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Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Met by Despair, Not Violence"

The LA Times profiles members of the Louisiana Army National Guard, the first convoy sent out to impose martial law in New Orleans as they arrive at the Convention Center on Friday:
"Sixteen in the clip!" one Guardsman shouted, a common refrain used to indicate that rifles are fully loaded.

But when they arrived, they did not find marauding mobs. They did not come under fire. They found people who had lost everything in the storm and, since then, their dignity.


No one came at them but a nurse. She was wearing a T-shirt that read "I love New Orleans." She ran down a broken escalator, then held her hands in the air when she saw the guns.

"We have sick kids up here!" she shouted. "We have dehydrated kids! One kid with sickle cell!"

Another storm victim, Cory Williams, 50, a respiratory therapist spending his third day at the convention center, greeted the troops as they came up the stairs.

He had ridden out the storm at his 9th Ward house. On Tuesday morning, when the flooding began in earnest, 6 feet of water came inside in five minutes, he said. He tried to stay on top of a car in the garage but the water continued to rise, so he made a run for it, dragging several neighbors out behind him on an inflatable raft as he swam, then waded, through the water.

He made it several miles west, toward downtown and higher ground, then watched police stop at gunpoint a Ryder van that had been hot-wired by thieves. The officers told the men inside that they had to stop looting and must try to get people out of the neighborhoods, that people were dying.

"Believe it or not, those dudes got the message," Williams said.

The thieves began ferrying people out of the devastated neighborhoods to the east. The police had deputized looters.

"They had to," Williams said. "There was no other way to get people out."

The thieves dropped him off at the convention center, where he stayed until the troops arrived.


People at the convention center had received a single deposit of food and water, dropped from a helicopter, since Katrina's strike. The drop caused a riot; Williams, an Army veteran, said he feared the people clambering onto the pallet of food as it neared the ground were going to pull the helicopter into the parking lot. The craft never returned.

Children slept on laps and on the ground. There was an elderly emphysema patient. A diabetic. The boy suffering from sickle cell anemia, his eyes puffy and his skin yellowish-brown.

The troops arrived Friday, ready for anything.

"You've got to do something," said the nurse in the New Orleans T-shirt.

"We'll get you some help as soon as some people get here," Lt. James Magee said as the troops arrived. "OK?"

Inside, human waste covered the floor. An elderly woman tumbled out of her wheelchair and landed on the ground. Her housedress was soiled. A man had poured fruit punch into an industrial-size bottle of floor cleaner and was drinking it with a straw.

"If you kept a dog in an environment like this, they would arrest you for animal cruelty," said Cindy Davis, 39, the nurse, who had been separated from her group while caring for a patient and stranded at the convention center three days ago. "It's like a cesspool."

Frankie Estes, 80, said she was glad to finally see the troops. It was a glimmer of hope. Friday night marked her fifth night sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the center.

"I haven't had food or water for three days," she said. "I didn't know if I was going to make it."
They were airlifting food and water to tsunami victims within two days. Can we please hear the one again about how that wasn't possible here because the safety of the troops couldn't be guaranteed because people were shooting at them?

The entire BushCo. push has been to blame the victims for the government's inability to help. The Depends Media has been complicit every step of the way in excusing the government for refusing aid and painting the poor of New Orleans as somehow deserving of their fate. Of all the lies they've ever tried to foist off on a credulous American public, this may be the worst.

Bill Richardson offered the services of the Arizona New Mexico National Guard on Sunday before the hurricane hit. BushCo. didn't approve the paperwork until Thursday.

FEMA Asshole in Chief Michael Brown claimed that FEMA didn't even know about the convention center situation until Thursday. Says he learned about it on the news. Hell the poodles learned about it on the news. Kobe should be running fucking FEMA, at least he'd care.

Am I starting to sound like Nancy Grace?