“I Want the U.S. to Own Our Territory”

January 21, 2010

This is a beauiful piece of fawning propaganda from one of the U.S. military’s ’embeds’ in Haiti, and a disturbing one too. Reporting from the town of Jacmel, two hours from Port au Prince and cut off from aid supplies for eight days since the earthquake, the FT’s Benedict Mander quotes ‘volunteer’ Antoine Frantz as saying, “God bless America!” as soon as the first Seahawk helicopter touched down.

“The Haitian government can’t do anything for us: it has no money, it is not serious, it is corrupt. What we have, we got by ourselves” Frantz continued, concluding with the astonishing phrase, “I want the US government to own our territory.

Mander’s piece is naked propaganda, with just one local interviewee (a ‘volunteer’) and a very kindly attitude towards the U.S. military which “have received a warm welcome virtually everywhere they have gone.” According to most accounts this is about fifty metres out of the airport and into richer suburbs of Port au Prince, so that’s actually plausible, but hardly reflects the obvious anger felt by ordinary Haitians at the sluggish and class-inflected aid effort.

The piece is doubly worrying in that it as consciously selected a quote which pre-emptively approves an imperialist occupation. This comes after a raft of articles exaggerating the level of violence in Port au Prince, thereby justfying the military build up (and taking some of the heat of the diversion of aid resources).

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. now has 11,500 troops in Haiti and expects to have 16,000 on the ground by the weekend, a situation that Bolivian president Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have virulently condemned as a new occupation of the country. Morales has said that he intends to take the issue to the UN General Assembly and to seek censure of the U.S. As he put it, “The United States cannot use a natural disaster to militarily occupy Haiti…Haiti doesn’t need more blood.”

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