New Orleans: Bush sends in the Marines

President Bush has ordered 7,000 active duty troops into New Orleans, including 2,500 from the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina, 2,700 from the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas, 2,000 from the 1st and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Forces. “I think you can expect to see the first plane land in New Orleans before sundown today,” said Major General Joseph Inge, deputy commander of the US Northern Command. “I would estimate that the main part of the force will close within 72 hours.”

Inge said the active duty troops will be used to reinforce National Guard troops that have been sent in to secure the city but will not be used for law enforcement operations. “Their purpose is to contribute to the effort to bring about a more stable environment,” Inge said in a video conference from the Northern Command’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. “They will not take on a law enforcement role nor have they been directed in any way to do so.”

Under the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, the military is barred from engaging in law enforcement activities within the United States unless the president takes the unprecedented step of invoking a waiver.

Inge said there had been no discussion about waiving Posse Comitatus. The active duty troops might guard sites around the city but their main work will be to deliver relief supplies and help in the evacuation, he said.

Unlike the national guard, who have been given “shoot-to-kill” orders to stop looting in Louisiana and Mississippi, the regular army soldiers and marines will have more restrictive rules of engagement.

“These soldiers will have what we call standard rules for use of force, which in very general terms gives them the right of self protection and will give them the right to act should they witness an event that causes…loss of human life,” he said.

Lieutenant General Steven Blum, nationwide commander of the National Guard forces, told reporters that there are now 27,000 Guard troops in Louisiana and Mississippi. He said that number will grow to about 40,000 within the next week.

By his estimate, some 7,000 national guard troops are pouring into the area a day. About 7,000 national guard troops are now in New Orleans, whose police force has dwindled to about 500 from around 1,500 before the storm due to resignations. (AFP, Sept. 3 via ReliefWeb)

See our last post on Katrina’s aftermath.