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Baghdad on the Bayou: Disaster Capitalism and the War on Equality

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Georgianne Nienaber       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink

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Katrina "Scattered People Instead of Bombs"
An Interview with Tab Benoit in Houma, LA
Part One

"This Katrina thing was handled as if it would have been Iraq. It was handled in a military way for resources; resources were the main focus, and the only difference is that the hurricane scattered people instead of bombs. There were people getting shot, there were bodies everywhere, there was destruction everywhere, and there's oil coming out of the ground like it never has before. Remind you of something else? The only difference is that we didn't have the equipment and the ability to fight back."

Tab Benoit, Houma, Louisiana November 2007


Tab Benoit is a Cajun man, first and foremost. He loves his country and is not afraid to say so. His pride in his heritage is only part of what drives this popular up-and-coming Louisiana blues musician to fight ferociously for a way of life and rich culture that are destined to be eradicated by big oil, big money, and big government. Billboard Magazine praises Benoit for a "thorough command of contemporary blues"splendid songwriting, gritty vocals and choice lead guitar work."

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The producers of the IMAX film, Hurricane on the Bayou, thought so too and cast Benoit as the star celebrity voice in the film, which has been viewed around the world since its premiere in 2006. The film was produced by the Audubon Nature Institute and partially financed by the State of Louisiana and Shell Oil.

More than simply driven--Tab Benoit seems possessed of a certainty that he is destined to be one voice of and for the Louisiana wetlands. He told us that many more voices were needed so that big government "cannot kill us all." We heard more than once from residents of South Louisiana that government "is trying to kill us all." We were also asked on several occasions whether Louisiana was still considered to be part of the United States, so Benoit's statement did not surprise us.

Unhappy and unfulfilled as a pilot flying the pipelines for the oil companies, Benoit wanted to contribute more to his town, state, country and the world--and says so in no uncertain terms. Becoming a professional musician gave Benoit the opportunity to connect with a huge audience and tell them that, yes; the wetlands will disappear in our lifetime if we do not do something about it. Big oil and big government have a vested interest in this happening. He tried to get his warning across in, Hurricane on the Bayou, but feels his message was diminished and co-opted when Shell Oil Company picked up the cost overruns after the film was extended to include Katrina.

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Tab Benoit has a handle on the truth of what happened in southern Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina and after the flood of 2005 devastated New Orleans. He recently spent several hours on a bayou outside of Houma, Louisiana in the deepening November twilight and told his story. It was a story we had heard many times in the six weeks we spent in south Louisiana, but Benoit has an especially knowledgeable intellect and wants to use his celebrity voice to ensure that America hears and heeds the warning offered by Hurricane Katrina, the devastating floods, and the private and corporate take-overs, which followed.


He echoes Naomi Klein's assessment in her book, Shock Doctrine, (1) that within days of Katrina and the floods that followed it was as if private contractors had recreated Baghdad's Green Zone on the bayous. He talks about the importance of the earth's swamps, deltas and coastal wetlands, and without mentioning names he echoes the trauma and terror spread by big oil's unholy alliance with dictatorships throughout the vast mangrove wetlands of the Niger River Delta, the vast elephant swamps of Gambia, Gabon, and the once wild waterways of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Burma. But the story here is America, and we don't want to believe this can happen to us. Tab Benoit gives us a chance to look it straight in the eye and name it for what it is--disaster capitalism and war against America.

Tab Benoit is a strong man, and the passion in his voice belies the sorrows of a heavy heart. One can suppose he has shed tears over what has happened. Our investigative series to come will support the truth behind Benoit's observations, but first readers need to hear the voice of a local warrior. Tab Benoit is that voice, and he speaks for the environment, the people of Louisiana, and the truth.

We turned on the recorder and let Benoit roll with his story--uninterrupted--for almost three hours. Here is Tab Benoit's unedited testimony and witness to the wetlands, a hurricane, an IMAX movie, and what we all can look forward to if something is not done to change the chokehold alliance between industry, war, Homeland Security and private profit.

Here is some straight talk from a plainspoken Cajun man.

On the Attitude of Big Government Toward the Citizens of Coastal Louisiana

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"We get the feeling that they just don't want us here.

"And my feeling is because of oil, because we've got a lot of it here. And we're the only state that doesn't get the off shore drilling money. We get our on shore money but not from off shore and we're the only state. So as we lose land and as that becomes off shore, then the federal government gets the royalties from that.

"Three miles off the coast is considered off shore. I mean just right here, right now, if I could take you up in an airplane and show you this; you'd see that the Gulf [of Mexico] used to be 25 miles from the Houma airport, now it's three miles."

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)
 

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