Soon after almost every disaster the crimes begin: ruthless, selfish, indifferent to human suffering, and generating far more suffering. The perpetrators go unpunished and live to commit further crimes against humanity. They care less for human life than for property. They act without regard for consequences.
I'm talking, of course, about those members of the mass media whose misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster. I'm talking about the treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol. They still have blood on their hands from Hurricane Katrina, and they are staining themselves anew in Haiti.
Last Friday I wrote about the IMF's new $100 million loan to Haiti. I cited debt relief activists who told me that the new loan would be an extension of the IMF's existing loan of $165 million. This information was confirmed by the IMF's press release, which stated that "emergency financing would be provided as an augmentation to the existing IMF-supported arrangement with Haiti under the Extended Credit Facility [ECF]." The IMF's announcement provided no further information about conditions that may or may not be attached to the loan and made no mention of future debt relief for Haiti.
"IMF Chief Calls for 'Marshall Plan' for Shattered Haiti"
January 20, 2010
There is no relief for the people of Haiti, it seems, even in their hour of promised salvation. More than a week after the earthquake that may have killed 200,000 people, most Haitians have seen nothing of the armada of aid they have been promised by the outside world. Instead, while the US military has commandeered Port-au-Prince's airport to pour thousands of soldiers into the stricken Caribbean state, wounded and hungry survivors of the catastrophe have carried on dying.
As the unprecedented humanitarian relief effort in Haiti struggles through logistical chaos, triaging shipments of food, medicine, and personnel, making sure help is distributed efficiently, one entity seems to consistently dominate the hierarchy of needs: the military.
And so thousands of troops continue to descend on Haiti in droves, while reports of humanitarian aid being impeded or turned away, sometimes forced to reroute critical shipments of medicine and supplies.
The Orwellian-named mercenary trade group, the International Peace Operations Association, didn’t waste much time in offering the “services” of its member companies to swoop down on Haiti for some old fashioned
humanitarian assistance disaster profiteering. Within hours of the massive earthquake in Haiti, the IPOA created a special web page for prospective clients, saying: “In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA’s member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake’s victims.”
One. Allow all Haitians in the US to work. The number one source of money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers in the US back home. Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a chance. Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community moves on to other problems.
Two. Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians. Hungry Haitians are not the enemy. Decisions have already been made which will militarize the humanitarian relief - but do not allow the victims to be cast as criminals. Do not demonize the people.
Three. Give Haiti grants as help, not loans. Haiti does not need any more debt. Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public services.
Four. Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the elderly. They are always moved to the back of the line. If they are moved to the back of the line, start at the back.
The devastation in Haiti is unrelenting, an avalanche of natural catastrophe exacerbated by man-made injustice. Perhaps 100,000 feared dead, homes shattered, people digging neighbors out of rubble without safe food, water or electricity. It’s hard to fathom just how much tragedy one tiny island country can bear, and Haiti seems to be testing the limits of a people’s resilience in the face of crisis.
Today, as the Obama administration mobilized aid resources, it also backed away from earlier plans to deport about 30,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States, announcing that deportations would be suspended indefinitely. Anything less would be unconscionable, yet there has been no decisive action, on granting lasting immigration relief through Temporary Protected Status.
On Saturday night, after a week of living off of conference center snack bars, a group of us were invited to a delicious home-cooked meal with a real live Danish family. After spending the evening gawking at their stylish furnishings, a few of us had a question: Why are Danes so good at design?
"We're control freaks," our hostess replied instantly. "It comes from being a small country with not much power. We have to control what we can."
When it comes to producing absurdly appealing light fixtures and shockingly comfortable desk chairs, that Danish form of displacement is clearly a very good thing. When it comes to hosting a world-changing summit, the Danish need for control is proving to be a serious problem.
The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now "Hopenhagen") with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn't, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us.