Saturday, January 16, 2010

Aid arrives in Port-au-Prince

TransAfrica founder and author of 'An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President' Randall Robinson, makes a very good point when he says:  “Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy…Clinton has largely sponsored a program of economic development that supports the idea of sweatshops… but that is not what we should focus on now. We should focus on saving lives.” Moreover, despite Partrick Cockburn's report in today's 'Independent' that, "the US-run aid effort for Haiti is beginning to look chillingly similar to the criminally slow and disorganised US government support for New Orleans after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005," it would now appear that international aid is beginning to reach Port-au-Prince and that, as Mr Robinson indicates, is the most important thing. Moreover, while many of the foreign rescue teams with heavy lifting gear will arrive too late to save many lives that might otherwise have been saved it is very difficult to point the finger here. The chaos that exists on the ground, the lack of infrastructure and the fact that what infrastructure is left intact, or can at least be utilised, is hopelessly overused, would appear to suggest that we should at least be grateful that help is reaching the Haitians at last.

Nevertheless, while agreeing with Mr Robinson that this is the most important thing, I would also like to point out that he also said that Mr Obama asking Bill Clinton and George W Bush to coordinate aid efforts was sending out the wrong message and while I am, like Mr Robinson, able to see this of secondary importance, again, the most important thing being that aid does reach the Haitians, I would not trivialise it. Clinton's administration sponsored a programme of economic development that led to sweat shops and slums and, in february 2004, the Bush administration had an active hand in a coup that forced the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.

Yes, as Randall Robinson says "we should focus on saving lives" and we can only be happy that the aid is now reaching the people of Haiti. However, we can only cringe at the hypocrisy, the audacity and the vulgarity that will probably end up faciltiating Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama patting each others backs in public and telling us all what a good job they have done, when in fact the administration in Washington will be using this catastrophe to continue and complement the "really good work" done by the previous administrations.

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