That said, I always cringe when he comments on New Orleans, because (for someone who reads a lot of news) Mr. Rogers seems particularly ill-informed about the city. Perhaps its the quality of his sources here, or his pointed dislike for the Times-Picayune (which nailed him on a false claim about Mitch Landrieu) or something else. I don't know.
One thing for sure, though, is that he gets too cute in his latest "Rant" (7/6/06) about crime in the city. I found the results to be unusually disappointing. It begins:
From July 4th's Times Picayune, we learned that the presence of the national guard in New Orleans has not made things better: it has only made them worse. Michael Perlstein reported that "The shootings and stabbing haven't stopped. The street corner crack-slinging, opportunistic looting and rough-trade prostitution continue to surface in the city's darker corners."
Rogers claims that the National Guard "has not made things better: it has only made them worse". And that statement is based on a T-P quote which claims, essentially, that "[assorted crimes] haven't stopped" in New Orleans. The logical move from "haven't stopped" to "only made [things] worse" is left unexplained by Rogers. Similarly, the next two sentences in the T-P article cited by Rogers are not quoted. They read:
But the infusion of National Guard soldiers and State Police troopers two weeks ago has put law enforcement on the offensive, freeing New Orleans police to swamp high-crime neighborhoods with aggressive patrols, Police Superintendent Warren Riley said.
The Police Department released arrest figures Monday showing promising crime-fighting results since federal and state support was brought in as a backup to city cops.
But never mind those details, Rogers wants to get cute and make implied parallels between the state of New Orleans and the War in Iraq. And that's fine-- hell, I've been doing that sort of thing for over two years. (The only difference being that I always used the provocative Iraq/LA comparison to support the 'gret stet', never to demean it.) Unfortunately, though, Rogers makes an implied comparison between two superficially similar situations, and the results in my opinion are very misleading and unfortunate.
We've inspected the hollow foundation for Rogers' cute little "Rant". Now let's see where he goes with it. I'll intersperse his quotes with my commentary:
Let's face facts here. The Louisiana National Guard is immersed in a segment of Louisiana culture that it does not understand. As a result, the street thugs have grown more resentful of the guards' presence and as a result are committing more crimes.
Some of the LA NG are from the city of New Orleans, and are not newbies to New Orleans' "crime culture". Secondly, they are patrolling the outskirts of town for looters. Most "street thugs" are not directly impacted by the NG. Further, statistics show that crime is down (although it still exists!) since just prior to the NG's arrival.
The governor and the mayor clearly should have known better. One cannot install military law and order in an impoverished, crime ridden area.
Again, the NG are not patrolling the "impoverished, crime ridden" areas. They are securing vacant, destroyed areas from being looted.
This is all worsened by the fact that Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin have given no timeline for troop withdrawal, and no exit strategy. This is recipe for quagmire, and we're headed there fast.
The governor and the mayor need to act quickly. They need to withdraw the National Guard troops so that the New Orleans security forces can take over. This is the only hope to end the violence in New Orleans. The present course will only lead to an ever mounting increase in casualties and an open-ended urban war with no end in sight.
Yes, these implied comparisons between Iraq and New Orleans are very cute. Rogers repackages criticisms of Bush's handling of the war, and applies it to New Orleans.
Obviously Rogers is trying to be humorous, but he's stretched his point so far that it's unrecognizable. I'll try to bring him back to earth with these observations:
1. We went to War with Iraq because Bush claimed Saddam Hussein had WMD's and was a threat to the region and to the U.S.. New Orleans received the National Guard because its Police Dept couldn't handle rising crime in a catastrophe zone.
2. The National Guard is not a hindrance to the city's security. The vast majority of New Orleanians are glad that they are here, and deeply appreciate the work that they are doing. Most criminals are unaffected by their presence. So there's no rising tide of "resentment" from either side.
3. Before sending troops, the Bush administration relentlessly "sold" the American public on Hussein being a "grave" threat. There was plenty of advance notice, and the run-up to war involved a very carefully orchestrated campaign. Conversely, Governor Blanco and Nagin sent troops in with almost no advance warning, and explained it very poorly.
4. The National Guard's mission is clear and narrowly defined. They are helping to secure a city that is struggling to recover from the worst engineering failure in U.S. history. New Orleans is not Baghdad; it's not some foreign "part of the world"-- these are Americans helping other Americans. Drawing comparisons from the Iraq quagmire to New Orleans-- even in jest-- does a disservice to a city struggling mightily to recover from an unprecedented disaster. Same goes for cherry-picking quotes about "crack-slinging" and "prostitution", and purposefully using them out of context to make an unsupported claim about rising crime.
Those are four obvious differences. Now, if you want some similarities between N.O./LA and Iraq, here are a few:
1. Most of the devastation in Iraq and New Orleans was man-made.
2. Both Iraq and LA experienced extreme wetlands loss. (Iraq's wetlands are now largely replenished).
3. Both Iraq and LA are crucially important oil-producers in strategic geopolitical locations.