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The forest behind the trees: what’s behind the US occupation of Haiti?

category international | anti-war / imperialism | feature author Monday January 25, 2010 23:39author by José Antonio Gutiérrez Report this post to the editors

featured image
Give These People Food and Medicine, not troops

Anyone judging from the huge numbers of troops mobilised to Haiti could reasonably believe that this is a country in the middle of a brutal civil war instead of a nation hit by a deadly earthquake. While the Media has been feeding constantly news of murder, mayhem, and gangsters supposedly in control of Haitian streets, together with calls for a “strong arm” and “security” to make possible the delivery of relief, the reality seems to be quite another. Medical and Food assistance has been largely delayed by a cobweb of inefficiency, bureaucracy and negligence and not for “security” issues. In the meantime, hungry and thirsty Haitians have been largely looking for their beloved ones under the rubble with their bare hands. Very few doctors and relief agencies have dared to go to the streets of Port-au-Prince, where precious assistance –currently stockpiling in the airport- is much needed.

Violence seems to be quite exceptional and whatever “looting” has happened it is only natural considered the fact that this people have had to endure an enormous suffering and have been completely destitute for over a week! The repressive response of the local police and the foreign military to these isolated acts of desperation only adds insult to injury –the people are hungry and instead of deploying soldiers carrying guns, they should rather deploy more food, water and medicines. And certainly, security does not seem to be the top priority of Haitians themselves, judging by the exceptional reports of those who actually get to speak to Haitians sleeping on the streets. It seems clear the security issues are being blown out of proportions in order to justify a further increase of military presence in the island –particularly of the US and the UN.

While the US claims to have moved into the Haiti purely out of “humanitarian” reasons, both the appalling record of the US towards its neighbour and the actions it has taken there, cast a shadow of doubts over its true intentions. Their occupation of the ruins of the Presidential Palace gives an undeniable symbolism as to what they see to be their role in Haiti at present. The US has also taken control of ports and has imposed a strict naval blockade to avoid desperate Haitian boats people being washed ashore in Florida. They obviously seem more interested in Haitians not leaving the island that on help coming in: this has been proven beyond reasonable doubt by the US control of the National airport, granted by the puppet regime of Rene Preval. The occupation of this neuralgic point, where most aid arrives, has attracted widespread criticism since they are not allowing medical and humanitarian supplies to land –including flights from Caricom, Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, Iran, from Doctors without Borders, from the World Food Programme, etc. It is actually the US occupation of the airport the main responsible for aid not reaching Haitians in need for almost two weeks, with disastrous consequences: thousands of people have died because of this brutal act of neglect.

Why aid was not allowed to arrive? To give priority to over 10,000 US troops which are currently occupying the country! Soldiers have been given priority to doctors, water and food. Also, it seems that politics had something to do with the refusal to allow Venezuelan, Cuban and other cargoes of so called “rogue States” to land.

But if there are no real “security” concerns in Haiti, why the US would send all those troops?

It is no mystery that the US has lost ground in Latin America since Bush “War on Terror” shift massively the US focus to the Middle East and surrounding areas. This military adventure greatly damaged the US in economic, political and military terms, but during that time Latin American governments in general could develop foreign relations in a significantly more independent fashion. This was acknowledged by Obama on May 23rd, 2008, while still on presidential campaign, when in a meeting with the Cuban American community deplored that Bush “neglected Latin America”, allowing others to gradually displace US influence –he mentioned openly Venezuela and China. US domination has been facing challenges because Latin America has started to attract numerous other investors and increased the role of other trade partners than the US –China, South Africa, Iran, Russia, the EU to name but a few. The emergence of a regional power such as Brazil and the integration projects led by Lula and Chávez are also frowned in Washington.

So what is Obama policy towards Latin America? As stated in the above mentioned conference, it is in a nutshell to isolate Venezuela and its allies; and to reinforce the military presence in the region (he mentioned both Plan Colombia and Plan Mérida, for Mexico and Central America).

It is clear that the plan of taking over again Latin America has already started:

• the IV Fleet of the US Navy re-formed on 2008 thus strengthening the US Southern Command (which oversees Latin America);
• the military coup in Honduras which was sponsored by sectors of the US military. It produced the desired effect of recapturing one of the most faithful allied countries of the US in Central America from a populist and unreliable (to US eyes) leader who allied to Chavez, while at the same time shifted the regional political spectrum further to the right (scaring off Funes in El Salvador and Colom in Guatemala);
• the intensification of the military presence in Colombia and of US military support for the totalitarian regime of Uribe through the opening of 7 new military bases in that country (there are already three US bases there, and the US will also be able to use, on request, any port or airport in that country and use its air space at any time). It is not an exaggeration to say that the US has actually managed to turn Colombia into a military platform for the whole hemisphere.

So it is when we consider all these actions taken by the late Bush and the Obama administration that the occupation of Haiti starts making sense. An island in the middle of the Caribbean, facing Cuba and Venezuela, strategically located at the crossroads between Central, South and North America, with a recent history of popular revolt and attempts at political and social reform that were confronted murderously by the staunch Cold War allies of the US in Haiti, the descent of the Duvalier dictatorship who still remain in power seems like the obvious candidate for a direct military presence.

Haiti itself reflects the ground the US is trying to recover –the country is currently occupied by a UN sponsored military force led by Brazil. Although the UN occupation originally started with direct US presence and serving Washington strategic interests in the region, the changing balance of power in the region forced the US to give the UN the lead in this occupation while it focused on the mess they left in Iraq. Now it is time for the US to take over Haiti again and take advantage of this tragic earthquake in order to increase its military presence in the region and advance its own geostrategic objectives. Of course this direct US occupation is creating some friction with others that have interest in Haiti: France and Brazil, but that’s why the so-called “friends of Haiti” will meet in Canada on Monday 25th to deal with their differences and decide what way forward for Haiti –of course, without any real involvement of Haitians themselves.

So Haiti seems to be the latest victim in the US efforts to recompose its imperialist hegemony in Latin America. It is up to the Latin American people to mobilise their solidarity with the voices resisting in Haiti against enormous odds, in order to avoid new victims in this conquest strategy.

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
January 23rd, 2010

author by stevepublication date Mon Jan 25, 2010 09:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Surely to prevent law and order from breaking down completely, the provide security to aid workers and to provide the heavy lifting capability necessary to bring into food and other vital supplies, the US military who are only a few hundreds miles away in Florida and other bases on the Southern and Eastern US seaboard are the obvious force you would call on to help Haiti?

Who else is there?

Do you think the Haitians, the thousands and thousands injured and who need medical help and the millions who are homeless and in danger of starving to death if food is not provided, could care less about their sovereignty right now?

I don't care who helps out in Haiti - it could be Russia, China or Iran for all I care.

I want the people of Haiti to be rescued from this cataclyism.

Banging on about American imperialist conspiracy theories while people are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance shows that you couldn't give a damn about Haiti.

All you seem to be interested in is making a cheap political point.

If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

Unless you want to go fundraising for the Haitian people - geting out a bucket and go collecting money in the street or donating some of your pay check would be more in your line.

Otherwise just feck off.

author by Red Wedgepublication date Mon Jan 25, 2010 09:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thats a fine article. Thanks for that.

Check out this letter from www.guardian.co.uk

It took a catastrophe to put Haiti back on the political map. Yet its contribution to world civilization is considerable. Having extended the 1789 French revolution to Haiti, Black Jacobins ended slavery, leading the way for abolition in the Americas. Western governments never forgave this impertinence, imposing crippling debt, occupations and dictatorships.

But Haitians never lost awareness that they could overcome and, if necessary, overthrow. In 1986, a mass movement kicked out the murderous Duvaliers whom the west had backed for decades, and in 1990 elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a liberation theologist determined to move the population "from destitution to poverty with dignity". He prioritized food security, health and education, encouraged agricultural co-operatives, and raised the minimum wage. Within months a US-backed coup overthrew him. Elected again in 2000 with over 90% of the vote, he was again removed in 2004, not by "a bloody rebellion" but by bloody US marines.

Haitians continue to call for Aristide's return. Will the only person with a mandate to govern be kept from leading their recovery and reconstruction?

Selma Jones, London.

And for more a little more info on Artistide, go to:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/15/haiti-exile...stide

author by Citizenpublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 00:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is a documented fact that the US military have turned away aid planes from cuba, venezuela and others, in order to give priority to US military planes and soldiers, a move which is considered by many as largely political and this has in practice led to real people dying. Also, lots of aid is still piled up at the airport and is not being distributed to the haitians at all and the US are not willing to release any of it to the long lines of hungry haitians who appear every day at the airport gates. The security issue is being used to further the US strategic policy in the area and another priority is to ensure that haitians don't leave the island and try to get to the US. It's all rather cynical. Also, Iceland's emergency force (7000 miles away) arrived before the americans and when the americans finally did arrive, they brought a rather menacing aircraft carriier, 70 helicopters and lots of troops and guns but no actual aid as such. You should read up on the chequered history of US intervention in Haiti which is largely responsible for the highly vulnerable state the haitians were in when the earthquake struck.

author by Project Syndicate - Project Syndicatepublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 01:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors


"Rebuilding Haiti will cost perhaps $10-$20 billion, and will take much of the coming decade. Getting started now will save countless lives and prevent a further tragic downward spiral of a society that stands on the brink of survival. "


More than $1.9 billion was sent to Haiti in 2008 through remittances, more than official development assistance and foreign direct investment combined, with more than half of these funds going directly into the hands of families in rural areas.

Related Link: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sachs162
author by Conor.Mpublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 13:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Did you actually read the story? Also, did you read the story by Andrew. F. I think you need a dose of reality, and maybe you should put down the 'news'papers aswell.

author by supporterpublication date Tue Jan 26, 2010 16:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Steve did not read the information and has not read the FACTS even in the mainstream media about this occupation and the many US blunders and abuses in Haiti. Funnily enough the author of this article works in LASC and they have been supporting fundraising initiatives BUT they understand that solidarity is not just about standing with a bucket out of a supermarket -particularly when the country you are being in solidarity with is occupied militarily!

author by donkylemorepublication date Sun Feb 14, 2010 21:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Milton Freeman under a previous ultra right wing US administration brought a type of free market Thatcher / Reagonomics to many S American countries. They wreaked havoc everywhere in their path ; brought about more uneven distribution of the wealth - to the wealthy, from the poor of course.
Thatcher believed that there was no longer any such a thing as a society.
There was of course for the rest of us , but Maggie , the Iron Lady choose to live apart from it. She became one of the most reviled British Prime Minister in their history.
But after the introduction of the Freeman economic philosophy there followed the inevitable odious sequellae - civil war .. military oppression ... totalitarianism.
Haiti does not attract Economists like Freeman because of it's poverty.
It does however as you suggest provide the USA with additional strategic bases - but do they need them given that they could launch the bomb anywhere in the world at the touch of a switch ( are there 2 switches involved ?) -from the White House lawn - or any lawn on the earth for that matter.
Any other rationale to introduce a policy of expansionism with 2 very expensive wars raging ? Further US hegemony ? possibly . But why get involved if there is no financial dividend ?
Unless there is some plan to subvert the oil trade with Venezuala and other S American countries and China , I dont see the angle.
But your article gives pause.
Do you think the ports are really a requirement for the US army or Navy.
I would have thought that with the enormous capacity the aircraft carriers can carry , coupled with nuclear powered submarines , that additional ports were probably surplus to requirements , but I do not have any military knowledge and your observations may suggest a far graver import than I am inclined to attribute to them.
There is something very ominous in the manner in which medical aid is being stiffled . MSF have told me 2+ weeks ago that their planes were getting through , as I had volunteered to serve if they wanted me .- ( I am a retired military doctor)
Has the position changed . And why should there be any deliberate conscious policy with such malign intent ?

author by baginsspublication date Sun Feb 28, 2010 23:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wow, unbelievable. Ok, I must say up front that my perspective is biased. "I" am one of those hated American Occupiers as the author obviously likes to portray us. Since I've made it to Haiti to help out I have seen the devastation first hand.....and it is nearly total. There are folks (military and civilian) from all over the world here to help. The military forces present on the ground and off the coast include representatives from Italy, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Canada and the United States to name but a few. We are not all here to "Occupy" or "Takeover" anyone. We are all here, investing VAST sums of our own National Treasure to help the Haitians. I’ve seen several references on the internet to the evil Americans turning away planes. If someone didn't show up to start organizing the airport’s comings and goings what do you think would have been the result? You can't have a hundred people all trying to walk through a door way at the same time.

I know that since I have been here my family back home has been subjected to the worst winter on record. I would have loved to be there helping them...but being here, helping the Haitians, is of greater importance. To read this article, knowing the sacrifices of thousands of military personnel (both American and otherwise) first hand causes my stomach to turn. As a selfish American I can tell you that the amount of Aid GIVEN (nothing expected in return) to this country in incalculable. The amount of aid (food, water, shelter, medical supplies and medical services) given not to mention the use of Helicopters for medivac transport, Helicopters for transport of aid, the use of ships and small craft to get things ashore, the use of Divers to help repair port facilities, the Air Force contribution to get the Port Au Prince airport up and running, not to mention the wear and tear on equipment which will have to be replaced that much sooner is immense. Please, for once in your life, give a good Samaritan a break.

author by baginsspublication date Sun Feb 28, 2010 23:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The photo above isn't even an American. Further testiment to the multi national effort going on here. Perhaps the photo is of an Irish soldier helping out.

author by Marc Spublication date Mon Mar 01, 2010 01:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ah Baggins, take a chill will you. I've reread this thread and nobody's calling you evil. The writers here have a problem with US foreign policy but I don't see anybody taking a pop at the individuals like yourself who are seem to be sincere in wanting the best.

Nobody's calling you responsible for the geopolitical decisions driving the push into Latin America, you go where you are sent and do your best to do your job. If you are with the military, that means you sometimes get to help civilians which must feel good, but the day can come when you have to play your part in killing them. Anyone who has a problem accepting that would not make a very good soldier. You don't specify whether you are military or civilian but even USAID is deployed in accordance with strategic foreign policy decisions and has its part to play.

But seriously, you seem like someone who gives a shit, you cannot be 100% comfortable with each and every aspect of US foreign policy - or are you? War on Iraq? Haitian coup? Toppling of democratic govts all over Latin America and even Africa? , are you aware of all this stuff? If so and you are conmfortable with it, well, maybe you're not as nice as you seem. If not, why don't you learn more about it and stop taking it personally. I'm not saying European govts are a whole lot better but just for God's sake deal with the real.

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