[Editor’s Note: If you Googled “Blackwater Katrina Photos,” then the misleading picture you want is here, but the reality is here.]
Chapter 2 - Pool of Tears
The PSC debate grows curiouser by the moment. Everything up is down, right is wrong, and—whatever your views in the debate, it becomes accepted practice to engage in the worst sorts of lies if you claim a higher aim. Nowhere is this more evident than Katrina.
No rational mind debates that the destruction and suffering which came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was heartrending. Pool of Tears is apropos indeed. But while far more calamitous natural disasters have befallen the
There is certainly enough finger-pointing and partisan blame to be leveled against government at all levels and against officeholders from both major parties. But thoughtful consideration of the successes and the colossal failures of the Katrina relief effort—as well as preparations to better respond to the next national disaster, whatever it may be—are only harmed by the wild rumors that those with an agenda spout at every opportunity.
And that’s where Blackwater comes in. Nowhere is the topsy-turvy nature of the PSC debate, and the overtime manufacture of rumors, more brilliantly illustrated than in the delightful urban myths of Blackwater in Katrina.
For example, Jeremy Scahill breathlessly reports:
Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. ... They all carried automatic assault weapons and had guns strapped to their legs. Their flak jackets were covered with pouches for extra ammunition.
His good pal Chris Hedges likes to expand the riff a little:
The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of
Scary stuff, huh. The norm is then to couple these “facts” with stories of Blackwater guys breaking down doors, seizing weapons, shooting numerous people for no reason and, for the real zealots, tales of Blackwater rounding up everyone who opposed it and shipping those “true Americans” off to Haliburton-operated FEMA concentration camps for mind control imprisonment. Whoo-boy.
For today, we’ll stick with the “facts” quoted above. Credit where it’s due, these guys spin a tale that seems both plausible and sinister. Almost invariably, it is coupled with the photo below, which is now semi-iconic, at least in this little PSC microcosm:
Gee, they ARE carrying guns. And they DO have some black clothes on. Everything must be true!
Yet, where are the flak jackets? Do a few pieces of not-matched black clothing constitute a “trademarked black uniform?” Those “automatic assault weapons”—why, those appear to be regular old carbines (a/k/a rifles) used by police and law enforcement everywhere.
Ah, but the point must be that these Blackwater thugs had guns at all. They look so mean. Surely there was no sense in this?
Even Mr. Scahill acknowledges that the Blackwater guys were there under the authority of
Maybe, just maybe, were these guys going into an unknown environment well prepared?
Still, it had to be overreaction, no?
Actually, the gear the Blackwater guys in the “smoking gun” photo are wearing is the same thing you saw on many first responders that ugly first week. Solely by way of example, here is how the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources folks were geared up those first few days:
But that can’t be reality can it? Looking at more photographic records must disprove this! Let’s try the one below. It captures one of those machine-gun toting, out-of-control, no-supervision Blackwater mercenaries in khaki (his trademarked black must have been at the cleaners), clearly overequipped for the situation (pay no attention to the man on the lefthand side of the photo, carrying the same type carbine, he is of no import):OK, so maybe a few Keystone hacks in uniform were armed as were the Blackwater guys, but not the true professionals right? Blackwater, being so “heavily armed” probably outgunned everyone, right? Like, say, the National Guard:
Or the state police:
Perhaps all is not as it seems in the soundbite discourse over PSC’s.
Stop back by sometime, we’ll chat more about Blackwater and about
“It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it's rather hard to understand!” … “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are!”