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Friday, January 15, 2010

Wait for it.
Posted by Jill | 5:52 AM
Last night, as the news out of Haiti was about people constructing road blocks with bodies -- road blocks that may prevent supplies from getting through, I was wondering how long it's going to take before the instinct of people here at home to immediately say "What can I do?"; to organize fundraisers and food drives and clothing drives (the latter two hopelessly misguided, as there's no way to get anything there) is replaced by an attitude of "The hell with 'em." I would ask such people, "What would YOU be doing if three days had passed since your entire town had collapsed, you'd lost everyone else in your family, it was blisteringly hot, and you'd had no food or water for three days?"

These days, we have the Washington Post giving over vital op-ed pages to the Pete Petersons of the world; the deficit hawks for whom short-term deficits are the only thing that matters even if it means prolonging a deep recession. We have so-called populists in the flyover states screeching that we can't have health care because of the deficit, even if stimulus and universal health care provide longer-term prosperity that will help alleviate the deficit. So it's unlikely that Americans, led by the bots at Faux News, are going to put up with American money spent to rebuild Haiti for very long. Waiting for the drumbeat of "We can't afford it" is like waiting for the other shoe to drop. What you won't hear is why the U.S. bears some responsibility for why Haiti has been the mess it has for a generation.

When you have a disaster of this magnitude, just as with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when there was talk of glittering high-rise hotels and casinos in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, Naomi Klein notes that the disaster capitalists are already rubbing their hands together:
Readers of the The Shock Doctrine know that the Heritage Foundation has been one of the leading advocates of exploiting disasters to push through their unpopular pro-corporate policies. From this document, they're at it again, not even waiting one day to use the devastating earthquake in Haiti to push for their so-called reforms. The following quote was hastily yanked by the Heritage Foundation and replaced with a more diplomatic quote, but their first instinct is revealing:

"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."

Sounds benign enough. But read more:

While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade, and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms.

The U.S. should implement a strong and vigorous public diplomacy effort to counter the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp. Such an effort will also demonstrate that the U.S.’s involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe.

This is not one bit about helping the people of the impoverished Caribbean nation, where 80% of the population lives below the poverty level. It's all about playing "My dick is bigger than your dick" with the aging Castro brothers in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It's neocon empire building again, and I suspect that it's also a bit about seizing some prime beachfront property for those hoteliers and casino magnates who were thwarted in New Orleans.

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