New Internationalist

The vultures have landed

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Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Haiti. Felicity Arbuthnot argues that the US’s so-called humanitarian intervention on the devastated Caribbean island is anything but.

A tragedy is the imitation of an action… having a magnitude… with incidents which arouse both pity and terror. Aristotle (384-322 BC)

‘I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.

In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.

I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.

The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.’ Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940)

UNDP under a CC Licence
Haiti's national palace UNDP under a CC Licence

Last month’s earthquake in Haiti has been described as ‘catastrophic’. The Guardian reported that Port-au-Prince was ‘a capital in ruins, schools, homes, churches, historic buildings and businesses … dozens and dozens gone’. The death toll may be as high as 300,000. Whole families have been lost; sometimes just one shattered relative survives. Uncounted traumatized, bewildered orphans remain in a country where broadly half the population is under 15. Hospitals are either destroyed, damaged or have scant or no medication, anesthetics or surgical necessities. The dead have been buried in mass graves, unidentified, their names known only to their god.

Nature, it seems, achieved in hours what George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton and George W Bush have done to Iraq and Afghanistan over 19 and 9 years respectively (with a little help from Prime Ministers Anthony Charles Lynton Blair and his predecessor, John Major).

Five days after the earthquake, as aid piled up at the airport, and planes carrying more were turned away, Secretary of State Hillary ‘no child left behind’ Clinton flew in, snarling all up for a further reported three hours

And as with Iraq and Afghanistan, it can only get worse. Fast. President Obama’s response, having told the nation that the US holds the people of Haiti in their heart, went on to appoint as fundraisers and ‘humanitarian envoys’, the blood-drenched figures of Clinton and George W Bush. Clinton’s policy was to bomb Iraq massively on a whim, or seemingly as a diversion, when enveloped in potential scandals, and bomb more quietly – often daily – in between. When he left office, estimates are that 1.25 million Iraqis had died of ‘embargo-related causes’ and bombings – both entirely US-driven.

Clinton’s legal fund was reported as raising $8 million to pay his defence bills in the Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals – and then needed another $3.9 million for ‘the first family to leave office without this tremendous burden’, according to the fund’s executive director.

George W Bush presided over the spectacular collapse of oil giant Enron; the illegal invasion of Iraq was estimated by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz to have cost $3 trillion (and counting) as Bush’s presidency drew to a close. In all it might be thought that there are those better suited to humanitarian and fiscal missions. Further, as William Blum in succinct detail points out, it was Clinton (1994) then George W Bush (2004) who kept Haiti’s democratically elected President Aristide from power.

Negotiations? Yeah, right.

Further, dwarfing George Orwell’s most surgical satire, Colin Powell told CNN that he would of course help out if he was asked. He was, he said horrified by the destruction of the palace.

‘It hit me very deeply. I’ve been in that palace. I’ve been to negotiations in that palace and it’s a beautiful building. To see it collapse – and when you realize what that meant to the rest of the city – it struck me deeply, and my heart immediately went out to the Haitian people who have suffered so much.’

‘Negotiations’? Well, not quite.

‘History will record the first black US Secretary of State personally engineered the theft of the national sovereignty of Haiti, the world’s first black republic,’ observed The Black Commentator after the 2004 coup, which ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. ‘Global American pirates [created a] new order which congeals like blood on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Such is Colin Powell’s horrific legacy… Powell personally initiated the overt, criminally culpable act in the kidnapping of a head of state.’

Ten days later they pointed out: ‘Powell returned to the scene of his crime last week to assure Gerard Latortue (the US-installed interim Prime Minister): ‘We are with you all the way.’ Encouragement to a man who, it is said, estimated it necessary to kill 25,000 people in the capital alone, to stop calls for the return of President Aristide. ‘What’s happening here is what is happening in Iraq,’ said Aristide’s attorney, Ira Kurzban. Latortue has been dubbed Haiti’s Ahmed Chalabi.

Colin Powell is ‘the most powerful and damaging black to rise to influence in the world in my lifetime,’ lamented TransAfrica founder, Randall Robinson (1). Powell is another who finds it ‘unproductive to count the dead’ in the various incursions in which he has been involved. Hardly a man you would want on your side when trapped in or scrabbling through the rubble, seeking those you love.

Enter 8,000 US paratroopers and the 82nd Airborne Division: ‘primary mission, airfield and seaport seizure.’ Which they did – at lightning speed and with personnel also taking over the control tower. The 82nd’s base website helpfully further clarifies: ‘Within 18 hours of notification, the 82nd Airborne Division strategically deploys, conducts forcible entry parachute assault and secures key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of US national interests.’ They speedily set up ‘control points’, parachuted in to the grounds of the Presidential palace – déjà vu all over again – ‘secured’ that and ‘branched out around the city… prepared to stay for whatever time is necessary’. You bet.

Clinton has landed

Five days after the earthquake, as aid piled up at the airport, and planes carrying more were turned away, Secretary of State Hillary ‘no child left behind’ Clinton flew in, snarling all up for a further reported three hours (how many died in that time?). The US, she stressed, was there as ‘a friend, partner and supporter’ of President René Préval and would remain as long as assistance was needed. Haitians are unconvinced, with reports of them warning each other not to eat food from the US, lest it be poisoned.

simminch under a CC Licence
82nd Airborne Division paratroopers. simminch under a CC Licence

The 82nd Airborne’s ‘support of US national interests’, have included Vietnam, Grenada, Central America, Kuwait and Iraq (1990-1991), Haiti (1994), the Balkans (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq – again. In Fallujah, they occupied a school, from which, the Independent reported at the time, they ‘randomly opened fire on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators’, who wanted their school back. Fifteen Iraqis were killed and 75 injured. This led to furious townspeople taking their revenge on four Blackwater mercenaries, hanging them over a bridge. Which in turn resulted in the US army’s murderous assaults and semi-destruction on the ancient town.

After another shoot-up, a deserter from the 82nd, Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, applying for refugee status in Canada, told of killing more than 30 unarmed men, women and children, including a young Iraqi who got out of his car with his hands up. ‘We fired at a cyclical rate of five hundred bullets per vehicle.’ (Robert Fisk, Independent 1 January 2005) ‘In every instance, our soldiers have shown discipline and restraint,’ said a military spokesperson after the Fallujah incident. Heaven forbid they ever have an off day.

Threatening language

As the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson steamed towards the ruined Port-au-Prince, a Haitian lawyer remarked: ‘Haiti needed 14,000 doctors and the US sent 14,000 soldiers’, noting that US planes were circling the island with loudspeakers telling people not to think of leaving and going to the US, as they would be ‘detained and returned’. All heart. Wonder what language they were threatening in? Languages are not a towering forte of America’s finest.

The Carl Vinson (along with six other US carriers also deployed) can accommodate 80 aircraft, has a flight deck of 4.5 acres and is as high as a 24-storey building. By 20 January, it was reportedly distributing ‘a significant increase’ of water, nearly 3,000 gallons. This Nimitz class carrier can desalinate 400,000 gallons a day.

‘In every instance, our soldiers have shown discipline and restraint,’ said a military spokesperson after the Fallujah incident. Heaven forbid they ever have an off day

Cuba and Venezuela have sent doctors and aid, Senegal has offered to resettle Haitians, poor African countries are sending money, the people of Gaza, under siege from Israel, are collecting money and humanitarian aid. Unmentioned are 400 Haitian doctors who received free medical training in Cuba that are also tending the injured in their home country. When Gaza was helplessly under Israeli blitzkrieg just over a year ago, the BBC refused to broadcast an appeal by the (UK) Disasters and Emergency Committee. Rightly, they repeatedly have for Haiti. Ironically, the BBC took the opportunity, in Haiti’s tragedy, to team-up with an Israeli rescue-team – a nation traditionally burying people under rubble, not digging them out. They have also been accused of harvesting body parts of prisoners and bombing victims.

The 82nd, however, seemingly find it hard to adapt to their new role as angels of mercy. (Once they’d ‘secured the airport’ in New Orleans, they didn’t exactly shine after Hurricane Katrina either.) ‘We normally do combat; people don’t realize we do compassion too,’ said a spokesperson. Nevertheless, it was reported that UN ‘peacekeeping troops’ – backed by US soldiers – severely beat Haitians who turned up at the airport looking for work and/or offering assistance to unload cargo planes filled with humanitarian supplies. Flights were also being diverted, with Doctors without Borders saying five of theirs had been, and US forces also turning back a French aircraft carrying a field hospital, two aid-loaded craft from Mexico and others. Military aircraft were prioritized over humanitarian ones. Old habits clearly die hard.

Who will audit how many cargoes of refrigeration-reliant vital injectible medications, drips and anesthetics perished in the heat instead of saving lives, courtesy of the ‘compassionate’? Meanwhile, reports Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater, Florida-based mercenary company All Pro Legal are arranging to offer their services, along with another equally quaintly named outfit (given their stock in trade): International Peace Operations Association. (9) Dyncorp and Triple Canopy have similarly offered their services, says Scahill in a related interview. It is also reported that South African mercenaries are geared to pitch up. Blackwater (now re-named Xe, due to a little murderous local Iraqi difficulty) surely won’t be far behind.

Milking human kindness

Not to worry, at least Haiti has God’s representatives on earth there to help and spread the milk of human kindness. There is the US evangelical Pat Robertson’s ‘Operation Blessing’, which has teamed up with an Israeli group. Pat Robertson, of course, said a Haitian ‘pact with the devil’ had wrought this devastation on Haiti. The Israelis themselves must have taken up quite a bit of space at the airport: ‘An integral part of any aid delegation is a detachment of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Spokesman Unit and Foreign Ministry Press Officers.’

The ‘painful truth’ is that the Haiti disaster is good for the Israeli Government’s tattered image and they intend to milk it for all it is worth, is the premise of some cynics.

More of Christ’s would-be representatives on earth, Baptist ‘missionaries’ from Idaho, also seem to have unusual interpretations of His teaching, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not…’

They simply helped themselves to 33 children and attempted to take them over the border to the Dominican Republic. ‘They were naive,’ said their lawyer. ‘They did not know they needed official papers’ to take children who were not theirs into another country.

The Independent reported that the group’s leader Laura Silsby had allegedly been the subject of eight civil lawsuits and 14 unpaid wage claims, and that she had ‘a long history’ of unpaid debts. The paper adds: ‘The revelation will provide grist to the mill of children’s charities who have been highlighting the risk of child trafficking.’ Numerous well-meaning couples in the West are prepared to pay ‘as much as $30,000 to adopt.’

A military mindset

The outpouring of generosity from across the globe has, it seems, been woefully negated by military mindset, ignorance, an American puppet government and perhaps other agendas, which designate as secondary the suffering of people who a month on are still demonstrating for food and help. The long-term agencies on the ground, who know the country, are seemingly near hand-tied.

The outpouring of generosity from across the globe has, it seems, been woefully negated by military mindset, ignorance, an American puppet government and other agendas

Further, any emergency decree by the Government would give ‘an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us,’ US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. Surely coincidentally, Pacificfreepress.com reports:

‘The 12 January earthquake was on a fault-line that passes potential gas reserves,’ said Stephen Pierce, a geologist who worked in the region for 30 years for companies including the former Mobil Corp. The quake may have cracked rock formations along the fault, allowing gas or oil to temporarily seep toward the surface, he said yesterday in a telephone interview. ‘A geologist, callous as it may seem, tracing that fault zone from Port-au-Prince to the border looking for gas and oil seeps, may find a structure that hasn’t been drilled,’ said Pierce, exploration manager at Zion Oil & Gas Inc., a Dallas- based company that’s drilling in Israel. ‘A discovery could significantly improve the country’s economy and stimulate further exploration.

The Greater Antilles, which includes Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and their offshore waters, probably hold at least 142 million barrels of oil and 159 billion cubic feet of gas, according to a 2000 report by the US, Geological Survey. Undiscovered amounts may be as high as 941 million barrels of oil and 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the report.’

There may be more vultures than doves hovering over the intensive care unit which is currently beautiful, battered Haiti. And those words : ‘support of US National Interests’ come to mind again.

  1. For an excellent overview, see thirdworldtraveler.com

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