PressWatch: Haiti Katrina-ed?

Headlines:  Radio Havana Cuba

Port-au-Prince, January 20 (RHC)-- Haiti was hit with a powerful new earthquake just a little over a week after the initial quake that killed tens of thousands of people. The latest earthquake hit shortly after six a.m. Wednesday morning, registering 6.1 on the Richter scale.

Thousands of people were seen flooding the streets of Port-au-Prince, but it remains unclear what damage the new quake may have caused. The quake struck as the official death toll hit 70,000, but it’s widely estimated the actual toll could top 200,000 and even higher.


Port-au-Prince, January 20 (RHC)-- Aid efforts have yet to approach meeting the dire humanitarian needs in Haiti. In a statement, the medical relief group Partners in Health said some 20,000 people are dying each day who could be saved by surgery.

The World Food Program says its handed out more than 250,000 ready-to-eat food rations amid estimates that more than three million people are in need. The agency says it needs to hand out 100 million food rations in the next month, but is on pace to only have 16 million available.

Earthquake survivors continue to receive medical care in makeshift clinics around Haiti, many of them established by Cuba and Venezuela.


PressWatch: is Haiti being Katrina-ed?

The story being told of US relief efforts in Haiti is one of courage and sacrifice.   Corporate news accounts seem to agree that although there are great difficulties, everything that can be done is being done.  Meanwhile looters take front and center on the video screen.  If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because that is the shape of the corporate media lie that formed around New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and we now know that the seemingly accidental lack of emergency response was obviously tailored to the real estate vampirism that followed soon after.

What about our new President, can’t he make a difference?   It’s a trick question.  The Presidency hasn’t been the center of executive power in this nation since the Reagan-Bush fascistization efforts in the 1980s.  This will remain so until we hold new continental Congress meetings and begin anew with a new government.  Ask Bill Clinton about mysterious Cessna crashes...The momentum of capitalist imperial vampirism in Haiti until as recently as 1947 forced payments to France for their losses in the slave trade following the Haitian revolution.  A mere new face in the White House isn’t going to change that.

Hillary Clinton has been on the boob tube giving out impressive-sounding numbers, thousands of bottles of water distributed and that sort of thing.  It sounds good until you realize that three million people need help with water and food and shelter and medicine and everything else.  But Bill Gates has explained that there is only so much one can do, given difficult circumstances.  It’s reasonable to ask, then, how much can one do?  What are the historic examples like?  

Let’s start with the great earthquake and fire in San Francisco, in 1906, one hundred and four years ago.  San Francisco is on the same continent, unlike Haiti, to be sure, but then we must add in the handicap of essentially nineteenth century technology and exconomic development.  how did they do?

“The story of the movement of relief supplies into San Francisco by the Southern Pacific is a dramatic one. The first relief train left Omaha via the Harriman lines April 19 at 5:19 p.m., on passenger schedule, but the first car was Chicago and Northwestern No. 1090, which left Omaha within twenty-four hours after the beginning of the trouble. Passengers on fast trains saw flying freights, every car labeled “relief,” go by, while the passengers took the sidetrack.

“Within twelve hours after the disaster the Southern Pacific and related lines under the direction of President [Edward] Harriman were turned over to the work of relief. Everything else, by direct orders to the different general managers and vice-presidents, was sidetracked. The records of the runs of relief trains will show all transcontinental freight train records shattered. The commercial business was swept to one side, and President Harriman raced to the relief of San Francisco as fast as [a] special train could carry him. Traffic Director Stubbs was at his side. Since then the head of every department has been giving his attention first to the relief and second to the rehabilitation of San Francisco.

“Up to the night of May 3 the Southern Pacific had handled free into San Francisco 1,409 cars of freight, totaling about 35,000 tons, for the benefit of the sufferers. A better idea of quantity is gained when it is said that this would represent in weight four sacks of flour for every person living in San Francisco before the fire.”

That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  But remember this:  Chinatown was neglected.  In faxct, it was Katrina-ed, and the racist explanations were much more up front then.

What about the mid-twentieth century, then, one might ask; how did relief efforts look then?

“In the beginning, the [Berlin] airlift moved just 80 tons daily into Berlin; it eventually reached over eight thousand tons a day”...--Just eighty tons per day at first, with internal-combustion-prop C-47 planes.  
--it seems that quite a bit of goods could be moved quickly, in 1947.  But the airport and seaport are damaged in Haiti, so our historic research should take that into account.  Let’s have a look, then, at the construction battalions of world War Two:



“Seabees and Marines landed together on the beaches of first Saipan, then Guam, and finally Tinian. The very same day the Marines captured Aslito, the main Japanese airfield on Saipan, the Seabees went to work repairing its bomb-damaged runways. Stopping only to fend off Japanese counterattacks, they succeeded in making the airstrip operational within four days. During the three week battle for Guam, the Seabees participated by unloading ships and performing vital construction jobs directed at eventually turning the island into the advanced headquarters for the United States Pacific Fleet, an airbase for Japan-bound B-29s, and a huge center of war supply. The invasion of Tinian called for yet another exhibition of Seabee ingenuity. Because its narrow beaches were covered with low coral cliffs, Seabees devised and operated special movable ramps which made the landings possible. Once ashore, and even as the battle raged, their bulldozers accomplished prodigious feats of construction on the damaged and unfinished Japanese airfield.”...

The mighty Seabees are still around, though, xcurrwently building the mega-occupation palace that is jokingly referred to as the American Embassy in Bagdad, Iraq.  Surely they have been diverted to this far more pressing task.  Right?


100 Seabees bound for Haiti

By Lance M. Bacon - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jan 18, 2010 14:48:20 EST

About 100 Seabees are gearing up for disaster relief operations in earthquake-stricken Haiti, and are expected to leave by Saturday morning, according to Navy officials.

More than 80 Seabees are from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, based in Gulfport, Miss. They currently are prepping 690 short tons of cargo, which includes more than 40 pieces of civil engineer support equipment for road clearing and debris removal. Initial indications are the air detachment will be in Haiti for approximately six months.

That’s pitiful; but as Wikkipedia notes, “.Seabees continue to provide critical construction skills in connection with the effort to rebuild the infrastructure of both Iraq and Afghanistan. All Active and Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) and Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) have been deployed to Iraq.”

My conclusion is easy, then:  Haiti is being Katrina-eds.  And it is not just the lack of effort , the minimal mobilization which shows that to be the case.  It is also true that the US Air Force has turned away relief planes from Haiti in the past week, notably five of those from Medecins Sans Frontieres, or doctors Without Borders, but also at least one relief plane from Mexico and, asd Democracy Now reported, an entire flying field hospital from France.. Giant mobile desalinization plants, which are nearby in Guantanamo, could have been providing water right away, but they remain at the US base.  The Katrina angle is perhaps best treated in an article by investigative journalist Greg Palast, whose title headline is a little too racy to repeat here, but worth the effort to pull up, on

Remember when Blackwater thugs showed up instead of relief efforts in New Orleans?  Well, those stirring headlines of yesteryear are back:

Disaster Profiteers Swarm on Haiti as on NOLA
January 18, 2010 07:04 PM EST

Kelly McCartney on

While genuine relief efforts from global non-governmental organizations try to make their way in Haiti, war and disaster profiteers are lining up to cash in on the devastation. Of those in the running, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) leads the way.

The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc., commonly known as Yele, held a press conference today defending their past actions and pleading for current help. Jean called the capital city of Port-au-Prince a “morgue” saying, "We need to migrate at least 2 million people. I give you my word, if I tell them to go, they will go. But they need somewhere to go to."

As the nation's prodigal son, Jean does have quite the pull with his countrymen and he spoke on behalf of Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Rene Preval.

Meanwhile, over on the dark side of the aid aisle, Jeremy Scahill reports that IPOA in Haiti is following Blackwater's lead from Katrina. As noted in 2005 by The Nation, Blackwater beat most governmental agencies to the scene in New Orleans after the city was ravaged by the hurricane where they did work such as "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals" while armed with flak jackets and assault rifles.


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