by Michael Foley
From the moment the news of Haiti’s devastating earthquake hit the White House, the U.S. has been committed to a military presence there. Yesterday, Haitian President Rene Preval officially granted the U.S. control of the Port au Prince airport, but the U.S. military has been in control from Day Two. Complaints have been coming in from organizations as well-known as Doctors Without Borders that the military has obstructed the flow of aid, turning back one important shipment three times over the last few days. This morning Amy Goodman’s report from Haiti on Democracy Now! showed U.S. troops from the 82nd Airborne clutching their rifles and machine guns while directing crowds at Port au Prince’s General Hospital, unbidden by the medical staff there. Across the street was the flattened pharmacy, where medical supplies and the bodies of pharmacists, doctors and patients were buried. No soldier lent his hands to uncover the bodies or search for supplies. After all, they had their hands full.
There is no “security crisis” in Haiti. At least that is the testimony of the doctors, volunteers and those journalists who venture into the so-called red zones established by the military. According to Dr. Evan Lyon, the American surgeon working at the General Hospital, there are clinics with ten or twenty doctors and ten patients in so-called “secure” areas, but a thousand wait for surgery at General Hospital, which has only enough supplies to continue to operate for another 12 hours. Maybe the 82nd Airborne, now that they’ve arrived, will help get those supplies downtown. But they’ll have to put their guns down first.
The U.S. reaction to the crisis in Haiti has been likened to the Bush administration’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. Fear the victims. Fear the black face in a sea of crisis. But the focus on “security” and reliance on a military presence in the face of untold human suffering bespeaks a deeper malady. Read the rest of this entry »