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Haiti: Aid or the Marines?

Although Haiti needs an exceptional international mobilization

Although Haiti needs an exceptional international mobilization, Washington’s assumption of military control there assumes some counterproductive aspects and is not without ulterior geo-strategic motives.

Five days after the earthquake that ravaged Haiti, we are still a long way from having finished measuring the extent of the devastation that affects the country. Aid workers on the ground often confess their impotence. Thus, Reuters special envoy Catherine Bremer noted Saturday: “The chaos is such that there is a shortage of everything here: doctors, nurses, medicine. The wounded are groaning all over, stretched out on cots, mattresses, or planks, often with no shade, waiting for someone to take care of them – if they don’t die first.” The UN, relating the country’s population to the number of victims (undoubtedly far more than the 50,000 officially acknowledged up until now), evokes one of the most serious catastrophes the planet has ever known. That is to say, evokes the need for an exceptional international mobilization to save the last survivors and above all, the tens of thousands of survivors living on borrowed time.

The Dispatch of 10,000 Marines

Most countries, and Haiti’s neighbors in the first instance, have done their best to respond immediately to calls for emergency assistance. So, we understand completely that the United States, the coasts of which are at a few cables’ lengths from Haiti and which harbors a significant Haitian community, should decide to deploy very great resources. Barack Obama has declared that his country was committed to “one of the greatest aid operations” in its history. And he called his two predecessors to the rescue, “given their experience” with Haiti, to launch a “Clinton-Bush” fund intended to finance the intervention. The problem: although Washington incontestably assumed “world aid leadership,” as it never stops asserting, its method, under the pretext of the country’s disorganization, consisted in the first place of taking complete control over it, beginning by the dispatch of the bagatelle of some 10,000 Marines. The method appears questionable at the very least, first of all on the level of humanitarian effectiveness itself.

The US Army that has taken control of the Port-au-Prince airport cares only for its own priorities when it authorizes planes from all around the world to land or not. That’s how a French plane with a mobile hospital on board had to be rerouted Friday to Santo Domingo – the source of a several-hour-long French-US tiff. Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet first emphasized to the press that he had officially “protested” to Washington before being corrected shortly afterwards by the Quai-d’Orsay, which, faithful to its blind conformity with respect to White House positions, denied the incident, proclaiming that cooperation between the two countries was being carried out “in the best possible manner.”

Imperial Rationales

France is not the only one to have had this kind of experience. An Argentine Army cargo plane carrying medical material and a water purification unit has remained blocked in Santo Domingo. Two Mexican airplanes experienced the same difficulties. And 40 tons of aid from Peru had to finish their trip overland from the neighboring country. Michel Clancy, an official of a Haitian committee charged with coordinating water and food distribution, deplored the lack of information from US authorities who control the airport: “Haitians,” he says, “are not advised of plane arrivals.”

More serious, the US military deployment is scheduled for the long haul. Hilary Clinton, visiting Haiti Saturday, insisted on that point. Hence the fear of seeing corroborated, as under different guises in Honduras and in Colombia, Washington’s most distinctive devotion to old imperial rationales – all the more so in that Haiti is situated in a strategic position within the confines of Central and South America. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega noted his “very acute concern” Saturday: “It seems,” he declared, “that military bases (on the Latin American continent – EN) do not suffice and that Washington wants to benefit from the tragedy of the Haitian people to settle in Haiti. And I wish to denounce it.”

Translation: Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher.

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