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Mitchel Cohen: People Of The Dome

People Of The Dome (2)

by Mitchel Cohen
See also… People Of The Dome (2)

“I’m sick to death of hearing things from uptight narrow-minded pigheaded politicians. All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth.” - John Lennon

Unbeknownst to the American people, U.S. and state government officials have refused to allow water or food relief into New Orleans in a brazen attempt to "starve people out" ­- a "war crime" under the Geneva Conventions. Hundreds of people have unnecessarily died of thirst. And yet, there is no shortage of water or food being sent.

When Green Party activists tried to donate a large amount of water for the people in the SuperDome a few days after the levees broke, armed soldiers prevented them from doing so, at gunpoint. When Walmart sent three huge truckloads of drinking water, they were turned away as well. From all over the world aid is being sent, and yet none of it is allowed in to New Orleans. Who ordered the military and state police to block water from reaching the tens of thousands of desperate people there? Who ordered the Red Cross out of New Orleans? How many American citizens have been murdered as a result of such policy?

Nor is it only water and food that has been denied to the civilian population. On Thursday of that first week, the government used the excuse that there were some gunshots (only two or three instances; people were shooting into the air to draw attention so that helicopters could pick them up) -­ around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day ­- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to send in thousands of National Guard troops and U.S. military fully armed, with "shoot to kill" orders, at a huge economic cost. Volunteers had rescued over 1,000 people in boats earlier in the week. But on Thursday, the state police told them it was "too dangerous." The volunteers didn't think the infrequent gunshots were dangerous to them and wanted to continue their rescue operations; the military had to "convince" them at gunpoint to "cease and desist," just as they did to a convoy of 500 boats and rafts that had come to rescue people all the way from Mississippi and headed by a state senator. At the same time, the pilots of two U.S. military helicopters that had plucked hundreds of people from roofs earlier in the week after completing their mission of bringing supplies to soldiers (not civilians) in New Orleans, were reprimanded by their commanding officers and removed from helicopter duty. And hundreds of doctors were (and still are) denied entry to the City despite the obvious need.

There is something sinister going down ­- it's not just incompetence or negligence. How could FEMA and Homeland Security not have planned to provide something so basic as bottled drinking water in the SuperDome, which according to their hurricane plan was long a facility to be used? One police officer in charge of his 120-person unit said that his squad was provided with only 70 small bottles of water. And civilians? Nothing.

Why did the Federal Emergency Management Agency list a front group for Pat Robertson's church -­ "Operation Blessing" -­ as the place for concerned individuals to send donations, right after the Red Cross and one other legitimate relief organization? (Just a week earlier, Pat Robertson had made a speech calling for the assassination of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez.)

The Saudization of New Orleans

Les Evenchick, an independent Green who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a 3-story walkup, reports that 90 percent of the so-called looters were simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicines, because officials refused to provide these basic necessities.

Les says that "it's only because of the looters that non-looters ­- old people, sick people, small children -­ were able to survive."

Those people who stole tennis shoes and non-emergency items have been selling them, Les reports (having witnessed several of those "exchanges"), so that they could get enough money together to leave the area. The so-called "looting" was exaggerated and used an excuse to militarize the area with upwards of 50,000 troops and place it under martial law.

Think about it:

- People were ordered to evacuate, but all the bus stations had closed down the night before.

- Many people couldn't afford tickets anyway.

- Many people were stranded, and others refused to leave their homes, pets, etc.

They don't have cars. You want people to stop looting? Provide the means for them to eat and to leave the area. But unless you had a car, the military and state police actually prevented you from leaving. Instead, you were forced off the roads and told to go to the Coliseum or superdome, with no water or food stored in either location. How is that possible?

Some tourists in the Monteleone Hotel paid $25,000 for 10 buses. The buses were sent (there was no shortage of available buses) but the military confiscated them to use not for transporting people out of the Dome but for the military. The tourists were not allowed to leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center.

How simple it would have been for the State or U.S. government to have provided buses before the hurricane hit, and throughout the week. AMTRAK says it offered free rides for 900 people but that City officials never got back to them about the offer. Evacuating 100,000 people trapped in the city -­ that's only 3,000 buses, fewer than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant anti­war demonstrations. Even at $2,500 a pop ­- highway robbery -­ that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting all of those who did not have the means to leave.

Instead, look at the human and economic cost of not doing that! So why didn't they do that?

New Orleans residents had twice voted in huge numbers against the candidacy of George Bush, the only area in the state to have done so. The previous year, they also fought off attempts to privatize the drinking water supply, battled Shell Oil's attempt to build a Liquified Natural Gas facility, and tried to prevent the teardown of public housing. These are battles in which Mayor Nagin lined up on the side of the oil companies and developers.

I recently emailed Governor Kathleen Blanco (a Democrat) asking if she was the one who ordered the turn-off of the drinking water. If not, who did? There was no health reason to turn it off, as the water is drawn into a separate system from the Mississippi River, not the polluted lake, and purified through self-powered purification plants separate from the main electric grid. If necessary, people could have boiled their water -- strangely, the municipal natural gas used in stoves was still functioning properly as of Thursday night! To date, I have not received a response from Gov. Blanco.

As we now know, there are thousands of New Orleans residents who are refusing to evacuate because they don't want to leave their pets or their homes. Many have no money to do so nor place to go. Green activist and former Black Panther Malik Rahim, who lives in the Algiers section -- which, like the French Quarter and several other areas, remained dry -- makes the point that the government could have and should have provided water and food to residents of New Orleans but has not done so intentionally to force people to evacuate by starving them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.

French Quarter resident Mike Howell adds that the capability has been there from the start to drive water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads have been clear -- it's how the National Guard drove into the city.

Let me say this again: The government intentionally did not (and still does not) allow food or water in.

This is for real.

MSNBC interviewed dozens of people who had gotten out. Every single one of them was white.

The people who are poor (primarily Black but many poor Whites as well) were only allowed to leave the horrendous conditions in the SuperDome after five days of hell; many were then bused to another stadium, the AstroDome, in Houston. Call them "People of the Dome."

If people resist the military coming to remove them or the new free clinics that are being organized by dedicated health care professionals in defiance of governmental edicts and machine guns, or the phony corporatized "reconstruction" of their city, New Orleans may yet become known as the first battle of the new American revolution.


Mitchel Cohen is a member of the Brooklyn Greens and co-editor of “G”, the newspaper of the NY State Greens:

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