Thus, it was with some interest I read a sidebar story quoting Chavez as accusing the U.S. of invading Haiti and occupying the country under the guise of disaster assistance. He noted that aid shipments were diverted to other countries while the U.S. military-run airport cleared their runways for troop transports and military supplies. Most of the activities of our military have been setting up their own command and supply rather than lending troopers to the rescue and recovery effort. At first these accusations seemed a bit overblown and I refused to believe that the Obama administration would embark on such a blatant land grab. But then the French chimed in with similar complaints, and I thought better.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and in all too many cases lately America has been the paving contractor. Convinced of the superiority of our political and economic systems, we have come to the rescue of the poor benighted heathen from Afghanistan and Iraq to Somalia, which we are now allowing the Italians to subcontract, and now Haiti. The new battle plan appears to be a rewrite of the old “hearts and minds” strategy that worked so well in Vietnam: bring in troops and distribute aid and assistance, build schools and roads, all of which require more troops to guard them, set up a dependent government infrastructure locally and complete with local militia and police, all of whom need training by our special teams.
Earlier this week, the U.S. had 11,000 forces in Haiti and offshore. By this weekend, we have 16,000 with another 2,000 Marines diverted from the Persian Gulf deployment. That’s a lot of security for a disaster in which the survivors are showing remarkable patience and order.
Haiti is so desperately poor and screwed over that it is almost our duty to take control and improve the lot of the people. Having such a blighted country just offshore the richest nation on earth is embarrassing to say the least. Under the “Shock Doctrine” philosophy, any crisis is an opportunity to do things you could never get away with in less trying times (9/11 and the Patriot Act are cited as examples). In Haiti, the crisis is very real and offers the opportunity for benign intervention without the usual accusations of foreign occupation, or at least that’s what Washington D.C. thinks.
There is no question that a period of well-funded rehabilitation is beneficial to the people, but at what price? What remnants of the government in Port au Prince who can be found are the leftovers from a regime that has impoverished the country through policies favoring foreign exploitation by privatizing what had been government-owned industries such as the flour mills and cement plant. Now the poorest nation must import its concrete from the U.S. and basic foodstuffs from overseas, mostly American farmers. Perhaps if our armed forces could help rebuild Haiti without giving the usual contracts to the same old profiteers, we might make friends of these latest subjects in our empire of charity.