Glimpses of America’s Man-Made Disasters
by Trowbridge H. Ford
The Bush administration, especially the Pentagon’s Donald Rumsfeld and DCI Porter Goss, was most concerned about public and media reaction to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – worried that they might be seen as the culmination of their covert operations coming home to roost, thanks to what Naomi Klein had written in The Nation the previous spring about the rise of disaster capitalism, and what former Malaysian President Mohammad Mahathir had been feared of alluding to before a conference on the environment at Kuala Lumpur shortly after the disasters.
The Secretary of Defense had appointed Peter Geren – a slimy former Congressman hoping to take advantage of Anadarko Petroleum’s windfall profits in the Gulf while attempting to mobilize the country behind the Christian Embassy’s crusade against Islam – as Acting Air Force Secretary to provide cover for the air cowboys in the National Reconnaissance Office while they heated up the Loop Current with satellite lasers for strategic purposes under the official leadership of its new Director, Dr. Donald M. Kerr, who had been sent over from the Agency by Goss to give their operations a veneer of authenticity..
Mahathir’s prepared remarks had been completely sidetracked, though, by a walkout by the Anglo-American diplomatic delegation – apparently triggered by fears that he would give the lowdown on how tropical depressions, ending with Zoé in the Pacific, had been cooked up into cyclones and hurricanes – resulting in an off-the-cuff diatribe about American and British war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Klein had alluded in her article to the “Acts of God or Acts of Bush (on orders from God)” which had created disasters from “Iraq to Aceh, Afghanistan to Haiti”. The island republic suffered in 2005 its worst hurricane damage in history, starting with Hurricane Dennis, which killed at least 40 Haitians and left 15,000 homeless.
Still, Fidel Castro made up for Mahathir not saying more about the Katrina disaster by offering the aid of hundreds of doctors, and tons of medical supplies to Katrina’s victims – what he had already done for the hundreds of thousands victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis, indicating that America’s chickens in weather manipulation had truly come home to roost. The offer was so telling that the White House refused it, telling the Cuban leader to give his own people freedom instead. Cuban had avoided its own cockup over the disaster, surprisingly reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks, by learning to coordinate an effective response to such predictable hazards.
Fortunately, for the Pentagon and the Agency, Klein preferred in her article, “Let the People Rebuild New Orleans” in the September 26th issue of The Nation, to see Katrina’s wake as an opportunity for democracy rather than the result of institutionalized recipes for disaster – what had been the norm for almost all disasters whether they had been natural or man-made in origin. There was no hint that the hurricane was just another example of “vulgar colonialism”, to quote Shalmali Guttal from her earlier piece – a clean slate to be reconstructed by the parallel governments of disaster capitalism as it saw fit. In fact, Klein never even used the term, and has rarely done so since.
The people of New Orleans, according to Klein, would not go quietly in the night, “…scattering across the country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, and chemical plants…” Community Labor United, a coalition of low-income groups in New Orleans, would not let the area be treated as if it were some third-world disaster site. The $10.5 billion provided by Congress and the $500 million raised by charities, Klein added, belonged to the victimized people, and they should be allowed to use it in ways they saw fit, not like what happened to the people of Sri Lanka after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. If the inhabitants of Mexico City could force their government to rebuild their community after the devastating earthquake in 1985, the people of New Orleans could do the same.
Unfortunately, this proved to be a complete pipedream, as Klein herself duly recorded in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, though the role of disasters – hurricanes, cyclones, and earthquakes – were sorely missing in helping explain the process until it came to Katrina. There was no mention of the consequences of any cyclone, especially Cyclone Zoé, which had wreaked such physical, financial and social havoc in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean whatever their cause. There was no mention of other hurricanes which had regularly pounded Cuba, not even the devastation caused to the island by Katrina – only what Hurricane Mitch had conveniently done by mass flooding to the troublesome states of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala in Central America in October 1998. (pp. 500-1) And earthquakes – especially the ones in Iran around the Manjil-Rudbar area, and in the ancient city of Bam in anticipation of the two Gulf Wars, and the one in Turkey at Izmit in 1999, whatever caused them – were surprisingly not included among the tactics of disaster capitalism.
Shock doctrine, the less insidious term according to the expert on the subject, was essentially caused by various neo-cons, especially from Chicago and Harvard Universities, who persuaded Southern Cone dictators to adopt unfettered capitalism whatever the cost and consequences, and when they were overthrown, their successors liquidated their debts by essentially scrapping whatever was required at great social and economic cost to satisfy lenders, particularly the IMF and the World Bank “Believers in the shock doctrine,” she conveniently concluded, “are convinced that only a great rupture – a flood, a war, a terrorist attack – can generate the kind of vast, clean canvases they crave.” (p. 25. N. b. the examples she chooses.)
This was all the more amazing since she finally concluded that the devastation to the Gulf coast by Katrina was the best example of disaster capitalism, with its Green and Red Zones of parallel infrastructures for rich and poor, and at the expense of established government: “Under Bush, the state still has all the trappings of a government – the impressive buildings, presidential press briefings, policy battles – but it no more does the actual work of governing than the employees at Nike’s Beavereton campus stitch running shoes.” (p. 528) In saying all this, her September 2005 article about letting the people rebuild New Orleans is nowhere to be seen.
Most important, this most restricted view of the role of disasters, especially their causes – whether they be natural or man-made of some sort or another – had already experienced the unprecedented feedback by Senator Jay Rockefeller and a few other Democratic colleagues on its Intelligence Committee – publicly objecting the previous December to yet another NRO Misty satellite being in the works, action which he had twice tried to stop, and called “totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security.” What he was referring to – though no one had yet claimed sigint satellites “very, very… dangerous” – was so sensitive that the NRO had called upon the Justice Department to look into the prosecution of any alleged leaker.
Klein’s failure to investigate the ramifications of this development, much less write about it – given what happened during the 2005 hurricane season – is simply mystifying.
For more, see this link:
Of course, given this essential news blackout about covert possibilities, the NRO was able to move quickly against the growing problems in Pakistan whose Balochistan, Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), North-West Frontier Province, Swat Valley and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir were becoming increasingly Taliban and Al-Qaeda dominated despite what Washington had dictated to strong-man President Pervez Musharraf. He had staged a coup in 1999 against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the conduct of the war with India over Kashmir, and received $10.5 billion in aid from the West, once he had capitulated to threats of being attacked unless he didn’t join the so-called war on terror. While he supplied three airbases for the conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom, he never really went after the Taliban because of his own strategic interests, causing so much consternation in Washington that it finally decided to fix the problem as best it could.
About the situation around 2005, Ahmed Rashid has written in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, “Pakistan on the Brink,” the target area had become a absolute powderkeg, thanks to the inaction of the Musharraf regime though somehow making no mention of the earthquake. Maulana Muhamed had so used his FM radio station with inflammatory messages in the Swat valley that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban built up several more stations and an army for him. In FATA, the Pashtun tribal leaders had organized their own militias, and plans for the liberation of Pakistan, slitting the throats of some 300 pro-government ones in the process. In the meantime, the Afghan Taliban, thanks to the inaction of the relevant Pakistani authorities and the assistance from FATA and Balochistan, revived their insurgency in Afghanistan. And extremist Punjabi groups joined the mix after Pakistan’s relations with India over Kashmir cooled down.
Pakistan, like most of the countries between China and Morocco, has its own system of qanats, called karezes. These are the underground systems of water collection which rely upon a central well from the surface to supply entrance to a collecting chamber at the lowest ground level, so that fields can be irrigated, and populations supplied with the basic essential. They can be vast distances in length with tunnels along the way for more collections, and proper ventilation, While Iran was thought to be the source of Pakistan’s systems – what the NRO had taken advantage of in making its 1990 and 2003 earthquakes – actually its are now believed to have come from Afghanistan. While pipes have replaced tunnels in many Pakistani kerezes, making them less manipulable from outside forces, delay-action dams to collect more water have made them more unstable if so attacked.
For more, see this link:
Again, Professor Zhoughao Shou predicted the Paskistani earthquake, as he had those off the coast of Aceh in November-December 2004, but no one in a position of authority took them seriously. In the December 2006 issue of the “New Concepts in Global Tectonics” Newsletter, he laid out his findings about recent serious earthquakes in “Precursor of the Largest Earthquake of the Last Forty Years,” pp. 3-12. His critics believed that earthquakes always started deep underground, thanks to tectonic plates crashing together, and that there were never visible precursors of them. Shou continued to say that his vapor theory about cloud formation over earthquake epicenters, and their unexpected movement, contrary to usual weather patterns, demonstrated otherwise.
After a discussion of Shou’s claims, the newsletter concluded: “This work demonstrates that the vapor theory does not give false warnings. Shou’s recent investigation shows that all earthquakes of magnitude 7 or above in the world from June 1993 to October 2005 have a vapor precursor. In contrast, government seismologists worldwide have not yet made a precise and reliable prediction.” This seems to say more about their character than that of various earthquakes.
Still, Shou made no attempt to explain the cause of the cloud formations, and many of them could well be from plates rubbing together, volcanic action, etc. The Pakistani one appeared just too convenient politically, and suspiciously connected to the Misty satellite passing overhead every 90 minutes to be of natural origin. The next to last passage overhead caused a minor earthquake, and after all the inhabitants around Muzaffarabad had gone back to bed after their morning tea, as it was Ramadam, the devastating one occurred 90 minutes later, killing 75,000 people, and rendering another 500,000 homeless.
When the Musharraf government acted most positively to offers of assistance, Washington was uncharacteristically most supportive for disaster relief occurring anywhere along the “axis of evil”. It airlifted 1,200 military personnel, 162 cargo lifts of equipment, and 1,900 tons of supplies. With the opening up of the Taliban-dominated area to American forces, the Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios announced to a November Reconstruction Conference that it was providing the Paskistanis with $300 million in aid, the Pentagon was throwing in another $110 million, and private charities would be adding another $100 million.
Despite all the hoopla about this assistance of save the living, and subsequent aid to help them progress, Pakistan is in even worse shape than Afghanistan, thanks in part to the continuing silence by those in the media and in politics who know about its real causes but have failed to speak out, as Rashid has concluded:
“In Pakistan there is no such broad national identity or unity. Many young Balochs today are fiercely determined to create an independent Balochistan. The ethnic identities of the people in the other provinces have become a driving force for disunity. The gap between the rich and poor has never been greater….There is confusion about what actually constitutes a threat to the state and what is need for nation-building.” (p. 16)
Until the United States sorts out its confusions about these same matters, especially the use of force in nation-building, it will only get worse, as we shall see.