Avoiding Insurrection

George W. Bush may have behaved like a twit after Katrina, but the New York Times is suggesting that when it came to military deployments, Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, may have been as responsible if not more so for the delay in assistance. She was reluctant to cede authority to Washington to deploy active duty troops, but also, according to the piece, did not seem to understand that she had to formally ask for active-duty troops from the administration in the first place.

To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established... Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

But complicating matters is that Blanco, during the weekend after Katrina hit, apparently also "rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general--but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard."

Bush could have federalized the relief effort, but had Blanco rejected this, it could have created the kind of state vs. federal crisis that the U.S. hadn't seen since the civil rights era--though the context was obviously quite different.

So, there was a giant screw-up because most people were too busy reading the fine print to figure out what to really do. But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff didn't help things by being quoted as saying: "The unusual set of challenges of conducting a massive evacuation in the context of a still dangerous flood requires us to basically break the traditional model and create a new model, one for what you might call kind of an ultra-catastrophe."

One of have thought that the "traditional model" of disaster relief, even short of an ultra-catastrophe, meant precisely knowing how to engage in massive evacuation in the context of a still dangerous flood.

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  • ||

    All the more reason why these issues should have been figured out long ago. I agree that federalism is important. And just because a big storm is approaching doesn't mean we should throw federalism out the window. On the other hand, it should be absolutely clear between state and federal authorities when the federales should get involved, and in what manner, so that bickering over these things won't be going on while people are dying waiting for help. This should have been figured out in the four years since 9/11. It hasn't been.

  • ||

    Wait a minute, doesn't "the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties" contradict "given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area?"

    Does the Insurrection Act allow the president to command active-duty forces into states, regardless of the governor's actions, or not?

    The later comments about "female governor from the other party" make Bush's hesitancy seem less statutory than political.

    All in all, not a good day for federalism.

  • ||

    The lessons, as usual, are that no one with authority can be trusted to wield it wisely; That this two-party feud undermines what these buffoons are supposed to doing; That sometimes people have to just make a decision instead of digging through a rulebook; That we're idiots for allowing these incompetants to be elected in the first place.

  • ||

    So, joe, do you think that whenever the President feels that some governor or mayor some place doesn't quite have things under control he should just send the 82nd Airborne and take over?

  • Morat||

    Mitch: I think under the procedures developed under Bush's own Administration -- as a response to terrorist attacks but perfectly applicable to any disastor or catastrophe -- he actually can.

    I'm pretty sure that "State of Emergency thingy" Blanco signed off on before landfall (the one the White House tried to conviently forget for a bit) gave Bush all the authority he needed to send in the Army to provide aid.

    It IS ironic to see George Bush fall back on the "I didn't want to even possibly come even CLOSE to the limits of my executive powers" defense.

  • ||

    To be fair, I don't think anyone wants any president to be invoking the Insurrection Act to send troops anywhere he wishes whenever he wants to quell "unrest." New Orleans wasn't suffering from a huge riot, it was suffering from a few roving bands of armed thugs left in the wake of a largely empty and severely damaged city. If Bush had charged in, it would have only confirmed to many that we now live in a police state under federal military control -- even if the result had been to save many lives.

  • ||

    Yes, Mitch, I think that whenever the President sees something he doesn't like, he should send in the 82nd Airborne. If the DPW doesn't empty the trash barrell's in Peoria often enough, for example, that's a good reason to send a division of active duty troops. That's exactly the point I was making when I - er - noted a discrepancy in the reporting in that story. How very insightful of you.

    I'd like to say NaG is being ridiculous, that no one would have freaked out if the military had quickly restored order in the stricken city, and put a large presende at the Dome and Convention Center. But I can't, really. Between the black helicopter types and the people who use the term "War of Northern Aggression," a swift return to order via the Army probably would have created a shitstorm. Sigh.

  • ||

    "According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated."

    Huh.

    Someone asked this earlier in the week, I think: Is there not a distinction between law enforcement statutes and evacatuation duties? If the large numbers of people at the convention center, at the superdome, and stranded on the bridge could have been removed, wouldn't the load have been lessened on the local first responders (however few remained)? Wouldn't such evacuation also have allowed first responders from other areas to get into the city more easily?

    Even efficient deliveries of supplies would have been a tremendous help.

    Anon

  • ||

    We are not discussing some transaction where any ignorance on your own part will be to your peril. Does it occur to anyone that if Blanco didn't know she needed to ask for military help, then perhaps some of the people waiting to be asked could have informed her of that requirement?

    Proactive is not a prescription drug.

  • ||

    it was suffering from a few roving bands of armed thugs

    I thought it was drowning in looters and armed bandits who were shooting at rescuers and violating everyones property rights. It was borderline anarchy!! At least that's the way some people have presented it as when explaining why they had shift 1500 police officers off of search and rescue operations and onto restoring law and order and stopping looters.


    There was such large scale disaster and overwhelmed local first responders that I dont think anyone would have batted an eyelash if Bush would have used the military in this case.

  • ||

    To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act...But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control... Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state...

    So let me get this straight. Nobody in Louisina or Washington asked, told, hectored, begged, or demanded the governor to invoke the act because... because... they felt CERTAIN that she WOULD HAVE rejected their argument.

    Ummm... and the writer's point is... what? That they then have been emotionaly crushed by this rejection? That President Bush, Secretary Chertoff, the commander of the Lousiana National Guard, or whomever... ALL of them just couldn't face that level of rejection? They would have burst into tears and hid in their bedroom?

    The obviously specious argument contained in this article has got to be one of the worst examples of journalism I've ever seen.

  • ||

    This is all Monday-morning quarterbacking. The real question should be how (and if) state/federal govts. can arrange things so this kind of screw-up doesn't happen again.

    Does the federal govt. have a responsibility to come in and save the day if the people of Louisiana are dumb enough to elect the Nagins and Blancos of the world? That's the real federalist question.

  • ||

    Welcome dailyKos readers.

    herostratus

    Nice cut and paste. You left off a line

    "Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area."

    It turns out decision makers in Washington were right.

  • ||

    Joe writes:

    "I'd like to say NaG is being ridiculous, that no one would have freaked out if the military had quickly restored order in the stricken city, and put a large presende at the Dome and Convention Center. But I can't, really. Between the black helicopter types and the people who use the term 'War of Northern Aggression,' a swift return to order via the Army probably would have created a shitstorm. Sigh."

    The uproar from the foil-headed 'copter watchers and remaining Confederates would pale in comparison to the bleatings of ANSWER-type activists who would no doubt complain about Bush's imperialist AmeriKKKan troops sent to restore order among the largely black population of New Orleans.

    Damned if you do...

  • ||

    Skeptical....u accuse and then do the same thing

    continuing in this vain...here is the complete quote you sourced :
    Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

    But I think part of the issue, at least to me is that people are speculating about what Blanco would have said and would have done. But so far no one has said she refused anyhing. Further, much of this speculation is coming from the administration which is in full protect mode. And just who are these LA "officials" who believe that she wouldn't have given up control ?

    TO me the relevant quote was :
    "I need everything you have got," Governor Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Tuesday, when New Orleans flooded. In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that. I thought that I had requested everything they had," she said

    So she was requesting help. It seemed to me very clear that the President could have made an Executive decision that she might be in over her head or told her that troops would have to be under Fed control.

  • Morat||

    I think the actual crux here is the insurrection act. Bush didn't want to send active army unless Blanco invoked it (claimed New Orleans was in a state of active insurrection). Blacno didn't want to do that.

    Judging from her pleas, she had no problems with active Army running around -- out of her control -- that she didn't even care.

    Reading between the lines here, it seems almost as if the executive branch was requiring the use of the Insurrection Act (and Blanco to give them an excuse) before they'd act. Blanco was refusing -- I don't blame her.

    A unified chain of command is nice, but it's not required -- and claiming Bush couldn't "send in the Army" without the act is bullshit too. Evacuation and relief duties are absolutely allowed, and other than some twits at the far edges of society, no one would have remarked if the presence of the 82nd ALSO prompted a sudden return to law and order while they were sheparding food and supplies in and people out.

    Why the Bush White House might have insisted on the Insurrection Act before acting I'll leave to those better informed of the Act. I'd just like to note that this marks the FIRST time in 5 years that Bush has actually stayed well within his powers as President. He didn't even come close to the edge, and in a situation where people would have been massively forgiving if not ever i was dotted or ever T crossed.

  • ||

    The statement about the Insurrection Act not being employed without the agreement of a governor since the Civil Rights Era answers my question - yes, the President can take such action without the approval of the governor.

    Seems to me that Bush could have told Blanco, "There are 7000 federal troops en route at this moment. Whether they arrive there, and restore order, in response to your request, or against your wishes, will depend on whether you get a request letter to me in the next three hours."

    But the feat is that that would have looked bad politically. Which is not only morally repugnant, but stupid - how bad does Bush look politically right now?

  • ||

    I'd just like to note that this marks the FIRST time in 5 years that Bush has actually stayed well within his powers as President.

    If you're talking about stuff like Iraq and the PATRIOT Act, blame Congress, not Bush. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is Guantanamo detainees as not "well within his powers as President". Color me stupid, but what has Bush done that has not been "well within his powers as President"? Recess appointments? Twisting arms of Congressmen to pass laws? He's skated up to the line, but not crossed it that I can recall.

  • ||

    From what I'm learning about how the systems are designed, there's "before rescue/evac" and "after rescue/evac". But people tend to lump both operations as "relief" and the confusion grows from that.

    This is why probably why FEMA asked for firefighters to do community relations, FEMA's not really an evacuation-and-rescue outfit so they would never ask for evac-rescue help. FEMA helps those who have already been evacuated and rescued. It's the law-and-order types who have to do the "before" stuff, FEMA's an aid organization doing the "after" stuff.

    What happens when the evacuees have to be rescued from the evacuation shelters? We'll never get a straight answer on whether Blanco knew she had the option or didn't, or whether Bush offered her the option or didn't. Way too much face to save and too many bureaucratic loopholes to give one an out.

  • ||

    jf,

    I don't really want to engage with you about your query in depth because we will never see eye to eye, but there are quite a few people who believe he crossed the line when his administration decided to render the Geneva conventions quaint and decided the use of torture for anyone who is being "detained" at Abu Gharib and Gitmo, and there is some real debate about whether or not he crossed the line with some of his "enemy combatants" designations (i.e. Jose Padilla - who will be staying in jail it seems)

    I'm guessing you believe he was well within his rights as president to do these things, but I don't think that is a consesus opinion.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom:

    I agree that the entire Gitmo situation is shady at best, and think I said so originally (although I neglected to mention Abu Ghraib). I was just looking for justification for the "FIRST time in 5 years that Bush has actually stayed well within his powers as President". Hell, email it to me, since I don't want to threadjack this thing. I hear that Bush has abused his power his entire stay in office, but never see any concrete examples (other than Gitmo).

  • ||

    It's a MSM report, so take it as you will. But this report is a bit more adamant that an offer was made than the NY Times article.

    http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20050904/1066662.asp

  • ||

    It's a good thing that Chicago Tom doesn't want to engage JF in an indepth discussion about crossing the line.

    He (Tom) has demonstrated he hasn't a clue about what the geneva convention is or what it says.

    He confuses humiliation tactics that rise to the level of college hazing with "torture"

    He doesn't seen to realize that the courts have pretty much sided with the administration on the designation of "enemy combatants".

    I would hazard a guess (based on his comments) that he is a left wing, marxist Bush hater.

    GET OVER IT.

  • ||

    There was such large scale disaster and overwhelmed local first responders that I dont think anyone would have batted an eyelash if Bush would have used the military in this case.

    Given the direct relevance of the lead article, I'll repost here an alternate timeline I posted a couple days ago. I really am curious what those who want earlier and faster federal response would say...

    August 28. FEMA chief Michael "Brownie" Brown announces that the local plan for the mandatory evacuation is completely inadequate for the threat New Orleans faces. In order to save the tens of thousands who are not getting in cars and driving out of town, he pushes to get Bush to declare martial law. The state and city capitulate and "ask" for FEMA to take responsibility.

    Brown federalizes all city buses, school buses, and private buses not actively being used for evacuation. He federalizes the Louisiana National Guard and hurries them to the New Orleans area to help with evacuation. Ambulances from a four state area are brought in for the difficult cases. Everyone who wants to leave can leave. Those who don't want to leave are allowed to remain with the warning that a curfew will be imposed and the streets will be patrolled. The Superdome is set up as an official response locale for the federal forces, but no evacuees remain there.

    August 29. Hurricane Katrina takes a hard right turn and loses significant power as it skirts the coast and hits Pensacola at category 3. New Orleans gets 5 inches of rain and no real damage. Twelve people taking advantage of the dispopulation of the city to commit armed break-ins are shot and killed by police and national guard.

    Discuss the media reaction. Note that in this alternate history Bush&Co. can point to the alternate alternate history where the feds did nothing before the storm and the hurricane did hit, swamped the levees, and drowned thousands in their homes.

  • ||

    But apparently Michael Young thinks these same institutions will trigger Goodness And Light in parts of the world most of its members and citizens cannot find on a map.

  • ||

    Corection to my above: "...most of THEIR members and citizens cannot find on a map."

  • ||

    JD,

    You are correct. Your Rush Limbaugh talking points have made me see the error of my commie pinko loving ways. American citizens, arrested on american soil being detained indefinitely without any due process and done so in clandestine and secretive ways is definitely something that I should just get over. I should never question dear leader or anything the state does (unless there's some other hippie marxist / Democrat President. )
    Forgive me!

  • ||

    Now that Brown has been ousted is it too early to begin the sounding bells calling for Blanco's head? Not early enough for me, as it becomes increasing clear that at almost every step in this disaster (pre and post) this women's utter incompetence contributed to and directly affected the totality of this FUBAR scene. Brown may have been a schmuck, but I guarantee had the LA governor been Haley Barbour we would not have known this, Additionally, I'll be galled if DEMs use Brown leaving as a TOTAL cover for Blanco.

    Let start the call!

  • R C Dean||

    But I think part of the issue, at least to me is that people are speculating about what Blanco would have said and would have done.

    But we do know exactly what she said and did. She dithered and delayed and very much got in the way. She did not act decisively or knowledgably, but instead acted as if covering her ass and setting up partisan talking points for later was the most important thing.

  • ||

    "On the other hand, it should be absolutely clear between state and federal authorities when the federales should get involved, and in what manner, so that bickering over these things won't be going on while people are dying waiting for help."

    Comments like this are idiotic. The situation was worked out. It is clear when the federal government should become involved. It has been worked out all over the nation. Every state is required to have an emergency management plan. The Stafford Act specifically requires the state in question to activate its plan before the Federal Government can do anything. In this case, the evacuee crisis occurred entirely because the city and state authorities failed to carry out their emergency plans. The hundreds of buses we've seen in those photos were available to evacuate the needy before the levees broke but they weren't used. Implementation of the bus evacuation did not require federal intervention. The fact that the New Orleans police department collapsed had less to do with the actual effects of the hurricane and more to do with a complete lack of leadership. Those cops who were video taped looting weren't physically unable to do their job. They just chose to throw in the towel and throw their fellow citizens to the wolves.

    The Red Cross becomes an agency of FEMA when a state of emergency is declared by the President. The head of the American Red Cross is now on record saying that the Red Cross had seven trucks full of provisions ready to go directly to the Super Dome on August 30th but they were prevented from doing so by the Louisiana state Dept. of Homeland Security. That means FEMA was immediately responding to the problem but the idiots in state government prevented them from doing so. This whole thing is getting to be a joke.

    People want to ignore reality if it conflicts with their preconceived ideas. I am personally sick of the rorshach test world that this country has become.

    No matter how politically correct it may be or how intelligent you may think it makes you sound, trying to lay blame for this mess on the federal government and the Bush Administration is a joke and has no relationship with reality.

    We have a joke of a mayor who failed to implement his own city's evacuation plan despite the pleas of President Bush that it be done on August 27th. The Governor refused to let relief supplies reach the people who needed them because whe wanted to encourage people to leave the Super Dome even though these people were there precisely because they did not have the means or ability to leave. Local police departments in surrounding suburbs were preventing people from leaving on their own. And as late as Saturday September 3rd Governor Blanco had hired a political hack from the Clinton Administration who she admits advised her to refuse to cede control to the Feds because it might hurt her politically.

    The State and Local goverments failed. The Feds mobilized faster than they have in any other natural disaster to date. And yes, as much as it may pain those who want to live in fantasy land, the incompetent government officials who are almost entirely responsible for this mess are Democrats.

  • ||

    A major question has been raised about President Bush seeking invoke the Insurrection Act before deploying Federal forces to restore order. I would like to address that. Admittedly, I don't have an encyclopedic understanding of Federal law, but I do know this.

    The Insurrection Act permits the President of the United States to do one of the things the Founders feared the most, and sought to prohibit and hinder as much as possible when they framed the Constitution; specifically, to used Federal soldiers against a large body of American citizens. I'm not sure when the last time US soldiers (not national guardsmen) actually were used in such a capacity. Possibly during the LA Riots. It may be that they had to do some shooting during the Civil Rights problems in the 50s and 60s. The last time I know, for sure, that Federal forces shot at fellow Americans, though, is the Civil War.

    To send Federal forces into a situation where they would, without a doubt, be put in a position where they would have to shoot at US citizens WITHOUT invoking that law is the first step on what is potentially a very slippery slope. It sets a precedent. Yes, this time it was the unrest that occurred after a national disaster. Maybe next time it'll be used on unruly mobs, or large anti-government demostrations, or to supress political opposition.

    In short, my read on the situation is sending Federal forces into an American city without the express consent of the Governor, no matter the immediate benefit, is the first step on the road to a potential second Civil War a century down the road. The President's hesistation at unilaterally moving Federal forces in when there are other National Guard formations available, especially knowing the likely public opinion consequences, is a decision that takes extreme intestinal fortitude, and I for one am glad I was not the one who had to make it.

  • ||

    jt007 is correct.

    The thing that people (especially the BDS crowd) seem to be avoiding in all of this is that this is the first time that local officials totally failed to maintain law and order during a disaster.

    Have we ever seen this kind of chaos before during a disaster? Did we see it in San Francisco and L.A. after the earthquakes? Did we see it after Andrew in Florida? Did we see it in Manhattan after 9/11? No. Why? Because the local/state officials DID THEIR FREAKING JOBS!

    This is also why I think that the Democrats "demands" that there be another "commission" to look into this will quietly die out. It is becoming obvious to them that the blame for this mess lies in the incompetence of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin.

    I found these two articles to be highly insightful.

    http://varifrank.com/archives/2005/09/what_if.php
    http://varifrank.com/archives/2005/09/the_kingfish_is.php

  • Phil||

    The Red Cross becomes an agency of FEMA when a state of emergency is declared by the President.

    This statement is the exact opposite of being true. Trust me, I know, I have both a wife and a father who work at ARC HQ, and are in a position to know whether such a thing would be true. I can assure you it is not. The ARC has an independent Congressional charter and dispatches and manages its assets independently. FEMA does, as a coordinating authority under the Stafford Act, and where it is in charge, have the power to direct the activities of the Salvation Army, Red Cross and other such organizations; but the Stafford Act specifically prohibits FEMA from doing so in a manner that would conflict with the ARC charter or would infringe on ARC's rights and responsibilities under that charter.

  • ||

    JFK invoked the Insurrection Act against George Wallace by federalizing the Alabama Army and Air National Guard to enforce civil rights laws on 9/11/63 (apply tinfoil to skull before commenting on date). He did the same to enforce rights at U Miss 10/62-7/63. Application of the Insurrection Act in NO for Katrina might not have been taken too positively in the neighborhood.

    Reference (PDF!): http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pubs/2003/posse/posse.pdf

  • ||

    If, as the Governor related, president Bush had to beg the Governor and the Mayor to evacuate the city, what does that say about both of them?

    The storm was coming on a direct path to New Orleans. It was a Category 5. The levees were almost guaranteed to fail. And he had to tell these twits the city should be evacuated, and even then it took the Mayor another 12 hours to announce the evacuation was mandatory?

    Heck yes, the Bush administration debated Federalizing the effort without their agreement.

    And then there were those three senior Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness employees who were indicted last November.

    http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/law/news/wdl20041129.html

    The White House knew EXACTLY who they were dealing with and it wasn't competents.

  • ||

    Does the Insurrection Act allow the president to command active-duty forces into states, regardless of the governor's actions, or not?

    It allows the president to command active-duty forces into states to contain insurrections and quell civil disorder. It does not -- or, at least, isn't supposed to -- give the President blanket authority to send the US Army to do whatever he feels like having it do so long as somebody in the area is misbehaving.

    Picture this scenario. It's Election Day 2008. Bush observes that black neighborhoods have shockingly higher crime rates than white neighborhoods. He announces that, to help contain that civil disorder, he'll be dispatching the Army to stand outside all the polling places in black neighborhoods. Would you accept that? Well, that sort of crap is exactly why the President isn't supposed to be allowed to use the Army domestically unless (a) there's actually a need to engage in military action against hostile forces or (b) the local authorities ask for help.

  • ||

    Am I wrong or does not the Patriot Act, passed under Bush, give him the authority to send in troops regardless of any 'insurrection'?

    There was a statement from the Bush admin that they did not want to send in troops without Blanco signing away all her authority as it would have 'set a terrible precedent, and who would want that on their conscience?'.

    So rather than have over-riding states rights on their conscience, they let people drown? And all over some political principle?

    Word on the street is that the Bush admin played politics...before they sent in help, they wanted Blanco to first sign a piece of paper that would in essence be her admitting she had failed, that way the Bush admin would be exnorated of all fault and could later point to Blanco's signature and say 'see!!! She gave up!!! It's all her fault!!!'.

    Blanco was not about to sign away all her and the various local officials authority to some suits in Washington...especially when it was not even needed as a result of the Patriot Act.

    IF Blanco had signed everything over to the Feds, the fate of New Orleanians would now be in the hands of minions of pencil pushers and EPA types in D.C.- and when the residents could return would be caught up in beaurocratic red-tape while men in lab coats argued over parts-per-billion.

    Thank goodness Blanco didn't succumb to the Bush admin's games....if she had, Michael Brown would be running the state of Louisiana and it would be an even bigger cluster phuck.

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