Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti: A disaster "made in America"

A headline in  'The Scotsman' this morning reads; "Haiti: Obama calls on ex-presidents Clinton and Bush to help save lives." And with another headline in the same paper reporting that "desperation turned to anger last night as Haitians began making roadblocks out of corpses in protest at the delay in emergency aid reaching them after the devastating earthquake," we can only hope that the "natives" will calm down a bit with the good news from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who says: "Both of them have agreed to take part in this."

Of course, this is insulting, disgusting drivel and at best piffle of the sort that can only be matched by that which is spouted out on the 'Heritage Foundation's' website, which, with the corpses piling up on the streets of Port-au-Prince, maintains that: "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."The 'Heritage Foundation' has "a significant influence in U.S. public policy making, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential research organizations in the United States," so no surprises there and maybe, just maybe we should look at U.S: policy a bit closer and try to get behind the "vigourous public diplomacy effort" that is more concerned about Washington's image in the region than it is about the destitution, disease and dying in Haiti.

The point was made in yesterday's earlier post; years of neo-liberal policies at the behest of the IMF have led to impoverished Haitian farmers moving to the cities. It might also be pointed out that they have led to deforestation of the mountains as people look for wood to burn and this in turn has resulted in a  precarious "natural" situation, where any natural disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake is compounded by mudslides. Kim Ives, a journalist with the newspaper 'Haiti Liberté' says to Amy Goodman of 'Democracy Now'; ".....just in the days before this, there was a lot of rain. So a lot of this is mudslides. I mean, the ground was already saturated with water, so it was extremely unstable. And I think that made the collapses even more terrible." Yes, here we have all the trappings of a disaster made in Washington and what does Obama do? Well, he starts the "vigourous public diplomacy effort" and tells us all that "his thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti" and calls on George Bush Jnr and Bill Clinton to counter "the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp."

Of course, countering "negative propoganda" and pursuing "a vigourous public diplomacy" do not represent American policy as such. Rather they are the vehicles that Washington employs to realise its goals. Therefore, let us get beyond the rhetoric and look at the goals and to find them we need look no further than  Naomi Klein who says that this "made in Washington" (my words) "disaster should not be exploited to further indebt Haiti or "to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our (U.S.) corporations." We might hope Ms Klein's advice will be adhered to. Nevertheless, the real aims of American foreign policy are implicit in her recommendation. Unfortunately, while a growing number of people no longer fall for the drivel and piffle, the evidence seems to suggest that our sweet talking Obama can still spout his hypocritical platitudes and convince many of us that "the U.S.’s involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe." Even when the faces attached to this policy are those of Bill Clinton and George Bush Jnr; his two predecessors and two of the men responsible for those "unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our (U.S.) corporations," that have already been implemented on the impoverished island.  Once again, it is thouse policies that led to this "made in America" disaster.

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