Thursday, June 22, 2006

America Cuts and Runs

What must they think of us, that the National Guard has to come and save us, that we can't police ourselves? How embarrassing.

That's all the talk now that state police and Louisiana National Guard are being called in to help staunch the city's bloody crime spree. Frankly, I don't care what they think. Instead, I want to tell you what I think of the rest of America. But first, some facts.

The Guard, in fact, won't be involved in policing high-crime neighborhoods or protecting the tourists. They will be patrolling the empty quarters, the vast regions of town still largely unoccupied since the federal levees failed and flooded the city. They will not be "federalized", which requires them to be unarmed. They will be authorized to stop, arrest and use any force necessary. (That, by the way, is why Gov. Blanco refused to federalize the Guard in September. She wasn't going to send them into the chaos unarmed, as Bush insisted).

Even 10 months later, looting is still rampant in areas like Lakeview, New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward. Architectural details are being ripped off homes and cant' be found in local markets because, we are told, they are being taken out of state, stolen by carpetbaggers who've come to Louisiana to pillage. Others who are trying to rebuild in the hardest hit areas tell of fixtures and appliances newly delivered stolen in the night. That is what the Guard have come to protect.

The reason the Guard is here is that America cut and run, turned its timid and yellow back on New Orleans and pulled out the Guard when there were still vast tracts of ruin to recover, when the help of the Guard was still needed. The Guard are back to protect a disaster zone created by the federal government's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They never should have left.

They were pulled out anyway, because we are an inconvenient fact: poverty and third world conditions amid plenty, an inept government that knowingly built levees that would not protect us then lied about it, and a response that showed our government was no more ready to deal with a real terrorist attack or other major disaster than the Girls Scouts.

So they pulled the guard out. Nothing to see here. Look how nice the French Quarter is! Look at the tourists! It's all over. Time to move on.

I'm not embarrassed that the Guard are here. I'm embarrassed to be the citizen of a nation that let them leave in the first place, that allowed the entire catastrophic flood to happen and then could not deal with the aftermath. I'm embarrassed people are still living in tents and tin trailers almost a year after a disaster.

Do I sound bitter? My anger is only directed at the carpetbaggers and the central government. I sit in my home which is neither in the Triangle of Death nor in the vast ruined tracts of suburban New Orleans, and I'm happy to be home, ready and anxious to tackle the city's problems, with or without America's help.

The Guard and the State Police are a distraction from the real issues. The real issue is we have no jails to hold the criminals our police arrest, and no resources to build more. The mayor and governor and police chief hold a press conference to announce the coming of the troopers and Guard, but say nothing about the DA's office that doesn't prosecute and judges that turn the criminals back onto the streets. Give us enough tents and hurricane fence and concertina wire and we'll have someplace to put the people who endanger us, including Judge Charles Elloie (scroll down to find his name).

We know the problems that are within our grasp to solve, even if our city administration is afraid to confront them. All we need is the resources to do so, money that should be rights be ours. And while the federals cut and run on their own fellow citizens, the Louisiana Guard and State Police stand tall on the streets of New Orleans, committed to the work of saving their neighbors.

No, I'm not embarrassed, but the rest of American should be.

Nicely said. Thanks.
Wow, that was beautifully said.
Thank you Markus! I tried posting a similar sentiment over at my blog -- but you've managed it in a much more eloquent fashion.

Here here!
I totally agree. The guard should never have been sent away.

I was in a class last semester with a LA. Guardsman who came back from Iraq to a houseful of ruined possessions in September, and volunteered for an extra year to work in the city. They're good people, and we can use all the help we can get.
I agree with your stance on the National Guard, but blaming the influx of "others" on our crime problems is somewhat off base.

Some of your comments sound similar to those coming out of Houston, blaming evacuees for their increase in crime.
KB, all of the architectural looting is leaving town. This seems a bit sophisticated for our local crews. Now, appliance and fixture napping only requires a small brain, a strong back and a decent truck.
Great post. During a conversation I had last night, someone insinuated that Gov. Blanco is the person responsible for removing the National Guard the first time. My hunch is this wasn't the case, can anyone back me up on this?

Paul S. Pierce
BRAVO! BRAVO! I couldn't agree more. Need to buy you a drink for writing that so beautifully.

And I am also grateful that you wrote about the pillaging of the architectural pieces and the rebuilding supplies. Something so few are talking about.

You made my day. Thanks.
Wow, that post really captures a lot of what I'm feeling lately. Thanks.
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