Saturday, September 10, 2005


Was Gen. Honore's command of NOLA competent?

I hate to second-guess the military commander who ended up in charge of the mess Bush created in New Orleans. Most accounts present General Honore (commander, 1st Army, Ft. Gillem, GA) as a take-charge guy who brought order out of chaos. I don't know what resources were actually under his direct command. But the more I read, the more I think that there were specific failures for which he had to have been personally responsible. Item: Two hundred Louisiana Guardsmen (out of a grand total of 6,500) were, according to their website, in New Orleans at the Superdome on 8/29. Others were probably in other parishes that are part of New Orleans. Later accounts say the Guard was not present. Item: On August 30th, Louisiana had deployed over half the Guardsmen at its disposal for hurricane duty while Mississippi had deployed only 12%. Item: Between "Day 2" and "Day 4", which I suppose would be August 30th-Sept 1, the military commandeered 10 buses that had been hired by Emergency Medical Service workers, , leaving them out tens of thousands of dollars. Item: According to Gen. Honore, on August 31st, two batallions from Fort Hood arrived and participated in evacuations. The General stated that FEMA had produced 500 buses. He also implied that active duty troops could not be used in law enforcement, an accurate statement of the limitations imposed by Posse Comitatus. But of course, they can do just about anything short of making arrests. He also mentions that the Bataan is standing by with its vital water purification capability, off of New Orleans. It was probably dispatched to Biloxi the day before. Item: On "Day 4," which I suppose would be Thursday, September 1st, the Gretna police shot at storm survivors to prevent them from using from the only egress from New Orleans, the Greater New Orleans Bridge. Item: The Army Times places the arrival of active-duty troops in New Orleans as Sept. 2nd (or maybe a little earlier), while the Times-Picayune says active duty troops were mobilized on Sept. 3rd. At any rate, this is after the press conference in which Gen. Honore suggests that troops are present and that the situation is under control. Now, the real heavies in this are obviously the Gretna police. But if you read the account of the EMS couple, it seems very likely that the police were only able to get away with this because the area military commander agreed to it. I think that if General Honore had politely offered the police an expenses-paid vacation to Fallujah, the Sheriff might have seen his way to letting the able-bodied walk to safety while children, the ill, and the elderly rode in buses, instead of the helter-skelter evacuation that parted infants from their mothers and left the ill and elderly to die unattended at the airport. Yes, it would have meant treating African Americans like human beings rather than parolees. Why didn't it happen? [Update: Kevin Drum points out that Gretna is actually a city, not a county, and that the law enforcement people involved were police, not sheriffs. Corrections inserted. UpdateUpdate: The DoD can't spell the names of their facilities. It is Ft. Gillem, not Gilliam]
Denise Moore when interviewed on NPR specifically said that it was National Guard doing some of the defending of the Gretna bridge against them.

Ms. Moore is, btw, a college-educated Army vet whose mother was critical personnel and could not leave the hospital where she was working.

It's all transcribed on my blog, scroll back a few days to "I didn't know it was a crime to be poor" for the text and link to RA file.
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