Send the Marines

January 19, 2010

The militarization of the Haiti relief effort continues, raising the possibility of clashes between American military personnel and local people, while resurrecting previous imperial episodes in Haitian-American relations. As the Times reports, “Last night the United States effectively took control of the vast relief operation as six naval vessels — including an aircraft carrier to serve as a “floating airport” — and 10,000 troops headed towards the country.”

The paper ran with the usual line that this deployment is necessary due to the threat of rioting and looting. It quotes a “UN peacekeeper” (actually Brazilia Defense Minister Nelson Jobim) as saying that “We are worried about security…As long as the people are hungry and thirsty, as long as we haven’t fixed the problem of shelter, we run the risk of riots.”

Yet in the article’s final sentence we are offered a startling fact. 96 hours after the earthquake hit, with millions affected and many thousands waiting for medical care without food or water, “There was relief, however, at the discovery that a badly damaged UN food warehouse had not been looted as previously believed, allowing workers to retrieve 6,000 tons of food supplies to begin distributing at first light.”

This will presumably do more good than the first airdrop of aid from the U.S. – 9,600 bottles of water and 42,000 “meals ready to eat” on a field five miles north of Port au Prince. To put that in perspective, the Boston Globe reports that “The UN World Food Program said it expected to boost operations from feeding 67,000 people on Sunday to 97,000 yesterday. But it needs 100 million prepared meals over the next 30 days, and it appealed for more government donations.” This statement came after pressure from the UN and aid agencies on the U.S. military, who had been privileging their own flights over aid deliveries, reflecting rising tensions between those running the relief effort.

Doctors Without Borders, for example, have complained that they are 48 hours behind schedule in setting up treatment points due to the monopolization of the airport by the U.S. military, who forced the aid agency to use a landing strip in the Dominican Republic, some 200 miles away.


One Response to “Send the Marines”

  1. […] Unnamed economists are predicting inflation of 60 percent, 70 percent, who knows? And apparently Chavez has had a terrible week in international terms. Diehl writes that “Haiti only deepens Chávez’s hole” adding that “As the world watches, the United States is directing a massive humanitarian operation, and Haitians are literally cheering the arrival of U.S. Marines.” (readers of this blog should know how sickening that statement is). […]

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