The announcement that John Ashcroft will become the new ethics adviser to the private security company formerly known as Blackwater – now Xe – reflects the fact that our nation's moral compass has not been pointing due north in recent years. This April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, when the company was under the control of the controversial figure Erik Prince. Prince has since set up a secret mercenary force for the UAE, whose primary objectives are to defend against terrorist attacks and to mercilessly squash internal revolts.
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All this comes on the heels of the news that for the first time since 1973, the Army Corps of Engineers opened a portion of the Morganza Spillway this weekend to relieve pressure on the levees from a swollen Mississippi River. In 2009, a federal judge found the same Army Corps of Engineers guilty of negligence that led to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina. As the water began engulfing Cajun country again this weekend, memories of Hurricane Katrina resurfaced in the minds of Louisiana residents: water lapping onto roofs, bloated human cadavers floating among the carcasses of dead animals, snakes and alligators biting in toxic flood waters, widespread rapes and looting in the infested, filthy Superdome.