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former rabble.ca Editor Derrick O'Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya's political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca's editor from 2007 to 2009. Topics covered on this blog will include the war in Afghanistan and foreign policy, Canadian politics, media analysis, climate justice and ecology. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe

Racism, misinformation and militarization have hurt Haiti relief effort

| January 21, 2010

Everyone should check out and share the essential coverage Democracy Now! is providing of the disaster in Haiti. Amy Goodman and others from DN! are reporting from Port-au-Prince. 

Yesterday, DN! reported that 'Misinformation and Racism Have Frozen Recovery Effort at General Hospital in Port-au-Prince.' This from an interview with Dr. Evan Lyon from Partners In Health (PIH):

"This question of security and the rumors of security and the racism behind the idea of security has been our major block to getting aid in. The US military has promised us for several days to bring in—to bring in machinery, but they’ve been listening to this idea that things are insecure, and so we don’t have supplies.

I’m living here in the neighborhood with a friend. I’m staying with some of my Haitian doctor colleagues. We’ve been circulating on the roads to 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, moving patients, moving supplies, trying to get our work done. There is no security. The UN is not out. The US is not out. The Haitian police are not able to be out. But there’s also no insecurity. I don’t know if you guys were out late last night, but you can hear a pin drop in this city. It’s a peaceful place. There is no war. There is no crisis except the suffering that’s ongoing.

The concern for militarization, the concern for occupation is very real. There is capacity that we don’t have that the military will help us with, and that is urgently needed, because we’re losing patients minute to minute. But the first that listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be."

With the announcement of 1,000 Canadian troops on their way to bolster the much larger U.S. military force, we at the Canadian Peace Alliance have put out a statement warning against the militarization of aid:

"The Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA) urges its member organizations and supporters to give generously to the relief efforts responding to the catastrophic disaster in Haiti following last week's massive earthquake.

The CPA also wishes to express its deep concern about the deployment of up to an additional 1,000 Canadian Forces to Haiti, announced Sunday by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, in collaboration with a U.S. mission of over 10,000 troops. Early reports from Haiti suggest that this militarization of the relief operation is both unwelcome and unhelpful.

Al-Jazeera news reported on the weekend that the U.S. military, which now controls the airport in Port-au-Prince, turned away several planes carrying physicians and supplies from Doctors Without Borders. A CARICOM aid flight and other humanitarian deliveries have also been turned away, with deadly results for the Haitian people. 

Patrick Elie, a social activist and former Haitian Defense Minister, stated, "We don't need soldiers as such. There's no war here." Elie noted the importance of Haitian sovereignty, "The choice of what lands and what doesn't... should be determined by the Haitians. Otherwise it's a takeover." Even the French government, which has long partnered with the U.S. in subjugating Haiti, complained that the U.S. operation looks more like an "occupation" than a relief mission.

The extent of the death and suffering in Haiti is in part a result of systemic policies that have undermined Haiti's economic and political independence. This includes, most recently, the 2004 US, Canadian and French-backed coup d'etat against the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which was consolidated by a UN occupation.

Aristide, exiled since 2004 in South Africa, has said he wishes to return to Haiti to help with relief efforts. Associated Press reported Sunday that people in Haiti, "sounded furious with [current] President Rene Preval, who hasn't been seen at a rescue site or gone on radio to address the nation since the quake struck. 'Preval out! Aristide come back!' some shouted."

Getting aid to those in desperate need must be our priority, and the CPA commends the ordinary people from across Canada who have given generously or volunteered for rescue or medical duty. Especially given the track records of the US and Canadian governments towards Haiti, the militarization of aid and infringements on Haitian sovereignty threaten to compound an immensely tragic situation..."

UK author and blogger Richard Seymour has an excellent analysis of the fabricated security crisis, and related issues.

The cost in human agony and loss of life is staggering; Dr. Lyon suggested thousands are dying each day for lack of surgery. There is a total shortage of pain killing medicine, for instance.

There are myriad initiatives springing up to raise funds for emergency relief in Haiti. Consult the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN) for more information. In fact, you should join CHAN or one of their local affiliates today. You should also, if you haven't already, donate to Partners In Health (PIH) and spread the word about their essential work.





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