I’ve been receiving two incredibly different strains of news on Haiti. One, from NPR, the NY Times, and other American media sources tell me about the devastation, the corruption of the Haitian government, the attempts of Americans and ngos to help, and in particular about some stupid missionaries. I remember one NPR sign off talking about how the military presence would soon be reduced, but a promise that the US would not forget Haiti. It emphasizes Haitians who desire more control by international groups, giving voice to a few who even offer the country to the US or the UN to take over because the Haitian government is no longer functioning. Diane Sawyer reported on an American doctor desperate to get children out of Haiti and to his American hospital, but he was prevented by the Haitian government’s response to the Baptist missionaries trying to take children out of the country. It was presented in that “isn’t it obvious that everyone wants to come to the US” vein that is fairly common in US media.
The other stream is coming through listserves and is utterly different. It likens the US military presence an invasion, in the same vein as the repeated US military interventions throughout the twentieth century and again in 2004. It describes the US military preventing aid from reaching earthquake sufferers, letting food rot, and preventing the generosity of the world from being distributed. One email described this as a further attempt on the part of wealthy western nations to take over Haitian resources. Today there was an email about a huge protest in Port-au-Prince on February 17 greeting Nicola Sarkozy–the first French PM to ever visit Haiti. Surprisingly, it was not about immediate needs, but about politics. I’ll quote a bit:
Sarkozy’s visit came amid steps to transform Haiti into a military dictatorship jointly run with foreign occupation forces and aid agencies. Haiti?s legislative elections, previously scheduled for February 28-March 3, have been indefinitely postponed.
The US in particular is preparing to take over the Haitian government. On February 11 the Miami Herald reported that the US State Department had presented top Haitian officials with plans for an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission in early February. The Herald, which had seen a copy of the plan, noted the commission’s “top priority” is to “create a Haitian Development Authority to plan and coordinate billions in foreign assistance for at least 10 years.”
Sarkozy continued, “As for rivalries between the countries that are friends of Haiti … there will be none. The Americans have done good work. They have a million Haitian [immigrants] and they are 900 km away, and I will not reproach anyone for not doing enough. Afterwards, in any emergency situation one can do things more or less well, provoke small tensions. It’s not serious compared to the essential, which is that Americans, Englishmen, Brazilians, Canadians, and everyone else, we continue to work hand-in-hand to help you.”
This statement repudiates widespread criticism from aid officials of the US military occupation’s callous indifference towards Haitian lives. The US military seized the Port-au-Prince airport and blocked the arrival of humanitarian flights, costing the lives of thousands of Haitians dying from infected wounds and lack of antibiotics and other basic supplies. It also refused to admit wounded Haitians to the large sick bay of the USS Carl Vinson, a US aircraft carrier steaming off Haiti, and temporarily blocked rescue flights to Florida.
“Mass protests greet Sarkozy visit to Haiti”
By Alex Lantier
19 February 2010
World Socialist Web Site
I’ve read of so many different episodes in US history where the “average” American had no idea what was going on (US involvement in Latin America, the Scottsboro Case, Reconstruction). Is this happening again? Who do we believe?