View Full Version : Katrina: Was There A Conspiracy?

02-17-2006, 02:56 PM


The Wilmington Journal
Originally posted 2/17/2006

NEW ORLEANS (NNPA) — This week, a 520-page report from the Republican-led special House Select Committee investigating government response to Hurricane Katrina slammed the Bush Administration, in addition to Louisiana and New Orleans’ authorities, for a failure to protect people, despite adequate warnings days before the August 29 destruction.

“Passivity did the most damage,” the report concluded. “The failure of initiative cost lives, prolonged suffering, and left all Americans justifiably concerned our government is no better prepared to protect its people than it was before 9/11, even if we are.”

“The preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina should disturb all Americans,” the report added.

There are those who believe there was more than “passivity” involved.

On Sept. 12, Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan was in Charlotte, N.C., as part of a 23-city tour to promote the Millions More Movement march in Washington, then mere weeks away, when he made an allegation that has stirred ripples of reaction in the public pool.

"I heard from a very reliable source, who saw a 25-foot-deep crater under the levee breach," Farrakhan said. "It may have been blown up to destroy the Black part of town and keep the White part dry."

Farrakhan is not alone in believing that the poor and Black of New Orleans were somehow targeted to sustain the worse of the Katrina.

"Mother Nature is one thing but this goes beyond Mother Nature," said Raynold Fenelon, a New Orleans cabdriver. "They blew that levee. I believe the Canal Street levee broke but they blew that one by the Ninth Ward. Then they talking about a barge hit the levee…These people are full of s—t."

There is no question that the 9th Ward was an unsightly scene.

Black bodies floated in the poisonous stew of gasoline and sewage; Black men, women and children were marooned on roofs and ignored by passing helicopters, Black people were crammed into a putrid Superdome by the thousands going for days without food or water and Black homes sustained the worst of the damage.

Many believe it was planned.

The rumor that officials purposefully breached the levees to slice water away from majority White, rich areas like the French Quarter has flooded the blogosphere.

Andrea Garland, a former resident now living in Texas, wrote in her blog at Getyouracton.com: "Also heard that part of the reason our house flooded is they dynamited part of the levee after the first section broke—they did this to prevent Uptown (the rich part of town) from being flooded. Apparently, they used too much dynamite, thus flooding part of the Bywater. So now I know who is responsible for flooding my house—not Katrina, but our government."

And the rumors have spread on a tide of discontent and anger to Capitol Hill.

In a Dec. 6 hearing conducted by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans resident Dyan French testified that she actually heard the explosion.

“I was on my front porch. I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee, boom, boom!” Dyan said, gesticulating with her hands. “I’ll never forget it.”

Mayor Ray Nagin in a Sept. 11 ABC News report rejected the rumors as untrue.

"That storm was so powerful and it pushed so much water, there’s no way anyone could have calculated, would dynamite the levee to have the kind of impact to save the French Quarter."

The current levee system, a 16-foot high wall that covers about 350 miles, was built after Hurricane Betsy in 1965 to counter, maximally, a Category 3 storm. Katrina, at 125 miles per hour on landfall, was a Category 4.

"I don’t think anybody anticipated the break of the levees," President Bush said soon after the storm. However, that’s not true.

Scientists predicted in publications that the deterioration of natural barriers, a sinking delta and rising sea levels would eventually prove too much for the levees. So did a 2002 Times-Picayune prophetic series that warned that major flooding was "just a matter of time".

Engineers, scientists and state and city attorneys are now investigating whether malfeasance in design, construction or maintenance caused the flooding.

"It became obvious to us pretty quickly that the flood walls along the 17th Street Canal had not failed through overtopping, they failed through some other mechanism," said G. Paul Kemp, associate professor of Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and the Environment and a member of a state sponsored forensics team investigating the flooding. "The preliminary report does show some questionable decisions about the depth that they drove the sheet pile that support the wall."

Another preliminary report by a team of engineers from the University of California at Berkeley and the American Society of Civil Engineers concluded: "Several major and costly breaches appear to have been the result of stability failures of the foundation soils and/or the earthen levee embankments themselves. In addition, it appears that many of the levees and floodwalls that failed due to overtopping might have performed better if relatively inexpensive details had been added and/or altered during their original design and construction."

Still, locals hold on to the theory that the wall was deliberately blown, goaded on by memories of government complicity in the Tuskegee experiment and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO program to undermine civil rights groups.

The Tuskegee experiment was a government-sanctioned program that began in 1932 and involved the use of 399 Black men as guinea pigs to discover the effects of syphilis.

Though told they would receive free "special treatment" for their "bad blood," the men were left untreated and attempts to obtain treatment elsewhere were stopped. The story did not reach the public until 1972. Even then, neither the men nor their families received an apology.

President Bill Clinton finally offered an apology in 1997 – 25 years later.

COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counterintelligence Program, was a covert operation initiated by the FBI in 1956 under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover to "neutralize" domestic political groups like the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers’ Party but was almost immediately extended to so-called dissident organizations including, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through surveillance, wiretaps, blackmail and other unsavory means, the FBI attempted to discredit and disrupt Black civil rights organizations. In one scheme, the FBI sent tape-recordings of Dr. King’s extramarital sexual activity to King and urged him to commit suicide or risk being publicly exposed as immoral.

The covert program did not end until the early ‘70s when its details were exposed during a Congressional investigation.

Despite the backdrop of that history, Katrina theories have been mocked by conservative media pundits such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Larry Elder.

Elder said in a Sept. 22 column published in the Jewish World Review online: "For many people, past discrimination means present and future discrimination. End of discussion…"

Though the conspiracy theories may appear outlandish to some, there is proof that something like this happened in the past.

It happened when Hurricane Betsy deluged New Orleans in 1965 and in the Mississippi Flood of 1927, as John M. Barry discusses in his book Rising Tide.

The book discussed the social and political forces that precipitated the flood and pointed to possible reasons for deliberately flooding St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes where poor Whites and Blacks lived. Back then, a club of rich bankers ran the city and made the fatal decision to blow the levees in order to save their businesses.

"Daily, hundreds of thousands of dollars were being withdrawn from banks. If the fear grew great enough, if a run developed on the bank, it would hurt, and perhaps destroy, weaker banks. Short-term credit was disappearing, period. Long term, if the nation’s businessmen lost confidence in the safety of New Orleans serious damage could result," Barry wrote on page 231. "…Pool’s bank was the most vulnerable in the city; he had aggressively loaned money to sugar planters. A crevasse on the river’s west bank could destroy them, and his bank. Dynamiting the levee on the east bank might also relieve them. Pool argued, ‘The people of New Orleans are in such a panic that all who can do so are leaving the city. Thousands are leaving daily. Only dynamite will restore confidence."

That flood was the final straw for thousands of Black laborers, who left the Delta in droves, forever changing the economic and social structure of the area.

Though for different reasons, some see the same forces at work now.

"Same thing—politicians, corruption, greed…they wanted this area to widen the canal for cruise ships," said Pamela Everage, 39, a Ninth Ward resident who works on a cruise ship in Hawaii.

Others see the flood and the subsequent dispersal of poor Blacks to far-flung places across the nation as an ethnic cleansing of New Orleans.

Naomi Klein, in article titled "Purging the Poor," published in the Oct. 10 issue of the Nation magazine said New Orleans is already displaying a dramatic demographic shift since most of the people who can return are White. Additionally, she said, given high vacancy rates in many parts of the city—French Quarter, Garden District and Jefferson Parish—many evacuees could be housed in the city.

"Roughly 70,000 of New Orleans’ poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning White homeowners, without a single structure being built," she stated.

Mayor Nagin and others have said the flood presented an opportunity to restructure and rebuild smaller, better neighborhoods for the city’s inhabitants.

To many, that’s an indirect way of saying it will be a whiter New Orleans.

In fact, the New York Times published a story recently under the headline, “In New Orleans, Smaller May Mean Whiter.”

It noted, “…Race has become a subtext for just about every contentious decision the city faces: where to put FEMA trailers; which neighborhoods to rebuild; how the troubled school system should be reorganized; when elections should be held…”

Bringing back poor people is rarely discussed.

"All the talk about a smaller, better New Orleans is tantamount to not rebuilding low-income public housing," said Robert Bullard, a professor at Clark Atlanta University and an environmental justice activist. And not rebuilding those houses is singularly unfair to Black people, whose lives are often invested in their homes.

"Ninety percent of Black wealth is tied into their homes so you’re not only destroying Black neighborhoods, you’re destroying Black wealth."

Fenelon, the New Orleans taxi driver, added, "The mayor talking about building houses that are better than the ones people lived in but will they be able to afford those houses? They don’t talk about that."

He continued, "It won’t be the same…they’re trying to get rid of us, you know," he said. "You got White folks that come all the way from Baton Rouge every day to get to work. Think about how much easier it’s going to be for them to have some property right down here that will take them just five minutes to get to work."

In fact, Alphonso Jackson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said he advised Mayor Nagin to not rebuild the Ninth Ward, according to a Sept. 29 Houston Chronicle article, and predicted that the city would lose a significant portion of its African-American citizenry. African Americans previously comprised 67 percent of the city’s residents.

"Whether we like it or not, New Orleans is not going to be 500,000 people for a long time," he is quoted. "New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."

Mayor Ray Nagin created a controversy when he said in a Martin Luther King Day speech: “It’s time for us to come together. It’s time for us to rebuild New Orleans – the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. This city will be a majority African-American city.

It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”

Under a barrage of criticism, Nagin quickly retracted that statement.

Fenelon, the taxi driver, says he understands the tension over rebuilding New Orleans.

"I tell you boy, a lot of politics have everything to do with it. It’s all politics," he said and added, "There ain’t no real love for us Black people, especially in the ghetto."

02-17-2006, 05:41 PM
Elder said in a Sept. 22 column published in the Jewish World Review online: "For many people, past discrimination means present and future discrimination. End of discussion…"

Oh PLEASE! This coming from the JWR! Google gives TEN-plus results pages (http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=+site%3Awww.jewishworldreview.com+anti-semitism&btnG=Search&meta=) when searching from 'anti-semitism' on the JWR site - including this ditty (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/mort/zuckerman_new_anti_sem.php3?printer_friendly) by Mort Zuckerman (editor of US News & World Report):

But today several virulent "isms" inhabit the world still. Among the most pernicious are an atavistic anti-Semitism and its 20th-century version, anti-Zionism. [...] To complain that such portrayals are unfair and illogical is not to dismiss all criticism of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic. A democracy must welcome critics, and Israel surely has its critics in spades — just look at the spirited Israeli press. "Jews," as one commentator put it, "are gold medalists in the art of self-criticism." But for many, recent criticism of Israel has become so perverse, so persistent, so divorced from reality that it can be seen only as emotional anti-Semitism hiding behind the insidious political mask of anti-Zionism.

And on it goes...