UN on Haitians: “they are animals”

January 26, 2010

I don’t know what kind of vetting procedures the UN has for its peacekeepers. All I know is that some of its Uruguayan contingent should be heading home from Haiti right f*cking now. Read this:

At the presidential palace, a daily aid hand-out descended into chaos as a small team of Uruguayan UN peacekeepers were confronted by 4,000 desperately hungry Haitians.

Whatever we do, it doesn’t matter — they are animals,” a UN trooper said as others sprayed pepper spray and fired rubber bullets into the air.

Now isn’t that disgusting?

This comes a day after two “scavengers” were shot in the head by Haitian police. According to an AFP photographer at the scene, people had entered a warehouse looking for food, prompting police to open fire from a building across the road. Another witness said that “This guy was trying to go inside (the warehouse), the cops took a gun straight to the back of the head. I don’t know why they do that. It’s not fair because everyone in Haiti is hungry.”

On Friday, a man was killed and another seriously injured by police, who alleged that they were stealing rice. This is becoming routine. As one witness to a police shooting put it, “The people of Haiti are very angry…The police are just shooting.”

At the same time, approximately one million residents of Port au Prince need accommodation. There are enough tents for 200,000 outside the city, but 400,000 are scheduled to arrive there in the next few days. No-one knows what the rest will do to survive. No-one seems to know how to get the 400,000 to those camps either. As Reuters reports, these homeless people are “sheltering in more than 400 sprawling makeshift camps across Port-au-Prince.”

The overwhelming majority of violence occuring in Haiti at the moment is officially sanctioned – either from the barrel of a gun, or from the pen of an official who decides to divert aid money to military force rather than food, medicines or tents. Despite this, and the continuing absence of violence, lurid depictions of gang violence and looting continue to appear. And rumours of gang violence have been limiting the distribution of food aid in Cite Soleil.

Massive crowds are gathering at central aid distribution points – causing near riots (such as the one which led Uruguayan peacekeepers to call Haitians “animals”). This is then blamed on a lack of security forces. But in reality, it is because there are too few distribution centres, too little food and too few aid workers to distribute it, not too few soldiers to protect it. Obviously, if you have all the food at one point, a huge crowd will surround it and clashes will ensue. Strategically, it’s a bad decision, but is grounded in a lack of resources.

Or, perhaps more accurately, it is grounded in the diversion of resources to unsuitable military equipment. For example, groups of US Marines have been cruising around Cite Soleil in massive Humvee vehicles, struggling to remove debris from their path.

These Marines seem wholly unprepared for their mission. As one put it, “Here, we’re like a football team being put in front of a Ping-Pong table. It’s a learning curve.”

Some seem less than serious. As Sgt. Eric DeJesus told the LA Times, while driving his Humvee into Cite Soleil, “It’s kind of cool for a change. I mean, we do this in Iraq, but at the same time there we’re killing people, you know what I mean?” Yes, it is cool not to kill people. But saving lives is not easy, and it’s not a holiday.

The U.S. should obviously be applauded for providing aid to Haiti. That is not in doubt. But what is in doubt is the form that aid is now taking. The key question is how should the resources available best be deployed? Is the U.S. army the best body to be leading that effort? Will they allow themselves to be led by medical or disaster experts? Perhaps most tellingly, will they allow themselves to be led by Haitians?


One Response to “UN on Haitians: “they are animals””

  1. kiosa Says:

    I don’t know why you say the “U.S.” should obviously be applauded for “providing aid to Haiti” — as if that is what they are doing. We don’t even know who, or what, the “U.S.” really is — but who or whatever it/they are, it’s a safe bet they’re up to no good.

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