Haiti needs better help from the U.S.

U.S. troops help to keep order in Port-au-Prince.  Soldiers have helped treat the wounded and clear roads, among other things. (AP Photo)
U.S. troops help to keep order in Port-au-Prince. Soldiers have helped treat the wounded and clear roads, among other things. (AP Photo)

By Dan Enden and Matt Hoke

The earthquake in Haiti has captured the world’s attention and rightly so. Admirably, campus organizations are collecting donations to the tragedy-stricken nation. Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions and the rhetoric of our president, Haiti has not received much aid. Unfortunately the American government has been focusing not on humanitarian aid to victims, but on implementing policy that supports U.S. interests. This will only be a continuation of the policies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the star names of one of the most prominent charities for Haiti, whom Obama has deployed to represent the U.S.

We all remember the Bush administration’s abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina — appointing him a leading role in a similar tragedy encourages a repeat. But his record with Haiti is worse — he imposed sanctions on Haiti and backed a coup against its elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004, in the name of privatizing Haiti’s public utilities such as electricity and water. Bill Clinton, a figurehead in fundraising, used American troops to “restore” Aristide to power in 1991 but only after squeezing promises of deregulation and lower social spending out of him. He also made trade deals encouraging sweatshops and tourist playgrounds. Both presidents continued the massive subsidies of American agriculture which wipe out farming and create dependency.

Reports from within Haiti say that the majority have seen little to no relief. How in the U.S., where a couple recently won $128 million in a Powerball lottery, can the government provide “full support” allocating only $100 million? Instead the U.S. has “provided” 13,000 troops in the context of the nation’s past incursions into Haiti and current actions in the Middle East. “Haiti,” Time magazine writes, “for all intents and purposes, became the 51st state at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday in the wake of its deadly earthquake.”

The airport in Port-au-Prince is now a U.S. military base, without Haitian request. All flights were stopped for three hours for Hilary Clinton’s photo-op, while injured Haitians waited. Americans in Haiti have of course been evacuated. Several aid missions have been prevented, and U.N. World Food Program flights were turned away on two consecutive days. Worse, U.S. ships and planes have surrounded the island, patrolling for refugee boats and broadcasting radio announcements forbidding Haitians from fleeing to the States. This is not solidarity.

The corporate media hasn’t helped, perpetuating racist ideas parallel to those in their coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Coverage of Haiti has focused on rioting and “looting.” During Katrina, the media also focused on looting — by black people; whites were “finding food.” Actually there have been almost zero confirmable reports of violence in Haiti.

The efforts of students on campus are obviously well-intentioned, but donating to a charity bearing the names of two oppressors of the nation we want to help undercuts our own cause. But even more than relief, Haiti needs the U.S. military out. Poverty in Haiti results not from an earthquake, but foreign interference in the nation’s management of its resources. We should demand that the Coast Guard help and not hinder Haitians fleeing to the USA, and we should demand the withdrawal of all U.S. and U.N. troops so that aid and volunteers can arrive, under Haitian supervision.