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New Orleans, Unguarded

In discussing Hurricane Katrina, people never tire of maintaining there was “enough blame to go around.” Every sensitive American knows to cite “the failure of local, state, and federal governments to respond more effectively.” Which means, in real terms, that New Orleans’ mayor, Ray Nagin, should have gotten citizens out of the city and kept police in; Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco should have immediately asked for National Guard troops; and President Bush should have . . . not been photographed looking out of an airplane window?

There’s a story today highlighting that the federal government not only saved the day three and a half years ago, but also continued to outshine Louisiana’s local and state entities ever since. The last members of the patrolling National Guard are pulling out of New Orleans by the end of this weekend, and residents are petrified at the prospect of not having federal troops around to aid and protect them:

Residents long distrustful of the city’s police force are worried they will have to fend for themselves. “I don’t know if crime will go up after these guys leave. But I know a lot more of us will be packing our own pieces now to make sure we’re protected,” said Calvin Stewart, owner of a restaurant and store.

Residents of an American city don’t want to “have to fend for themselves” in the absence of federal troops. This is an astounding comment on the enduring failure of Louisiana’s local and state government.

In their camouflage uniforms and Humvees, the troops were often a welcome sight.

“We don’t have enough cops. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that there’s not enough of them. These guys are Johnny-on-the-spot when you need them,” said 57-year-old Tom Hightower, who is still trying to get the mold out of his house. He added: “This is still a spooky place after dark.”

The troops had full arrest powers but were required to call New Orleans police on serious matters. In their time on the streets, Guard troops were involved in only one shooting, and the district attorney ruled it justified.

The Guardsmen answered lots of calls involving domestic violence, reported to be up in New Orleans since the hurricane, and handled car wrecks, house and business alarms and other problems.

Critics have cited Hurricane Katrina as a domestic debacle for George W. Bush with a PR effect comparable to that of the Iraq War. What a funny day for reflection it is that finds President Barack Obama extending his withdrawal timetable in Iraq and complying with the Bush plan to keep a significant number of troops there through 2011, while the residents of New Orleans express heartsickness over being abandoned to local authorities by the federal government. Here’s the kicker:

“I don’t think the city is ready for us to leave,” said Lt. Ronald Brown, who has been part of Task Force Gator since April 2007. “I’d like to see us stay. I think we make a difference, but I guess it’s a money thing.”

Funny, I could swear I remember hearing Barack Obama talk about spending too much on a misguided war and too little at home. But, then, I must be hearing things. Because I also thought I heard something about billions of tax payer dollars being allocated for domestic infrastructure.

I mean the following in all sincerity: good luck, New Orleans.


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