I'm standing in line at Walgreens and some white guy is yelling at one of the cashiers, a Latina woman, about Haiti, spouting racist corporate media lies about how Haitians are corrupt, they steal from their own people, they can't be relied on to manage aid, and the cashier is trying not to say anything in response. She probably doesn't want to lose her job.
It turns out this guy is screaming because Walgreens is now asking for donations to the Red Cross -- if only he was screaming because he thought the Red Cross was bureaucratic, bloated, corrupt, and ineffectual, and he wanted to make sure that his donation went to a responsible community-based organization like the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. I wish he was using his energy to yell about the fact that this corporate drugstore is asking for donations instead of sending a stockpile of desperately-needed bandaids, medical gauze, peroxide, bottled water, and anything else required for basic needs. [Update: perhaps I'm factually wrong in this area -- a Walgreens press release does say that they donated six semi-trailers of this exact type of goods, although with $63 billion in sales last year, perhaps they could keep it going.]
But no -- this guy's just regurgitating Fox News. I think of yelling back at him that the corruption in Haiti comes from a century of US occupations, both covert and overt, not to mention the ire of the entire colonial world since Haiti became the first black republic when former slaves ousted the French in 1804.
This guy probably already knows that -- we're in San Francisco, and his ignorance is almost surely a conscious choice.
Back at home, I receive an email for a Haiti benefit, but who exactly is the benefit for? The United Nations World Food Programme. The United Nations has occupied Haiti since the US/Canada-engineered coup of 2004, and is an active participant in brutal violence against Haitian activists. It was the United Nations that gunned down unarmed civilians in Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince's poorest neighborhoods, as collective punishment for the popular demand for the return of democratically elected President Aristide (victim of not one but two US coups). In recent years, the UN is perhaps as responsible as the US, Canada, France and other colonial powers for the obliteration and dismantling of the public sector in Haiti (not to mention locally-owned industry), making the country permanently dependent on foreign aid organizations.
As the US government sends in 12,000 troops to occupy the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere again, the Aristide Foundation, a non-governmental organization that operates a medical center just one mile from the heavily fortified airport, is unable to obtain basic supplies to treat the wounds of the thousands of people gathered there for shelter. The US allows citizen children to fly into the US, but bars their Haitian mothers from joining them -- and, makes sure that Haitians know that if they try to enter the US illegally, they will be jailed.
As Hillary Clinton met with René Préval, the supposed president of Haiti (who has still made no official governmental statement about the earthquake), in a tent at the airport, relief planes were sent back to insure Clinton's security. How's that for priorities? Supposedly there's a security crisis in Haiti, and the US cannot allow aid convoys into certain areas until they are "safe," but Democracy Now producer Amy Goodman made her way through the epicenter of the quake in Léogâne to talk to survivors, with no threats of violence. According to lawyer Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, there are no reported incidents of attacks on relief workers. None.
Now US soldiers with machine guns patrol the airport, the main hospital, and even the collapsed presidential palace, yelling at desperate people who have lost their homes, families, livelihoods, children, mothers, brothers, lovers -- yelling at starving people in English to move back, move back, causing the insecurity and panic they are supposedly there to alleviate. Thousands, literally thousands of people are dying every day because they lack adequate medical treatment, food, sanitation, water. According to Kevin Pina on Flashpoints, people are drinking their own urine so they don't die of dehydration. And the US is sending in more troops. While right-wing demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson throw down the slave-master's best English, it's the Obama administration that will surely do more damage.
(Thanks to Democracy Now and Flashpoints for the brilliant reporting that fuels this analysis.)
Mattilda also blogs at nobodypasses.blogspot.com.