Wednesday night I saw U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore on Fox News telling reporters — and one reporter in particular — that they were “stuck on stupid” and fighting “the last hurricane,” for asking him why he would want to use the New Orleans Convention Center as a gathering point for people escaping Hurricane Rita, after all of the problems that had arisen there following Hurricane Katrina.
Now, a lot of Republicans surely got their jollies seeing a military man tell off leftwing reporters; I didn’t. It’s no accident that Gen. Honore is black; if a white general spoke that way to reporters, he’d have to publicly apologize for it, or put in his retirement papers. And Gen. Honore has a lot to answer for, regarding the hell that broke loose in the Convention Center and the “Terrordome.”
The National Guard troops who were at those sites, but who refused to restore order, were under Gen. Honore’s command. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore’s hands are covered in blood, and all the bluster and insults in the world won’t wash that blood away.
The same September 3, a CNN article that reported that Gen. Honore had “[made] it clear that it was a humanitarian relief operation,” as opposed to an operation restoring order, quoted New Orleans’ black Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin calling the general a “John Wayne dude.”
Unfortunately, John Wayne was an actor, not a general. Gen. Honore has also been compared to Gen. George Patton Jr., America’s greatest field commander in World War II’s European Theater of Operations. Patton’s Third Army steamrolled the Wehrmacht in France in the summer of 1944. About the only thing that Honore has in common with Patton is his distaste for reporters, and that merely puts him in the company of every other American general since the Civil War.
Patton really was a general; he didn’t just play one. Can you imagine Patton showing up somewhere in battle fatigues, announcing: “This is a humanitarian relief operation”?
If New Orleans was a “humanitarian relief operation,” why were soldiers marching around in uniform with rifles, and authorities claiming that the soldiers were restoring order? Last I heard, you couldn’t drink a rifle butt. And why were armed soldiers under Gen. Honore’s command permitting thugs to hit them over the head with blunt objects and to shoot them, and rather than kill their attackers, running away?
You do not deploy soldiers on humanitarian relief operations, and you do not put soldiers in harm’s way, while ordering them not to defend themselves.
I realize that such deployments are becoming the rule. Hell, even when we go to war now, we feel the need to call it a god-damned “humanitarian relief operation.” Yet such perversions of the military’s function cause nothing but grief. Had a Guardsman shot and killed one of the attacking thugs – assuming he had even been issued live ammunition — presumably he would have been court-martialed for disobeying orders. But that would have opened up quite a can of worms. Since Kent State, the demonization of National Guard troops has been a media ritual. But for a commanding officer to put Guard troops in harm’s way and command them not to defend themselves, could be grounds for his being court-martialed, not to mention his being the defendant in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.
As CNN reported on September 3,
Hundreds of National Guard and active duty troops are carrying weapons in the city. But the way they carried those guns was a concern to the general.
He ordered all he encountered to point their weapons down, said CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who was with the general. Honore repeatedly went up to military vehicles, National Guardsmen standing sentry and even to New Orleans police officers, telling them to please point their weapons down and reminding them that they were not in Iraq.
Which was it — did he order them or ask them, “pretty please”? By the way, in news footage, I see our troops in Iraq pointing their weapons down all the time.
(Ten years ago, when I was researching my first major article on crime, I came across a police blotter entry in a Brooklyn community newspaper about a mugging. The entry said that the mugger had “requested” that the victim hand over his money. I thought to myself: That’s not a mugging. If someone asks you for your money and you give it to him, that’s voluntary.
Only much later, did I realize that the reporter or editor had misrepresented what had transpired. Muggers don’t say, “Please give me your money.” They say things like, “Gimme your s—t!” as a would-be robber said to me one night in early 1992 on a deserted subway platform in Brooklyn, as he reached into his jacket for his weapon. As I immediately threw my newspaper in the air and ran away, shouting “Help!,” I never saw the weapon.
The contemporary media are anti-democratic and authoritarian to the bone, and yet they insist on misrepresenting authority relations, whether legal or illegal. Thus, they report an order as a “request,” be it from a mugger or a general, and refer to a businessman’s employees as his “co-workers.”)
Given that, for better or worse, New Orleans was not under martial law, what was Gen. Honore doing, ordering around police officers? The same geniuses who have criticized me, claiming falsely that posse comitatus precludes using state National Guard troops to restore order, have no problem with a military man bossing around – read making mischief with — civilian law enforcement. (My critics are blissfully unaware that posse comitatus applies only to federal troops. They also see no problem with armed Guardspersons marching around and imitating soldiers in the Terrordome and Convention Center, and on the streets of New Orleans. Some have defended the Guard’s refusal to do its job, claiming “they were outnumbered.” But it is a given that the Guard will be outnumbered; one of its jobs is to restore order against much larger mobs. Based on the “they were outnumbered” rationale, how many National Guard troops should have been dispatched to Los Angeles in 1992 — 100,000? 1,000,000? To ask the question is to see the absurdity of the “they were outnumbered” talking point.)
And that restraint and show of “respect” really impressed New Orleans’ looters and shooters and rapists and carjackers and murderers.
At the time, Gen. Honore did a photo op, helping out an exhausted mom who had been carrying two baby twins through the streets of New Orleans. He didn’t call the reporters who indulged him with that propaganda op “stuck on stupid.” He enjoyed being presented as a hero, without having done anything heroic. And now he’s mad, because reporters are no longer sticking to the “John Wayne dude” script. Live by propaganda, die by propaganda.
The good general needs to do his job, which includes imposing order, protecting and respecting the troops under his command, and leaving civilian personnel alone, rather than trying to intimidate reporters for noting his failure to get the job done last time.