"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Drowning Government

In a May 25, 2001 interview, Grover Norquist told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

Norquist got his wish. Democracy - and at least several thousand people, most of them Democrats, black, and poor - drowned last week in the basin of New Orleans. Our nation failed in its response, because for most of the past 25 years conservatives who don't believe in governance have run our government.

As incompetent as George W. Bush has been in his response to the disaster in New Orleans, he wasn't the one who began the process that inevitably led to that disaster spiraling out of control.

That would be Ronald Reagan.

It was Reagan who began the deliberate and intentional destruction of the United States of America when he famously cracked (and then incessantly repeated): "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Reagan, like George W. Bush after him, failed to understand that when people come together into community, and then into nationhood, that they organize themselves to protect themselves from predators, both human and corporate, both domestic and foreign. This form of organization is called government.

But the Reagan/Bush ideologues don't "believe" in government, in anything other than a military and police capacity. Government should punish, they agree, but it should never nurture, protect, or defend individuals. Nurturing and protecting, they suggest, is the more appropriate role of religious institutions, private charities, families, and - perhaps most important - corporations.

Let the corporations handle your old-age pension. Let the corporations decide how much protection we and our environment need from their toxics. Let the corporations decide what we're paid. Let the corporations decide what doctor we can see, when, and for what purpose.

This is the exact opposite of the vision for which the Founders of this nation fought and died. When Thomas Jefferson changed John Locke's "Life, liberty, and private property" to "Live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," it was the first time in the history of the world that a newly founded nation had written the word "happiness" into its founding document. The phrase "promote the general welfare" - another revolutionary concept - first appeared in the preamble to our Constitution in 1787.

Talk show cons and TV talking head cons and political cons - both Republican and DLC Democratic - repeat the mantra of "smaller government," and Americans nod their heads in agreement, not realizing the hidden agenda at work.

Reagan was the first American president to actually preach that his own job was a bad thing. He once said, "Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." One can only assume he was speaking of himself and his fellow Republicans, and certainly the current Congress's devotion to the interests of inherited wealth and large corporations displays how badly his philosophy has corrupted a role so noble it drew idealists like Jefferson, Lincoln, and the two Roosevelts.

But cons can't imagine anybody wanting to devote their lives to the service of their nation. The highest calling in their minds is to make profit.

As Reagan said: "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away."

This mind-set - that the only purpose for service in government is to set up the interests of business - may account for why not a single military-eligible member of the Bush or Cheney families has enlisted in their parents' "Noble Cause," whereas all four sons of Franklin Roosevelt joined and each was decorated - on merit - for bravery in the deadly conflict of World War II.

There are, after all, no reasons in the conservative worldview for government service other than self-enrichment. As Ronald Reagan said: "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

What they don't say is that the reason they want to remove government in its protective capacity is because they can then make an enormous amount of money, and have a lot of control over people's lives, when they privatize former governmental functions. They want a power vacuum, so corporations and the rich can step in. And with no limits on the inheritability of riches after the "death tax" is ended, wealth vast enough to take over the government can emerge.

Given this conservative world-view, it shouldn't surprise us that in 2001 George W. Bush appointed his 2000 presidential campaign manager (Joseph Albaugh) as head of FEMA, or that two years later Albaugh would have left FEMA to start a consulting firm to marry corporations with Iraq "reconstruction" federal dollars, and put in charge of FEMA his assistant (and old college roommate), an equally unqualified former failed executive with the International Arabian Horse Association.

It also shouldn't surprise us that although Dick Cheney has stayed on vacation in Wyoming through all of this, his company, Halliburton, has already obtained a multi-million-dollar contract to profit from Hurricane Katrina's cleanup.

It's not that these conservatives are incompetent or stupid. When their interests are at stake, they can be very efficient. Consider when Hurricane Charley hit Jeb Bush's state - a year earlier than Katrina - on the second weekend of August, 2004, just months before the elections. The White House website notes:

As of noon Monday [the day after the hurricane left], in response to Hurricane Frances, FEMA and other Federal response agencies have taken the following actions:

-- About one hundred trucks of water and 280 trucks of ice are present or will arrive in the Jacksonville staging area today. 900,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat are on site in Jacksonville, ready to be distributed.

-- Over 7,000 cases of food (e.g., vegetables, fruits, cheese, ham, and turkey) are scheduled to arrive in Winter Haven today. Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) are on the ground and setting up comfort stations. FEMA community relations personnel will coordinate with DMATs to assist victims. -- Urban Search and Rescue Teams are completing reconnaissance missions in coordination with state officials.

-- FEMA is coordinating with the Department of Energy and the state to ensure that necessary fuel supplies can be distributed throughout the state, with a special focus on hospitals and other emergency facilities that are running on generators.

-- The Army Corps of Engineers will soon begin its efforts to provide tarps to tens of thousands of owners of homes and buildings that have seen damage to their roofs.

-- The National Guard has called up 4,100 troops in Florida, as well as thousands in other nearby states to assist in the distribution of supplies and in preparation for any flooding.

-- The Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Defense together have organized 300 medical personnel to be on standby. Medical personnel will begin deployment to Florida tomorrow.

-- FEMA is coordinating public information messages with Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina so that evacuees from Florida can be informed when it is safe to return. -- In addition to federal personnel already in place to respond to Hurricane Charley, 1,000 additional community relations personnel are being deployed to Atlanta for training and further assignment in Florida.

All of this aid was vitally important to Bush family political fortunes in the upcoming election of 2004. Disaster relief checks were in the mail within a week. In just the first thirteen days after Hurricane Charley hit Florida, the White House web site notes that the Bush administration had succeeded in:

-- Registering approximately 136,000 assistance applicants
-- Approving over 13,500 applications for more than $59 million in housing assistance

-- Establishing 12 disaster recovery centers, which have assisted nearly 19,000 disaster victims

-- Deploying medical teams that have seen nearly 3,000 patients

-- Disbursing 1.2 million liters of water, 8.1 million pounds of ice, and 2 million meals and snacks

-- Delivering over 20,000 rolls of plastic sheeting and nearly 170 generators

-- Treating more than 2,900 individuals through FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, supporting damaged hospitals

That, of course, was for a Republican State, with a Republican governor, the crony brother of the President. Republicans needed to act like they cared about governing, because they wanted people to vote for them three months later.

But now, with no election looming and with death stalking a Democratic State with a Democratic Governor unrelated to the President, we once again see the Reagan philosophy held ascendant. Bush's call to action? "Send cash to the Red Cross." One of those "thousand points of light" non-governmental organizations his father told us about.

As Brian Gurney, a listener from California, noted: "You can't govern if you don't believe in government."

But you sure can make a buck, and take care of your brother, your campaign manager, and your vice president's company.

Thom Hartmann (thom at www.thomhartmann.com ) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, host of a daily progressive talk radio show syndicated nationally by Air America Radio, and host of a morning progressive talk show on KPOJ in Portland, Oregon. www.thomhartmann.com/commondreams.shtml His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "The Edison Gene", and "What Would Jefferson Do?"

Remember Douglas Feith?

Top War Profiteer Doug Feith Retires Wealthy

Douglas Feith, the recently resigned undersecretary of defense, who just happened to be one of the main people who for years on end advocated for a war in Iraq, and who in large part developed the disastrous policies for the war in Iraq, planned ahead for his retirement and will not be seen in the unemployment line.

On January 27, 2005, the Washington Post announced: "A principal architect of the Defense Department's postwar strategy in Iraq ... will leave his post this summer."

The announcement came after years of rumors that top administration officials had decided that Feith had to go, but were dissuaded by Donald Rumsfeld who argued that his ouster would be viewed as an admission that the war in Iraq was a mistake. But the administration had definitely reduced Feith's authority over the past
2 years.

In announcing his departure, Feith claimed he was leaving for personal reasons, citing the desire to spend more time with his children. "For the last four years, they haven't seen me a lot," he told the Post.

He used the standard administration exit line. Sort of like the noticeably absent in light of Katrina, ex-FEMA director, Joe Albaugh, who left his job to spend time with his family. Joe was Bush's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and his campaign manager in 2000. Once Bush took office, Joe accepted a gig as director of FEMA.

Like Feith, when he announced his resignation, Joe said, "Now I am going to take the opportunity to spend some time with my wife and children."

I sure hope Doug spends more time with his kids than Joe did, because judging from hindsight, Joe should have been a psychic. He somehow knew at the beginning of March 2003, that he should quit FEMA and go into the business of securing reconstruction contracts in Iraq for wealthy clients before the first bomb was dropped. And his family could not have enjoyed much quality time at all with Joe, being he opened up New Bridge Strategies for business within a few short weeks of leaving the White House.

At the time, Josh Marshall, who writes a column for the Washington newspaper, The Hill, said that he believed that each new piece of legislation needs a catchy title, and came up with title "The Bush Crony Full-Employment Act of 2003," for the $87 billion allocated for rebuilding Iraq.

According to Josh, New Bridge was actually an outgrowth of Haley Barbour's lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers. Josh says he reached that conclusion after he learned that both firms were located in the same office space. And also because Lanny Griffith was the CEO of New Bridge and Ed Rogers was the vice president. Sounds like a logical conclusion to me.

When the company began, the New Bridges official web site said, "the opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq." That phrasing was quickly changed.

How could it get any sweeter than this? Joe quits FEMA, moves into the office space of one of the most successful and powerful GOP lobbying firms in the country and starts advertising for clients who want to win reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

First Brother, Neil Bush, also jumped on this money train and landed a $60,000 a year consultant contract with a principal in New Bridge. According to Neil's testimony in his divorce deposition in March 2004, in return for his salary, he took phone messages for about 3 hours a week.

However, 3 people contacted by the Financial Times of London reported seeing letters written by Neil that recommend business ventures promoted by New Bridges in the Middle East. So we had Neil being paid an annual fee to "help companies secure contracts in Iraq," the Times reported.

I'm not too worried about Doug Feith ending up in the unemployment lines because following in Joe's footsteps, Feith and his law partner stayed very busy behind the scenes planning for Feith's retirement when it came time to leave the White House.

The Iraqi International Law Group

Before Feith was inducted into the Bush administration, he was the Feith half of the Feith & Zell, law firm in Washington. His partner, Marc Zell, simply renamed the firm, Zell, Goldberg & Co, when they decided to set up shop to start cashing in on the Iraq contracting business.

According to The Hill, Zell, was helping with international marketing for a concern called the Iraqi International Law Group. Billing itself as a group of lawyers and businessmen interested in helping investors in Iraq, the venture was run by Ahmed Chalabi's nephew Salem, who doubled as a legal adviser to Iraq's governing council, of which his uncle was a member.

How powerful was Feith in awarding contracts? Extremely. According to a June, 2004, by an article in Time Magazine entitled, "The Paper Trail: Did Cheney Okay a Deal? Feith is the person who approved the controversial no-bid contract for Halliburton in Iraq.

Time Magazine quoted an email sent by Stephen Browning of the Army Corps of Engineers, that said the contract for construction of oil pipelines was approved by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith "contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP,s [Vice President,s] office.

Browning, later said in an interview that he wrote the memo after he and retired Lt Gen. Jay Garner met with Feith. According to Browning, Feith told him that he had already informed Cheney's office. The email was dated March 5, 2003, and Halliburton was awarded the contract three days later with no bids tendered by any other companies.

If he could pull this off for Halliburton, what he could do for the IILG, goes without saying. According to its web site, the IILG was made up of lawyers and businessmen who claimed to have, "dared to take the lead in bringing private sector investment and experience" to the war-torn country and offered to "be your Professional Gateway to the New Iraq."

The way it was set up, nephew Salem was charge of the IILG and Feith's partner, Zell, was in charge of international marketing. The IILG's website claimed that it was the only firm worth consulting. "At IILG, our task is to provide foreign enterprise with the information and tools it needs to enter the emerging Iraq and to succeed," it said.

"Our clients number among the largest corporations and institutions on the planet" it said, "They have chosen IILG to provide them with real-time, on the ground intelligence they cannot get from inexperienced local firms or from overburdened coalition and local government officials."

Imagine that, the top firms on the planet.

"Many firms outside the country purport to counsel companies about doing business in Iraq," the web site read. "The simple fact is: you cannot adequately advise about Iraq unless you are here day in and day out, working closely with officials at the CPA, the newly constituted governing council and the few functioning civilian ministries [oil, labor and social welfare, etc]."

The truth is, the IILG was nothing more than another one of many front companies, in a web-like profiteering network, that was specifically set up to funnel tax dollars through Iraq and back into the pockets of the Bush gang.

And talk about blatant. When the company was set up, its website was not registered to Salem Chalabi; it was registered under the name of Marc Zell, located at the very same address as Zell, Goldberg & Co.

According to Salem, quoted in the National Journal, Zell was IILG's "marketing consultant" and had been contacting law firms in Washington and New York to ask if they had clients interested in doing business in Iraq.

This tied in with an announcement by Zell, Goldberg & Co, that it had set up a "task force" dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the "recently ended" war in Iraq, and to assist companies "in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."

Of course Zell made no mention of the firm's ties to the infamous nephew Salem or the IILG. Zell said it was working with the Federal Market Group, an organization which specialized in helping companies win government contracts, which boasted of having a
90% success rate.

Considering all of its boasting about high level connections, IILG was also rather modest about the family ties of its founder. The website did not mention that he was the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi even once. Geez, I wonder why.

Implementing The Iraq Profiteering Scheme

Feith had been pushing for the ouster of Saddam for years. In 1998, him and Richard Perle sent a letter to President Bill Clinton proposing that the US team up with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to get rid of Saddam. Clinton refused.

As we all know, Ahmed had strong support within the Pentagon. In fact, two of his staunchest supporters were Feith, and Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board.

Perle, an assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration, was appointed by his old crony, Donald Rumsfeld, to lead the board in 2001. Its a well-known fact that the board exerts tremendous influence when it comes to war policies.

As soon as Bush took office, Perle, Feith and Ahmed Chalabi all started working diligently together to get the war in Iraq off the ground, with Ahmed providing bogus intelligence about WMDs and bragging about a secret network within Iraq which could take over running the country after the invasion.

"There was a close personal bond, too, between Chalabi and Wolfowitz and Perle, dating back many years," according to Seymour Hersh in the May 5, 2003 the New Yorker.

"Their relationship deepened after the Bush Administration took office, and Chalabi's ties extended to others in the Administration, including Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy; and I. Lewis Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff," Hersh wrote.

"With the Pentagon's support, Chalabi's group worked to put defectors with compelling stories in touch with reporters in the United States and Europe," Hersh said, "The resulting articles had dramatic accounts of advances in weapons of mass destruction or told of ties to terrorist groups. In some cases, these stories were disputed in analyses by the C.I.A." he noted.

Almost immediately after September 11th, "the I.N.C. began to publicize the stories of defectors who claimed that they had information connecting Iraq to the attacks, Hersh said.

For example, in a October 14, 2001, interview on PBS "Frontline," Sabah Khodada, an Iraqi Army captain, said that the 9/11 attack "was conducted by people who were trained by Saddam," and that Iraq had a program to instruct terrorists in the art of hijacking. Another defector, who was identified as a retired lieutenant general in the Iraqi intelligence service, said that in 2000 he witnessed Arab students being given lessons in hijacking on a Boeing 707 parked at an Iraqi training camp near the town of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad.

Feith then fed this type of INC data into a fabrication mill operating at top speed known as the Office of Special Plans and some of the information processed through the OSP was not even shared with official intelligence agencies. In many instances it was passed on to the National Security Council, Cheney, and Bush without having been vetted by anyone besides this group of nitwits.

And they had to know that much of the information was false. A former high-level intelligence official told Hersh that American Special Forces units had been sent into Iraq in mid-March 2003, before the start of the war, to investigate sites suspected of being missile or chemical- and biological-weapon storage depots. "They came up with nothing," the official told Hersh. "Never found a single Scud."

A 46 page report, based on a 15-month investigation, titled, Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship, was released on October 21, 2004, which said, "There is ample evidence that the Bush Administration had a predisposition to overthrow Saddam Hussein before the 9/11 attacks."

The report accused Feith's office of compiling "selective reinterpretations of intelligence" that went beyond the views of American spy agencies in order to help make the case for an invasion of Iraq.

The report concluded that Feith and his staff were convinced that a relationship existed between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and that the office had advanced that perspective by trying to change the intelligence community's views and "by taking its interpretation straight to policymakers."

"That alleged relationship," the report said, "coupled with the assertion that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), was the major argument presented by the Administration for invading Iraq."

Relying on selective reporting, irrespective of credibility and reliability, Feith's briefing concluded the following:

. Iraq had "more than a decade of numerous contacts" with al Qaeda;

. there were "multiple areas of cooperation" between Iraq and al Qaeda;

. Iraq and al Qaeda had a "shared interest and pursuit of WMD;" and

. there was "[o]ne indication of Iraq coordination with al Qaeda specifically related to 9/11," presumably a reference to the alleged (but doubted by the IC) Atta meeting in Prague.

The report states that there are no known intelligence reports, other than those provided by Feith's office, that could explain where this view originated. "A pattern emerges of senior administration officials exaggerating the extent of the relationship in public statements which more closely reflect the Feith analysis" than those of the intelligence community, it said.

As an obvious example, the report said Feith's office repeatedly asserted in the months leading up to the war that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in the spring before the September 11 attacks, an account that the CIA dismissed because evidence existed that Atta was elsewhere at the time.

And in at least one case, according to the report, the Pentagon office included the purported meeting in a report sent to the White House, but omitted it from the version of the same report sent to the CIA.

The meeting was then constantly referred to by senior administration officials, and especially Cheney, as evidence of a possible Saddam link to 9/11. In fact, Cheney said the Feith analysis was the "best source of information," according to the report.

However, not only had the alleged meeting never been "known," at the time of the briefing to the White House, the Intelligence Community was skeptical in late spring 2002 that such a meeting ever took place. Yet in September of 2002, Feith called the meeting a "known contact" in a crucial misstatement about the intelligence, since it indicated a link which did not exist.

"The professional objectivity and independence required in the assessment of the Iraq-Al Qaeda relationship, a major reason given for going to war, were compromised to support a predetermined policy -- to present the government of Saddam Hussein as a serious threat to the security of the United States" the report wrote.

Finally, relative to the attacks, the final 911 Commission Report itself said that the "Intelligence Community has no credible information that Baghdad had foreknowledge of the 11 September attacks or any other al-Qaida strike."

Inventing bogus intelligence was bad enough but during the pre-war planning, the military experts were systematically excluded from participating in that process as well. In the end, Feith and the OSP had so grossly underestimated the Iraqi resistance that it caused General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion in Iraq, to call Feith "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," according Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack.

Feith and the Defense Policy Board

The DPB is a group of 30 people, who for the most part were chosen by Rumsfeld and Feith, that advises officials on whether to go to war or not. Many of its members are literally making a fortune off a war which they had been promoting for years. At least 9 members have ties to companies that won more than $76 billion in defense contracts during 2001 and 2002.

Feith excluded many top Middle East experts from the State Department from playing any meaningful role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Feith's office and the CPA were tasked with awarding reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

So this was another sweet setup. Feith was deciding who would get contracts, at the same time that his middleman law partner, Zel, was hustling up business deals in Iraq for rich clients. Of course, for members of the Bush war profiteering club, this was merely business as usual.

Among the firms that have profited the most, are those with consultants serving on the DPB, many of which were hand-picked by Feith.

Some of the construction and defense companies with direct ties to DPB members include Boeing, Bectel, TRW, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton, along with smaller players like Symantec Corp, Technology Strategies and Alliance Corp, and Polycom Inc.

How much money was up for grabs when it came to doling out defense contracts? For starters, during the major combat phase of the war, the US military launched over
800 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi forces, according to figures released by the US Navy.

At a price of about $569,000 each, replacing those missiles no doubt generated a lofty amount for Raytheon Systems, the Pentagon contractor for Tomahawks. Close to a 100 more missiles were fired during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Occupation forces later launched over 19,000 guided munitions in Iraq, most of which came from the US, according to a report on Operation Iraqi Freedom published by the US Central Command Air Forces on 30 April 2003.

There was a $10.3 billion proposal for the development of a missile defense program in Bush's 2005 defense spending budget, of which Lockheed Martin would be heavily involved in, according to a report from the World Policy Institute.

Northrop Grumman, the country's third largest defense contractor, secured contracts to build new weapons systems such as the unmanned predator drones. The firm is the prime contractor for the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Bush proposed $12 billion for UAV development for the years between 2004 - 2009. Northrop earned a company record of $11.1 billion in defense contracts in 2003.

And Bush is funneling our tax dollars to known crooks. Northrop's Vinnell subsidiary was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi Army, even though Northrop was forced to pay $191.7 million in penalties over the previous 4 years.

In less than a year after he took office, Bush got rid of regulations implemented by President Clinton that barred contracts for companies convicted or penalized for crimes during the previous 3 years. Clinton strengthened the rules before leaving office, and said that repeated violations would make a company ineligible for new contracts. Bush suspended the regulations within his first 3 months in office. By December 2001, he had revoked them entirely.

Who Else Is Raking In War Profits?

Lets look at a couple members of the Defense Policy Board. Former CIA Director, James Woolsey, is a prime example of how the revolving door never stops spinning for this gang of war profiteers. After he left the CIA, Woolsey remained a senior advisor on intelligence and national security issues, and specifically the war in Iraq. When the war began, he worked for two private companies that did business in Iraq, and was a partner in a company that invested in firms that provide security and anti-terrorism services.

At the time, Woolsey was a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. In that role, less than 2 months after the war began, he was a featured speaker at a May 2003 conference titled "Companies on the Ground: The Challenge for Business in Rebuilding Iraq," at which 80 corporate executives paid $1,100 to attend. He spoke about the many potential business opportunities in Iraq and about Bush's decision to steer reconstruction contracts to US firms.

With Woolsey in a Vice President position, Booz Allen became a subcontractor for a $75-million telecommunications contract in Iraq. Of course in true Dick Cheney style, Woolsey denies any involvement in that work. But then, it really does not matter whether he was directly involved or not because as VP of the company he would get a cut of the profits resulting from any contracts the firm enters into.

Soon after 9/11, Woolsey wrote an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal saying a foreign state had aided Al Qaeda in preparing the attacks and named Iraq as the leading culprit. In October 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz sent Woolsey to the UK to hunt for evidence to link Saddam to the attacks.

Before the war, Woolsey was up to his neck in war planning. In addition to sitting on the DPB and giving direct advice to Rumsfeld, he was a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an organization set up by the WH in 2002 to help garner public support for going to war in Iraq.

They actually put together a promotion team to rally support for the war funded with our tax dollars no less. Tell me this scheme wasn't well planned and directed.

Before the war, another DPB member, Margaret Bartel, managed the funds channeled to Amhed Chalabi's exile group, the INC, including funds for its bogus prewar intelligence program on WMDs. Once it began, Bartel went on to head a consulting firm which helped investors find Iraqi partners.

Bartel established Global Positioning and told the LA Times that the firm's primary purpose was to "introduce clients to the Iraqi market, help them find potential Iraqi partners, set up meetings with government officials . and provide on-the-ground support for their business interests." So here was another sweet set up.

As for the chairman of the DPB, Richard Perle was a "special government employee," subject to federal ethics rules, including the rule that bars the chairman from using his public office for private gain.

Perle decided to resign as chairman after a little ethical problem came under scrutiny in March 2003. It was discovered that at the same time that he was advising the Pentagon on war policies, Perle had been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome opposition by the Department of Defense and the FBI to the firms proposed sale to a Chinese company.

The agencies objected to the sale citing national security and law enforcement problems, because it would put Global's fiber-optic network, used by the US government, under Chinese ownership.

According to a legal notice that Global was preparing to file in bankruptcy court at the time, Perle was set to make $725,000, including $600,000 if the government approved the sale of the firm to the joint venture of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte, a company controlled by the Singapore government.

Perle was quick to pipe up to reporters and make the distinction that he was not involved in the lobbying of Defense Department officials, that his job was merely to advise Global on the process of gaining approval. That sure put my mind at ease.

In the end, I don't think its likely that Feith will end up in the welfare lines. Due to careful post-White House planning, I think its safe to say that Feith and his band of cronies will enjoy financial benefits for life, just so long as their never-ending war policies are carried on by their successor.

Evelyn Pringle epringle05@yahoo.com

Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government

Report: U.S. Government Intervenes in Stock Market

"Move Over, Adam Smith: The Visible Hand of Uncle Sam"

A major Canadian financial management firm that a year ago published a compilation of evidence of central bank manipulation of the gold price has just done the same in regard to the U.S. stock market and has reached a similar conclusion.

The new report is titled "Move Over, Adam Smith: The Visible Hand of Uncle Sam," and has been published by Sprott Asset Management of Toronto. It was written by the firm's president, John P. Embry, and his assistant, Andrew Hepburn, and concludes that the U.S. government has intervened to support the stock market so many times that "what apparently started as a stopgap measure may have morphed into a serious moral hazard situation, with market manipulation an endemic feature of the U.S. stock market."

The new report relies largely on reports of news organizations and the essays and research papers of economics academics that, as might be expected, have not been well-publicized in the United States. But some of these reports have been circulated by the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee over the years.

The Sprott report does not maintain that the government should never intervene in the stock market; it recognizes that certain emergencies may argue strongly for temporary intervention, such as the 1987 stock market crash and the terrorist attacks of September 2001. But, the Sprott report notes, frequent surreptitious intervention, conducted through intermediaries, the government's favored financial houses in New York, gives those intermediaries enormous advantages over ordinary investors. Frequent intervention, the Sprott report adds also makes it impossible to distinguish between national emergencies and political expediency.

The Sprott report concludes:

"Given the available information, we do not believe there can be any doubt that the U.S. government has intervened to support the stock market. Too much credible information exists to deny this. Yet virtually no one ever mentions government intervention publicly, preferring instead to pretend as if such activities have never taken place and never would.

"It is time that market participants, the media and, most of all, the government acknowledge what should be blatantly obvious to anyone who reviews the public record on the matter: These markets have been interfered with on numerous occasions. Our primary concern is that what apparently started as a stopgap measure may have morphed into a serious moral hazard situation, with market manipulation an endemic feature of the U.S. stock market.

"We have not taken a position on the wisdom of intervention in this paper, largely because exceptional circumstances could argue for it. In many respects, for instance, the apparent rescue after the 1987 crash and the planned intervention in the wake of September 11 were very defensible. Administered in extremely small doses and with the most stringent safeguards and transparency, market stabilization could be justified.

"But a policy enacted in secret and knowingly withheld from the body politic has created a huge disconnect between those knowledgeable about such activities and the majority of the public, who have no clue whatsoever.

"There can be no doubt that the firms responsible for implementing government interventions enjoy an enviable position unavailable to other investors. Whether they have been indemnified against potential losses or simply made privy to non-public government policy, the major Wall Street firms evidently responsible for preventing plunges no longer must compete on anywhere near a level playing field. It is most unfair that the immensely powerful have been further ensconced in their perched positions and thus effectively insulated from the competitive market forces ostensibly present in our society.

"In addition to creating a privileged class, the manipulation also has little democratic legitimacy in the sense that the citizenry has not given its consent. This has tangible ramifications. By not informing the public, successive U.S. administrations have employed a dangerous policy response that is subject to the worst possible abuse. In this regard, the line between national necessity and political expediency has no doubt been perilously blurred.

"We can only urge people to see what the evidence indicates and debate what is and ought to be a very contentious matter. The time for such a public discussion is long overdue."

By Business Wire
09/06/05 -- MANCHESTER, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

The Sprott report can be found in Adobe Acrobat format at the Sprott Internet site here: http://www.sprott.com/pdf/pressrelease/TheVisibleHand.pdf

It also can be found at the GATA Internet site here: http://www.gata.org/SprottReportTheVisibleHand.pdf

Copyright © 2005 Business Wire.

Louisiana Is A City...

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."
Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”

Politician after politician — Republican and Democrat alike — has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were — congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded — even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.

E-mail: KOlbermann@msnbc.com

Chertoff Don't Read National Geographic

Monday, September 5, 2005; Posted: 2:55 p.m. EDT (18:55 GMT)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff talks with reporters Saturday during a news conference.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.


National Geographic Oct. 2004
Gone With The Water

The Louisiana bayou, hardest working marsh in America, is in big trouble—with dire consequences for residents, the nearby city of New Orleans, and seafood lovers everywhere.

It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

"The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours—coming from the worst direction," says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast. Suhayda is sitting in a lakefront restaurant on an actual August afternoon sipping lemonade and talking about the chinks in the city's hurricane armor. "I don't think people realize how precarious we are,"
Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. "Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse."

The chances of such a storm hitting New Orleans in any given year are slight, but the danger is growing. Climatologists predict that powerful storms may occur more frequently this century, while rising sea level from global warming is putting low-lying coasts at greater risk. "It's not if it will happen," says University of New Orleans geologist Shea Penland. "It's when."

Yet just as the risks of a killer storm are rising, the city's natural defenses are quietly melting away. From the Mississippi border to the Texas state line, Louisiana is losing its protective fringe of marshes and barrier islands faster than any place in the U.S. Since the 1930s some 1,900 square miles (4,900 square kilometers) of coastal wetlands—a swath nearly the size of Delaware or almost twice that of Luxembourg—have vanished beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Despite nearly half a billion dollars spent over the past decade to stem the tide, the state continues to lose about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of land each year, roughly one acre every 33 minutes.

A cocktail of natural and human factors is putting the coast under. Delta soils naturally compact and sink over time, eventually giving way to open water unless fresh layers of sediment offset the subsidence. The Mississippi's spring floods once maintained that balance, but the annual deluges were often disastrous. After a devastating flood in 1927, levees were raised along the river and lined with concrete, effectively funneling the marsh-building sediments to the deep waters of the Gulf. Since the 1950s engineers have also cut more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of canals through the marsh for petroleum exploration and ship traffic. These new ditches sliced the wetlands into a giant jigsaw puzzle, increasing erosion and allowing lethal doses of salt water to infiltrate brackish and freshwater marshes.

While such loss hits every bayou-loving Louisianan right in the heart, it also hits nearly every U.S. citizen right in the wallet. Louisiana has the hardest working wetlands in America, a watery world of bayous, marshes, and barrier islands that either produces or transports more than a third of the nation's oil and a quarter of its natural gas, and ranks second only to Alaska in commercial fish landings. As wildlife habitat, it makes Florida's Everglades look like a petting zoo by comparison.

Such high stakes compelled a host of unlikely bedfellows—scientists, environmental groups, business leaders, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—to forge a radical plan to protect what's left. Drafted by the Corps a year ago, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) project was initially estimated to cost up to 14 billion dollars over 30 years, almost twice as much as current efforts to save the Everglades. But the Bush Administration balked at the price tag, supporting instead a plan to spend up to two billion dollars over the next ten years to fund the most promising projects. Either way, Congress must authorize the money before work can begin.

To glimpse the urgency of the problem afflicting Louisiana, one need only drive 40 minutes southeast of New Orleans to the tiny bayou village of Shell Beach. Here, for the past 70 years or so, a big, deeply tanned man with hands the size of baseball gloves has been catching fish, shooting ducks, and selling gas and bait to anyone who can find his end-of-the-road marina. Today Frank "Blackie" Campo's ramshackle place hangs off the end of new Shell Beach. The old Shell Beach, where Campo was born in 1918, sits a quarter mile away, five feet beneath the rippling waves. Once home to some 50 families and a naval air station during World War II, the little village is now "ga'an pecan," as Campo says in the local patois. Gone forever.

Life in old Shell Beach had always been a tenuous existence. Hurricanes twice razed the community, sending houses floating through the marsh. But it wasn't until the Corps of Engineers dredged a 500-foot-wide (150-meter-wide) ship channel nearby in 1968 that its fate was sealed. The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, known as "Mr. Go," was supposed to provide a shortcut for freighters bound for New Orleans, but it never caught on. Maybe two ships use the channel on a given day, but wakes from even those few vessels have carved the shoreline a half mile wide in places, consuming old Shell Beach.

Campo settles into a worn recliner, his pale blue eyes the color of a late autumn sky. Our conversation turns from Mr. Go to the bigger issue affecting the entire coast. "What really screwed up the marsh is when they put the levees on the river," Campo says, over the noise of a groaning air-conditioner. "They should take the levees out and let the water run; that's what built the land. But we know they not going to let the river run again, so there's no solution."

Denise Reed, however, proposes doing just that—letting the river run. A coastal geomorphologist at the University of New Orleans, Reed is convinced that breaching the levees with a series of gated spillways would pump new life into the dying marshes. Only three such diversions currently operate in the state. I catch up with Reed at the most controversial of the lot—a 26-million-dollar culvert just south of New Orleans named Caernarvon.

"Caernarvon is a prototype, a demonstration of a technique," says Reed as we motor down a muddy canal in a state boat. The diversion isn't filling the marsh with sediments on a grand scale, she says. But the effect of the added river water—loaded as it is with fertilizer from farm runoff—is plain to see. "It turns wetlands hanging on by the fingernails into something quite lush," says Reed.

To prove her point, she points to banks crowded with slender willows, rafts of lily pads, and a wide shallow pond that is no longer land, no longer liquid. More like chocolate pudding. But impressive as the recovering marsh is, its scale seems dwarfed by the size of the problem. "Restoration is not trying to make the coast look like a map of 1956," explains Reed. "That's not even possible. The goal is to restore healthy natural processes, then live with what you get."

Even that will be hard to do. Caernarvon, for instance, became a political land mine when releases of fresh water timed to mimic spring floods wiped out the beds of nearby oyster farmers. The oystermen sued, and last year a sympathetic judge awarded them a staggering 1.3 billion dollars. The case threw a major speed bump into restoration efforts.

Other restoration methods—such as rebuilding marshes with dredge spoil and salt-tolerant plants or trying to stabilize a shoreline that's eroding 30 feet (10 meters) a year—have had limited success. Despite the challenges, the thought of doing nothing is hard for most southern Louisianans to swallow. Computer models that project land loss for the next 50 years show the coast and interior marsh dissolving as if splattered with acid, leaving only skeletal remnants. Outlying towns such as Shell Beach, Venice, Grand Isle, and Cocodrie vanish under a sea of blue pixels.

Those who believe diversions are the key to saving Louisiana's coast often point to the granddaddy of them all: the Atchafalaya River. The major distributary of the Mississippi River, the Atchafalaya, if left alone, would soon be the Mississippi River, capturing most of its flow. But to prevent salt water from creeping farther up the Mississippi and spoiling the water supply of nearby towns and industries, the Corps of Engineers allows only a third of the Mississippi's water to flow down the Atchafalaya. Still, that water and sediment have produced the healthiest wetlands in Louisiana. The Atchafalaya Delta is one of the few places in the state that's actually gaining ground instead of losing it. And if you want to see the delta, you need to go crabbing with Peanut Michel.

"Peanut," it turns out, is a bit of a misnomer. At six foot six and 340 pounds, the 35-year-old commercial fisherman from Morgan City wouldn't look out of place on the offensive line of the New Orleans Saints. We launch his aluminum skiff in the predawn light, and soon we're skimming down the broad, café au lait river toward the newest land in Louisiana. Dense thickets of needlegrass, flag grass, cut grass, and a big-leafed plant Michel calls elephant ear crowd the banks, followed closely by bushy wax myrtles and shaggy willows.

Michel finds his string of crab pots a few miles out in the broad expanse of Atchafalaya Bay. Even this far from shore the water is barely five feet deep. As the sun ignites into a blowtorch on the horizon, Michel begins a well-oiled ritual: grab the bullet-shaped float, shake the wire cube of its clicking, mottled green inhabitants, bait it with a fish carcass, and toss. It's done in fluid motions as the boat circles lazily in the water.

But it's a bad day for crabbing. The wind and water are hot, and only a few crabs dribble in. And yet Michel is happy. Deliriously happy. Because this is what he wants to do. "They call 'em watermen up in Maryland," he says with a slight Cajun accent. "They call us lunatics here. You got to be crazy to be in this business."

Despite Michel's poor haul, Louisiana's wetlands are still a prolific seafood factory, sustaining a commercial fishery that most years lands more than 300 million dollars' worth of finfish, shrimp, oysters, crabs, and other delicacies. How long the stressed marshes can maintain that production is anybody's guess. In the meantime, Michel keeps at it. "My grandfather always told me, Don't live to be rich, live to be happy," he says. And so he does.

After a few hours Michel calls it a day, and we head through the braided delta, where navigation markers that once stood at the edge of the boat channel now peek out of the brush 20 feet (six meters) from shore. At every turn we flush mottled ducks, ibis, and great blue herons. Michel, who works as a hunting guide during duck season, cracks an enormous grin at the sight. "When the ducks come down in the winter," he says, "they'll cover the sun."

To folks like Peanut Michel, the birds, the fish, and the rich coastal culture are reason enough to save Louisiana's shore, whatever the cost. But there is another reason, one readily grasped by every American whose way of life is tethered not to a dock, but to a gas pump: These wetlands protect one of the most extensive petroleum infrastructures in the nation.

The state's first oil well was punched in south Louisiana in 1901, and the world's first offshore rig went into operation in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947. During the boom years in the early 1970s, fully half of the state's budget was derived from petroleum revenues. Though much of the production has moved into deeper waters, oil and gas wells remain a fixture of the coast, as ubiquitous as shrimp boats and brown pelicans.

The deep offshore wells now account for nearly a third of all domestic oil production, while Louisiana's Offshore Oil Port, a series of platforms anchored 18 miles (29 kilometers) offshore, unloads a nonstop line of supertankers that deliver up to 15 percent of the nation's foreign oil. Most of that black gold comes ashore via a maze of pipelines buried in the Louisiana muck. Numerous refineries, the nation's largest natural gas pipeline hub, even the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are all protected from hurricanes and storm surge by Louisiana's vanishing marsh.

You can smell the petrodollars burning at Port Fourchon, the offshore oil industry's sprawling home port on the central Louisiana coast. Brawny helicopters shuttle 6,000 workers to the rigs from here each week, while hundreds of supply boats deliver everything from toilet paper to drinking water to drilling lube. A thousand trucks a day keep the port humming around the clock, yet Louisiana 1, the two-lane highway that connects it to the world, seems to flood every other high tide. During storms the port becomes an island, which is why port officials like Davie Breaux are clamoring for the state to build a 17-mile-long (27-kilometer-long) elevated highway to the port. It's also why Breaux thinks spending 14 billion dollars to save the coast would be a bargain.

"We'll go to war and spend billions of dollars to protect oil and gas interests overseas,"
Breaux says as he drives his truck past platform anchors the size of two-story houses. "But here at home?" He shrugs. "Where else you gonna drill? Not California. Not Florida. Not in ANWR. In Louisiana. I'm third generation in the oil field. We're not afraid of the industry. We just want the infrastructure to handle it."

The oil industry has been good to Louisiana, providing low taxes and high-paying jobs. But such largesse hasn't come without a cost, largely exacted from coastal wetlands. The most startling impact has only recently come to light—the effect of oil and gas withdrawal on subsidence rates. For decades geologists believed that the petroleum deposits were too deep and the geology of the coast too complex for drilling to have any impact on the surface. But two years ago former petroleum geologist Bob
Morton, now with the U.S. Geological Survey, noticed that the highest rates of wetland loss occurred during or just after the period of peak oil and gas production in the 1970s and early 1980s. After much study, Morton concluded that the removal of millions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and tens of millions of barrels of saline formation water lying with the petroleum deposits caused a drop in subsurface pressure—a theory known as regional depressurization. That led nearby underground faults to slip and the land above them to slump.

"When you stick a straw in a soda and suck on it, everything goes down," Morton explains. "That's very simplified, but you get the idea." The phenomenon isn't new: It was first documented in Texas in 1926 and has been reported in other oil-producing areas such as the North Sea and Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Morton won't speculate on what percentage of wetland loss can be pinned on the oil industry. "What I can tell you is that much of the loss between Bayou Lafourche and Bayou Terrebonne was caused by induced subsidence from oil and gas withdrawal. The wetlands are still there, they're just underwater." The area Morton refers to, part of the Barataria-Terrebonne estuary, has one of the highest rates of wetland loss in the state.

The oil industry and its consultants dispute Morton's theory, but they've been unable to disprove it. The implication for restoration is profound. If production continues to taper off in coastal wetlands, Morton expects subsidence to return to its natural geologic rate, making restoration feasible in places. Currently, however, the high price of natural gas has oil companies swarming over the marshes looking for deep gas reservoirs. If such fields are tapped, Morton expects regional depressurization to continue. The upshot for the coast, he explains, is that the state will have to focus whatever restoration dollars it can muster on areas that can be saved, not waste them on places that are going to sink no matter what.

A few days after talking with Morton, I'm sitting on the levee in the French Quarter, enjoying the deep-fried powdery sweetness of a beignet from the Café du Monde. Joggers lumber by in the torpid heat, while tugs wrestle their barges up and down the big brown river. For all its enticing quirkiness, for all its licentious pleasures, for all its geologic challenges, New Orleans has been luckier than the wetlands that lined its pockets and stocked its renowned tables. The question is how long Lady Luck will shine. It brings back something Joe Suhayda, the LSU engineer, had said during our lunch by Lake Pontchartrain.

"When you look at the broadest perspective, short-term advantages can be gained by exploiting the environment. But in the long term you're going to pay for it. Just like you can spend three days drinking in New Orleans and it'll be fun. But sooner or later you're going to pay."

I finish my beignet and stroll down the levee, succumbing to the hazy, lazy feel of the city that care forgot, but that nature will not.

Joel K. Bourne, Jr.
Photographs by Robert Caputo and Tyrone Turner
National Geographic

This Time We Can Actually See The Bodies

W.'s 2004 convention was staged like "The Magnificent Seven" with the Republicans' swaggering tough guys - from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger to John McCain - riding in to save an embattled town.

These were the steely-eyed gunslingers we needed to protect us, they said, not those sissified girlie-men Democrats. But now it turns out that W. can't save the town, not even from hurricane damage that everyone has been predicting for years, much less from unpredictable terrorists.

Haunted by Hesitation

It took a while, but the president finally figured out a response to the destruction of New Orleans.

Later this week (no point rushing things) W. is dispatching Dick Cheney to the rancid lake that was a romantic city. The vice president has at long last lumbered back from a Wyoming vacation, and, reportedly, from shopping for a $2.9 million waterfront estate in St. Michael's, a retreat in the Chesapeake Bay where Rummy has a weekend home, where "Wedding Crashers" was filmed and where rich lobbyists hunt.

Maybe Mr. Cheney is going down to New Orleans to hunt looters. Or to make sure that Halliburton's lucrative contract to rebuild the city is watertight. Or maybe, since former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana described the shattered parish as "Baghdad under water," the vice president plans to take his pal Ahmad Chalabi along for a consultation on destroying minority rights.

The water that breached the New Orleans levees and left a million people homeless and jobless has also breached the White House defenses. Reality has come flooding in. Since 9/11, the Bush administration has been remarkably successful at blowing off "the reality-based community," as it derisively calls the press.

But now, when W., Mr. Cheney, Laura, Rummy, Gen. Richard Myers, Michael Chertoff and the rest of the gang tell us everything's under control, our cities are safe, stay the course - who believes them?

This time we can actually see the bodies.

As the water recedes, more and more decaying bodies will testify to the callous and stumblebum administration response to Katrina's rout of 90,000 square miles of the South.

The Bush administration bungled the Iraq occupation, arrogantly throwing away State Department occupation plans and C.I.A. insurgency warnings. But the human toll of those mistakes has not been as viscerally evident because the White House pulled a curtain over the bodies: the president has avoided the funerals of soldiers, and the Pentagon has censored the coffins of the dead coming home and never acknowledges the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

But this time, the bodies of those who might have been saved between Monday and Friday, when the president failed to rush the necessary resources to a disaster that his own general describes as "biblical," or even send in the 82nd Airborne, are floating up in front of our eyes.

New Orleans's literary lore and tourist lure was its fascination with the dead and undead, its lavish annual Halloween party, its famous above-ground cemeteries, its love of vampires and voodoo and zombies. But now that the city is decimated, reeking with unnecessary death and destruction, the restless spirits of New Orleans will haunt the White House.

The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the U.S. is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.

But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s "culture of life."

The president won re-election because he said that the war in Iraq and the Homeland Security Department would make us safer. Hogwash.

W.'s 2004 convention was staged like "The Magnificent Seven" with the Republicans' swaggering tough guys - from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger to John McCain - riding in to save an embattled town.

These were the steely-eyed gunslingers we needed to protect us, they said, not those sissified girlie-men Democrats. But now it turns out that W. can't save the town, not even from hurricane damage that everyone has been predicting for years, much less from unpredictable terrorists.

His campaigns presented the arc of his life story as that of a man who stumbled around until he was 40, then found himself and developed a laserlike focus.

But now that the people of New Orleans need an ark, we have to question the president's arc. He's stumbling in Iraq and he's stumbling on Katrina.

Let's play the blame game: the man who benefited more than anyone in history from safety nets set up by family did not bother to provide one for those who lost their families.


E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com

The 'Stuff Happens' Presidency

We're not number one. We're not even close.

By which measures, precisely, do we lead the world? Caring for our countrymen? You jest. A first-class physical infrastructure? Tell that to New Orleans. Throwing so much money at the rich that we've got nothing left over to promote the general welfare? Now you're talking.

The problem goes beyond the fact that we can't count on our government to be there for us in catastrophes. It's that a can't-do spirit, a shouldn't-do spirit, guides the men who run the nation. Consider the congressional testimony of Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush's 2000 campaign manager, who assumed the top position at FEMA in 2001. He characterized the organization as "an oversized entitlement program," and counseled states and cities to rely instead on "faith-based organizations . . . like the Salvation Army and the Mennonite Disaster Service."

Is it any surprise, then, that the administration's response to the devastation in New Orleans is of a piece with its response to the sacking of Baghdad once our troops arrived? "Stuff happens" was the way Don Rumsfeld described the destruction of Baghdad's hospitals, universities and museums while American soldiers stood around. Now stuff has happened in New Orleans, too, even as FEMA was turning away offers of assistance. This is the stuff-happens administration. And it's willing, apparently, to sacrifice any claim America may have to national greatness rather than inconvenience the rich by taxing them to build a more secure nation.

As a matter of social policy, the catastrophic lack of response in New Orleans is exceptional only in its scale and immediacy. When it comes to caring for our fellow countrymen, we all know that America has never ranked very high. We are, of course, the only democracy in the developed world that doesn't offer health care to its citizens as a matter of right. We rank 34th among nations in infant mortality rates, behind such rival superpowers as Cyprus, Andorra and Brunei.

But these are chronic conditions, and even many of us who argue for universal health coverage have grown inured to that distinctly American indifference to the common good, to our radical lack of solidarity with our fellow citizens. Besides, the poor generally have the decency to die discreetly, and discretely -- not conspicuously, not in droves. Come rain or come shine, we leave millions of beleaguered Americans to fend for themselves on a daily basis. It's just a lot more noticeable in a horrific rain, and when the ordinary lack of access to medical care is augmented by an extraordinary lack of access to emergency services.

Even if we'll never win the national-greatness sweepstakes for solidarity, though, we've long been the model of the world in matters infrastructural, in roads, bridges and dams and the like. But the America in which Eisenhower the Good decreed the construction of the interstate highway system now seems a far-off land in which even conservatives believed in public expenditures for the public good. The radical-capitalist conservatives of the past quarter-century not only haven't supported the public expenditures, they don't even believe there is such a thing as the public good. Let the Dutch build their dikes through some socialistic scheme of taxing and spending; that isn't the American way. Here, the business of government is to let the private sector create wealth -- even if that wealth doesn't circulate where it's most needed. So George W. Bush threw trillions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, and what did they do with it? Did the Walton family up in Bentonville raise the levees in New Orleans? Did the Bass family over in Texas write a tax-deductible check to the Mennonites for the billions of dollars they would need to rescue the elderly from inundated nursing homes?

Even now, with bedraggled rescuers pulling decomposed bodies from the muck of New Orleans, Bill Frist, the moral cretin who runs the U.S. Senate, wanted its first order of business this week to be the permanent repeal of the estate tax, until the public outcry persuaded him to change course. The Republicans profess belief in trickle-down, but what they've given us is the Flood.

The world looks on in stunned amazement, unable to understand how a once great nation has grown so indifferent not just to its poor and its blacks but even to the most rudimentary self-preservation. Some of it is institutional racism, but the primary culprit is the economic libertarianism that the president still espouses whenever he sells his Social Security snake oil. It's that libertarianism, more than anything else, that has transformed a great city into an immense morgue.

But, hey -- stuff happens.

Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, September 7, 2005; Page A25