Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poor Haiti - So Far From God, So Close to the US

OK, I paraphrased a quote about Mexico, but it fits Haiti also. Here's another, from Lily Tomlin
"No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up".

I know the the US will kill for profit, but watching people dying for lack of aid, while US troops prevent civilian planes from landing and stockpile needed food and water in the airport, instead of getting it out to the people, is a new low in horrifying eye opening reality.

Americans, used to giving up their own rights, freedom, privacy and dignity for "security", are now apparently fine with watching people die under rubble, from crush wounds and compound fractures, move into their second week without food or water, and suffer great pain without analgesics, because, you know, our troops must be "secure".

Heavily armed troops are afraid of starving people? They're refusing to feed people because hungry people might rush to get food? And not letting other, braver, people into the country to supply relief?

I am so appalled that I don't even have words. And I am more appalled, and depressed, by reading comments to the Guardian UK website, when they reported that a French official criticized the US military for turning back relief planes, and for setting up an occupation force.

Hundreds of ignorant Americans wrote in to deny that the US would ever want to occupy Haiti. That the US military would ever be used to oppress other countries. There was a lot of chest beating bravado and inflated self aggrandizement about the unsurpassed virtues of the American people and the cowardice of the French. I am so embarrassed. Again.

This is the third century that the US and France have united to oppress Haiti. Originally a French colony, with African slaves worked to death to grow sugar, after the American and French revolutions, the slaves rebelled and overthrew the French. The new United States of America freaked out and helped impose a blockade on the new republic of Haiti. Then the French imposed reparations onto the Haitian people, to make them pay for their own freedom. They totally overcharged them, also, 150 million francs. They sold the Louisiana Purchase for 80 million francs. The US didn't recognize Haiti until 1863, when they freed their own slaves. Without paying for them, by the way.

Haiti was forced to borrow the money ($20 billion in today's prices) from French and American banks. The US invaded in 1915 (as pointed out by Major General Smedley Butler, of "War is a Racket" fame) and occupied Haiti until 1934. Yes, although the ignorant among us don't believe it, the US did indeed occupy Haiti, only leaving when puppet governments were assured. Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc, were among the dictators that America backed. They assured their continued rule with the Tonton Macoutes, paramilitary thugs who ran death squads against opponents. They borrowed more money, for themselves and their off-shore bank accounts, leaving millions for Haitians to pay back, with interest, of course. Haiti pays $1 million a week, just on the interest.

In 1991, after years of organizing, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President on a program of helping ordinary Haitians. G. H. W. Bush promptly backed a coup against him. Clinton sent in US troops to return him in 1994. At last, the US doing something right? Sadly, no. They constrained him by forcing him to agree to neo-con policies as a condition of returning. Aristide was elected again in 2000 and was again forced out by a US backed coup in 2004. The US kidnapped him and shipped him to Africa, where he remains, requesting to return to no avail.

To have Obama appoint Bush and Clinton to head the relief efforts is an insult to the Haitian people. I guess that they shouldn't be surprised that the US military is withholding food, water and medical care from them.

Haiti was self sufficient in rice production in 1980. The US dumped subsidized rice into the country in the 80s and now Haiti imports not just rice, but sugar! The Federal Government subsidizes agribusiness in this country, including using scare water to grow rice in the California desert, then threatens other countries to "open their markets". During the 80s, the US tried to get Japan to open its markets and throw its rice farmers out of work, but Japan refused. The vitriol directed at Japan by American yahoos then matches the vitriol directed at France today. In the meantime, Farm Aid notwithstanding, hundreds of thousands of American farmers also lost their land in the 80s.

The Haitian farmers flooded Port au Prince, becoming cheap labor for American sweatshops. Last year, they almost starved when food prices rose. They lived in flimsily built houses, perched wherever they could.

And that brings us to today, when desperate people wait for help, while overfed Americans sit and sneer at their poverty. Boastful, swaggering Americans, who see no irony as they brag about their massive military, armed and armored to the teeth, who are afraid to go out and feed starving people.

Important article by Bill Quigley, who survived Hurricane Katrina.

Update: I was telling a co-worker about this tonight and he said that he knew of previous similar stories. I asked - where? and he mentioned Somalia. He said that he knew a Special Forces veteran who was told to fire on an American truck. He questioned why, but did it anyway. Then the soldiers were told that there were "snipers" out there, so the aid couldn't be distributed and it sat in the warehouse until it rotted.


Anonymous said...

It is so different listening to Canadian and British broadcasts of what is happening there. They go on and on about how brave and patient the people are while US talks only of looting. Sigh. I almost believe America hates black people and won't be happy until they are all in prison cells.

Anonymous said...

Me again. It is an old book, but Merchants of Grain has a section of the good old boy rice network. Shameful.

wagelaborer said...

Thanks for the tip about the book. I'll look for it.

Yeah, this obstruction of aid is very distressing.

After a while, it's hard to believe that it's just incompetence, and not deliberate murder.

David G. said...

I think it was a case of beating Chavez to the punch.

The quickness of the 'invasion' also suggests that the U.S. is poised to take advantage of anything untoward in the area of South America.

America has shown Hitler how to succeed in world domination!

dwinspear said...

I'm glad I ran across your blog, since I'd just gotten off the phone with my sister in the States(I'm in Quebec), and judging from her comments and the rants on some blogs from Americans who are outraged that the ingrate rest of the world sees an American military occupation, and not a humanitarian aid operation. I felt that she had been pretty brainwashed by the yank media to believe that the US military are the Second Coming or something. All I saw were videos of Marines landing in full gear, while planeloads of doctors, nurses, food were put on hold. Of course, I watch sites like Al Jazeera- But, then, I forget that they got the consuming classes to swallow the idea of "humanitarian bombing." I tried to explain to her that Marines are not trained to save lives...since you mentioned Smedley Butler, you can catch the drift. I was appalled how many North American couch potatoes don't even know that Haiti's been under military occupation since they kidnapped Aristide back in 2004.

wagelaborer said...

It is definitely culture shock if you listen to Democracy Now and Al Jazeera to all of a sudden be exposed to a Fox News listener.

I worked with a woman on Friday who thoughtfully said to me "Don't you think that God sent the earthquake to Haiti to kill the poor people because there's too many of them?"

Well, no, I didn't, and she got quite an earful. She was actually quite open to hearing my opinions, which I love. So she got about 6 hours of them.

I'm sure that it was culture shock for her to hear me!

Anonymous said...

dwinspear, it is not just since 2004 that the US Empire has been dominating Haiti. The people of Haiti defeated the French and became the first successful slave uprising in history. The leaders of the US were horrified that a slave rebellion could succeed. The US and France moved to isolate the newly independent nation of Haiti in order to make sure that such phenonena didn't spread. Pretty soon, the French Empire came to the isolated and consequently impoverished and desperate nation demanded the Haitians pay reparations for the 'property' France lost due to the revolution (i.e. all THE PEOPLE they used to own). The US stepped in and offered Haiti a loan WITH INTEREST to 'help' them 'pay France back'. The Haitians weren' able to fully 'pay France back' until 1947. Through the imperial nightmare that was called 'the cold war', the US moved to crush any movements from below which acted to improve the lives of ordinary Haitians and/or challenged the perogatives of capital in any way. The US supported murdering elites Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier in this period. In 1991, Aristide was elected president. He stood up for the masses of Haitians and challenged the capitalist and imperialist forces that had terrorized the country for centuries. Within months, he was overthrown by a right wing reactionary US-backed coup. Bill Clinton re-installed him in 2004, but only on the condition that he accept a series of privatizations and IMF-style restrictions that ensured the domination of imperialism and capitalism and the limits to democracy and decency. In 2001, with 60% of the country participating (more than participates in the US), Aristide won the HAitian election with 90 some odd percent of the vote. In 2004, an US-backed antidemocratic right wing coup overthrew the government. US forces kidnapped Aristide and dropped him in a dictatorial US allied country in Africa. That's the EXTREMELY short version of the story. Correct me if I'm wrong.

wagelaborer said...

Neither one of you is wrong.
The US and France cooperated in removing Aristide in 2004, although it was the US who physically kidnapped him. I'm not sure how much French involvement there was in the 1991 coup. I know that the US was heavily involved.
Haiti has been under occupation by UN troops, enforcing US and French dictates, since 2004.

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