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Haiti’s Earthquake and America’s Shame

with 2 comments

President Obama delivered a speech yesterday morning in which he offered his “condolences” to the Hatian people and offered a vague and unspecific amount of “aid”. The speech was short on actual promises, but I’m sure the Hatians can trust America’s good intentions. I mean, it’s not like the US supported a murderous father and son dictatorship in their country for more than three decades, right? Oh wait…

So let’s see what President Obama intends to do:

I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives.

And that entails what, exactly? The speech leaves it pretty vague: he says the people of Haiti will have the “full support of the US in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble”, but I’m not sure what that means. Will we just be cheering them on? (“You can do it, Haiti!”) – or are we actually sending people to help?

Well, I guess we should look at Mr. Obama’s stated priorities to find out:

Right now our efforts are focused on several urgent priorities. First, we’re working quickly to account for U.S. embassy personnel and their families in Port-au-Prince, as well as the many American citizens who live and work in Haiti.

Okay, first things first – make sure the US citizens are safe! What next?

Second, we’ve mobilized resources to help rescue efforts. Military overflights have assessed the damage, and by early afternoon our civilian disaster assistance team are beginning to arrive. Search-and-rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California will arrive throughout today and tomorrow, and more rescue and medical equipment and emergency personnel are being prepared.

Alright, that’s more like it – wait … civilian disaster team? You mean we won’t be lending Haiti the use of our professional disaster response? FEMA and whatnot? Oh well.

So this is a big deal, and it requires close collaboration with NGOs and the UN – but strangely, Mr. Obama declines to specify a dollar amount for our aid, despite the generous aid packages announced by Australia, China, Brazil, The World Bank, and even those soulless corporations . Huh.

At the end of the speech,  Mr. Obama inadvertently adds insult to Haiti’s already horrific injury. He says:

With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.

What does that even mean? “Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home.” Aren’t you supposed to have written two books?

And I wouldn’t go trumpeting the “long history” that binds the US and Haiti together, as it’s one of overwhelming brutality and callousness on the part of the US. Starting in 1804, when the newly formed US helped France try to crush the slave revolt in Haiti (they failed, hence Haiti’s independence), the US has persistently and constantly meddled in Haitian affairs, much to the detriment of its population. After Haiti won independence, the US and France refused to recognize its government and forced them to pay 90 million gold Francs in “compensation” to the “landowners” (read: slavers) they just kicked off the island.

Later, in 1915, Woodrow Wilson occupied Haiti (illegally, of course) for 19 years. He was also instrumental in creating the Haitian army, which, from the moment of its inception, was used to crush the peasant population. Then, in 1957, we entered into a “strategic partnership” with Francois Duvalier, who had recently styled himself “president-for-life”, and killed, oh I don’ t know – 60,000 Haitians via death squads. Then in 1980 we gave a $22 million “aid package” to the Duvaliers, which really turned out to be a “bribe package”, since $16 million of the aid later went “unaccounted for”. Oh well, the Duvaliers were “anti-communist”, so how bad could they be, right?

Then, finally, in 1991 we allowed Haiti to have free elections. But the guy who won, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was deemed “too soft” by US policy planners, so the CIA funded and armed a terroristic “opposition” organization called the “FRAPH (Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress)” which then proceeded to execute a reign of terror, slaughtering between 3 and 5 thousands Haitians. And the slaughter didn’t stop once they exiled Aristide and took power; in fact, it intensified.Oh yeah, I almost forgot – Aristide was extremely popular, rose from the slums (like a certain president we know today), and won the presidency in a landslide victory (almost 70-30). But yeah, he was way too soft.

Then Aristide somehow made a comeback in 2000 and ruled until 2004, when once again the US funded and sponsored a terroristic “counter-revolutionary” group to oust him from power, which they did in 2004. Why? Because he refused to “privatize” Haiti’s economy.

I’m sure Mr. Obama will consider whatever miserly aid package he chooses to deliver as a “boon to Haiti’s struggling people,” a “manifestation of our common humanity,” or whatever other grandiose titles he wishes to give it. But students of history (something which Mr. Obama professes to be) should, of course, know better.

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2 Responses

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  1. USD100 million enough for you? Sheesh. As POTUS of course has to show concern for US citizens in Haiti. And many of these citizens are there working for the welfare of the Haitians. While the history of US involvement in Haiti has not been perfect is this really the time to be grinding an axe and tallying up scores? People like you need to get a more balanced perspective on things instead of going on a one track whine. You really are no better than that asshole Rush Limbaugh and his heartless remarks about not sending aid to Haiti.

    Ben

    January 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

  2. Well, to be fair, I wrote this post before Mr. Obama announced his $100 million aid package, and I admit those passages in the post seem dated (only a day later!)

    Nevertheless, I think the rest of my points are still valid, even the one about POTUS placing the lives of US citizens above the lives of Haitians.

    I’m surprised you would be so flippant as to refer to 200 years of war and oppression as a “not perfect” history. We have dealt that island nothing but slavery and dictatorship, and this has been a constant feature of our policy toward them literally since the beginning of US history.

    I think it’s important to remember this when people refer to Haiti as a “troubled” country, “with numerous problems”, one that “just can’t get back on its feet” – its problems and troubles are largely (if not solely) the product of US policy.

    So yeah, while I ‘applaud’ Obama’s belated decision to send $100 million (It’s still 1/7000 of what he gave to the banks, remember), I think Haiti at least deserves an apology for 200 years of murderous US ‘intervention’. (We violently ousted their democratically elected president, Aristide, only six years ago!) Also, some real reparations, beyond whatever earthquake aid we end up giving, would be timely.

    pavanvan

    January 15, 2010 at 8:17 am


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