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  • When submitting a request for help finding out about a specific address, or with other Hurricane-related problems, please put HURRICANE HELP in the subject line. My email address is kathryn.cramer at gmail.com. Thanks.

    My Katrina archive contains all blog posts related to Katrina. My Rita archive contains all blog posts related to Rita. The archive page is updated each time I make a new post, so it would be the best place to bookmark.  On the other hand, it contains many images, so on a dial-up connection it would be slow to load. Also, separately, I have an online album of Katrina map images, Katrina Floods New Orleans, 2005.


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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Private Contractors & New Orleans

I know a fair amount about mercenaries and private military contractors (see my somewhat incomplete  Mercenaries & PMFs archive), and have been anticipating with a certain sick feeling of de ja vu that I was going to have to blog how all the usual suspects from Iraq and Africa turn up in New Orleans, the world's newest Third World country, so the sentence New Orleans may well have more mercenaries and National Guards operating in it than there are citizens left at the moment gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I have been focusing  primarily on the cartography of Katrina and would appreciate reader recommendations for articles on the involvement of Private Military Contractors. No one knows where all of the bodies are buried in that field, but I at least know where some of them are.

Atk_1And yes, I know about Halliburton. I want the rest of the names, especially those guys carrying guns. UPDATE: Ah. Here are some names:

  • "British security firm AKE Group has three employees on the ground in New Orleans with CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc. <TWX.N>, and is preparing to send three more." This makes sense to me: CNN should have security people. And it seems to me that security guys accompanying reporters are highly unlikely to turn Rambo. Nonetheless, the Terminator/Robocop graphic to the left comes from their site.  AKE is apparently run by a former CIA guy.
  • "Security firms Kroll Inc. and Beau Dietl & Associates also said on Friday they have seen a surge in requests for security services and advice in the New Orleans area this week.
    Kroll, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. <MMC.N>, has been working to help clients in industries like hotels and casinos to evacuate facilities and implement emergency contingency plans, according to spokeswoman Jodie Rosenblum." This sounds sensible on the face of it, except that it could easily get out of hand. Exactly who is going to prosecute one of their guys if he shoots someone just because the piss him off?

[ADVISORY: Those who came here for the maps and aren't interested in my personal political opinions, stop reading here.]

UPDATE: Josh Marshall gives us a taste of what's to come:

This article from the September 1st edition of the Post noted that Allbaugh was already in Louisiana "helping coordinate the private-sector response to the storm."

Now, if you figure that an article that appeared on the September 1st was probably reported out on Wednesdy August 31st, perhaps this is one of those cases that show how the public sector just can't match the pace of the private sector, seeing as Allbaugh seems to have beaten most of the folks from FEMA, the agency he ran before handing it off to Michael Brown, into the disaster area.

I also must confess that I'd been so focused on Allbaugh's Iraq operation, that I had lost track of what he was up to on the domestic rain-making activities.

First, there's Blackwell Fairbanks, the outfit he set up with Andrew Lundquist, the guy who ran Vice President Cheney's energy policy task force. And then of course there's Allbaugh's main shop, The Allbaugh Company, the one Haley Barbour helped him set up along with New Bridge Strategies, the Iraq venture.

I figure he's in Louisiana wearing the Allbaugh Company hat, seeing as how a few months back he signed on as a lobbyist for Halliburton subsidiary KBR to "educate the congressional and executive branch on defense, disaster relief and homeland security issues."

He links to a post of his from 2003, giving the sales pitch for Allbaugh's company:

Let me introduce you to New Bridge Strategies, LLC. New Bridge is 'Helping to Rebuild a New Iraq' as their liner note says.

Here's the company's new blurb from their website ...

New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in Iraq.

A 'unique company'? You could say that. Who's the Chairman and Director of New Bridge? That would be Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's longtime right-hand-man and until about six months ago his head of FEMA. Before that of course he was the president's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000.

So let's just change the company name to the whole multi-tentacles octopus and take that one paragraph sales pitch and cross out all the Iraqs and substitute New Orleans and see how it makes us feel:

The Allbaugh Company-New Bridge Strategies, LLC-Blackwell Fairbanks is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East American Southeast following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq Hurricane Katrina. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq New Orleans, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in Iraq New Orleans today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in Iraq New Orleans.

I think that gives us a good start in looking at the problem. Thanks, Josh.

Now, I'm feeling especially cynical this morning, so the scenario that plays itself out in my head is this: The plan for disasters like this was that the FEMA response would be significantly scaled back in order to open the market to the private sector. But that would be mass murder or mass involunatry manslaughter or some such thing, so that can't be what happend. Can it?

But I suppose the question does need to be asked: Was it deliberate policy at FEMA to scale back the asistance offered by FEMA in future disasters and to privatize the response once needs were assessed? This would be consistent with the US practice in Iraq.

A further question: Was there FEMA policy in place bfore the hurricane discouraging FEMA employees from approving assistance of types that would diminish opportunities for private enterprise? That would go a long way toward explaing why FEMA did not make use of much of the domestic and international assistance offered during times when the New Orleans situation was rapidly deteriorating. Perhaps the Powers that Be in Homeland Security and FEMA are merely criminally stupid and there was no attempt to protect commercial opportunities of an unprecedented nature and scope. But the question needs to be asked.

On Your Marks, Get Set . . .

Shaw

Josh Marshall remarks:

Frankly, if you're looking to nail down some good contracts, I'd definitely try to get into the Shaw Group pipeline, as their site suggests, since they've bought the services of our friend Joe Allbaugh.






Late Update: Everybody gets a taste? Jim Bernhard, CEO of the Shaw Group is chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

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Comments

I am not to experienced with following the threads here but Josh or the persons posting regarding private contractors and New Orleans I have not see until today a comment that even comes close to a sensible account or explanation regarding the end result of the New Orleans Flood 2005. I make the distinction between Katrina and the storm water and the levee breaches a day later. Katrina storm waters and devastation was a natural disaster. The levee floods were not. The bigger the disaster the more money for private contractors. There are no rich millionaires that incompetent or inexperienced. There is the Democratic, Republican and the Incumbent Party. We get riled up with the first two so that the third can thrive unchecked.

We keep forgetting that these are rich people in powerful positions where we put them. You do not get there if you are incompetent.

What is really funny is that we scream for help for the victims. The blame game is back and forth and everyone is indignant and demanding congressional investigations even. Fire this one and impeach the other. the American people good hearted, but thoroughly led by the media, demand immediate help. So Congress moves to action. First 10 million, then 40 and figures up to 150 billion dollars. The people are happier. We are going to to put that money in the hands of the incompetents that we are investigating. who in turn will ...well we know what they are going to do. That is okay with the People and the incumbent party have rendered us all brain dead. by the way there was no as in ZERO "flood fight" plan. http://whatluck4rulers.thesanman.com/flood.htm For the third most potential disaster and a city in bowl, that was the plan. NO PLAN. So would we maybe murder a few thousand blacks and poor of every race? Ya think?

do we keep screaming "incompetent" and government failure? Disaster relief is big business. The government did not fail at all. We are just mixed up at what the goal was. We always are. Excellent article and I wish I could write like that and this is just the information I was googling

One of the "refugees" has told me something and I am searching but I am hampered by not knowing the area. I hope he is wrong though.
I am comparing the day after Katrina, (no flooding or some) and the day after when the levee breaks (supposedly)

this is what I found: Nagin shifts gears from corruption to economy www.flymsy.com/News/2003archive.html#Nagin%20shifts%20gears%20from%20corruption%20to%20economy

The CBD was not flooded but now there are fires? Duncan plaza...what is that and where? City Hall past the State Office Building to the state Supreme Court building and the public library's main branch? Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue?

After the levee breaks how does it affect those areas if at all?

What is the name of the white city official that cried on television about getting someone's mother and saying everyday that they were on their way? At the end he screamed: "send us money". What is his name?

Is this the guy? Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Aaron Broussard (to develop 150 acres of airport-owned property into a business park and "free-trading zone" focused on Latin America)

is it?

The day after when everyone is walking


around how flooded were these areas:
Tremé/St. Peter ClaverThe boundaries for the Tremé SIZ are N. Broad Street - N. Claiborne Avenue - UrsulinesAvenue --Iberville Street.
Lower Ninth Ward
The boundaries for the Lower Ninth Ward SIZ are the Industrial Canal - Tupelo Street -
Dauphine Street - N. Claiborne Avenue.
Algiers
The boundaries for the Algiers SIZ are Wall Boulevard - Horace Street - General DeGaulle.
Upon completion of projects within this SIZ, the City is exploring designating a second
Algiers neighborhood as an SIZ.
Central City
The boundaries for the Central City SIZ are N. Claiborne Avenue - St. Charles Avenue -
Louisiana Avenue - Pontchartrain Expressway
15
.P.Tureaud/Seventh Ward
The area is bounded by N. Claiborne Avenue - N. Broad Street -Elysian Fields Avenue - St.
Bernard Avenue
Mid-City/Bienville
The area is bounded by N. Claiborne Avenue - N. Jefferson Davis Parkway - Canal Street -
St. Louis Street
Gerttown
The boundaries for the Gerttown SIZ are S. Carrollton Avenue - S. Jefferson Davis Parkway -
Earhart Boulvard - Washington Avenue. At the behest of neighborhood residents, there
are plans to extend the Gerttown SIZ to an adjacent area bounded by Audubon Street,
Colapissa Street, Oleander Street, and College Court.
Renewal Community
This area consists of Census Tracts 69, 70, 72, 75.01, 75.02, 76.05, in Orleans Parish and Census
Tract 249 in Jefferson Parish (Appendix D).

One of the "refugees" has told me something and I am searching but I am hampered by not knowing the area. I hope he is wrong though.

The CBD was not flooded but now there are fires? Duncan plaza...what is that and where? City Hall past the State Office Building to the state Supreme Court building and the public library's main branch? Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue?

After the levee breaks how does it affect those areas if at all?

What is the name of the white city official that cried on television about getting someone's mother and saying everyday that they were on their way? At the end he screamed: "send us money". What is his name?

 

Katrina Floods New Orleans, 2005

  • Yesterday, August 30th, partly inspired and coordinated by my blog post New Orleans Levee Break(s) Before and After, a group of us, most of whom don't know each other and have never met, struggled to create a visual understanding of what was happening to New Orleans, using the tools to hand.


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If This Were Only Cleared Away: The Nation Takes on Fantasies of Future New Orleans, Plus a Few Other Thoughts Of My Own

Parenti_200x152From The Nation: New Orleans: Raze or Rebuild? by Christian Parenti:

Though the area is routinely designated a ghetto, the homes of the Ninth Ward are mostly beautiful, century-old capes and bungalows, some with ornate wooden detailing reminiscent of old homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. "They'll have to bulldoze it all," says a visiting New York City cop, surveying the damage from inside an NYPD van.

Is that option--the right's much-touted tabula rasa--inevitable? "They don't have to tear all these down," says Joe Peters, a Ninth Ward tier repairman. "Under that siding, that's all cypress frames and barge board." Peters seems to think that the more solid homes of the Ninth Ward can be saved. Increasingly the holdouts here see the mandatory evacuation order as part of a huge land grab.

I track down Mike Howell, a Nation reader I'd met several days before. "Yeah, this could be their dream come true," he says. "Get rid of all the poor African-Americans and turn the place into Disneyland." After camping on Howell's roof, my colleague and I leave him and his wife our extra water and gas and push on.  . . .

9thwardwp"The evacuation order is just trying to get out the criminal element," says the cop in the classic flat, nasal Yat accent common to the Irish- and Italian-Americans who make up much of the city's white population. He explains how the military is mapping the city for holdouts using helicopters with infrared, and how troops on the ground mark the suspect building with a system of Xs and checks, a code that indicates to the police how many people are inside. The cop finishes his drink, shakes a few hands and rolls off.

Facilitating the tabula rasa agenda is an increasingly militaristic attitude that borders on boyish fantasy and seems to pervade the numerous federal SWAT teams, out-of-town cops, private security forces, civilian volunteers and even journalists. There are exceptions: The young soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and First Cavalry seem much less caught up in it and are quite generous with their ice and MREs.

. . . two vehicle convoys from Blackwater USA--one of the biggest mercenary firms operating in Iraq--cruise the deserted city, their guns trained on rooftops ready for snipers, who have recently shot at a cell-tower repair crew. . . .

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, Bush-connected firms like the Shaw Group, Bechtel and Halliburton are lining up to get big portions of the $62 billion in federal money that will soon flood the storm region. The fact that some of these companies had been convicted of defrauding the federal government in the past, are under investigation again for corruption in Iraq and were once banned from federal contracting due to unethical practices has not stopped the process.

(Photo of Paretti from the Mother Jones web site. 9 Ward photo from the Washington Post.)

MEANWHILE, from the New York Times:

More than 1,000 displaced residents from St. Bernard Parish crowded the State Capitol to learn about the state of their devastated houses. No one has been permitted to re-enter the area to retrieve belongings or examine their houses. News of the meeting traveled by word of mouth and Web sites, and people lined up for blocks outside the Art Deco Capitol, where Gov. Huey P. Long was assassinated in 1935. Some drove from Houston.

Local officials did not try to hide the bad news.

"You will not recognize St. Bernard Parish," the parish president, Henry J. Rodriguez Jr., told hundreds of residents in the marble foyer of the Capitol. "All you will have left of St. Bernard Parish is your memories."

Now, I've looked at photos of St. Bernard (see for example this one; compare to this image for reference), and I'm not sure exactly what he means. His statement implies that the building are gone. But they're not. Most of them are still standing. Shouldn't it be up to the owners and residents whether to give up on properties in St. Bernard?

I should add that I have looked up lots and lots of specific NOLA area addresses on the Digital Globe (and occasionally NOAA) images, and I have not yet had  to write the "you house is smashed to bits" letter, though I did ask one person if he had a really big side yard (see image below), since the pre-Katrina satellite image was too blurry for comparison. Except in obvious cases, in which a house has been replaced by a debris field, it should be up to homeowners, in consultation with structural engineers and other such professionals, whether NOLA homes that are still standing need to be demolished, not handwaving politicans making sweeping generalizations. The vast majority of New Orleans are still standing and should not be razed without their owner's consent.

7520mayoblvd

For further contemplation of Future New Orleans, see Joel Garreau writing in the Washington Post, whose piece entitled A Sad Truth: Cities Aren't Forever, is an odd combination of hard-headed realism, and politically-naive passing along of the current spin. His last paragraph reads:

I hope I'm wrong about the future of the city. But if the determination and resources to rebuild New Orleans to greater glory does not come from within, from where else will it come?

Let the people go back to their houses to make their own decisions, house by house. They want to do it, but grand plans are afoot that seem likely to preclude that process. In the end, Hurricane FEMA could do more damage to the city than Katrina if let to run its course.

UPDATE: I just this one below. The building that was inquired about looks at best very badly damaged. It is down the street from the Michoud NASA facility, also shown (aerial photos from Globalsecurity.org).

4283michoudblvd

|






Jeremy Scahill: "one of the Blackwater mercenaries told us that he had been deputized by the governor of Louisiana"

[Note: A guy from Blackwater, writing in the comment section of my other Blackwater post, rightly points out that US citizens operating on US soil are, by definition, not mercenaries. In this, he is technically correct. What we call them, espcially those whose previous Blackwater deployment was outside the US, I leave up to you. -KC]

Transcript from a Democracy Now segment: Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans [mp3]:

. . one of them was wearing a golden badge, that identified itself as being Louisiana law enforcement, and in fact, one of the Blackwater mercenaries told us that he had been deputized by the governor of Louisiana, and what's interesting is that the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security have denied that they have hired any private security firms, saying that they have enough with government forces. Well, these Blackwater men that we spoke to said that they are actually on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and indeed with the governor of Louisiana. And they said that they're sleeping in camps organized by the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the Blackwater guys said that when he heard New Orleans, he asked, “What country is that in?” And he was bragging to me about how he drives around Iraq in what he called a State Department issued level five explosion-proof BMW. This, as U.S. soldiers don't even have proper armor on their Humvees and other vehicles. And so, we also overheard one of the Blackwater guys talking to, we presume, a colleague, complaining that he was only being paid $350 a day plus his per diem, and that other firms were paying much more. And we're seeing many of these Blackwater mercenaries and other private security agents roaming the streets of New Orleans.

Now this opens interesting semantic possibilities. Because once these guys are deputized, the Governor's office can claim that they aren't "mercenaries," but rather "deputies."

(Thanks to Terry K!)


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