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The Rescue That Was Staged

September 4th, 2005

Remember the whole giant operation that we saw rushing in to New Orleans when Bush came to have his photo op? Guess what. It was, to a large extent, faked. Remember seeing the equipment fixing the levees behind Bush? No longer there. Remember the fleets of buses to get people out of the hell-on-Earth that is the Superdome? Missing in action. The people living in filth and squalor without even the barest necessities in the Superdome? Believe it or not, I am not making this up–they have been locked in and not allowed to leave, by the U.S. government. I shit you not.

You have to see this segment from–of all shows–Hannity and Colmes on Fox (again via Crooks & Liars), where Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith report live from the spot, describing a scene of despair in inhuman conditions, belying the Bush administration fiction that, now that Bush came to the rescue, a corner has been turned, that help is now being supplied and the crisis is over. It is not. Both Rivera and Smith pointed out that the people there could simply walk to the next town where there is electricity and no dead bodies or filth or stench, they could walk to the Wal-Mart down the street where the people could get out of the horror that the Superdome has become–but troops have set up a checkpoint and will not allow the people there to leave.

While Hannity predictably tries to downplay what they’re seeing, neither Rivera nor Smith let him get away with it. Even though Rivera and Smith were not politicizing it (“This is reality, this is non partisan, there’s no Democrats or Republicans here“), Hannity tried to make it seem like it wasn’t happening:

SMITH: It’s the only way out, it’s the connection to the rest of the world, and they’ve set up a checkpoint. And anyone who walks up out of that city now is turned around. You are not allowed to go to Gretna, Louisiana from New Orleans, Louisiana. Over there, there’s hope. Over there, there’s electricity. Over there, there’s food and water. But you cannot go from there to there, the government will not allow you to do it. It’s a fact.

HANNITY: I want to get some perspective here, because earlier today, the–

SMITH: That is perspective! That’s all the perspective you need!

Hannity then tried to deliver a line of BS that since Fox had shown images of trucks and convoys earlier, that meant that “obviously” things were “getting a lot closer than they were.” But watch the whole video, so you can get the true sense of the despair these people are still living in. You can see the video here (Windows Media Player software for the Mac here).

Even CNN has reported on the “disconnect” between the administration version of events and the truth.

But that’s not the only evidence that the Bush photo op was full of bull. You probably saw Bush visiting the scenes of damage, with equipment often behind him–like the Coast Guard helicopters and guardsmen who sat idly by as scenery for Bush’s photo op while real people still were dying from lack of rescue equipment. The networks have not reported on that, as far as I am aware. They always buy full into the presidential PR and never expose the sometimes obvious harm caused by it. One more example surfaced in a press release from Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who is now livid at Bush for showing up with rescue equipment for the photo op, and then yanking it away as soon as he was gone–or that possibly the equipment originally seen was useless window-dressing, not really good for anything. In her words:

Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims — far more efficiently than buses — FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast — black and white, rich and poor, young and old — deserve far better from their national government.

Mr. President, I’m imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources — military and otherwise — necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding. [emphasis added]

While Landrieu is appearing on some of the weekend shows and may get more coverage then, right now (from a Google News search) only two small media outlets in the U.S. are carrying the story. There’s more press on this in Australia.

And now that Rehnquist has passed away, coverage of the fake Bush rescue will likely get reduced or shunted aside.

Update: A Dutch news viewer reports that foreign media is describing a somewhat different story about the staged Bush “rescue” photo ops than the U.S. media is. He reports this:

There was a striking dicrepancy [sic] between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president’s visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of ‘news people’ had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

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