100_0281.JPGWhen gunfire erupted at a second line parade last January, wounding three people, Mayor Nagin blamed the violence on "knuckleheads" and complained he was "tired of black folks killing each other." Five months later, after a Central City bloodbath left five teenagers dead from likely gang-related gunshot wounds over the weekend, the Mayor finally did more than make silly comments, urging Governor Blanco to re-deploy the National Guard to the city. She obliged with a promise to send 160 National Guardsmen and 60 police officers immediately, with 200 more troops after that.

That's a good thing for the city, as an escalating violent crime problem could cause the uneasy denizens of this city to hit the highway faster than a Nash Roberts evacuation advisory.

Stretched thin and forced to patrol devastated neigborhoods targeted by looters, the NOPD needs all the help it can get. So we're bringing back the Guard. Just like the good old days after the storm, when the Guard kept us safe, and all the drug dealers were still in Houston.

Sure, it felt a tad Nineteen Eighty-Four to watch soldiers securing St. Charles and Marengo (pictured above, six days after the storm), or to drive through military checkpoints at the parish line. I never did feel quite comfortable sitting in restaurants next to soldiers and their automatic weapons. "Sweetheart," I'd say to my two-year old daughter, as we dined at the sidewalk tables outside Nacho Mama's, "Don't play with the soldier's M-16, that's not a toy."

But it beats getting your head blown off in the cross-fire of a shootout. Regrettably, the plan is for the Guard to patrol only the damaged and deserted areas, freeing the NOPD to concentrate on the hot spots. But since the "knuckleheads" are obviously waging a full scale drug war in Central City, it's short-sighted to limit the military's involvement to guarding deserted houses in the Ninth Ward. Let's send a couple of tanks and a few dozen Guardsman over to Urethra Castle Haley (sic) and see how long it takes for the gangbangers to move on back to Houston.