Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Speculation but ........?

Sanjay Gupta the chief medical correspondent for the Health, Medical & Wellness unit at CNN gives the impression of being a caring, compassionate, level-headed man and no crocodile tears here when he tells Larry King that many of the deaths that are occuring could be prevented if priority were given to getting medical aid to the victims as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Sanjay Gupta is something of an exception the news channel and while CNN itself continues to pepper us with that type of sensationalist "no news" that is epitomised by a stream of "tear jerking"individual stories, the real news remains hidden. Yes, while it is always good to see a baby here and an old women there being rescued, is there not a more sinister reason why aid is not getting to the majority of Haitians?

Suspicions might be aroused when we read that the Americans are being accused of "monopolizing the airfield's single runway to evacuate their own citizens." We don't know the full truth behind this accusation but we do know that the United States is managing air traffic control at the airport and that, with 200 flights going in and out every day, many aid agencies are accusing Washington of misplaced priorities. With most of those flights being for the military and with the General Ken Keen, the commander of the military task force in Haiti,  saying that US troops will be in Haiti for as long as they are "needed” and with a projected 12,000 troops expected in the country by today, we might begin to speculate. Furthermore with reports coming out that the US military is using Port-au-Prince airport as a logistical and strategical hub for its military buildup and that it is blocking humanitarian flights coming on top of yesterday's reports that the evacuation of US citizens was given priority, we might discover that we have very reals grounds for our speculation and for our fears.

Those fears are, perhaps, best articulated by France’s ambassador to Haiti, Didier le Bret, who said that "Port-au-Prince airport functions as an annex of Washington rather than serving the international community. Now, the French might have an axe to grind with the Americans in that part of the world but when officials from the WFP (World Food Programme) confirm that that US control of Port-au-Prince airport was creating serious logistical problems for aid and rescue efforts, it is time to be suspicious of American efforts that appear to be aimed at securing the country rather than feeding the people. Indeed, by not letting the food get to the people Washington can ensure the security situation in the country deteriorates to such an extent that in the not too distant future we will have Obama justifying an American military occupation of the island. 

Wait and see but with CNNs Anderson Cooper being criticised for focusing on violence and looting, we can already see the mainstream media helping to "create" that situation where a total military occupation of the country might be justified and, justified or not, only a few hours ago we had the 'Guardian' reporting that: "American troops are arriving in Port-au-Prince in even greater numbers. A dozen US helicopters landed on the grounds of presidential palace and began dropping off soldiers troops in full combat gear, according to a Reuters photographer. It appeared to be one of the biggest US military deployments so far, Reuters said." Yes, we might indeed ask the questions how is it so easy for the international mainstream media and the American military to get to Haiti while men, women and children are still dying when they don't really have to?


Nameless Cynic said...

Unfortunately, you're unaware of the logistics involved. Yes, the US military is controlling air traffic om Haiti. Because, to be honest, nobody else is qualified to do that.

Toussaint Louverture International Airport usually only gets three takeoffs and landings per day. The tower is currently juggling 600+ landings per day, and that involves parking them on a field that can handle only one wide-body, five narrow-body planes. and three smaller (often civilian) aircraft. That's it. There's no more room after that.

And this isn't a large international airport with multiple, 18,000 foot runways. There's one runway (and one parallel taxiway), and it's less than 10,000 feet long.

Yes, the military has an easier time getting in, but that's because they're there to help. They're not just hired guns - they have medics, they keep the crowds from looting the food supplies and the few remaining structures. And they're bringing in cargoloads of relief supplies - food, clean water, medicine.

It's not the military takeover you're implying. It's a relief effort.

And meanwhile, well-meaning civilian flights are crowding the area trying to deliver such vital supplies as solar-powered talking bibles instead of food. (And is there any chance we can get enough
medicine and doctors to these people before we start jamming this tiny airport with John Travolta's Scientology snake oil?)

James Nelson said...

There is indeed a lot I am unaware of and my post is plastered with academic caution, the title is after all; "Speculation but ...."
However, I was aware of the one runway and I am aware of the fact that a number of planes were turned back when there was no need to do so. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest, or there are at least a number of sources suggesting that there is evidence to suggest, that the military presence is exaggerated.
My own sceptisism, which is obviously not shared by you, is based on past American interventions in Haiti and elsewhere. Nevertheless, as I stated at the end of the post, "wait and see"and time will tell. However, I suspect that when we consider America's history of intervention on Haiti, a history that has seen the country raped by neo-liberal "reforms" and, in 2004, saw George W Bush's administration engineer the ousting of the democratically elected president, Jean_Bertrand Aristride, we might indeed come to the sane conclusion that the American military is not only there to help.
Anyway, thanks a lot for your comment and the bit about the bibles would have had me laughing if the whole thing were not so tragic.
Maybe the post shouldn't be read in isolation but in conjunction with the other four posts written on the topic.

Nameless Cynic said...

You're right, in that I've only read the one article. But I'm also right there with you on the US policies in Haiti. The whole world has screwed Haiti, and the US is no exception.

I believe it was Clinton's economic policies in Haiti that set them up for sweatshops, after all. We can only hope Obama will do better.