Monday, September 05, 2005
Everything has gone according to plan. posted by ChinaAfter his extraordinary radio outburst about catastrophic government inaction, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has become something of a hero to many liberals. Certainly that moment of rage was energising and impassioned, and the impulse to defend a man being made a whipping boy by a Right eager to get Bush off the hook is a decent one. After all, nothing could clean the blood from the hands of the President or his circle – as a correspondent says, this catastrophe shouldn't just lead to the overthrow of this utterly murderous government: it should lead to show trials.
Nagin seems to have realised that his anger at so damaged an administration may have done him no political harm, hence his repeated chic-accreting warnings that the CIA might try to off him. Given the cautious puff pieces beginning to creep out, this 'straight talking' posture is a good calculation.
But it won't wash. Bush et al's utterly stinking depravity and criminality doesn't exonerate Nagin, a lifelong Republican technocrat who defected to the Democrats days before filing for the Mayoral race in this solidly Democrat town (it's perhaps no surprise that despite Nagin's outburst Bush doesn't bear him any grudges – Nagin contributed to his campaign funds). His rebirth as Rebel With a Cause is too little, too late.
Nagin ordered the cops to stop searching for the living and start protecting property. Nagin delayed ordering an evacuation in the first place 'because of potential liability on the part of the city for closing hotels and other businesses'. Nagin, last hurricane round, only at the last minute opened the stadium and a few schools, 'reportedly worried that lower class refugees might damage or graffiti the Superdome'.
But most importantly of all – and to stress, this goes very far beyond Ray Nagin himself – he's not being entirely honest when he implies that all this chaos was unforeseen.
In fact, everything has gone according to the plan he signed off on.
It's not just the hurricane that was foreseen: it's not just that more than 100,000 people would not be able to leave that was foreseen: it's the catastrophe that followed. The city authorities knew what would happen ever since they simulated this scenario with 'Hurricane Pam' last year. In fact the utter destitution of the desperate was not just predicted: it was planned for. This very month, the city was about to distribute a load of DVDs to 'vulnerable, low-income neighbourhoods', which told the poor what they could expect from their authorities in the event of a catastrophic hurricane.
Nothing. Not a fucking goddamn thing.
As a July 24, 2005 article in the New Orleans Times Picayune (not online but extensively quoted here) put it: 'City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own'. Mayor Nagin himself appeared on the DVD, telling people that they wouldn't be evacuated, or any support provided. The city had the resources to put together a digital package to tell the poor that there were no resources for them.
New Orleans' response to the disaster took account of all its citizens. For those better off, with the means to escape, a new contraflow system to expedite their evacuation worked much better than during Hurricane Ivan. For the trapped, there was that promised nothing at all.
What happened to the desperate of New Orleans was exactly according to plan.
It's a little cheeky for Nagin to invoke God, as he does, against those who provided nothing for the hurricane-devastated poor. After all, that was always his stated intention, and it was with the vernacular of that very God that this intention was given a name: 'Operation Brother's Keeper'.