Making the most of disaster

Publié le par hort

http://weekly. ahram.org. eg/2010/982/ in1.htm

Making the most of disaster

As heartless as it may sound, Haiti's current plight is nothing new. A cursory glance at its tragic history makes this crystal clear, bemoans Gamal Nkrumah

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The militarisation of emergency relief by the Western powers, and in particular the United States of America, is scandalous, disgraceful and unscrupulous. It is understandable that attitudes to neocolonialism are difficult to change. However, to feign remorse for the plight of Haitians and to use the country's adversity to embark on the consolidation of the island nation's military occupation by US forces is a despicable act.

The US-led international charm offensive is fast discarding its charm, while bearing its teeth and putting the onus on the offensive. The message of goodwill and harmony rings hollow in Haiti. American troops have blatantly taken control of the international airport, muzzling voices of despair buried beneath the rubble.

United States President Barack Obama's smile was fresh at the start of his presidency. He's no longer smiling, as the unprecedented loss of a Kennedy's senate seat was announced yesterday.
As far as Haitians are concerned, Washington came up with a callous and calculating modus operandi which serves its own strategic interests.

Haitians had hopes in redemption by an African-American president in the venerable tradition of their own legendary Toussaint Louverture. He has failed them. The consensus in Haiti and overseas is that American troops are overbearing in their disdain for the least shred of sovereignty in Haiti, blithely turning back French and Brazilian cargo planes loaded with desperately needed aid.

The quest to understand the mysteries of Haiti's misfortunes is not a futile exercise. Far from it, the predicament Haitian President René Garcia Préval finds himself and his people in is symptomatic of the neocolonial status of the Caribbean island-nation. America's generous reward for the daylight robbery and thievery of corporate bankers has enraged Americans and people throughout the world. The Bush-Obama administrations have tried to bail out the bankrupt -- morally and materially -- financial institutions of his country. Yet how much so far has been donated to its benighted neighbouring neocolony?

That is both annoying and ignominious. The good news is that some of Washington's closest allies, most notably France, are outspokenly outraged at such injustice. Why is the overall humanitarian operation in Haiti not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as USAID, but instead by the Pentagon?

How this debate will play out is not quite clear yet. History repeats itself. Haiti's colonial history gruesomely began with the genocide of the indigenous peoples by the Spanish after 1492 in search of gold and continued under the French, who replaced the natives with African slave labour. The US occupied Haiti from 1915-1937. This was a critical period in the mutilation of the national character -- the proud revolutionary legacy of the liberated slaves. The racist foreign troops were merciless in the treatment of the local blacks and an internal US military investigation into atrocities admitted they killed 3,250 Haitians. The US dismantled the political system, constructed infrastructure specifically suited to their agenda, and established the National Guard which later warped into the dreaded Tonton Macoutes, who instituted a reign of terror, turning the oppression into an established feature of Haitian political life. Many Haitians alive today
recall these events with trepidation.

"There's a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives," says Graham Greene in his classic The Comedians set in Haiti. The people of Haiti might have arrived at this point with yesterday's massive aftershock following last week's fateful 7.0 on the Richter scale.

What has become abundantly clear is that successive US interventionism has contributed to the destruction of Haiti's national economy and the impoverishment of its long-suffering population. While post-1937 intervention has been more "diplomatic" than overtly military, there were direct incursions. Notably, in 1994 when 20,000 "peace-keepers" were sent, who according to Michel Chossudovsky, author of The Globalisation of Poverty and the New World Order, were intended "to prevent a popular insurrection against the military Junta and its neoliberal cohorts."

When Western troops departed in 1999, after cruelly accomplishing their mission of subjugation, the US State Department arranged with DynCorp to supply "technical advice" in recreating the Haitian police in the occupier's sordid image.

Western powers, no doubt alarmed at the resurgence of left-leaning democratically elected governments in Latin America, were determined to stem the tide. With Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro a mere stone's throw away from Haiti, the US could ill afford yet another bastion of revolution at its doorstep.

US, Canadian and French forces, along with the CIA, invaded Haiti again in 2004 to overthrow the popular socialist leader Jean Bertrand Aristide and spirit him out of the country in an overt coup d'état, employing elements from Le Front pour l'avancement et le progrès d'Haiti (FRAPH), the plainclothes death squads

Following this grievous episode, the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was set up and is currently acting as the front for the present US invasion.

Poor President Preval was left no option but to try to tread the political tightrope between satisfying his US masters and appealing to his hungry people. He has proved to be an astute politician by assuaging both beauties and the beast -- the romantic Latin revolutionaries and the ugly Uncle Sam.

The military component of the US mission, quickly overshadowed the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate, devastated and utterly poverty-stricken people living on less than $2 a day, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The controlling decision-making capacity has been entrusted to the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). So why is a massive deployment of military hardware and personnel now contemplated?

If the quagmire Haiti finds itself in is humanitarian in nature, why the emphasis on the US military? The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen declared that Washington is intent on deploying up to 10,000 troops to Haiti.

The build-up of US military presence in Haiti is making other Caribbean countries such as Cuba and Venezuela extremely uneasy. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its attendant supporting ships immediately descended on Port au Prince in an unnerving show of strength. What has become clear is that by using the Haitian earthquake as a pretext for military intervention, the US is bolstering its warmongering flexing of muscles in the Caribbean, a region it derisively considers its backyard.

If the Bush administration was incompetent in dealing with its own tragic Hurricane Katrina, can we seriously expect ex-president George W Bush to contribute in any meaningful way to Haiti's current predicament?

It's preposterous that Obama now invites the likes of Bush and Bill Clinton to brighten the lives of the earthquake-ravaged Haitians through the good offices of their respective non-profit organisations.

What is macabrely interesting about Bush and Haiti is his comment following Haiti's Hurricane Rita in 2005: "Is there a natural disaster -- of a certain size -- that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about."

On the face of things, the US is spearheading a humanitarian mission that will save million of lives. In the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's words, "For the sake of our citizens in Haiti, but for the grace of God, there we go." This is belied by the crude words of US Southern Command head General Douglas Friseur who characterised the Haiti emergency operation as a "Command, Control, Communications operation [C3]", while insisting that it is really "humanitarian" . The problem is the few observers outside the US military establishment are likely to believe him.
notorious for mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the 1991 military coup. This is precisely the moment when in desperation the Haitian turned to Voodoo to ward off the Evil Eye that had bewitched the enchanting island.


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