Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mercenary executions in New Orleans streets

Since I'm thinking about moving back into my house soon, there are almost no people living in the city, and there's still no electricity, I'm thinking about getting a gun. So, on Sunday, I went to Academy sports on the West Bank to shop for one. I've never purchased a gun before, but I've heard lots of people say that anyone who plans to move back into their homes in New Orleans needs to have one. The recommendation is not for a hand gun, but a shotgun. Something that'll stop a man dead in his tracks and that never misses. The entire inventory of guns was sold. Elsewhere, the inventory of guns was looted.

While there, I talked to a New Orleans fire fighter who was looking for the same thing. He lives in Algiers, but he said that he'll never be caught short again. In the weeks after Katrina, he said shots were fired at his crew. The NOFD couldn't respond to fires or perform rescue operations without armed support. He got very emotional about the issue saying that, if anyone has a wife and children at home, it would be irresponsible to move back to the city without a way to defend them.

I've traveled into the city now about a dozen times, and spent the entire day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this past weekend cleaning up around my property. I didn't have any problems. But that was during the day. At night, without electricity, the streets are totally pitch black. If you're at home at night, maybe you're running a lantern in the house - that could be like hanging a welcome sign to a looter.

Just food for thought. I'm still convinced I should get a gun. I might go across the lake to see what I can find there.

Another issue for consideration along the same lines - I talked to a source over the weekend who I'll leave anonymous for now. Suffice it to say, he isn't a law enforcement official, but his job allows him to move into areas of the city that are generally forbidden to average citizens - that means, in particular, the Ninth Ward. Most of the I-10 exits passing through the Ninth Ward are blocked by National Guard soldiers. One some occasions, my source said that he was simply told, "Sorry, not today. There's something going on in there."

My source said he asked an old special forces friend who maintains contacts in the field about the off-limits warnings. His friend revealed that a private security firm was eliminating criminals who stayed behind after Katrina. The name of the security firm my source cited was "Sweetwater", although I think he meant "Blackwater". That's right, Blackwater is the private security company providing security details to high profile officials in Iraq. Then, the shocking statistic came out: according to the ex-special forces soldier, the security firm killed 175 people in 2 days.

Now, I'll admit that in that week after Katrina hit, when the security situation deteriorated, when police and rescue personnel were being shot at, I was calling for a shoot-to-kill policy as permitted under the state of martial order then prevailing over the city. Anyone who wasn't surrendering, who was resisting law enforcement officials, was probably causing problems. Granted, there were lots of peace-loving New Orleanians, some of them friends, who stayed behind through the storm. But the sane ones were trying to get out after the first couple of days.

Notwithstanding my hawkish stance on the treatment of criminals in New Orleans, I am profoundly troubled that a private security firm was hired to secure the city. The last time I checked, we still lived under a constitution that secures our freedom until proven guilty in a court of law, and before a jury of our peers. I can fully understand that some a-hole wielding an automatic rifle should be taken out. But I'm very uneasy about a private mercenary force patrolling the streets I live on - or hope to live on again. Street execution by a private corporate army is just beyond the pale of anything I could have imagined would ever happen in the United States of America. On the other hand, Blackwater personnel were, reportedly, deputized by Governor Blanco. The problem is that these guys are, by and large, mercenaries who don't have civilian law enforcement training.

Researching the issue further, I found a number of articles reporting on Blackwater's presence in New Orleans. The Blackwater Web site even advertises its services in New Orleans:

Blackwater USA responds to the call for assistance in the Gulf region.


September 13, 2005


Aid Focuses on Humanitarian, Security and Clean Up Needs

Since first joining the relief efforts on September 1, Blackwater USA continues to provide support to the hurricane devastated area through a variety of services including search and rescue, helicopter support, security services, and critical infrastructure protection.

“Blackwater is proud to serve the people of New Orleans,” said Bill Mathews, Executive Vice President of Blackwater. “First and foremost, this is about Americans helping Americans in a time of desperation. We will continue to support local, state, and federal offices and commercial entities with talented professionals to augment their relief and recovery efforts.”

To date, Presidential Airways who shares a common parent with Blackwater, has on a pro bono basis provided a helicopter to support U.S. Coast Guard rescue missions. As of Sept. 12, Blackwater aircrews have moved over eleven tons of supplies and rescued 121 people. Blackwater is also providing security services to federal agencies working in the declared disaster area.

Blackwater is working to secure critical communications infrastructure and is also assisting in securing necessary petrochemical facilities in the immediate aftermath of the storm. In addition, Blackwater employees are currently supporting numerous insurance companies in conducting accurate assessments for what will no doubt be the largest disaster claim in U. S. history.

As a private company, Blackwater USA is capable of responding quickly and cost effectively in order to have an immediate impact on crisis situations and mitigate, to the extent possible, the risk associated with loss of life and property, and support local, state, and federal agencies who are tasked with response efforts.

The following services are available:

# Airlift Services

# Security Services

# Communication Support

# Humanitarian Support Services

# Logistics and Transportation Services

Anyone with security or evacuation needs may call
(252) 435-2488.

We would also like to thank Iridium Satellite for providing satellite phones for our relief efforts due to Hurricane Katrina.

Truthout printed a story by Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo in which they relayed their experience with a Blackwater mercenary in the French Quarter:
Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is much less than the men make serving in more dangerous conditions in Iraq. Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."

Kathryn Cramer points out:
Sending Blackwater into New Orleans is the twenty-first century's sad answer to that quaint twentieth-century phrase "send in the marines." It is the public confession that too much of our infrastructure has been "privatized," by which we mean that services formerly provided by government employees accountable to the American people can now be purchased, often at much higher prices, from the private sector, opening up much larger opportunities for war (and now disaster) profiteering.

Is this my country? Does this look anything like the United States of America that Thomas Jefferson envisioned?


At 10/06/2005 06:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Schroeder. Maybe it's just not time for you to go back just yet? Please be careful.


At 10/06/2005 11:21:00 AM, Blogger Michael said...

If what you're saying is true, then the only proper reaction is oh my god.

I have NO love or respect for criminals (full disclosure: I've been mugged/assaulted twice, and plain assaulted once)--but rule of law should be supreme (and yeah, btw, that can suck too, but believe me, the opposite of law won't be any sort of anarchist utopia--it'll be some version of divine right of kings)...once that breaks down...
oh my god.

At 11/26/2005 07:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You belive that crazy dumbshit?

I guess you belive there were 100 dead bodies in the Dome we never heard about too?

At the end of the day New Orleans sank becasue NO and LA are full of dumb people... See your post on social failure. WE GOT THE GOVERMENT FOR WHICH WE VOTED.

It is dummies like you who put stupid people in office.

Geeze, I can't believe someone from New Orelans would post something that is so obivosuly a crazy hurrican rumor.

Next you'll tell me they blew the levees [IN LAKEVIEW] to flood the black people.

At 11/27/2005 05:53:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I see my error. Instead of saying, "a private security firm was hired to secure the city," I should have said, "a private security firm was *reportedly* hired to secure the city."

Everything else I said is just me repeating a story I heard, and looking for reasonable substantiation.

There's nothing wrong in that.


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