By Guest Blogger Terry Morrone
The good old USA has added another country to its empire. It was an earth quake assisted takeover.
The major media as usual have the story all wrong. While a few stories in the major media covered the ineffectiveness of US aid, most focused instead on the poor, miserable and incompetent Haitians. The real facts are on the internet and on Pacifica Radio. I’m going to describe what I believe is the real story and then quote excerpts from the official and alternative media. Here are a few headlines an honest press might have displayed.
US Lands 20,000 Troops, Takes Over Government
Little US Effort to Help Earthquake Victims
Haiti’s Oil Reserves Might Rival Those of Venezuela
Oil Also Discovered Near Cuba
Fifth Largest US Embassy in Haiti
US Planning for a Long Stay in Haiti
Is Cuba Next? Is Venezuela Next?
I first became upset about Haiti while driving to work, listening to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now on WBAI, and watching videos of her shows on democracynow.org. Goodman actually went to Haiti. All the people she interviewed asked the same questions: Where’s the aid? Why aren’t we getting any help? I remember one video shot 10 days after the quake where Goodman is next to huge piles of bottled water at the Port- au- Prince airport, while people within walking distance of the airport have no water(1).
According to an article by Ben Hillier(2), “It was reportedly not until six days after the quake struck that the US finally began limited air drops of bottled water and food. And it took until 20 January, more than a week after the quake, for the US State Department to report that they planned to begin food distribution. Yet the amount of food they were to distribute would only meet the immediate food needs of 18,670 families, or approximately 93,350 individuals. That’s less than 5 per cent of the homeless population.”
You might wonder why US officials were so uninterested in giving out aid. I heard one official say that they couldn’t ship out aid to places that were not “secured.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but Amy Goodman went to Leogane (3) near the epicenter of the earthquake. One helicopter landed there, took off without doing anything, and dropped a few packages of supplies. That was the extent of the aid they had received at least a week after the quake. Nobody attacked Goodman. I can’t imagine that it was too dangerous for US troops to go there to distribute aid, or at least drop supplies from helicopters.
There are many local organizations in Haiti, according to Ralph Shoenman, on his weekly show on WBAI on January 19. Amy Goodman also mentioned that organized groups were digging bodies out of the rubble for burial. I believe that the reason so little help has been given to Haitians was the US fear that local organizations would take charge of relief efforts and gain prestige and power. If they got any publicity, a long US occupation would be hard to justify. The US government wants the public to believe that the Haitians are incapable of doing anything right. The US also wants all the aid to go directly through them, so the Haitians know who is the boss. You’ll only get food if it’s distributed with American soldiers standing by and with American food coupons. Americans plan to stay in Haiti a long time.
While the U.S. effort to help Haitians was feeble, the effort to make the world think we were helping out was outstanding. Starting on the day of the quake, a long string of press releases told of emergency meetings, plans for relief, and the deep concern of the Obama administration for the people of Haiti. Here’s a sample: The U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, Ken Merten, is quoted at a State Department briefing on February 12, saying “In terms of humanitarian aid delivery…frankly, it’s working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we’ve been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.”(4)
Haiti has the fifth largest American embassy in the world. (5,6) Why should this poor, small country deserve so much attention? Could it be that Haiti has oil? It’s well known that Cuba has some oil has begun to drill for more in the waters off its coast. (7,8)
According to Ezili Danto, a human rights lawyer, cultural and political activist and the founder and president of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), there is evidence that the United States found oil in Haiti decades ago and decided to keep the oil in reserve. (9) World Oil Online also states that the Greater Antilles, which include Cuba, Haiti the Dominican Republic and the offshore waters, probably have significant oil resources, quoting a 2000 report by the US Geological Survey(10).
Another part of the story that the major media covered poorly is an explanation of why Haiti is so poor. Often mentioned is the clear cutting of Haiti’s forests, and the consequent soil erosion. But the U.S. bears a large part of the blame. In 1915 the U.S. invaded Haiti and stayed there for 19 years. From then on, the U.S. controlled Haiti indirectly. When the Haitians finally elected a reformer, Aristide, as president in 1990, he was quickly overthrown by a US supported coup. In 1915 most of Haiti’s forests were still intact, and the Haitian constitution barred foreigners from owning land in Haiti. (11) Under U.S. rule, much of the land passed into the hands of foreign corporations that cut down the forests to make room for plantations and mining operations. (12) Globalization has also taken its toll. American farmers have dumped their surplus government subsidized surplus crops on Haiti, putting many small farmers out of business. Before 1915 Haiti was mostly a country of poor farmers, but a country that could feed itself. Now they must import food and export population to survive.(13)
In colonial times, the French controlled the western half of the island of Hispaniola and the Spanish the eastern part. Most Haitians were brought to their country as slaves from Africa. They fought the French for their freedom for many years, but weren’t successful until the French Revolution and the accompanying disunity among the French in Haiti. In a complicated bloody struggle, that included the defeat of a British invasion in 1796, and culminating in a defeat of a Napoleonic army in 1803, Haiti achieved its independence, but in the process lost a third of its population. In 1825 France demanded 90 million gold francs from Haiti in compensation for loss of property during the Haitian revolution. Haiti fearing military attack and loss of markets paid the money, but it took them until 1947. The payments severely depleted Haiti’s treasury and economic development. (11)
If Cuba has lots of oil, a distinct possibility, the U.S. might have a rich socialist country on its door step. Would the military industrial complex that runs this country put up with it? Considering our invasion of Haiti, our attempts to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela, and the breakup of Yugoslovia (a successful socialist country for a long time), I think not. Of course we will not call it an invasion. We’ll think of something creative such as operation Cuba freedom to aid brave freedom fighters.
I’ve described what I feel are the relevant facts. I believe the Obama administration wants the media to portray the Haitians as wanting U.S. occupation, incapable of fending for themselves, and to stress the need for long term U.S. help and the accompanying occupation. A little criticism of our aid effort is permitted. Its purpose is to give the media credibility. So let’s see who is complying with the official line and who is not.
A NY Times editorial of 1/14/10 states that “…But Haiti needs more. It needs a commitment to finally move beyond the relentless poverty, despair and dysfunction that would be a disaster anywhere else but in Haiti are the norm.” Later on in the editorial: “The United States has a special responsibility to help its neighbor. This is an opportunity for President Obama to demonstrate how the United States shoulders its responsibilities and mobilizes other countries to do their full part as well. Even as he urges his administration and others to act, he should remind them — and himself — that this is not the work of a few months. It is a commitment of years.”
According to Neil Reynolds in the Canada’s Globe and Mail of 1/20/2010: “Right up to the quake, Haiti’s dysfunctional government equivocated. Right up to the quake, Haiti’s dysfunctional government equivocated. “Right up to the quake, Haiti’s dysfunctional government equivocated…. A dose of economic freedom will help heal Haiti. For all practical purposes, throughout its history, Haiti had prohibited commerce. And it’s hard to survive without it.”
From “Our Man in Haiti: Bill Clinton”, by Garry Pierre-Pierre in America’s Quarterly Oct 15, 2009: Since his recent appointment as United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton has been called, half-seriously, “president of Haiti” and “viceroy.”
In effect, he’ll be spending more time outside Haiti than inside, where Haiti’s dysfunctional political system has been as much, if not more, a cause of the country’s economic woes than donor or investor recalcitrance.
“When I work places,” President Clinton told Fox News, “everybody knows I don’t tolerate corruption, I’m going to do the best I can to help them.” 1/15/10.
In the introduction to a paper on Haiti, originally titled “Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the US”, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, declared: “In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the US response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti offers opportunities to reshape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.”http://thismodernworld.com/5013
A 2/4/10 editorial by Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service, quotes a Haitian medical student as saying, “The American government should take care of us.” A mother is quoted:”The United States should take over the country. Most of my friends expect the United States to take over. I wish!” The editorial continues: “Even before the earthquake, the Haitian government was dysfunctional, yet U.S. officials up to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are insistent that the Haitians themselves are leading the relief …”
“The Haitians are impressed — as who wouldn’t be — by the size and efficiency of the relief effort, which, to be honest about it, is led by foreigners. The U.S. now has more than 6,500 troops there and the Haitians seem to have shed their reservations about having American troops back in their country. They have a confidence that speaks well of our troops and aid workers that if the U.S. does it, the project will be done right, free of graft and bribes.”
Desperate Haitians Want U.S to “Take Over”
Washington Post: As Military’s Presence Improves Food Distribution, Eyes Look Towards U.S. to Lead in Reconstruction
From Daniel P. Erikson, a frequent writer in Foreign Policy magazine, first appearing in Sphere.com: “The U.S. cannot solve all of Haiti’s problems, but there is a need for smart steady, and sustained involvement focused on a nation-building strategy that can develop functional government ministries, a workable legal and judicial system, and some form of democratic politics.”
Following are quotes from several articles that have a different point of view. None are from mainstream media.
From “The Fateful Geological Prize Called Haiti,” by F. William Engdahl in globalresearch.ca:
“Behind the smoke, rubble and unending drama of human tragedy in the hapless Caribbean country, a drama is in full play for control of what geophysicists believe may be one of the world’s richest zones for hydrocarbons-oil and gas outside the Middle East, possibly orders of magnitude greater than that of nearby Venezuela.”
From: “Why the U. S, Owes Haiti Billions,” by Bill Quigly, January 18, 1020: “The U.S. has worked to break Haiti for over 200 years. We owe Haiti. Not charity. We owe Haiti as a matter of justice. Reparations. And not the $100 million promised by President Obama either – that is Powerball
money. The U.S. owes Haiti Billions – with a big B.
From “Haiti, Still Starving 23 Days Later”, by Bill Quigley in Counterpunch 2/5/2010:
“You can walk down many of the streets of Port au Prince and see absolutely no evidence that the world community has helped Haiti. Twenty three days after the earthquake jolted Haiti and killed over 200,000 people, as many as a million people have still not received any international food assistance.”
From : “Great Television/Bad Journalism: Media Failures in Haiti” by Robert Jensen in OpEdNews 1/25/10: “The absence of crucial historical and political context describes the print coverage as well; the facts, analysis, and opinion that U.S. citizens need to understand these events are rarely provided. For example, in the past week we’ve heard journalists repeat endlessly the observation that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Did it ever occur to editors to assign reporters to ask why?”
“The immediate suffering in Haiti is the result of a natural disaster, but that suffering is compounded by political disasters of the past two centuries, and considerable responsibility for those disasters lies not only with Haitian elites but also with U.S. policymakers.”
From : “US Imperialism Strangles Haiti,” by Ben Hillier in Socialist Alternative
It is two weeks since Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, was rocked by the largest earthquake in 240 years. The official death toll stands at over 150,000, with the expectation that the number will reach 200,000. Those left homeless number 2 million. The city’s infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed. The response of the Obama administration has been appalling. The man who drew so effectively on his African heritage and who at crucial moments invoked the spirit of Martin Luther King Jnr. to help propel himself into the chair of executive power; the man who, once seated, pledged to extend “unwavering support” to Haiti in light of “the common humanity that we all share” – this man has delivered little but a slap in the face to the impoverished descendants of one of the greatest slave rebellions in history.
From, “Are We in Haiti because of Oil?” by Peter Schlosser in Prisonplanet.com: “It has been a little over a week since the devastating earthquake hit just outside Port au Prince, Haiti. Since that day, I have watched in horror as the Haitian people and their society have quickly submerged into a quagmire of social unrest and political grandstanding. Once I observed the mass-murder posse of Team Obama, Bush and Clinton begin circling the wagons and the rapid US militarization of Port au Prince, including the occupation of the Presidential Palace, to the tune of now almost 10,000 US boots on the ground, I began to get suspicious. Call me crazy. I know of the sad history of Haiti imposed upon the tiny former slave nation by one imperial power after the next…”
“After a few hours on the Internet, I discovered an article posted in January of 2008
indicating that large amounts of, you guessed it, OIL had indeed been discovered in Haiti a short while back.
From “The Kidnapping of Haiti, by John Pilger in “The New Statesman,” 1/28/10: “With US troops in control of their country, the outlook for the people of Haiti is bleak. The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude. On 22 January, the United States secured “formal approval” from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to “secure” roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in a US naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training. The airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is now a US military base and relief flights have been rerouted to the Dominican Republic. All flights stopped for three hours for the arrival of Hillary Clinton. Critically injured Haitians waited unaided as 800 American residents in Haiti were fed, watered and evacuated. Six days passed before the US air force dropped bottled water to people suffering dehydration.
From “How The U.S. Could Help Haiti,” by Helen Scott in “Counter Currents,” 2/5/10:
“Haiti’s foreign debt is the result of political actions by powerful foreign nations and institutions, in collusion with powerful Haitian elite domestic minorities, that have directly provoked state instability, environmental destruction, decimation of the infrastructure and mass poverty.
How can the U.S. government continue to present itself as a generous source of aid and relief, when it continues to bleed the country dry while treating its inhabitants as criminals?”
From “More Pain for Devastated Haiti: Under the Pretense of Disaster Relief, U. S. Running a Military Occupation,” by Arun Gupta in Alternet.com 2/12/09: “Official denials aside, the United States has embarked on a new military occupation of Haiti thinly cloaked as disaster relief. While both the Pentagon and the United Nations claimed more troops were needed to provide ‘security and stability’ to bring in aid, according to nearly all independent observers in the field, violence was never an issue. Instead, there appears to be cruder motives for the military response. With Haiti’s government ‘all but invisible’ and its repressive security forces collapsed, popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the Western powers rushing in envision sweatshops and tourism as the foundation of a rebuilt Haiti. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw their strength from Haiti’s overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a neoliberal plan is going to be imposed on a devastated Haiti it will be done at gunpoint.”
From “Haiti A History of US Profiteering and the 5th Largest Embassy,” by Cuthulan in world press.com 2/6/10: “The people of Haiti have suffered a natural disaster. The US has used this disaster to launch a military occupation to tighten its grip on Haiti after deposing its democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This has caused the needless deaths of many earthquake survivors, due to NGO medical supplies being denied access by the US military! What we are seeing is a re-enactment of the hurricane Katrina disaster, where troops were deployed when doctors and rescue workers where needed.”
|From “Behind the Catastrophe in Haiti, “ by Ashley Smith in Socialist Alternative, 2/26/10|
“To understand these facts, we have to look at a second fault line – US imperial policy toward Haiti. The US government, the UN, and other powers have aided the Haitian elite in subjecting the country to neoliberal economic plans that have impoverished the masses, deforested the land, wrecked the infrastructure and incapacitated the government.”
2. Ben Hillier, Socialist Alternative, 1/26/10
4. On-the-Record Briefing: Kenneth H. Merten, Ambassador to Haiti
Source: United States Department of State, Date: 12 Feb 2010
5. Cuthulan, Haiti, A History of US Profiteering and the 5th Largest Embassyhttp://cuthulan.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/haiti-a-history-of-us-profiteering-and-the-5th-largest-us-embassy/
6. Randall White, Haiti: The transformation of diplomacy or a new Manifest Destiny?
Posted March 3, 2009
8. Rory Carroll, 20bn barrel oil discovery puts Cuba in the big league
12. Empire and Environmental Destruction in Haiti , Marc-Arthur Fils-Aimé, Karl Lévêque Cultural Institute, Haiti
13. Anup Shah, Haiti