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Occupation in Humanitarian Clothing

Jesse Hagopian

Everything you need to know about the U.S. aid effort to assist Haiti in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake can be summed up by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's touchdown in Port-Au-Prince on Saturday, January 16: they shut down the airport for three hours surrounding her arrival for "security" reasons, which meant that no aid flights could come in during those critical hours. 

If there was one day when the Haitian people needed aid to flow all day long, last Saturday was it because the people trapped under the rubble on Tuesday evening couldn't survive much beyond that without water.

Defenders of Clinton will say that her disimpassioned, monotone, photo-op speech was needed in Haiti to draw attention to the plight of the Haitians.  But no one north of hell can defend her next move:  according to airport personnel that I spoke to during my recent evacuation from Haiti, she paralyzed the airport later that same day to have a new outfit flown in from the Dominican Republic.  I am having a hard time readjusting to life back home after having survived the earthquake and witnessing so much death, so even typing those words is making my heart pound uncontrollably.

I guess for America's rulers a new pantsuit is more valuable than the lives of poor, Black Haitians. 

(Editors Note: We are unable to corroborate the pantsuit part of this article and should not have published it. We regret the error.)

Unfortunately, Clinton's model of diverting and delaying critical aid to the Haitian people, while emphasizing security, has become standard operating procedure.

Alain Joyandet, the French minister responsible for humanitarian relief in Haiti, charged the U.S. with treating this as a military operation rather than an aid mission. Mr. Joyandet told the Daily Telegraph he had been involved in an argument with a U.S. commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight, saying, "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti."


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But with the U.S. occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and funding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it seems our government knows how to do little else when it comes to international affairs.

The day I left the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport I saw lots of crates of food, water and medical supplies piled on the tarmac.  But I didn't see that aid being transported out of the airport to actually be used by Haitians.  Undoubtedly, there has been some aid distributed, but because there was no serious effort to disperse that aid in the first four days after the quake, tens of thousands of people trapped under rubble have died needlessly because they couldn't get a sip of water. 

The Geneva-based organization Doctors Without Borders has been turned away from the airport numerous times to allow U.S. troops to land.  A ring of U.S. war ships surround Haiti to make sure that Haitians don't escape the disaster and try to get to the United States. The U.S. has taken control of Haiti's main airport and seaport, and is in the process of deploying 18,000 U.S. troops to bolster the 9,000 UN troops already occupying the island nation--and as an eyewitness I can tell you those troops are guarding their own compounds rather than distributing aid.

The Obama administration will try to dress up their ambition to occupy and pillage Haiti in a humanitarian evening gown. But clothing is in short supply in Haiti and we can't afford to waste it.

As a man from Leogane, Haiti, told Democracy Now,

"Myself, if you look at me, I don't have shoes, and I don't have food. Even my shoes, if you look at them, you see. I need clothes. We need everything. Even medicines, we need."

Story updated with link at 14:23, 01/24/10

Jesse Hagopian, a teacher from Seattle, was in Haiti with his wife (who works on HIV education in the country) and one-year-old son when the earthquake hit. Jesse can be contacted at:

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