America’s Failure in Haiti: First, the Good News
The good news is that — despite the current investments of $87 billion in Iraq + $65 billion in Afghanistan + 115,000 troops in Iraq, + 98,000 troops in Afghanistan — the United States still has enough troops on hand to eke out a military presence in Haiti.
The bad news is that, for all its military might, the U.S. is impotent when it comes to delivering humanitarian aid. This may be because U.S. SouthCom (short for U.S. Southern Command), which is in charge of operations in Haiti, has never been intended, nor equipped, to handle actual humanitarian crises, even as it flies under the flag of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Quite the contrary.
The job of U.S. SouthCom and its five brothers in the “Unified Combatant Command” — U.S. NorthCom, Africom, CentCom, EuCom and PacCom — is to is to provide a more efficient means for warring. Tasked with “global security,” these various commands oversee specific theaters on the world stage (see map below). By no coincidence, the U.S. deems this task most urgent in the oil, gas and pipeline strategic countries around the globe — hence the neat overlap between the map, below, and the global “energy profiles” map, seen here.
That this latter “energy profiles” map reflects a grand total of zero for Haiti ‘s oil, gas and coal production is both a blessing and a curse for this country.
The blessing is that Haiti has, so far, been spared the invasion of a large U.S. SouthCom military occupation; spared the fate of, say, Africa, where U.S. Africom’s stated mission is to “develop a stable environment on the continent to promote civil society and improved quality of life for the people there.”
To this end, the U.S. has a long history in Africa of bribing corrupt dictators, toppling democratically elected leaders, waging faux wars on terror, and providing funding, training and weaponry to the guerrilla armies that fight our clandestine and proxy-wars, so that we may destabilize governments, create civil war and — ultimately — seize control of the country’s oil, gas or other minerals. In the paths of these covert wars are the victims of America’s crimes — genocide in Sudan, rape and murder and other crimes against humanity in Somalia.
This is not to say that Haiti has been spared the rod of U.S. intervention. Au contraire. After all, there is the sugar industry to exploit, not to mention the risk — which has only grown in the wake of the earthquake — that Haiti could be transformed into a second Cuba, with the country potentially falling under the rule of our arch enemy, Venezuela, with whom we are covertly warring against to seize control of South American oil and pipelines in South America (via SouthCom’s fake war on drugs and faux war on terror in Colombia and Ecuador, but that’s another story).
The blessing is that, lacking oil or gas, there’s been no need to raise false flags over Haiti; no need to occupy the country and wage a faux war on terror.
The curse is that — through all the political coups and exploitations (many of them orchestrated by the U.S.) and natural disasters that have repeatedly driven this impoverished nation to its knees with chronic starvation, disease, homelessness and oppression — the plight of Haitian citizens has been invisible to the United States.
Unlike Africa, where certain charitable NGOs are funded by the oil and defense industry to provide the humanitarian aid to the victims of our pillaging and plundering, the citizens of Haiti have been left to their own devices — left homeless, suffering from disease and malnutrition, forced to subsist on a diet of mud cakes made from clay and water dipped from potholes. Unlike Africa — where the promise of protection, food, shelter and medical care to a brutalized population of sick, starving, scared, homeless people is an excellent tool for coercing cooperation and compliance — there is no such incentive in Haiti.
In this context, the U.S. aid effort to Haiti makes better sense.
Within 3 days, the U.S. was able to dispatch 10,000 troops to Haiti, with another 2,000 expected to arrive any minute. The international community has poured billions in donations to the earthquake victims. Organizations such as the International Red Cross, the United Nations and Doctors Without Borders and others have poured their full weight of their resources into Haiti.
Or, at least, they’ve tried.
Turns out, U.S. SouthCom, which has taken control of the airport in Haiti, has been denying airport access to these organizations. Just yesterday, Doctors Without Borders was denied landing to deliver the much-awaited inflatable hospital. Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières have also been denied access, as have France, Cuba and Brazil, prompting global criticism toward the U.S. and accusations that the U.S. is exploiting this tragedy for political motives.
Meanwhile, a mere mile away from this same airport, rats are feeding on the diapers of elderly nursing home residents, who have been without food, water or medical care since the earthquake. One-by-one, these elderly residents are dying, after which the rats can presumably begin feeding on their bodies, as well.
To those of us who simply don’t understand the logistics of getting aid to people, the incompetence of the U.S. aid effort in Haiti seems criminal. To those of us who don’t understand the “security concerns” of working in a disaster zone, it doesn’t make sense why a contingent of armed SouthCom troops could not be dispatched to hoof the 20-minute walk to provide food, water and basic medical care — or to, perchance, shoo away the rats feeding on the feces of the dwindling number of nursing home residents who are still, against all odds, clinging to life.
Nor does it make sense that, with an army 10,000 strong and counting — a military specifically trained and equipped to provide “security” around the globe — the U.S. has not yet felt secure enough to provide aid to these nursing home residents, much less to the hundreds of thousands of victims of this tragedy, a mere 5 miles from the airport.
For the record, I’ve already done the math. It takes 1,320 people to make a human chain one-mile long. Half of the 12,000 troops could be used to make a 5-mile long human chain to pass the food and water from the airport to Port-au-Prince. Of the remaining troops, 3,000 could be used to guard the human chain (that’s approx. one guard for every two soldiers). The rest of the troops, roughly 2,500 of them, could be put to work dispensing food & water and shooing rats from the bodies of the living dead. Might even be a few to spare toward the long-overdue effort of digging survivors out of the rubble.
Granted, the human chain may be somewhat of an over-simplification, but it’s a hell of a lot better starting point than doing absolutely nothing except blaming our failure to act on a lack of infrastructure or on security concerns.
Let them eat cake
The good news is that, in addition to the 12,000 troops, President Obama has also dispatched two former U.S. presidents — Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — to help oversee this aid effort. Both presidents are well-versed in providing security to those oil, gas and pipeline strategic locations around the globe, once they’ve mysteriously disintegrated into civil war. Perhaps these ex-presidents can offer their expertise in Haiti, now that its people have grown so desperate for food and water that they’re now resorting the violence the U.S. has been predicting (and blaming for their lack of action) for the past 6 days since the earthquake.
If nothing else, the U.S. can put those 12,000 troops to good use, providing security for these ex-U.S. presidents. Too, there is some hope that Bush can redeem himself for his criminal failure to provide aid to the victims of Katrina. The icing on the cake would be if Obama could finally prove, once and for all, that his dream of bipartisanship was not just another pipe dream.
As for the earthquake victims in Haiti, Obama has already promised them, “You will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten.” These folk just need to be patient. Once Clinton and Bush arrive — and the stagecraft has been properly set — America will unveil its most generous aid effort, proving that the U.S. is, indeed, the most caring nation on the planet. To those who would ascribe political motives or grandstanding to Obama’s efforts, shame on you.
As Obama said in his promise to the people of Haiti 5 days ago, “In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”
Patience, Haiti. While America was unfortunately not able to be there during your hour of greatest need, we will be there soon. Promise. And if we don’t make it in time, please assure that elderly gentleman writhing in the dirt beside the fallen nursing home that soon, soon, America will have your country up and running again. Soon, you can pull yourselves up from that dirt, scoop it into your hands and — mixed with a little rainwater — bake it into the clay cakes that will have to sustain you once the troops, the ex-presidents, and the photo-ops depart.