Monday, January 18, 2010
American military air traffic controllers turn away medical aid flights
by Larry Geller
“…hundreds of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.”
France accused the US of "occupying" Haiti on Monday as thousands of American troops flooded into the country to take charge of aid efforts and security.
The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to "clarify" the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.
Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.
"This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," Mr Joyandet said.
Geneva-based charity Medecins Sans Frontieres backed his calls saying hundreds of lives were being put at risk as planes carrying vital medical supplies were being turned away by American air traffic controllers.
But US commanders insisted their forces' focus was on humanitarian work and last night agreed to prioritise aid arrivals to the airport over military flights, after the intervention of the UN. [Telegraph, UK, US accused of 'occupying' Haiti as troops flood in, 1/18/2010]
What Haiti needs is relief, not troops. As the article points out, there is great sensitivity around the presence of US troops since Haiti was occupied by the US between 1915 and 1935. UN “peacekeeping” forces currently stationed in Haiti have been accused of rape, child abuse and molestation, and murder. Enough of troops already.
FEMA is in charge of disaster relief, right? Not the US Southern Command. And according to reporter Greg Palast, FEMA is sitting on supplies that should go to Haiti:
From my own work in the field, I know that FEMA has access to ready-to-go potable water, generators, mobile medical equipment and more for hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast. It's all still there. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who served as the task force commander for emergency response after Hurricane Katrina, told the Christian Science Monitor, “I thought we had learned that from Katrina, take food and water and start evacuating people." Maybe we learned but, apparently, Gates and the Defense Department missed school that day. [gregpalast.com, The Right Testicle of Hell: History of a Haitian Holocaust, 1/17/2010]
Naomi Klein warns that Disaster Capitalism will want to take advantage of the tragedy for profit. Having the US military on the ground and in control of the country prepares the way for that to occur. See: Naomi Klein Issues Haiti Disaster Capitalism Alert: Stop Them Before They Shock Again (Democracy Now, 1/14/2010). She quotes from a Heritage Foundation document posted on the web and then removed and revised:
"In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
The final piece of this picture is of course that the US was responsible for kidnapping and removing Haiti’s democratically elected president (speaking of “re-shaping Haiti’s government!). For background on Aristide and what he accomplished, as well as the US role in warping Haiti’s economy for its own profit, check out the interview on Danny Schechter’s Progressive radio program here (1/14/2010).
Just as an example, from Schechter’s interview, under Aristide the illiteracy rate was cut in half, from about 90% to about 45%. Literate, educated people are less likely to be willing to work in the sweatshops that Reagan and Clinton encouraged to make use of displaced farm labor that flocked to the cities. What happened to the farms? Haitian agriculture was destroyed by forcing the country to import cheap American rice. Perhaps this explains the “dysfunctional government” the Heritage Foundation referred to.
Put it all together and it should be obvious that sending troops to Haiti is not what they need.