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Thursday, November 01, 2007

New Orleans: Disaster Apartheid and Blackwater

Blackwater Mercenaries in Downtown New Orleans
(Photo from Google Images; original source unknown.)

I am afflicted.

My affliction? Curiosity. It's brutal. I read things and listen to things that no mortal being should have to hear.

I don't like to put my head in the sand and fart in the wind. Okay. I do like farting in the wind. Making wind in the wind. My own stink bomb.

[Get to the point, Ms. Manitoba!!!]

Todays' outrageous news [to me] ... just watched a video on pbs website. It's Bill Moyers interviewing Jeremy Scahill who's just written Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

In part of the interview, Scahill talks about Blackwater being called into New Orleans immediately after Katrina hit ... even before FEMA had set up operations. [What am I saying ... every goddam person who went to New Orleans after the hurricane got there before FEMA.]

Here's an excerpt:
JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I mean, I was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I think we saw a real window into the possible future. You know, I was standing on a street corner in the French quarter on Bourbon Street. And I was talking to two New York City police officer who had come down to help. And this is just a couple of days after the hurricane had hit. And this car speeds up next to us. No license plates on it, a compact car. And three massive guys get out of it. And they have M-4 assault rifles, bullet proof vests, wearing khakis, wrap around sunglasses, baseball caps on. And they come up and they say to the cops, "Where are the rest of the Blackwater guys?" And my head sort of started, you know, I didn't even hear the answer. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Where are the rest of the Blackwater guys? So, they get back in their vehicle and they speed off. And I said to this cop, Blackwater? You mean the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan? They said, oh, yeah. They're all over the place down here. And so, I said, well, I'd like to talk to them. Where are they? And they said, you can go either way on the street, implying that they're everywhere. So, I walked a little bit deeper into the French quarter. And sure enough, I encountered some Blackwater guys. And when I talked to them, they said that they were down there to confront criminals and stop looters.

BILL MOYERS: Who called them in?

JEREMY SCAHILL:And-- well, this is an interesting story. Erik Prince sent them in there with no contract initially. About 180 Blackwater guys were sent into the Gulf. They got there before FEMA. I don't even know if FEMA's there yet. But they got there before FEMA, before there was any kind of a serious operation in the city at all.

BILL MOYERS: On Prince's own decision?

JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, so Prince sends them in. Within a week, Blackwater was given a contract from the Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service to engage in security operations inside of New Orleans. At one point, Blackwater had six hundred men deployed down there stretching from Mississippi through-- from Texas through Mississippi and the Gulf. They were pulling in $240,000 a day. Some of these guys though had just been in Iraq two weeks earlier guarding the US ambassador. Now, they're in New Orleans. They say, oh, we do this sort of as a vacation. One was complaining to me that there wasn't enough action down here. And when I talked to them, they told me they were getting paid 350 dollars a day, plus a per diem.

BILL MOYERS: By homeland security?

JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, they were being paid by Blackwater. When I got Blackwater's contract with the Department of Homeland Security, it turns out that Blackwater billed US taxpayers 950 dollars per man per day in the hurricane zone.

BILL MOYERS: A profit margin of 600 dollars.

JEREMY SCAHILL:Well, I mean, the math on this stuff is always complicated. And Erik Prince and his men are very good at drawing up charts and sort of, you know, just saying, well, there's this detail and this detail. The Department of Homeland Security then did an internal review and they determined that it was the best value to the taxpayer, at a time when the poor residents of New Orleans were being chastised for how they used their two thousand dollar debit cards that often didn't work, the ones provided by FEMA. But what was even scarier than seeing the Blackwater operatives on the streets of New Orleans was, I encountered two Israeli commandos who had been brought in by a wealthy businessman in New Orleans and set up an armed checkpoint outside of his gated community. And they were from a company called Instinctive Shooting International. ISI, which is an Israeli company. I mean, and I went up and I talked to them. And they tapped on their automatic weapons and said, you know, over in our country, when the Palestinians see this, they're not so afraid because they're used to it. But you people, you see it, and you're very afraid. They were almost proud of the fact that I was sort of in awe seeing Israeli commandos patrolling a US street, operating in fact an armed check point.

From Naomi Klein: Unless something changes soon, New Orleans will prove to be a glimpse of a dystopic future, a future of disaster apartheid in which the wealthy are saved and everyone else is left behind.

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At 8:58 AM, Blogger zoe said...

ohmygod. I had not read , nor heard or this, and I am chilled to the bone. Thanks for your informative blog - met you over at 4LG, and frequently enjoy your montage of Maxxxxx

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Zoe and Political Cat -- I'm chilled, too! Thank God for the Bill Moyers of the world to get to the bottom of the mess we've got going on in our political environment!

At 8:10 PM, Blogger dmc said...

and then Moyers was no more...

Black water is a fascist pun for oil


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