THE BLOG

The Federal Eviction Management Agency (FEMA) & The Louisiana National Guard

We already know what class the federal government represents. In any choice between profit and people in need, the people will lose every time. Our government is big business writ large, and big business is Darwinian. That's why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a federal bureaucracy allegedly organized to help people like the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, has terminated its "direct payment program for hotel rooms through Corporate Lodging Consultants (CLC)" triggering a mass eviction program of more than 4,500 hurricane survivors from hotels across the country.

Now that our attention-deficit compassion fatigue has kicked in, these 'low-class dark people' hanging around the hotels, it seems, are not good for business.

The hotel bills were paid with FEMA money, after CLC -- a giant "lodging management service" corporation -- got its cut, of course. So while thousands of FEMA housing trailers sit pristine and unused behind chain-link fences up and down the Gulf Coast, with many being used to house high-dollar government workers from Republican-crony contractors. Those numbered at the disaster trough range from AshBritt, a Florida-based contractor leviathan with close ties to neo-segregationist Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (who served as Bush's fundraising chief) to morgues run by Kenyon (subsidiary of the Texas-based, friend-of-George, scandal-tarred Service Corporation International, implicated in the dicarding of corpses).

Catastrophe is big business, and a humanitarian response to catastrophe is not profitable. We are now witnessing, in the most concrete way, how suriviors of a strom can become victims of their own government -- which counts them as disposable. Just as Kenyon disposed of the dead, FEMA is now overseeing the disposal of the living. I once heard a hurricane insurance adjustor living on his houseboat in Galveston refer to his profession as "storm trooper." Get it? Storm... Seems an apt apellation for this case, no?

But there are actual troopers out there who didn't sign up to put on a pair of jackboots. They are the National Guard of each state. Together with the usual perfidious incentives like "money for school" in exchange for "one weekend a month" (This has become a grim joke now in Iraq.), many people join the National Guard out of altruism. They have grown up with the images of the National Guard rescuing people in distress, people from their own states and communities -- like hurricane survivors in the Gulf Coast. I spoke with one of these Louisiana National Guard troops (who has requested anonymity until he separates from service) on the phone two nights ago, and I've been seething ever since.

The National Guard is now being empolyed to assist the extremely sketchy New Orleans Police with these hotel evictions; and some of the troops don't like it a bit.

Said this distressed young man on the telephone, "This is f***ing unbelievable. We were given an operations order to herd our fellow New Orleanians onto buses like cattle or convicts in the middle of the night. They weren't even allowed to pcik up their belongings. We [the National Guard] were responsible to inventory their stuff and bag it up."

There is a really big New Orleans round-up scheduled, he advised me, on Monday night, February 13th.

Happy Valentine's Day.

The reason, according to this source, that these operations are being conducted at night is to evade press coverage and public outrage. The same people who were wiped out by Katrina are now being disappeared under the direction of FEMA and its adoptive parent, the union-busting Department of Fatherland Security.

When I was in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast two weeks ago to plan for the upcoming Veterans" and Survivors' March for Peace and Justice, this once bustling city had huge sections that looked like the third world. Ominously, many residents describe some areas as "Baghdad." The National Guardsman with whom I spoke is an Iraq returnee, and he has plenty to say about that experience as well... nothing positive. He said that he had returned from one cruel military occupation abroad to what seemed like another one at home. Indeed, one can drive around New Orleans right now and see armed soldiers stationed on street corners just as I have seen as a soldier myself in the colonized peripheries of the third world.

It would likely be illegal for me to ask Louisiana National Guardsman to refuse to be the instruments of domination to subjugate their own neighbors as if they were unwanted livestock. It was also once illegal to harbor fugitive slaves.

So I will say instead, let your conscience be your guide. You did not sign up to be storm troopers. This administration wants to impose a one-party security state, but they can only do it if they can depend on you to suspend your critical judgement with the declaraton that "I'm just doing my job."

As the old line went from Cool Hand Luke, "Callin' it your job don't make it right, boss."