Seven Betrayals and Oh, Blackwater

Democracy Now! continues to provide some of the best daily coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I know some readers will be put off by the program’s political bent, but in fact they have had some of the best on-the-scene reporting I have found anywhere.

Today’s program has an interview with a “hold out” in the French Quarter who goes through a list of what he calls the Seven Betrayals of the victims of the storm. His first one is something that Steven T. pointedly asked on September 3: Why did the city not make its transit buses available for evacuation? The “hold out” has several other criticisms of the state and local governments’ immediate response.

Before and after the segement on the seven betrayals are interesting segments containing interviews with active-duty military on the scene and refused interview requests from local police regarding the (non)removal of corpses.

Also there is a segment at the end about the presence of heavily armed Blackwater USA contractors in New Orleans. The presence of this contractor—famous for being the company whose employees were hung from a bridge in Fallujah—has been noted in the media previously. For instance, in the Washington Post, Sept. 8. However, the Post story noted their presence as contractors to commercial businesses. The Democracy Now! story says that some of the Blackwater employees claimed to have been deputized by the Louisiana governor and DHS. Even with respect to their presence in New Orleans under contact with private businesses, the Post story notes:

Peter W. Singer, an expert on private military contractors at the Brookings Institution, said he thinks the presence of such firms is “overkill” when firms that perform more conventional security work are available.

Overkill. Precisely the title of DN correspondent Jeremy Scahill’s co-authored report.

I don’t know what to make of it. But it is troubling to think of private armed contractors patrolling the streets of an American city. If it is true that they are working for government agencies, it is downright chilling.

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