Friday, July 28, 2006

Baghdad on the Mississippi

Human nature never disappoints he who expects the worst:
"My neighborhood was surrounded today.

By the same Humvees, troops and large-caliber machine guns that surround villages in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roadblocks were put in position across streets, and men in camouflage helmets and bulletproof vests have started searching house-to-house.

The worst part is, I welcome it.

For the last months, increasingly large gangs of feral animals from across America have begun to congregate here in New Orleans, knowing how easy it is to hide among mile after mile of crushed, abandoned, open homes. The word is out that the New Orleans Police Department is in disarray.

The word is correct."
Jim Gabour, a photojournalist in New Orleans, writes a mournful update on the situation in his town in the piece, "A Letter From New Orleans-So That's a Glock 9"--and it's uglier than you could imagine. Gangs of opportunistic lice have been forming their own death squads and criminal enterprises in the carcass of America's worst natural disaster. So don't be dismayed that the richest, most powerful nation ever to squat astride the world is fumbling incompetently with Iraqi lives. It's not only Iraq that poses a challenge too great for the soporific mind in the Oval Office:
"The rest of the world thinks the crisis in New Orleans is over and that things are getting back to normal. Or, they are sick of hearing stories about what they perceive as a city inhabited by whiners. I guess I am one of those whiners.

But allow me:

Our water is completely cut off every other day. Hot water tanks empty and shudder and boiling fluid spits from open faucets until lines fill again. The rest of the time water pressure is so low that fire hydrants are all but non-functional. Helicopters with bags are now the main source of fire dousing.

EIGHTY-FIVE MILLION GALLONS – the City confirmed the official figure - of water are now lost EVERY DAY through cracked pipes, seeping into the soil. The City is below sea level already, with the water table right at the soil top, so this much additional flow is causing many of the remaining undamaged houses to sink and topple from their foundations and piers.

What water does get through to homes is undrinkable, doctored with so much chlorine to rid it of bacteria that a glass of water is almost literally a glass of bleach.

Bottled water services are understaffed and overwhelmed by demand for drinkable water, so numerous, occasionally dangerous home remedies have been concocted to make tap water palatable.

Electricity is available to only 40 percent of city. I am lucky and have access to power at my own home. But even here the juice pops out three to four times a day, causing multiple fires when it surges back on. An incredible commercial museum of irreplaceable Mexican Day of the Dead artifacts, six blocks away, caught fire in just such a surge night before last."
NOLA has become a free fire zone, where anything goes, while the rest of the country yawns and goes back to its diddling:
"More stoplights have come back, but between lost relief workers crashing into them, and frequent gangster car chases, at least a quarter of the lights have been re-damaged and still do not work. Half the missing street signs, one-way signs and stop signs in the City have not been replaced.

An especially frightening phenomenon: The gangs have been switching one-way signs' directions to confuse both the cops and nearby residents, to keep people out of neighborhoods where they are marshalling their forces and hiding their loot. There is, if you obey the signs, no way to get into certain blocks of empty houses. And there the Bad Guys congregate, invisible.

They use stolen trucks and SUVs for their commerce, and they prowl rebuilding neighborhoods at night, looting the same houses three and four times.

They wait for locals to install new appliances or piping, or doors and windows, in their gutted houses. And then, when the residents go back to their temporary homes at night, the looters run free, taking whatever they find.

In the morning the rebuilders return, of course, to find that, once again, they have lost everything."
Read the rest at The Digital Journalist.

(Also posted on my own site.)


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