As New Orleans Sinks Might a Texas Star Be Rising?

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

At the risk of sounding paranoid, I have a few thoughts on the US government's response to Hurricane Katrina.  Might the so-called delays in the evacuation have been deliberate?  I am not referring to the extent of the natural disaster itself but the public planning and subsequent government response.  Some believe there is a possibility that 9/11 was either created or allowed… that it was used to justify the wars in Afghanistan (for access to the Caspian oil reserves and to destroy the Taliban to allow the return to the heroin trade) and Iraq (oil and on behalf of Israel) and used to justify moving towards fascist control with the Patriot Acts I and II.  Might there have been a method to the government/administrations madness in allowing the destruction of the city of New Orleans?  

(Didn't you just love the way the troops and supplies finally arrived when Bush was good and ready for his Rescue Operation Photo-Ops five days late(r).) 

Scientific predictions of severe hurricanes due to increased warming of Gulf waters and changes in global weather patterns from global warming were well known by emergency management agencies.   And hundreds of FEMA/Homeland Security plus other first responders had assembled last year to create a "virtual disaster game" focused on New Orleans that was "hit" with a fictitious Hurricane Pam. Every aspect of the catastrophe as well as the social structure of the city was meticulously examined including the numbers of individuals who would not be able to be evacuated without assistance - the poor, inner city families, the frail and elderly.  If not evacuated, with the population abandoned without food and water to the ravages of the drug-addicted and criminally-minded underbelly of the city – horror and havoc would be sure to reign. (Note:  I do not mean to imply that New Orleans is unique in this regard.  There is a drug-addicted and criminal element in nearly every city and town throughout America – with the possible exception of the Amish or other like-minded communities.)  

According to certain participants from Louisiana who helped FEMA organize the virtual hurricane disaster, more than 40 federal, state, local and volunteer organizations practiced scenarios in the five-day simulation.  However these Louisiana participants were annoyed by members of the Army Corps of Engineers who laughed and carried on during the exercises or acted bored.  But despite the disinterest of certain participants, as a result of this exercise those in charge knew what would happen and what needed to be done to operate a well organized evacuation/rescue.  They knew the levees would break or be flooded over.  They also knew the city would be inundated with water which soon would become a toxic stew with snake and alligator predators and if those in need were not evacuated there would be few places to seek shelter except the sports and civic centers.  As first responders, they also knew that the job of a first responder is to respond! (Special thanks for those who did try.) 

As for the real situation that presented itself in New Orleans, as I sat clicking from channel to channel in the past week, I happened upon an interview with an Army Corp of Engineer top brass where he said the "cost-benefit ratio" did not work out in regard to upgrading the levee system.  He claimed the decision was NOT to raise the levees to protect New Orleans from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane despite predictions that it was a matter of time before such a catastrophic event would occur.  Basically the decision at the top level was to allow New Orleans to suffer its predicted fate - which was total destruction without recourse to intervention, in effect “to pull the plug” on the city and its citizens. Evidence of this decision can be found in the significant decrease in funding levels over the past several years for Army Corp of Engineer projects for New Orleans spearheaded by the administration. 

Isn't it odd that though there was plenty of advance warning about the storm as a Category 4/5 headed toward New Orleans, as Ted Kople on Nightline pointed out, no one ordered trucks, buses whatever was need to evacuate the poor in the low-lying areas of the city - the area that was known would be the most severely flooded?  And as another reporter pointed out, the conference center where 10s of thousands were told to go is on the Mississippi.  Why not send a barge down with the food and water - it's been done for several hundred years - it would not be an original concept.  So what's up?  Why did it take nearly one whole week for food and water to arrive, which created indescribable levels of deprivation, death and pandemonium? 

According to one report, former Vice President and Presidential candidate Al Gore charted two private jetliners to evacuate patients from a New Orleans hospital at the request of a friend, a surgeon at a local hospital.  But Homeland security blocked it.  According to another report, the mayor of Chicago wanted to send a convoy and was stopped by FEMA and told to send only one vehicle... And the list goes on - including 60 nations and the UN who offered immediate assistance.  Locally, the official Massachusetts response has been tepid at best - with great fanfare over sending one cargo plane – if there was more than one sent I missed it. 

On the government/administration level, something stinks to high heaven as the old expression goes, though I am equally sure that incompetence, cowardice, and the magnitude of the destruction played a role.  In talking with friends and associates, two theories emerged which pointed to a possible unsavory strategy; and though I dismissed their suggests at first, later I began to wonder.   

#1.  A relative of one of my friends lives in Nashville, Tenn. where when we spoke there was NO gas to be had at service stations (funny it’s not in the news) - and race tensions are growing very high. Some there believe Bush is trying to trigger a race war.  The blacks across the country are livid because of the treatment in New Orleans, they point out.  And where there is local deprivation, racial tensions are mounting.  Of course, any acting out would provide ample opportunity to send in the troops - with orders to shoot to kill - as we have recently witnessed in New Orleans.  Marshall law might also be viewed as a legitimate response.

#2. The Houston/Galveston, Texas region is beefing up its transportation infrastructure, hoping to take over as the transport hub of the South.  Though New Orleans is at the mouth of the Mississippi, Houston and Galveston are not too far west of the river.  The population of workers has now been evacuated from the New Orleans/Gulf area which means that the New Orleans role as the major transport hub is effectively over for the foreseeable future.  Many of the evacuees swear they NEVER want to return after what they were forced to endure, thus making way for the Texan star to rise.  Perhaps the Texas generosity in receiving the so-called “refugee” population is not quite as generous as we are led to believe. (Note: the term refugee refers to immigrant or migrant dispossessed people and should not be applied to citizens within their own country.  Unless, perhaps there is a hidden agenda in the new-found category within the racial divide.) 

Obviously, those in power didn't cause Katrina, but might some have been waiting for the event that would trigger the need for troops to govern over "those" people because workers are needed elsewhere.  And might others be positioned to take over the commercial undertakings that once were the mainstay of the New Orleans region?  Perhaps Mother Nature may have fashioned its own revenge for our cavalier dismissal of global warming and the destruction of the wetlands that should have served as a natural buffer.  That revenge may be that the Gulf area has been so thoroughly ravaged and the transport infrastructure so completely destroyed - with nary a worker in sight - even if it were to be quickly rebuilt the national economy may be severely crippled at least in the short term - unless Texas takes over the New Orleans role sooner than expected. 

Keep your eyes on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor that will extend across the State of Texas, north to south and east to west.  According to the Center for Transportation Research, Texas Department of Transportation, 2003 to 2005, "This project, of unparalleled scope, will be located in new locations, providing access to a wealth of land not previously well connected to a high-speed network.  The multiple modes comprising this corridor are likely to attract development and industry of all types, including freight hub and distribution facilities, inter-modal transfer and pipeline pump stations, traveler services and hotels, residences for workers associated with these industries, schools for their children, stores for their purchases, and myriad other uses.” 

Don’t get me wrong, as long as sound environmental planning is the backbone of a project, I am not against development.  But I do not like dirty-pool, especially when hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been horrifically victimized, and additional millions across the region suffer.  What I propose is that a truly independent, bi-partisan, federal investigative committee be set-up to examine possible mismanagement and misbehavior of government officials in response to the tragedy.  And though Texans Karl Rove and Tom DeLay and other Texans-in-power as well as corporations stand to benefit, just because they have their fingerprints all over the Trans-Texas Corridor project and do not always pass the smell test, they may have had nothing to do with the Army Corps of Engineers decision to effectively “sink” New Orleans and its people.  But if politics was in back of this decision, it must to be publicly exposed.  If laws were broken, the offending individuals must be charged and brought to trial.

What is particularly strange about the Army Corps of Engineers cost-benefit analysis of New Orleans is that it flies in the face of history.  Some historians claim that Hitler's dream was to strike America at its most vulnerable location - the New Orleans based Gulf Region which he believed if crippled would shut the country down.  Today, the national impact from Hurricane Katrina may not be as dramatic as it might have been during the World War II era, because of the vast fleets of cargo planes and transport infrastructure located at various points across the nation.  And in the 21st century, plans can change on a dime due to internet, wireless and telecommunications capabilities.  But the Gulf Region with its vast Mississippi corridor from Minnesota to New Orleans has enriched a country that is still hugely dependent on this mode of transport of goods in and out of the country.  It is imperative that as a nation we not abandon this region, in favor of another, but rather rebuild with a renewed vision sensitive to environmental as well as commercial and social needs. 

As a postscript – Once the long delayed evacuation got underway, New Orleans’ (mostly black) families were forced by federal and state authorities to separate - men were not allowed to accompany their spouses, loved ones, and children also became separated.  This was particularly horrifying after suffering the double trauma of a catastrophic natural disaster and the natural as well as man-made nightmare which followed.  In spite of the rescue, was this not reminiscent of America’s unsavory history, the African slave trade - where mates were forced to separate from one another and their children? If these were white families clutching hands, awaiting evacuation, would authorities have forced their separation too?  This scheme back in the heyday of slavery was used to break spirits and further stamp its victims as slaves.  America’s Apartheid, broken only by the Civil Rights movement, once was visible to the world as its de-facto counterpart of abandonment and victimization of our black communities sadly is today.  We can do better and must do better.  If we don’t, we who are Americans will sow the seeds of our disgrace and ruin.