Thursday, January 21, 2010

The weight of Haiti

I keep reading about what's going on in Haiti one week after the 7.0 earthquake, estimated to have killed at least 200,000 people, and I wonder: do Americans know what's going on over there? I mean, do they really know?
There have been several faulty news reports claiming that chaos has been unleashed in Port-Au-Prince ever since a recent prison outbreak. As the lede of a recent CBS News story callously claimed:
"Once again in Port-Au-Prince today, looting and lawlessness spread like a virus."
Really? "Like a virus"? Well shit! We'd better call in the entire US National Guard and arm them with the best tasers, pellet guns and tear gas money can buy! The kind of propaganda CBS is providing here is eerie in its blatant attempt to justify sending more security forces to the ravished black republic, rather than sending humanitarian aid. And what's more, the Heritage Foundation came out with a statement suggesting the lucrative nature of the situation:
"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."
This is just another prime example of neoliberal economic opportunism during times of natural disaster, a prime example of what Naomi Klein warned about in The Shock Doctrine.
But revisiting the idea that there is somehow a situation that calls for military efforts in lieu of humanitarian aid: If there is any sort of outbreak of violence (and there has not been any reports of humanitarian aid workers getting attacked thus far)--which, you know, is completely possible given that these people have been starving to death and suffering unimaginable physical pain--it would have absolutely nothing to do with greed or opportunism. It's like the MSM wants to turn the situation into the LA riots all of a sudden. This is just unacceptable.
Over the past week I've been following the coverage of Democracy Now! which has been compassionate and heartbreaking, and completely respectful to the Haitian population. Unlike those incompetent, asinine schmucks at CNN like Anderson Cooper, with his muscle tee, posing as a serious newsman, but really just exploiting the situation. I cried my heart out when I heard about the 27 year-old Haitian med student who was trapped inside a building for nearly a week and had to drink the blood of surrounding corpses just to stay alive. Or this outrageous story brought by a DN correspondent:
"...a helicopter from a Mormon charity had landed. It was on the ground, and there was Haitians all around, young and old, waiting for food to be handed out. This helicopter took off, off the ground, and began throwing the food down at the Haitians. It did not distribute it when it was on the ground. They threw the food from the air. These were ... See Morepackets of bread that they were throwing. It ignited just fury and indignation on the ground by the people there. They began screaming. One man started crying. He said, “We are a proud people. We are not dogs for you to throw bones at.”
Guardian columnist Seumas Milne rightfully called this "a result of calculated impoverishment" in his article the other day. Milne writes:
"Most scandalously, US commanders have repeatedly turned away flights bringing medical equipment and ­emergency supplies from organisations such as the World Food Programme and Médecins Sans Frontières, in order to give priority to landing troops. Despite the remarkable patience and solidarity on the streets and the relatively small scale of looting, the aim is said to be to ensure security and avoid "another Somalia" – a reference to the US ­military's "Black Hawk Down" ­humiliation in 1993. It's an approach that ­certainly chimes with well-­established traditions of keeping Haiti under control."
The situation in Haiti is absolutely devastating. But not nearly as devastating as what will happen if the U.S. gets away with militarizing and capitalizing upon the devastation itself.

No comments: