If a city lives on the edge between civilization and chaos, one disaster will tip it over into anarchy.
Hurricane Katrina has torn the veneer of civilization off New Orleans. The city of Mardi Gras, Dixieland bands and the French Quarter is also the city of the first Mafia men in America, festering corruption in City Hall, riverboat gamblers, Ben Butler's "Woman Order" and the Axeman.
The city fathers held back on stopping the looting, for fear of inflaming racial tensions. Even some of the cops joined in the looting, a sign of even deeper corruption within the police.
Mayor Ray Nagin has finally ordered the New Orleans police back on the streets to stop looting, but it's a day late and a dollar short.
Everything that the looters could take has probably already been taken. The city government has proven itself unable to maintain law and order when New Orleans needed it most. When it comes time to rebuild, the city will no doubt experience further chaos and corruption when it comes time to hand out building contracts.
New York did not descend into riot and mayhem on 9/11 because law enforcement was ready, willing and able to do its job, and people knew that Mayor Giuliani had taken complete charge. He did not hesitate to act and people knew from his past experience in cleaning up crime in the city that he'd shoot first and ask questions later.
New Orleans needed men with Rudolph Giuliani's competence and strength of will and character in an emergency and the NYPD's professionalism and discipline; instead, it got another bunch of Louisiana politicians and weak or crooked cops.
And more people will have died unnecessary deaths because of that.