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  • Martial Law in New Orleans

    Posted by James R. Rummel on June 19th, 2006 (All posts by )

    The title of this post is actually rather misleading. The Associated Press is reporting that hundreds of National Guard troops will be deployed to New Orleans this next month as an anti-crime measure. So far as I know, martial law has yet to be declared.

    Using soldiers to keep the civil peace has always been problematic. Troops equipped and trained to defeat another nation’s military are ill suited to arresting street gangs and investigating crimes. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, the two politicians behind this decision, understand that well enough to emphasize that the NG troops will have “law enforcement experience”. The news article linked to above doesn’t mention which units will be used in NO, so there is no way to tell if they will confine themselves to using MP’s and refrain from having regular troops patrol the streets.

    From a law enforcement standpoint, New Orleans has always been a cesspool. Not only has crime always been at a shockingly high level, but the police themselves have a well earned reputation for corruption and vice. The chaos that the hurricane brought certainly didn’t help matters any.

    Even so, one would think that NO has the resources to get the job done if they could be used intelligently. My home town of Columbus, Ohio currently fields 1822 police officers to serve and protect a population of 711,470. According to the AP report, New Orleans has 1375 officers and a population of 230,000. It is true that the hurricane caused a breakdown of civil order which made policing a much more difficult job, but that all happened many months ago. Not only would it be reasonable to expect the authorities to get a handle on the situation, TV ads by the Louisiana tourist board have been portraying the city as a great place to spend a vacation.

    It is tourism that is the crux of the matter. Six deaths over the weekend in NO prompted the decision to call out the troops. One of the deaths was a knifing due to a drunken brawl over beer, while the five other murders were a group of teenagers who were shot in an SUV. Police say that the shootings were probably gang related, and most likely motivated by a drug deal gone bad. While it is possible that having a few National Guard soldiers patrol the streets might have kept the drunken brawl from escalating, it seems incredible to claim that they would have any impact on gang-banger turf wars.

    The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco are pretty desperate. TV ads aside, it doesn’t look like the tourists are actually planning on spending much money in NO any time soon. I doubt that people will be willing to change their minds when they hear that the city government needs military units to keep order.

     

    23 Responses to “Martial Law in New Orleans”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      My wife and I eloped to New Orleans eleven years ago. It was the best time of our lives. Even back then the cabbies, hotel staff and others told us constantly not to go out of a certain area of the French Quarter unless in a cab. After Katrina wiped out the place we thought that maybe we could go back in five years or so, as we had always returned to celebrate our anniversary. Like you said, after we saw this nonsense with calling in the guard, we will likely never return. We just can’t see compromising our safety – and rewarding everyone down there with our toruist dollars for the mess they STILL have. If the people in Louisiana are stupid enough to keep reelecting these people, more power to them, I am not having any part of it. And it is harder and harder to feel sorry for them.

    2. Don Says:

      So the insurgents strike once again in the city. The local police are unable to cope and National Guard troops, lacking law enforcement and criminal investigation skills, have be sent to reinforce the government’s tenuous hold on the place. Meanwhile, other insurgents have displaced from the city to other cities creating significant increase in death and destruction. The local government of the base city appear weak and incompetent. Can we say ’Quagmire’? Will the media use the same terms and standards they have imposed upon their political opponents, on their political allies? Time for pull out?

      Actually, we do have a growing body of experienced leaders and personnel who know how to rebuild a city and establish a functioning government. The problem is our mythological heritage prohibits us from using them. I say mythological, because these same people were employed in the first hundred years of the republic to build a nation growing westward. It is the fear of giving them the job and they not relinquishing the power that inhibits their use. Of course if they do prove to be effective and efficient, I suspect it would scare the poor choice of elected officials we are all too often given.

    3. doctorj Says:

      The guard is needed to patrol the hundreds of miles of deserted neighborhoods so the police can increase their coverage where the people are. Why patrol empty neighborhoods? Because the people trying to return are being looted of their supplies before they can even get started. These are people that have already lost everything. Outside “contractors” coming in to make a buck need supplies to make more bucks. Meanwhile the drug gangs are returning with Mexican friends (MS-13) and a turf war has erupted. It use to be the violence was located in peripheral neighborhoods and the projects but with 80% of the city destroyed the violence is now in the middle of the city. Top this off with the fact that this is occurring where people are tired of fighting with the government, fighting with insurance companies, and tired of living in a world of debris…well, you get the picture. And what of the billions allocated? The president finally signed it last Thursday (10 months after the levees broke). No money has yet to be seen on the ground, except that doled out by FEMA (and we all know how wonderful that organization is !) That has gone to debris pick up and body recovery. The only real help the citizens have gotten is from volunteers. But don’t let this worry you or upset your nice clean orderly world. It is not like we are part of America or anything.

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      “But don’t let this worry you or upset your nice clean orderly world. It is not like we are part of America or anything.”

      I am still waiting for the flood of volunteers from Louisiana to come up and help us clean up from tornadoes and help shovel all of the snow – but its no big deal, we are part of America, too.

      We have it bad enough with corrupt politicians in the Midwest, but the system in Louisiana has always took the cake. And the same people keep getting re-elected.

    5. doctorj Says:

      Thank God for the volunteers! If anyone needed help Louisiana people will be the first to volunteer. Just ask New York City. Their firemen were there for us in return for the support Louisiana gave them. And if corruption was a reason NOT to help, I guess I can’t help America because we have seen an unbelievable amount of political favoritism in the contracts given out by the feds. I am from Louisiana so I know what corruption looks like. By the way,I voted for Bobby Jindal and David Vitter. Where is the corruption there? Does that mean you can help ME? I never knew being considered an American depended upon who a person voted for.

    6. Dan from Madison Says:

      “I never knew being considered an American depended upon who a person voted for.”

      It doesn’t. But the INSANE level of corruption in Louisiana that CONTINUES to this day makes it more and more difficult for us in other areas of the country to keep feeling sorry for you over and over and over. You will note that I said that other places are not free of corruption, but Louisiana is embarassingly good at that sport. Good for you for not voting for the bad folks. The majority like things just the way they are. So be it.

    7. James R. Rummel Says:

      But don’t let this worry you or upset your nice clean orderly world. It is not like we are part of America or anything.

      It’s true that we have advantages up here in the Midwest that the people of New Orleans lack. But that is the result of making hard decisions and working to make them stick. We have made sacrifices to expose and combat corruption in our government and police, and we have made sacrifices to keep from depending on the largess of others to simply survive. That contrasts sharply from what you have written…

      And what of the billions allocated? The president finally signed it last Thursday (10 months after the levees broke). No money has yet to be seen on the ground, except that doled out by FEMA (and we all know how wonderful that organization is !) That has gone to debris pick up and body recovery. The only real help the citizens have gotten is from volunteers.

      Thank God for the volunteers! If anyone needed help Louisiana people will be the first to volunteer. Just ask New York City. Their firemen were there for us in return for the support Louisiana gave them.

      (Just as an aside, I missed the part where Louisiana actually helped New York with something.)

      I am from Louisiana so I know what corruption looks like.

      That should be a point of shame, not of pride.

      By the way,I voted for Bobby Jindal and David Vitter. Where is the corruption there? Does that mean you can help ME? I never knew being considered an American depended upon who a person voted for.

      I never knew that being an American meant that I was obligated to help anyone, or that I automatically deserved free stuff from anyone else. Must be a part of the Constitution that I skipped.

      I have always wondered why the Army Corps of Engineers were tasked with building levees and controlling flooding in New Orleans prior to the hurricane. Wasn’t that what state and local governments are supposed to do?

      Yet here the Feds were spending my tax dollars to keep a city with less than 1/2 a million people from sinking into a swamp, a city that no one from around here would dream of visiting unless they wanted to get falling-down drunk and watch random women flash their chests to total strangers.

      It is totally subjective, but it seems to me that us Midwesterners are wondering why such an enormous amount of our tax dollars has to be spent to save New Orleans once again. After all, we can find other places to get drunk.

      James

    8. doctorj Says:

      James,
      I hate to say this but it is people with your attitude that is making me get out of the Republican Party. To me I would rather live in a devastated New Orleans and know that I LIVED than to live in that cold, souless world of yours. I don’t know where America went so wrong, but now that I have finished my personal fight to get New Orleans the aid she needed, I think I will move onto the fight of getting America back on track so I can proudly call it my country again. Sadly that task cannot take place in either of the national parties. I think I will check into Unity 08. If anyone wants a taste of what it is like to live in New Orleans these days, this is an excellent series. http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8080681AD2517F7E

    9. Dan from Madison Says:

      Truth hurts, doesn’t it doctor?

    10. James R. Rummel Says:

      I don’t know where America went so wrong, but now that I have finished my personal fight to get New Orleans the aid she needed, I think I will move onto the fight of getting America back on track so I can proudly call it my country again. Sadly that task cannot take place in either of the national parties. I think I will check into Unity 08.

      Instead of this Unity thing you should try the Socialists or the Communists. At least they have name recognition.

      James

    11. doctorj Says:

      Dan,
      Truth does hurt. I believed the tripe about compassionate conservatism. What a load of crock! If you want to know why the levees failed and destroyed the lives of a a half a million Americans, watch National Geograhic tonight at 8 CST. It is called New Orleans Drowning. It is an easy way to educate yourself.

    12. Jonathan Says:

      No matter who was responsible for the failure of the levees, everyone knew that New Orleans was likely to be inundated eventually. It was just a question of when. And that’s still true, even if the levees are rebuilt and strengthened. I think it’s reasonable in this context to ask why taxpayers in other parts of the country should pay to rebuild the city on the same vulnerable site. The same question, of course, applies to government sponsored flood insurance generally. The “compassion” of subsidizing insurance for people who live in flood plains doesn’t seem compassionate in the long run, because if you encourage people to keep rebuilding in places that are known to be vulnerable to flooding you are helping to set the stage for future disasters.

    13. Dan from Madison Says:

      Doctor: I notice that you have a difficult time addressing the arguments made by several folks, including myself – rather you seem to prefer the ad hominem attack method of discussion. That doesn’t help your cause, especially on a blog of this type that attracts highly educated and knowledgable readers.

    14. Mark Says:

      Let’s see, America has put many millions of dollars into LA/NO; many, many people have gone in as volunteers; money/clothing/building materials/etc. donated. And when we bitch about the corruption, incompetent pols voted back in, etc., then we live in a ‘cold, souless’ world and don’t care about poor LA. Horsecrap, doctorj.

    15. Ginny Says:

      The most “soulless” were those who in 1995 could see potential catastrophe but hoped it wouldn’t happen in their time. Some Chamberlains believe in short term appeasements of nature. And I suspect you’d find more generousity if New Orleans evacuees weren’t so busy raising the crime rates in their host cities.

      Discussing his The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina, Ivor van Heerden gave a fascinating book talk last weekend. And I don’t think you’ll find a strong argument for rebuilding all of New Orleans as it was. He is Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and the discussion (as well as the book apparently) is relatively technical, but riveting. (Of course, I only caught part – I understand this World Cup obsession, coming from Big Red, but don’t share.)

    16. Lex Says:

      I will see and raise Ginny, and say that the “most soulless” were the corrupt politicians who caused the levees to be build in a substandard way that caused them to fail. These people put a few thousand corrupt dollars in their pockets, with indifference to the lives or wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people. That is despicable behavior, and it is not “society’s fault” or Bush’s fault or the evil, heartless GOP’s fault. It is the fault of criminally corrupt public officials, and the fault of a community which has tolerated these levels of corruption for generations and refuses to make the effort to purge such corruption from their public life.

    17. TJIT Says:

      James,

      You said

      “I have always wondered why the Army Corps of Engineers were tasked with building levees and controlling flooding in New Orleans prior to the hurricane. Wasn’t that what state and local governments are supposed to do?”

      The feds have made the Army corps of engineers (COE)responsible for flood control projects and dredging of waterways nationwide. This situation is not unique to New Orleans or Louisiana.

      Given that there is strong evidence that design flaws in the levees caused some of them to fail at less then the rated capacity. Further design flaws in the drainage system (lack of locks) caused more damage then a properly designed system would have.

      It seems to me that there is a reasonable argument that since failures of federal responsibility led to the damage in New Orleans that the federal government should pick up some if not all of the cost of rebuilding New Orleans.

      This is not to excuse the lack of competent oversight of the levee system or the lack of competent planning and response to the hurricane by New Orleans and Louisiana.

    18. TJIT Says:

      Lousiana and New Orleans have been corrupt forever. Given the amount of money the feds have poured into the area over the years one would think that the feds would have put more of an effort into prosecuting corruption in that state.

      It appears to me that would have had a better return on investment then almost any other action the feds could take to improve the situation in Louisiana.

    19. TJIT Says:

      FYI

      Report on corp of engineers acceptance of responsibility for New Orleans flooding

      Intersting quote from article

      “Last month, a report by outside engineers said the Corps was dysfunctional and unreliable. That group, led by experts from the University of California at Berkeley, recommended setting up an agency to oversee the Corps’ projects nationwide.”

    20. James R. Rummel Says:

      It seems to me that there is a reasonable argument that since failures of federal responsibility led to the damage in New Orleans that the federal government should pick up some if not all of the cost of rebuilding New Orleans.

      I like to pride myself on being a reasonable and realistic fellow. Keeping the population of N.O. firmly in mind (less than 500K), the enormous amount of cash that was spent pre-Katrina to keep the city alive, and the staggering sum that will have to be spent to rebuild the place, I just can’t see why we need to bother. What is the benefit for spending these resources, anyway? A snake pit of corruption and crime is preserved, and we get to pick up the tab.

      I’ll also side with Jonathan and point out that there’s going to be more flooding and destruction sooner or later. The place simply isn’t suitable for a modern city.

      James

    21. TJIT Says:

      James,

      Good points one and all.

      The thing that disturbs me is the difference between how private individuals and companies are treated vs how governmental authorities are treated.

      If a private company or individual had made the same errors and been as incompetent as the corps of engineers and governmental authoritis in louisiana were there would be at minimum massive civil liability awards and probably crimminal sanctions with substantial jail times to be served.

      How can we expect government to improve if they are not held to the same standards private individuals are?

    22. Jonathan Says:

      It appears the Corps of Engineers deserves substantial blame for the levee failures. However, I don’t think oversight will be enough to fix the Corps. I think the existence of the Corps creates irresistable incentives for Congress to create giant vote-buying schemes in the guise of “critical infrastructure improvement.”

      Katrina was a Cat 2 or Cat 3 when it hit New Orleans. Even if the levees are improved, odds are there will eventually be a strong enough storm to swamp the place again. Even if it never happens, the significant risk that it will happen makes massive federal spending to rebuild a questionable use of resources at best.

    23. Fûz Says:

      “here is no way to tell if (the US Army) will confine themselves to using (National Guard) MP’s and refrain from having regular troops patrol the streets.”

      That’s not an option. The supply of MPs Total-Force-wide is just about tapped out, considering that this skill-set/MOS is most badly needed in stabilizing Iraq. In fact, other units in their entirety are being retrained hastily to serve as MPs or as generic riflemen—in a word, infantry—ordered into a classic MP mission. Repurposed troops are patrolling Iraqi streets and securing convoys today.