Daily Kos: Intentional withholding of aid? : the evidence (w/ poll) [updated with lots of links]

Intentional withholding of aid? : the evidence (w/ poll) [updated with lots of links]
by Karen Wehrstein [Subscribe]
Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 12:19:34 CDT

I keep hearing the suggestion on DKOs that Katrina victims in NO have been and are being denied aid deliberately, rather than due to incompetence.

My natural inclination is to shake my head and think, "tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracists." After all, this is the developed world, right? Civilization. Part of what we do, naturally, instinctively, is make every effort to aid everyone we possibly can as best we possibly can in an emergency. You can simply assume that will happen, can't you?

But over the course of yesterday, mostly, I've become increasingly convinced that there's something to the idea. ..

So as to make the distinction between purposeful withholding and plain incompetence, I'm looking not only for decisions that clearly hamper aid efforts in which incompetence as a motive seems implausible, but also the following patterns, as they suggest purpose and intent:

a) logically absurd or clearly false reasons given for decisions, as these can serve as cover for the true motive, and the very act of inventing them suggests purposefulness;

b) attempts to keep those actions undetected, which suggest that decision-makers anticipate being justifiably blamed and are trying to cover their tracks;

c) repeated stalling of victims and their representatives via promises, to the point of deception.

Finally -- I'm looking for a central source of these decisions, as that would suggest that the decision to purposely withhold aid was made in that one place.

So here we go:

1) The delay in federal aid in the form of food, water and meds for the displaced within NO, especially at the Superdome and Convention Center, in air drops or any other form, has been implausibly long, as the media, Ray Nagin, etc., have more or less screamed to anyone who'd listen.

The military was well-prepared beforehand -- they started planning as the storm went over Florida, and had 9 million MREs ready to deliver. But protocol requires they await orders from FEMA or the president (via Terre on DKos).

New Mexico offered its National Guard on Sunday, again, before the storm hit, and Louisiana accepted, but "paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday" (Yahoo via Atrios.)

FEMA director Mike Brown claimed that FEMA didn't know about the Convention Centre situation until Thursday (CNN) -- here we have an example of a).  This simply cannot be true; even for purely partisan operatives, duties include following the networks.

All through, the victims were promised supplies and transportation to safety -- c).  Likewise Ray Nagin was stalled by promises of help from FEMA/Homeland Security: "I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming, that is coming, and my answer to that today is: B.S." (his kickbutt interview on WWL, quoted everywhere)

2) Before the hurricane hit, Gov. Kathleen Blanco requested Washington provide disaster relief aid, including military personnel and $5 million for evacuation.  No military personnel showed up until Sept. 2; as far as I can tell, the $5 million was not received in time to aid with the evacuation.  No reason given.  The governor now knows to make sure the media sees her requests as well as the president, demands his "personal involvement" viz her presser of yesterday.

3) Rescue operations were suspended by FEMA due to shots being taken at helicopter -- a) -- as many DKos commenters have pointed out, National Guard rescuers shouldn't be discouraged by this. There's some doubt it happened at all, as at the bottom of this ABC story.  In the vast majority of cases this was likely not to be a danger at all.

4) Offers of help were refused:

  • Canadian rescue teams -- held up by Homeland Security (DKos diary)

  • air-boat volunteers required by FEMA to pay for their own gasoline, couldn't afford to (DKos diary), turned down even if they could (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

  • Al Gore - airplanes -- refused by FEMA (CNN) because he was going to evacuate a private hospital, and FEMA mandate only allows aid to public hospitals

  • 500 boats and 1,000 men from elsewhere in Louisiana -- diaried by pelican here

  • Chicago mayor Richard Daley -- via espo111 on DKos, from Chicago Sun-Times: "Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley offered 36 firefighters and technical rescue teams, 8 emergency medical techs, search-and-rescue equipment, 100 police officers, 2 boats, a mobile clinic and 140 streets and sanitation workers with 29 trucks. All self-sufficient. And the FEMA response?  'Just send one truck.' "

That they accepted one truck rather than turning down all shows a clear intent to appear to be accepting the offer while in effect refusing it -- which is deceptive.

FEMA's refusal to pay for airboat gas came solely through DKos -- suggesting that FEMA isn't saying these things where the media will hear -- b).

More individual cases in this Help Offered-Rejected/Delayed diary by SarahLee.

5) Offers of desperately-needed equipment/supplies were also turned down by FEMA in Slidell, supposedly due to bureaucratic regulations -- a).  Slidell mayor Ben Morris (audio, transcript): "They have turned generators away from us. They´ve turned fuel away from us because they determine, or the driver determined, that it wasn´t the correct spot to put it. The generators ... oh, the site hadn´t been inspected yet. We´ve gotta bring an inspector to see where the thing is going.  ...We have heard that FEMA or some federal agencies are going around seizing equipment from our contractors..."

6) Private relief agencies (Red Cross, Salvation Army) are prevented from working in NO, by FEMA.  Reason given -- a) -- this would keep people from leaving the city.  The idea, apparently, was to make conditions so unbearable people would be forced to leave or face death.  But at the same time, no transportation was being provided them.  This came via Kossack SteveRose who writes that he was cagily asked by his source if he was a member of the media -- b). Red Cross website confirms they aren't allowed to go in.

7) The military is now disallowing people to leave the city on their own via the only way out, at the same time that no transportation is being provided (Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera -- Fox News). In these situations the military is directed by FEMA.

The concept that rescuers are not safe due to looters and snipers has been blown way out of proportion, with even Bush himself emphasizing it.  See this LA Times story about a military unit who didn't find anything like what they'd been led to expect.  The purpose here could be not only to discredit/blame the victims, but to serve as an excuse -- a) -- for calling off aid/rescue work, as above.

Now, the central source: note how all of these actions can be traced back to FEMA/Homeland Security, or the President himself (as CoC) in Washington.

Possible motives?  Note that any or all of them can apply, simultaneously; actions are often taken for more than one reason.

  • "cull the herd" -- remove population that Bush et al consider excess or useless because of their race and poverty

  • eliminate Dem voters so as to make Louisiana a safer stronghold for Repubs

  • discredit/punish a Dem mayor for changing from Repub, perhaps also for his reformist tendencies

  • discredit/punish a Dem governor

A fringe benefit is to allow Bush to make a "grand entrance" with the military, generating photo ops with grateful people, etc.


...is this enough evidence to draw such a horrendous conclusion?  I'm not sure myself... and I welcome additions, corrections, etc.

[Update:] Reading through the comments I see that most objections to the hypothesis center on the motives I listed, and the objection is that these goals are unlikely to be accomplished this way and could even backfire. E.g. -- "culling the herd" -- only a small percentage of the "unwanted" population would be removed. Likewise eliminating Dem votes; and this is hardly punishment for Blanco and Nagin since they're gaining massive media attention and an excellent forum and opportunity to attack the Repubs.

The motive that most observers ascribe, and few seem to argue with, is that delay provided photo ops for Bush making his big entrance, bringing the cavalry.

But I haven't really featured that one. Why? He could have done that on Tuesday, if he'd wanted to -- got both himself and the military there. So it doesn't explain the delay.

So now I'm wondering whether the most likely motives are:

1) demoralization of the poor/black/Democratic-voting population; and

2) revenge on Dem voters for electing a Dem governor and a black, reformist, GOP-refugee mayor.

After all, we know that demoralization is part of warfare, and the Bush administration is engaging in class warfare, as evidenced by more pieces of legislation than I can list. We also know that they are very vindictive -- most recent example the demotion of Bunnatine Greenhouse, diaried here.


Daily Kos: Intentional withholding of aid? : the evidence (w/ poll) [updated with lots of links]


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