Katrina: Authorities bar Red Cross from NOLA; Blackwater gets carte blanche

(Image: Blackwater USA Training Center, "Where Professionals Train," in North Carolina. Link.)

Armed with assault rifles, contractors from private security firm Blackwater are patrolling the black-water-flooded streets of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, unnarmed Red Cross workers toting food and medicine have been unable to enter the city for days.

The name Blackwater may ring a bell for those who've been following that other Gulf warzone — Iraq. The highly trained private security contractors support US military operations there, and in Afghanistan, typically earning far more pay than enlisted personnel.

Kathryn Cramer blogs more on Blackwater's presence in Katrina's wake here. (still more at Making Light)

More in this New York Times article on the forced confiscation of weapons from civilians — but not from guns-for-hire — in New Orleans. Snip:

Waters were receding across this flood-beaten city today as police officers began confiscating weapons, including legally registered firearms, from civilians in preparation for a mass forced evacuation of the residents still living here. No civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns or other firearms, said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

But that order apparently does not apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property. The guards, employees of private security companies like Blackwater, openly carry M-16's and other assault rifles. Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards, but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.


Reader comment: Mathias Forbach, a media student in Switzerland, asks,

Why do the police in New Orleans clear the city of the last remaining residents? Why can't these residents stay in their homes if they are able to stay? And why do the authorities do this with guns?

Two weeks ago, we had really bad flood here in Switzerland. Two days of constant rain. But we did't see anybody with a gun — only water buckets and shovels and people helping each other, and Red Cross workers giving first aid.

Why, in the U.S.A., are the first images we see all military-aggressive-armed-forces who aren't helping the victims, but threatening them with big guns? I don't understand. Did Asian people experience the same with the Tsunami flood? Even in Indonesia, where there was a conflict between the junta and the government, they stopped their conflict to help the poor inhabitants.

Reader comment:Tom Genoni says,

As much as I'm not a fan of our current administration (…) much of New Orleans is uninhabitable: no water, no sanitation, no food, no power, at least 11 separate fires, broken gas lines, sewage-laden floodwaters, and rotting corpses (along with the the fear these will clog pumps draining the city). People are being moved — with force if necessary — because it's not safe to stay, regardless of what some residents think.

Reader comment: Richard Steven Hack says:

Well, I just read a WaPo article today (Link) that describes the situation of the wealthier areas of New Orleans which makes hash of that statement. A couple of hired guys are defending a wealthy neighborhood of about thirty homes. Before the hurricane hit, they went on a supplies gathering run and got a couple hundred gallons of gas, water, food, etc. The wealthy residents of the neighborhood hired them to babysit the homes while they evacuated. (…) They get asked about their status from various police/NG patrols that come by. They're armed and ready to defend the homes from any looters.

The reason the Red Cross is not allowed in, according to the Red Cross Web site, is that the authorities believe their presence would invite people to return to the city. Since it would seem the goal of this project is to demolish the city, then dun the former inhabitants for the demolition costs, then seize the property for nonpayment, then auction it off for pennies to Bush cronies and then give Halliburton billions to rebuild it for corporations and whites only, I'd say that policy fits right in.

People need to realize that this is the biggest LOOTING operation since the fall of Baghdad – and the looters are NOT the poor blacks.

Previously: Baghdad on the Bayou