The Haiti earthquake disaster relief effort has turned into a scandal. While the desperate survivors wait to be dug out of the rubble, the media depicts them as savages, aid piles up undistributed at the airport, an army of bureaucrats fill in forms when they venture out of their safe zones, and an army of soldiers ensures that the public unrest won't turn into full-scale revolution. After all, if the black slaves could rise up in the 18th century and kick out their white masters, they could do the same now.
The US airport in Haiti has only just opened to aid, although it was serviceable enough to accommodate Hillary Clinton's flight and the thousands of American soldiers brought in to contain dissent. If you had no water, no food, were surrounded by the rotting corpses of the dead, wouldn't you feel a little mad?
Reports that Rush Limbaugh told people not to contribute to the relief effort because they've already given "tax dollars" turn out to be a distortion in this instance. Far be it from me to defend this repellent wing-nut but he was saying that you should give, but to one of the other charities and not the government's funds. After all, the American Red Cross diverted several million dollars earmarked for 911 to Bush's war effort, and failed to help the Hurricane Katrina victims.
Read Andy Kershaw's angry article in today's Independent. He knows the place and its people and he has a bloody excellent analysis of what's going on:
The alarmingly unanimous priorities of the spokesmen and women of aid organisations and the military, have been with "issues" (for they love that word) of "security", "procedures", and "logistics" (what we used to call "transport" or "trucks"). These obsessions indicate not only a self-serving and self-important careerist culture among some, though not all, aid workers (although wide experience of the profession in Haiti and across Africa tells me it is more common than donors would like to think), but that the magnitude of the crisis has paralysed them into a gibbering strike force of box-tickers. Most worryingly, it reveals that many – even selfless – NGO workers on the ground haven't a clue about the country and its people.
The picture that sums up the horror most tragically for me is the one above of 15 year-old schoolgirl Fabienne Geismar, shot by police for taking three framed pictures. Was her life really that cheap? Who is the bigger thief: Fabienne or the world's powers who have kept Haiti in poverty for so long and are even now planning its carve-up?
Some illuminating articles at Socialist Unity and here.
Killed for wanting something pretty.
The Looting Lie
UPDATE: 24 January 2010 China pledges further $2.4 million in aid for Haiti