened on the way to martial law, however. There was a slight hiccup. Reporters starting last night and continuing through today were noticing the very profound difference between FEMA and DHS statements and the facts on the ground. Some grew angry, such as Cafferty and Coooper. Some wept openly. Some simply shook their head in shock. You could see some of these carefully coiffed anchors suddenly realize they were being lied to live on the air. They began to understand that this was the beginnings of a massive coverup. I'd like to welcome them to journalism.

This hiccup seems to be coming under control, however, despite Cafferty's talking about the overwhelming number of emails condemning the government's handling of this democracy demolishing disaster.

For it seems the looting drumbeat goes on. The Louisiana Governor (sic and sick) announced that 40,000 troops at least would be deployed. The purpose: to bring the civil unrest under control. Now, you can define civil unrest many ways, but one part of the definition must always be this...civil unrest is visible from helicopter height. There have (unless the rebellion at the stadium has begun yet...been away from the TV) been NO shots of widespread anything resembling unrest. Some looting shots, yes. So what, then, is she really wanting to bring under control?

So these 40,000 troops are coming and she said they are to use whatever force is necessary to restore order. Open season on African-Americans.

You think I exaggerate, I'm sure. Well, there's actually more to her plan than that.

For one thing, she wants troops which are not just National Guard. That means regular military involved in Law Enforcement. And that means martial law.

And she wants these troops not only in New Orleans but in the surrounding communities taking in refugees. I assume that the southern half of Louisiana will end up under martial law soon.

But back to our story. Why would the government stage those shootings or spread the distorted rumors about them? For that is surely what has happened.

There are several reasons. They've had time to think about this, you see, for the CNN scroll informed me a few hours ago that this exact scenario had been a tabletop exercise a year ago. yeah, those "exercises" turning into reality again.

So the reasoning includes some or all of the following.

1. The most obvious is that they simply cannot save these people...not without making the kinds of choices that put people ahead of all other considerations. They aren't going to make those choices on the side of humanity but the shootings give an excuse for why there are so many "delays". And, right on cue, this evening CNN and FOX both began running the soundbytes over and over of "the relief work cannot continue until the city is safe." (By the way, are you like me? If you were there, would you not risk a few stray gunmen to attempt to rescue people trapped in their houses, which, by the way, are away from areas of looting and shootings? And would you not turn on the TV and see that that FOX reporter is not getting shot and load up your supplies and head there? I'm sure the volunteers on the scene feel the same way. They are being forced NOT to go in.)

2. Another purpose served here is to set up the next phase. What do we know about military operations and the press (oh, you didn't hear...the situation is now being described as "urban warfare"). The press must go. The shootings will allow the military to bar the press from anywhere it sees fit and, in fact, I see from CNN's current lead that this is already happening.

Oh look. I think CNN is reading this as I write:

I never want to compare anything to what's happening in Iraq, but there is one similarity in that the ability to move about as reporters is slowly becoming compromised. To be as safe as possible, we have to sacrifice some of our ability to go out and confirm information and verify stories. And right now, with this safety situation in the city of New Orleans, that's just not possible.

And this:

It was unclear what had occurred. Police said there had been a shootout as they forced a reporter and a photographer out of a passing car at gunpoint, pushing them face first against the wall. They took away a reporter's notebook and tossed the photographer's camera on the ground before returning them and telling the pair to leave.


3. Once the press and rescue workers are contained, the work of looter shooting and body disposal can begin. The looter shooting must take place off camera, because gosh darn it, those looters refuse to wear identifying insignia and sometimes stubbornly refuse to brandish weapons. However, we MUST have LOTS of shots of men and women in uniform jackbooting around the city. This is essential. It is to accustom us to this site as a normative affair, to be welcomed in our own cities and towns.

Also, the bodies must be disposed of rather discretely because simple arithmetic tells you the following:

80% of the 1.5 million who live in NO and environs evacuated.

That leaves 300,000.

There are 25,000 at the Superdome or whatever hell they are being shipped to.

There are another 20,000 or so at the Convention Center (now receiving food a CNN scroll informed me, so all that press coverage saved some lives).

There is a nebulous number of 70,000 in shelters, but I don't know if that's in addition to the Superdome nor do I know if it's part of the original 80%.
We'll count them as part of the left behinds for now.

Some 3000 have been plucked from rooftops.

Add it up. I come up with some 200,000 missing. Some may have gotten out, but there are not too many other places in the city with large crowds. One LSU expert, as has been noted on this site, estimated that 1/3 of these total remaining 300,000 had drowned. This simply CANNOT be made public.

4. So the rescue efforts are sabotaged to cause delay and the drumbeats for martial law and "shoot the looters on site" (O'Reilly) can become policy. But it doesn't end there. Much of the disruption in oil supply as well as other factors from the hurricane are going to stress an already greatly strained economy. The gas prices alone will cause unrest as a recent truckers action BEFORE the hurricane clearly demonstrates. We will told to consider this hurricane a national disaster that will be made worse by disruptive dissent. We will be urged not to "politicize" this crisis. Dissent and unrest will become synonymous as has already happened in New Orleans.

Where's the silver lining? Well, there are one or two, actually.

First, the press came out of its stupor for a moment. We'll see if it lasts. I am reminded of the Ukrainian press's mea culpa in which they vowed to stop repeating lies. Okay, not quite there yet, but you should have seen the ligthbulbs going off in the normally empty heads of the CNN spokesmodels. It was almost tangible. As I mentioned, they are being reigned in as we speak, but there have been important moments.

Secondly, we are poised on a razor's edge. Bush's popularity was plummeting BEFORE all of this. And while the forces of reaction are not isolated within the Bush administration, he is the current goal tender. And he is going down in flames. If this were a thriving democracy, he'd be gone in a matter of weeks. Alas, it is not a thriving democracy, but I can't see any way he can maintain power without openly declaring the dictatorship he's always wanted.

In this flux, we can thank the gods of Chaos that no one can control all variables, especially of the complexity of rebellions. There is some hope in that. These people are NOT all powerful. In addition, the overt arrival of fascism is a signal to the rest of the world that they can stop pretending we are a democracy. Most of the world had already done that anyway.

There are many possible outcomes.

1. Widespread martial law and a tenacious Bush and co. clinging to power.

2. Limited hangouts chucking a few of these folks to the wolves but attempting to keep business as usual.

3. The military savior option. Martial law is declared and Bush is removed from office as the military rescues the nation. I'm not sure that this isn't the ultimate plan anyway, as there've been hints of this before...when you see a "why the left should welcome a military coup d'etat" article in Counterpunch, you know that there are serious games being played.

That's all for now. That's the best I can do at making sense of all this. See if any of your own observations support my analysis here and let people know what is really going on.