The Priorities of Power

This is unbelievable -- except that it's not.

The day after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, killing hundreds of people and stranding thousands of the sick and weak in hospitals without power, Vice President Dick Cheney made a forceful personal intervention in the crisis: he ordered a Mississippi energy utility to divert its emergency crews from restoring power to rural hospitals and local water supplies -- and instead set them to work on a pipeline that sends fuel to the Northeast.

People were dying in hospitals; people were languishing in damp, tropical heat, drinking dirty water tainted with death and disease. But just as in his Vietnam War-dodging days, Cheney had "other priorities." It didn't matter if a bunch of sick darkies and old crackers kicked off in the boonies -- what really mattered was minimizing the political fallout from any temporary gasoline shortages that might ensue from the storm.

Just as in Iraq, so it is in Mississippi, in New Orleans, in every state of the Union: The oil is what matters. The money is what matters. The power is what matters. The political posturing is what matters. The people -- the living, breathing, individual human beings -- count for nothing at all. Nothing. That's the Bushist Way.

Power Crews Diverted: Restoring Pipelines Came First
(Hattiesburg American, via Froomkin, via Buzzflash)

Excerpts: Shortly after Hurricane Katrina roared through South Mississippi knocking out electricity and communication systems, the White House ordered power restored to a pipeline that sends fuel to the Northeast. That order - to restart two power substations in Collins that serve Colonial Pipeline Co. - delayed efforts by at least 24 hours to restore power to two rural hospitals and a number of water systems in the Pine Belt.

"I considered it a presidential directive to get those pipelines operating," said Jim Compton, general manager of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association - which distributes power that rural electric cooperatives sell to consumers and businesses. "I reluctantly agreed to pull half our transmission line crews off other projects and made getting the transmission lines to the Collins substations a priority," Compton said. "Our people were told to work until it was done."

....Dan Jordan, manager of Southern Pines Electric Power Association, said Vice President Dick Cheney's office called and left voice mails twice shortly after the storm struck, saying the Collins substations needed power restored immediately....

Mindy Osborn, emergency room coordinator at Stone County Hospital, said the power was not restored until six days after the storm on Sept. 4. She didn't have the number of patients who were hospitalized during the week after the storm. "Oh, yes, 24 hours earlier would have been a help," Osborn said.

Compton said workers who were trying to restore power to some rural water systems also were taken off their jobs and placed on the Colonial Pipeline project.