The NEW Illustrated Guide to Mendacity and Folly in the 21st Century.
Posted on | January 19, 2010 | No CommentsWell, we’re finally doing something over in Haiti, but, sad to say, we got beat to the punch. Rescue teams from … Iceland … were despatched almost immediately after the earthquake struck. Sniffer dogs arrived from … China … within 48 hours. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the President of the Lumbering Giant of America said that we could get the first 2000 Marines to Haiti–a mere 700 miles from Florida and a hop, skip and jump from Puerto Rico–in a few days. A few days means a lot to a victim still buried under rubble. Or someone sitting on the roof of their submerged house as we found out from Katrina. But Haiti is not New Orleans. It’s simply the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Greg Palast has a remarkable precis of the screwy US response. I don’t want to copy what he’s said, but what it boils down to is that instead of treating the Haitian tragedy as an EMERGENCY, our response has been to treat it as a military operation. Secretary Gates said he would not send in food and water immediately because there was no security apparatus in place. OF COURSE NOT, an entire country has been devastated. The proper response in an EMERGENCY is to send in rescuers first, followed up by relief and security. But America is so hamstrung by both its muscle-bound state and its security paranoia that instead of doing the right thing first, we started out with the back end of the horse.
Our first operation appears to have been to secure the Port-au-Prince airport and try to take over rescue efforts in a way that had French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet complain that we seemed to be more concerned with occupying Haiti rather than helping it. Indeed, we secured the airport so well that we refused landing to an aircraft from “Doctors without Borders” carrying supplies and an inflatable surgical hospital, forcing them to land in the Dominican Republic and truck in the supplies over the mountains, delaying their arrival for 24 hours. Danny Schecter on Media Channel suggests that our overweaning focus on security may be driven more by a desire to keep US-deposed President Aristide out of Haiti than on anything to do with the safety of the country.
We’ve heard a lot about things being “too big to fail” in recent months–the banks are too big to be allowed to go under after they’ve screwed up the economy, the health insurance industry is too big to be allowed to be given competition from a single payer health plan. And even when the leading political party is in agreement on something in general, it can’t agree with itself about what it wants. Could it be that the US has become too big to act effectively? Man, if so, we better get some streamlining in pronto before we choke to death on our immensity.