Haiti: more than meets the eye

The world grieves as images of the beleaguered and dying Haitian people find their way into our homes. Despite the outrageous statements of Pat Robertson (Haitian people made a pact with devil), Rush Limbaugh (President Obama is going to use tragedy to improve his poll numbers, so don't give), David Brooks (Haitian culture is the real culprit) and miscellaneous right-wing Republicans, the world is responding.

Governments, including our own, social organizations and ordinary people are sending aid to the Haitian people in this moment of national tragedy. Thank goodness moments like this evoke our better angels. Tragedy, as we know from Katrina, can tear down the barriers that fracture humanity along so many lines. It can enlarge our sense of solidarity that in ordinary times is often confined to family, or city, or region, or nation, or race, or nationality, or religion.

We see this happening now. Old social boundaries that are real and historically constructed are melting away in the face of this catastrophe. Across the planet people are opening up their hearts and pocketbooks.

And it must be sustained and enlarged upon by the U.S. and the other economically advanced countries for two reasons.

First, these countries have the resources and people power to maintain a steady flow of aid to the victims of this crisis.

Second, the scope of this human tragedy is connected to Haiti's history of underdevelopment, which is explained, first of all, by the division of the capitalist world from its very beginning into a few developed capitalist states and a majority of states on the margins of development. Moreover, this initial division of the world has been sustained and reinforced by military coercion, unfair economic advantage and racism over the past three centuries, locking countries like Haiti into a state of permanent poverty and underdevelopment.

So let's press ahead with our effort and let's press our leaders to do more to assist the people of Haiti. At the same, let's join in the dialogue (already under way in the countries of the South) on the larger reality in the background of this tragedy. We can't control earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, but we can better prepare for them and the world, if it is to survive and peacefully prosper, has no choice but to construct a different developmental path that is sustainable and just for everyone inhabiting this planet.

Not only are the people of Haiti and the other people and states of the South insisting on it, but the American people in our own interest, in the interest of our children and grandchildren, should do likewise, if not for ourselves as an act of intergenerational solidarity.


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  • I wish everyone would stop picking on my dad, Dan.

    Posted by Kamran Heiss, Junior, 01/19/2010 10:34am (6 years ago)

  • What?! Which previous writings? I refute myself?

    Go ahead...refute my arguments, or at least show me where I've refuted my own self!

    Posted by Dan, 01/18/2010 10:59pm (6 years ago)

  • Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not. (Jeremiah 5:21)

    I could go point by point in refuting Dan's latest comment, but that has been done including in his own previous writing.

    Posted by José A Cruz, 01/18/2010 10:20pm (6 years ago)

  • To respond to a few points:

    The military is taking over things like the airport: Well, yes, of course. Should they just leave the airport in chaos, and throw food into Haiti from boats? People are justifiably upset that there isn't enough aid coming into the country yet. But the reason for that is that the access points to the country--the sea port, the airport--that simply bringing anything into the country has been a nightmare. There are huge bottlenecks at the airport, and that's to be expected. There have been disagreements over what and who is being let in and let out, what's being diverted, etc., but that's also to be expected. The situation is chaotic.

    In fact, we are hearing reports of people fighting each other over food; all one has to do is read the news. There is a problem of growing lawlessness in the country, according to reports. The Brazilian foreign minister has said that he worries relief efforts could be overrun if the situation isn't brought under control. It seems that, in this context, "securing the country," is important--possibly a prerequisite to distributing food and medicine in a really efficient--that is saving the most amount of lives possible--way.

    Haitian police and the president of Haiti are welcoming the U.S.; some are saying: "Where is the U.S.?" as most assistance, including the military assistance, hasn't arrived yet.

    The UN World Food Program will likely be able to deliver 60,000 meals to people in Haiti, but the U.S. military was able to deliver 130,000. Both of those numbers are laudable, and much more is necessary. Would you take the military out of that picture, though?

    Posted by Dan, 01/18/2010 12:01pm (6 years ago)

  • Dan, if you can't compare the role of the military in one natural disaster and another then you can't compare anything. It is not a red herring. I am not asking you to look away from Haiti.

    We can play "what if" games all day long. We are not hearing reports about people fighting each other over food in stores. That is a red herring. Truth is the anger of the people is being directed at those who have not provided enough food, like the soldiers.

    Associated Press with the UN secretary general someone shouting at Ban Ki-moon, ""We don't need military aid. What we need is food and shelter."

    Relief organizations are complaining of not getting enough food, water and clothing through the US military controlled distribution system.

    Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega criticized the sending of military force. At the same time he said he was not against the use of military helicopters and personnel to distribute aid. In fact, he urged the US to spend dollars on aid and not military expenditures in Haiti.

    Truth is that if more aid was reaching people, there would be no need for military force to keep hungry people down.

    Right now the Haitian police are using teargas to keep poor people from what they call "looting." Yet, people still are entering stores and taking what they need.

    Having someone there with guns is not stopping them. The only thing that would actually do that is shooting them.

    Reality is that the Marines are not protecting one bag of food. They are taking over the strategic infrastructure of the country like the airport.

    Jason Cone, spokesperson for Doctors without Borders, complained to the press that the military had it's priorities wrong, that getting medical supplies and other aid to those who need it should be number one.

    People are doing a great job giving food, clothing and money through relief agencies. The problem is in Haiti with the military controlled distribution.

    Lastly, I wish the administration would up it's contribution. The amount of $100 million is less than what our government spends of our money in Afganistan in one day.

    Posted by José A Cruz, 01/18/2010 9:44am (6 years ago)

  • In response to J.A.C: I don't think I was being cavalier about guns; I didn't even suggest that it was necessary to shoot anyone. It does worry me. Soldiers are trained for war; they're not cops. But all the same, what else can be done? My point is this: there's no order; the government collapsed. There is a shortage of food. What happens when there are 50 people in front of a store that has one bag of food in it? Certainly there's not going to be a peaceful discussion as to who should get the food. This is true in Haiti, and anywhere else. A man or woman standing there, with a gun, can help to ensure that order is kept. Take note that whenever there is a horrible natural disaster in this country, we send in the national guard. If most of Chicago were destroyed, wouldn't we want someone there to keep order? I certainly would.

    To compare any of this to what was said about Katrina is a red herring.

    Also, on Obama appointing George W. Bush: Good! Why should anyone care that Bush is acting (as a servant of the President) to help raise funds, etc. for Haiti? Also, it was quite a smart move on his part. You have disgusting people like Rush Limbaugh trying to convince people that Obama is only sending in aid "to appease the Black people." Appointing G.W. Bush is a pretty good way to neutralize that kind of opinion. Don't you think that with Bush, it will be much easier to convince the millions of people who actually listen to Limbaugh that helping Haiti is a good thing?

    Imperialism and the Heritage Foundation: Yeah, that's a worry. But to do nothing would be a crime, and no one has suggested anything better.

    Posted by Dan, 01/17/2010 10:10pm (6 years ago)

  • This is a terrible statement lacking any clear anti-imperialist analysis which has become typical of Webb. As has been pointed out previously, this statement doesn't acknowledge the role of Cuba. Nor does this statement by Webb expose the intent of Barack Obama and the United States to move in and use this natural tragedy to dictate and dominate U.S. interests over the democratic will of the Haitian people.

    There is natural disaster after natural disater in all parts of the world and rescue efforts have contributed very little to furthering democratic and anti-imperialist solidarity in any of these places unless a conscious effort is made to undertake anti-imperialist education as part of the aid and relief process.

    Webb doesn't even suggest where contributions should be sent.

    Has he sent his financial contribution to the Obama-Clinton-Bush committee?

    I sent my contribution to the Cuban embassy in Ottawa, Canada where I know it will get to real relief efforts helping the Haitian people.

    How could any Communist talk about what is going on in Haiti without talking about the heroic role and international solidarity being demonstrated by the Cuban people and their socialist government?

    What about the Haitians living in poverty in our own country? Where is the help for these people, most of whom are living in disgraceful poverty?

    Obama is using this tragedy to try to bolster his ratings in the polls and to help provide George Bush with the legitimacy he doesn't deserve. Obama hasn't even included former president and humanitarian, Jimmy Carter, in this effort; but he includes Clinton; and, of all people, George Bush who doesn't have a humanitarian bone in his body.

    The U.S. marines have landed in Haiti armed to the teeth for one and only one reason: to maintain capitalist control and order.

    Poverty in Haiti could have been eliminated long ago had the United States been concerned about the plight of the Haitian people. If not for this U.S. imposed poverty, rescue efforts would have been much quicker and more successful.

    Posted by Suzy, 01/17/2010 11:00am (6 years ago)

  • I appreciate Carole Marks' questions here.

    From the beginning of the Haitian national liberation revolution the USA position has been one of either destroying it or controlling it.

    Just about all the imperial countries - Spain, France, Britain, et al - had no relations with Haiti. The US would not permit Haitian ships to dock in US ports, even though US ships did trade in Port-au-Prince, though not with "official" status.

    Thomas Jefferson, though a writer of the revolutionary Declaration of Independence, was a slave-owner and had declared a trade embargo with Haiti.

    Because of this embargo, the capitalists who were willing to trade in Haitian ports were also able to dictate terms detrimental to Haitian interests. It was a take it or leave it proposition.

    There are many other issues that show the US, France and Canada to this day having policies that adversely affect the majority of Haitians.

    Posted by José A Cruz, 01/17/2010 12:09am (6 years ago)

  • Oh, it's so disgusting to me that people, albeit a small number, are complaining that the U.S. is sending aid, some of it in the form of Marines, to Haiti!

    It's not surprising when these denunciations come from buffoons like Rush Limbaugh; he represents the politics of hate. However, when such nonsense comes from the "left," under the guise of "anti-imperialism," it is incomprehensible. People are dying in Haiti, but a small group, who claim to be fighting "for the people," want to keep the biggest and most organized force in the region--the U.S. military--away from helping. And that, the most organized force possible, is exactly what is needed! The government there collapsed like the Presidential palace; there are no police left, no one to keep order.

    The non-U.S. based solutions proposed are ridiculous: Cuba? Venezuela? Sure, these countries can help, and have a long track record of helping out around the world (more so Cuba, Venezuela only recently), but they simply don't have the means to do so. China? Ok, sure, but China also has a less advanced military and is located on the other side of the world. The UN? Great! I'd love to see them come in as well, but it takes them a while and they also don't have the same forces as the U.S.

    On the issue of guns: What do you expect? There has been looting and any number of panic-based stampedes. This is, of course, only natural to any group of humans in such a situation, but how do you stop these dangerous actions? Do you want to throw daisies at people? Stand in the middle of a crowded square of desperate people trying to get food, while fights are breaking out all around, and hold up a peace sign?

    What is the point of being on the left, of being an activist? Is it to simply feel good about demanding things? About denouncing "imperialism"? Or is it about fighting for humanity, for human solidarity, for being there for our brothers and sisters, no matter what the country, when they are in need? Being "progressive" is useless when old ideas that are no longer helpful hang like a noose around your neck--or the necks of the Haitian people--impeding you from calling for what's right.

    Let's say "thank God!" that the U.S. is helping out another country--finally!--and move to a really progressive demand: Cancel Haiti's debt, and give permanent residency to all of the Haitian people living here.

    Come on.

    Posted by Dan, 01/16/2010 1:15pm (6 years ago)

  • Everytime I come to this web site I start getting viruses trying to enter my computer. Anyone else having this problem?

    Posted by Tim, 01/16/2010 12:24pm (6 years ago)

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