President Obama gave a well-received speech last week concerning the Iraq troop withdrawal plan; however, early this morning, another troop withdrawal actually occurred, finally removing American troops from a long term deployment to a region prone to high levels of violence, massive government incompetence and corruption, and devastating natural disasters. No, it was not Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the Balkans (troops are all still in those places); instead, the last troops redeployed silently and without fanfare, from the troubled city of New Orleans:
Three and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard is pulling the last of its troops out of New Orleans this weekend, leaving behind a city still desperate and dangerous. 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.
The National Guardsmen were welcomed as liberators when they arrived in force in a big convoy more than four days after Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005 and plunged the city into anarchy. The force was eventually 15,000 strong.Their numbers dwindled as civil authority returned in the months after the storm. But then, after a surge of bloodshed, 360 troops were dispatched in June 2006 to help the depleted police department patrol the streets.
“One of the biggest things we did was keep those places safe so people could rebuild,” said Sgt. Wayne Lewis, a New Orleans native who has been patrolling the streets since January 2007. “People would put the things to rebuild in their houses and thieves would come along and take them right out again. We stopped a lot of that.”New Orleans had 210 murders in 2007, making it the murder capital of America, with the highest per-capita rate in the country.
The Guard’s departure, which will take place after the final patrol ends at 3 a.m. Sunday, will be low-key. There will be no convoy, no bands playing. The last few Guardsmen on the street will check in their vehicles and head home for good. “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.”[emph added].
I had not realized the National Guard still had forces deployed to New Orleans in what amounts to a stability operation, years after Hurricane Katrina had ended. Although their numbers were in the low hundreds, the psychological effect of their presence in New Orleans’ neighborhoods speaks volumes to the lack of faith citizens have in their own civil service there. Who could blame them? New Orleans Police were filmed looting stores during the Hurricane, if you remember. And at least the looters, as depraved as they were, stayed within city limits; hundreds of New Orleans police simply deserted their posts during or immediately after the hurricane and fled, contributing to the breakdown of order within the city. So kudos to the National Guard for helping to maintain order in New Orleans over the past three years. Too bad that your efforts did not rate any more fanfare than a few articles below the fold.
Hopefully the embarassment of requiring National Guard troops to maintain order for YEARS after a natural disaster will compel New Orleans leaders to professionalize their civil service, and fight corruption at all levels. Who wants to return to a city that requires an Army patrolling its streets to maintain order? It’s depressing that a person could substitute “Iraq” “Afghanistan” or “Haiti” for New Orleans in my opening article quote, and the article would have read just fine.
As one blogger wrote (sarcastically): “In less than four years our military stabilized the region and re-established law, order, and democracy for its citizens.”
Post Script: The fact that civil order broke down in New Orleans, and even years later required national guard patrols to maintain it, is a solid example/argument for the 2nd Amendment. Not that the authorities noticed, however, since they attempted to confiscate all firearms, even legally owned/registered guns, in the hurricane’s aftermath. The only civilians who were to be left with guns in New Orleans were criminals – and Blackwater.
Post Post Script: Hopefully the trillion-dollar Stimulus package will benefit New Orleans, since most of the city and its government is ‘shovel ready’; oh, wait a minute. . .