Worse or Worser in the Gulf?

by GREG MOSES

Shock and awe, misdirection, the whole truth turned upside down?  Could it be that the obscenity-driven confrontation between Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was a more exact replica of oil war shock tactics than I thought?

Kirk James Murphy, MD, argues in the firedoglake blog that the sand-barrier plan to block the oil slick on the Louisiana coast is being pushed to completion by interests who would rather be rid of the marshlands than save them.

Is our grief over the deathwatch at the Gulf Coast being crassly manipulated for the purposes of real estate development?  Dr. Murphy’s blog-post quotes at length a May 8 report by Josh Wingrove of the News and Mail, pointing out that the barrier-island plan has been three years in the making.

What wrenched our hearts out this week was the CNN presentation of Anderson Cooper’s visit to a dead marshland, recently killed off by a gooey assault of crude oil.  Not even the bugs had survived, we were shown.  Nungesser pleaded for immediate action.  James Carville bore witness to the fact that nothing was being done anywhere in sight.

Jindal and Nungesser have been arguing that barrier berms would stop oil from reaching more marshland.  And their arguments make obvious sense under the circumstances.

The danger in the dredging plan, argues Dr. Murphy, is that the dredged material would be drawn from polluted shipping channels and washed ashore during the volatile hurricane season coming soon.  The oil will not be stopped, yet the toxic damage will be multiplied.

There is money involved, of course.  And already by Thursday evening Nungesser was on CNN demanding more.

The CNN media campaign this week has the shocking effects that we remember from oil wars past.  And the effects are especially felt among those of us who like Louisiana CongressmanCharlie Melancon find it difficult not to cry at the sight of our dying Gulf.  And there is no doubt that our shock is being played like a football on its way to one goal line or the other.

But why does Dr. Murphy opine that the berms probably won’t survive the hurricane season, while he argues that they would dry out the marshes?  And what good are wetlands anyway once they have been covered by bubbling crude?

Dr. Murphy’s argument would place our shocked grief in alliance with the Corps of Engineers, who apparently resisted the berm idea until CNN tossed Nungesser a lateral pass this week.  Given the velocities of these shock tactics, there is never very much time to decide things.  And maybe the velocity alone is enough to raise suspicion.  Except. 

Except in this case there actually is an enemy attacking the marshlands, and Nungesser appeared to be making his arguments in the company of lots of people.  The image of Nungesser in a crowded room makes it more difficult to believe that his plan runs counter to the interests of people who live along the marshlands and who are working up a campaign of self-defense.  But this is the way shock psychology would work with the power of images.

It’s also curious that the Corps of Engineers is not more forthcoming for the cameras.  Nungesser does make a point when he asks: where’s the plan?  And compared with the images of oily death in the marshes, it would seem that the risk of drying wetlands is less inhumane to the doomed creatures of the Gulf.  Once upon a time I walked to work through those coastal marshlands on my way to an offshore drilling job.  On the Gulf Coast, from Corpus Christi to New Orleans, there is no such thing as a non-toxic option.

Marshland protection is one of at least three scientific issues that are being fought on the fly during this oil spill.  Thursday evening brings news of an “oil plume” that is about 1,000 yards deep and six miles wide drifting in the direction of Mobile Bay, Alabama.  Reports say the plume is a toxic cocktail of dispersants and oil.  Is it better or worse than an oil slick?  Oil slicks either repel life or kill it.  Plumes, apparently, allow life but at the cost of a living toxicity that will work its way up the food chain.  Cancer clinics for everyone.

When CNN flashes pictures of the oil operation, there is a ship spraying cascades of fluids onto the water.  Is this the dispersant?  Here and there we see comments from scientists saying that nobody knows if the dispersant is such a good idea.  Is it better or worse than a slick of thick crude?  LIke Nungesser’s berms, dispersants also raise questions of money trails.

The third scientific issue of course is how to plug the hole.  Speaking on Larry King Live, the legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens says either you get lucky or you drill a relief well.  August is the frequently cited expectation for when the relief well will be completed.

“We’ve been here 38 days,” said Pickens, “and we’ll probably be here 38 days more.”  If Pickens is right, will it be possible to stop the oil from washing ashore?

They say the first stage of grief is denial, and I don’t want to believe that any of this is happening.  What Congressman Melancon did in public yesterday, we have been doing in our homes this week all along the Gulf Coast.  You cannot love the Gulf Coast, witness this shocking trauma, and control your tears at the same time.

But now on top of it all we have to watch out for the ways that our tears are being maneuvered into contracting strategies that may have no other uses beyond profiteering.  I’m not convinced that there are worse things than a raw oil slick, not even if they are barrier berms or 6-mile plumes of noxious crap.  But if it is the best thing for all God’s creatures on the Gulf Coast to just stand aside and accept the sacrifice that oil slicks bring once they are imminent, then it’s time we started moving from Denial to Acceptance at some improbable speed.

GREG MOSES is editor of TexasWorker.org and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence.  He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire