US Conservatives Call for Opportunism in Haiti

Monday, 18th January 2010 at 9:00 UTC 2 comments

There’s been a new group doing the rounds on Facebook in the last 72 hours entitled “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti”. Just 3 hours after the news of the Earthquake reached American ears, the Heritage Foundation, cheerleaders of America’s Right, published an article entitled “Amidst the suffering, Crisis in Haiti offers opportunities for the U.S.” This is the original, Google-cached version, and should be required reading.

Just 2 hours later, it was replaced with a milder sounding “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti” – in parts they’re the same, but what has gone is the most strikingly brazen call to arms for a colonialist intervention in a country facing devastation and emotional and physical turmoil on a massive scale.

What were “opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region” became the need for the US to “address long-held concerns over the fragile political environment that exists in the region”.

It took some prodding around to find the whole of both articles, and I have to thank Naomi Klein and Democracy Now! for their help, because when I first read the statement it was the revised version masquerading as a redirect from the old web page. Whilst i had my suspicions about the meaning of the second statement, the original, now hidden, statement shows exactly what the American Neo-liberal Right believes is the correct way to approach an aid mission Haiti.

When we hear that a government is giving emergency financial assistance to another government, we assume it will be a donation. But in some previous cases, this money has simply been added to the national debt of the country affected, and then the familiar mechanism kicks in: can’t pay the debt? Restructure your economy so we can strip your assets, and we’ll let you off the debt”.

This really is “America’s Backyard”, it is where governments were once indistinguishable from American multinational banana growing corporations and from which we get the term “Banana Republic”. In the rush to help Haiti, which must be commended on one level, no one in the mainstream UK media appears willing to say “Hang on, thousands of troops, whole fleets of Air Force and Naval equipment, all heading for a single country. Isn’t that called an invasion?”.

We can be certain that no one in Washington, neither the Republicans, nor the somewhat embarrassed Democrats, wants to see Cuba and Venezuela pick up the credit for helping Haiti. The narrative must be one of benevolent Washington acting out of necessity. Necessity for money and equipment there may be, but necessity for opportunistic political intervention there definitely isn’t.

Thanks again to Naomi Klein for flagging this up; after Hurricane Katrina, the very same Heritage Foundation published a list of 32 things Washington should do to “help” – it included shutting down housing projects; how can that be the rational response? It also proposed a new tax-free economic exploitation zone, a domestic Maquiladora where Americans could be forced to work without any job, health or safety protections. It makes sickening reading, being in effect a business proposal in a time of human need.

Yes, there has been corruption in Haiti, but that corruption has largely been the result of US interference. And blaming Haiti for America’s drugs problems is no response to 50,000 people dying. To claim that there should be a mass-scale effort to prevent Haitians escaping to the US “on makeshift rafts” shows that these people are unable to think beyond self-interest when dictating aid efforts. On the contrary, Naomi Klein calls for Haitians in the states to be allowed to work, so they can send money home to continue the rebuilding program long term.

I commend to people Klein’s 10 Point Plan, which shows what a real humanitarian legislative and political response should look like. I hope to pursue some of these points in an email to my MP very shortly, and hope you will do to. Despite the urgency, we must keep our heads, and keep questioning motivations. Otherwise, all our efforts will simply go to waste.


Entry filed under: Development, Latin America, News, Politics, Poverty, The Right.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Megan Preston  |  Tuesday, 19th January 2010 at 1:49 UTC

    I might write an essay on this (wider topic of humanitarian aid and why it does/doesn’t work) in a few weeks’ time, if it still feels like a good idea, so I might need your help a bit. As always. xxx

  • 2. Steve  |  Tuesday, 19th January 2010 at 8:48 UTC

    It seems like the US military are giving priority to themselves, and aid flights are being turned away at the airport.


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