August 29 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. A personal note: Its devastation and ugly aftermath inspired me at the time to begin writing about major world and national issues along with media work pro bono.
It bears repeating some what that first article said – calling Katrina less what nature wrought, more a conspiracy of federal, state and city government along with business interests against the area’s most vulnerable residents – mainly its poor Black population.
Over a million people were displaced. Over 1,000 died. Cashing in on disaster followed. Former Republican congressman/current lobbyist Richard Baker said at the time: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it but God did.”
New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro added: “I think we have a clean sheet to start again (and take advantage of) big opportunities.”
Their scheme: Erasing poor communities, replacing them with upscale development. Battered Gulf coast areas became a laboratory for disaster capitalism pioneered in Iraq.
Some of the same familiar names were involved – Halliburton, Bechtel and other profiteers aiming to cash in big. Plans were made in advance. Execution followed storm damage.
Davis-Bacon law guaranteeing prevailing wages on federally funded or assisted construction contracts was suspended – letting contractors employ undocumented workers at poverty wages and no benefits.
Blackwater USA and other paramilitaries were deployed straightaway – in full battle gear, patrolling streets in SUVs or unmarked cars with no license plates.
Army combat troops, National Guard forces, US Border Patrol operatives, and out-of-state police followed. Devastated New Orleans became a battleground.
[read more here]
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