Monday, August 31, 2015

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

From The Ramparts
                                                Junious Ricardo Stanton
                                          Remembering Hurricane Katrina

            "Katrina was the most destructive storm to strike the United States and the costliest storm in U.S. history, causing $108 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA). It ranks sixth overall in strength of recorded Atlantic hurricanes. It was also a very large storm; at its peak, maximum winds stretched 25 to 30 nautical miles (46 to 55 kilometers) and its extremely wide swath of hurricane force winds extended at least 75 nautical miles (138 km) to the east from the center." Hurricane Katrina: Facts Damage and Aftermath Kim Ann Zimmerman

            August 29, 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to the city of New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast region. Hurricane Katrina caused thousands of deaths, destruction in the hundreds of billions of dollars and disrupted life in a way that forced the nation to look at its priorities, its long history of racism and defined the ineptitude and callousness of the government.
            Katrina started out as a tropical storm but once it moved over the warm waters it picked up energy and intensity eventually developing into a category five storm. The storm was monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the various weather services and the military. So for the Bu$h administration, the Louisiana
state officials and local municipalities to say they had no idea the storm was going to reach such ferocity is disingenuous at least and even criminal at best. Once the storm went inland over Florida it was categorized as a mild category one hurricane but as it traveled  West into the Gulf of Mexico it gained more and more intensity  and developed into a category five storm.                           
            The government's response to Katrina was pathetic. The levy system in New Orleans was destined to withstand a category three storm at most, Katrina when it hit New Orleans was a category five storm. The storm surge was over twenty feet high with winds of 115-130 miles per hour! New Orleans and the whole Gulf Coast were totally caught off guard for a storm of such a magnitude. But what the nation initially saw was New Orleans being battered by the storm's rains and high winds. In the ensuing days the raw reality of the racial, the socio-economic and political dynamics of the city were exposed for the world to see.
            The corporate mind control apparatus originally showed the storm and flooding. Later they focused on the people who did not nor could not get out they showed mostly poor black and desperate people clamoring for help trying to survive the best they could in horrific conditions.  Within days, the media focused on unfounded reports of massive looting in New Orleans, mostly by blacks, but when they showed whites breaking in and looting they were depicted as trying to survive not as criminals. The media reports of rampant looting were exaggerated and contributed to a siege mentality that opened the door for police and government abuse.
            Despite its image as a cosmopolitan, progressive city, racism is deeply rooted in the city of New Orleans.  At the time of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was populated by a large segment of poor blacks whose prospects for employment were bleak; who in many cases were living off of government largess and welfare. The media did not look favorably on these people after the initial shock of the storm. The media depicted them as refugees and questioned their intelligence for remaining in the city during a catastrophe when the fact of the matter is, government on all levels failed the whole region!      "Hurricane Katrina, its 115-130 mph winds, and the accompanying storm surge it created as high as 27 feet along a stretch of the Northern Gulf Coast from Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans, impacted nearly 93,000 square miles of our Nation—roughly an area the size of Great Britain. The disaster was not isolated to one town or city, or even one State. Individual local and State plans, as well as relatively new plans created by the Federal government since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, failed to adequately account for widespread or simultaneous catastrophes. We were confronted by the pictures of destroyed towns and cities, each with their own needs. Smaller cities like Waveland, Mississippi, were completely devastated by Hurricane Katrina and required smaller scale yet immediate search and rescue efforts as well as large volumes of life saving and sustaining commodities. New Orleans, the largest affected city—which dominated much of what Americans saw on their televisions—suffered first from the initial impact of Katrina and then from the subsequent flood caused by breaches in its 350 mile levee system. Over an estimated eighteen-hour period, approximately 80 percent of the city flooded with six to twenty feet of water, necessitating one of the largest search and rescue operations in our Nation’s history." The Federal Response To Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned February 2006
            President Bu$h dilly-dallied even though he was forewarned and kept abreast of the storm's development and progress, he lied and said he had no idea the storm posed such a dire threat.  Members of his cabinet went shopping and spoke nonchalantly about the storm while thousands suffered during and immediately following the storm.  This attitude and inaction set the tone and tenor for much of what happened or failed to happen in the wake of the hurricane. President Bu$h was later forced to apologize as the world looked on in shock at the way the US government treated its citizens.
             The government's response on all levels was so feeble and even hostile  Kanye West an entertainer said during a nationally televised awards program. "George Bush don't care about Black people." Many took West to task for saying it but the record shows the state and federal governments' inaction gave credence to what West said.
            "The last National Hurricane Center Hurricane Katrina forecast on Friday, August 26, as the storm intensified in the Gulf of Mexico, gave Federal, State, local, and private sector officials, in hindsight, approximately fifty-six hours advance notice that the hurricane would make landfall near the City of New Orleans.  Preparations took on a greater urgency on Friday, August 26, due to Hurricane Katrina’s continuing intensification and west-southwest track from Florida into the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour declared states of emergency for their respective States.37 Gulf Coast States and localities expanded their EOC staffing and operations schedules in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina.38 The Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi State EOCs soon were activated to their highest levels. 39 State agencies began putting their response plans into action." The Federal Response To Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned February 2006 
            Eighty percent of the city was under water, municipal government was crippled, its social services were totally overwhelmed and most agencies and offices including the police were not functioning.  Mayor Nagin showed his frustration and helplessness in the national media. On the ground things did not go well. Professional mercenaries were hired by residents and the US government alike to "secure" the city.  The media created a disinformation campaign the made it easy to demonize the residents trapped in the city and create a climate of martial law and racial vigilantes. " But there's an even harsher truth, one some New Orleans residents learned in the very first days but which is only beginning to become clear to the rest of us: What took place in this devastated American city was no less than a war, in which victims whose only crimes were poverty and blackness were treated as enemies of the state. 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."  The Secret History of Hurricane Katrina James Ridgeway
            Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco set a confrontational rather than a conciliatory tone towards the residents of New Orleans when she called out the National Guard, "These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested, and under my orders to restore order in the streets.  They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.  These troops know how to shoot and skill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will."
            When the National Guard finally arrived the troops approached their mission as one of a military occupation rather than one of search, rescue, evacuation and aid. They viewed and treated the people and situation as a hostile environment. It wasn't until General Russell Honoree an African-American and native of Louisiana took command of the troops that the mission became an effective humanitarian effort.
            In its aftermath many are saying the ruling elites used Hurricane Katrina as convenient tool for ethnic cleansing to rid the city and area of thousands of poor African-Americans. Census figures confirm these assertions. "In the 2000 census New Orleans population constituted of 67.3% black and 28.1 % white. However, in the four months following Hurricane Katrina; 'The New Orleans metro area’s population was 37% black between January and August 2005 and fell to 22% between September and December 2005. The percentage of white residents grew from 60% to 73%. Households earning between $10,000 and $14,999 annually dropped from 8.3% to 6.5%; while those with a yearly income of between $75,000 and $99,999 rose from 10.5% to 11.4%', according to statistics released by the Census Bureau in June 2006. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina is used effectively to artificially change the demography of New Orleans. The Population of New Orleans metropolitan area has become substantially whiter, older and less poor — not because people suddenly got richer, but because the poor are being shut off the city — and it shrank to less than half its size, according to the Census Bureau. 'New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again', said Alphonso Jackson, and is moving fast in that direction. It is suggested that only the whites and affluent are encouraged to make New Orleans their home at the expense of African-Americans and their cultural heritage."  Ethnic Cleansing In New Orleans Ghali Hassan
            As we look back ten years after Hurricane Katrina let us not forget there are racists and psychopaths in high places who have the power to actualize their goals and objectives to place profits over people who do not have the best interests of African-Americans at heart in New Orleans or anywhere else.




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