Please sign the petition that the IJDH has organized to persuade the international organizations to start delivering aid faster and more efficiently to the thousands of Haitian people that desperately need it.
MarishaAuerbach is a PermaCorps for Haiti advisory board member who worked in northern Haiti in an area near Limbe on a permaculture relief project focused on local food security and ecological regeneration. Marisha and her close friend and fellow NW permaculture educator Kelda Miller joined Rosedanie Cadet of Helping Hands Noramise and traveled to the outskirts of Limbe, Haiti along with other US volunteers. This team worked with Haitians in the surrounding community on building the foundations of a no-till permaculture food forest that will aid in the restoration of the local soil quality, food diversity, and overall ecology of the area. In all regions of Haiti food security is a critical issue as it has been difficult for families in the countryside taking care of internally displaced relatives to meet their basic needs while also planting crops for the future.
Currently, the torrential rains make this a even more challenging as precious limited topsoil is often washed down stream due to extreme deforestation. The Limbe team helped plant breadfruit, guava, papaya, mango, cacao, coffee, citrus, pumpkins (joumou), spinach (zepina), okra (gumbo), melon (melon), tomatoes (tomat), onions (zonjion), carrots (karot), etc, as well as, set up swales to harvest water and stop sheet flow from washing away vital soil nutrients .
Solidarity as Economic System for Dealing with Social Crisis
By Beverly Bell, posted Mar 26, 2010
“If it weren’t for solidarity, Haiti wouldn’t be alive today,” is an expression commonly heard here since the earthquake of January 12.
Haiti’s history is based on sharing and cooperation—expressed with gifts and solidarity toward those surviving on the margins. These displays usually go unnamed and unnoticed.
Some are formalized systems. One is called konbit—collective work groups in which members of the community labor without any expectation of compensation or even return. Konbit is the equivalent of a barn-raising, an option for those without enough hands to accomplish the task by themselves or enough money to hire labor. The cooperation of konbit has allowed farmers to harvest their fields and engage in other major work projects from time immemorial.
In sòl—revolving loan funds—a group of women puts a certain amount of money into a common pot each week or each month; the total is given to a different member each time.
That way, each woman can, at some point, have enough capital to allow her to make a significant expense: hospital care for a sick mother, a carton of soap bars that she can buy on discount and sell for profit, a new cooking pot for a fried dough business on a street corner. She doesn’t return the allotment and there is no interest to pay; no one profits off of anyone else. The exchanges are based on trust and human relationships.
Sabotaj, practiced among market women, is like sòl but occurs each day. The term implies sabotaging poverty.
Mèn ansanm, hands together, is another system of community-generated financial assistance. Unlike sòl and sabotaj, which occur among individuals, mèn ansanm occurs through organizations. Here, everyone contributes money to a common pot on a schedule that they determine, and then lends it to one member. That person keeps it for a period to bolster his or her income-generating activities. He or she then returns the principal, but keeps the profit. Again, no one makes a profit from another member.
Trok is another common form of exchange which does not involve currency. It happens informally, with a woman giving milk from her cow for another woman’s baby while the other gives back beans from her garden.
Some organizations say that solidarity should be recognized as an explicit part of an alternative economy, and that the mutual aid—without expectation of return—creates a model of what domestic and international economic policy could look like. Ricot Jean-Pierre of the Platform to Advocate Alternative Development in Haiti (PAPDA) says, “Our work is to show that we can enter into another development logic that’s not just via the market but that is through the community, especially with a solidarity economy.”
During the ten weeks since the earthquake, solidarity has formed a critical part of the international rescue, recovery, aid, and support operations. Community organizations, peasant farmers, churches, and townspeople are housing and feeding hundreds of thousands of homeless and displaced people. They are relying on their own resources, contributing their own slim reserves of food, income, and time, since very little outside help has come to underwrite the initiatives.
Judith Simeon, an organizer of women’s and peasants’ groups, shared this analysis: “People are in solidarity in their misery. They are also in solidarity with their capital.”
One example of gifting and solidarity systems at work is emerging in the earthquake-damaged town of Jacmel and surrounding villages. In one of those villages, Cap-rouge, the peasant organization Long Live Hope for Development of Cap-rouge (VEDEK) sent out a call to others to help survivors and brought it to Jacmel’s general hospital to buy basic medicines and water for the wounded.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 displaced Haitians were pouring into Cap-rouge from Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. In response, peasants brought roots and fruits from their gardens to feed the survivors.
Petra Schneider of IDEP Foundation talks about rolling-out a community-based permaculture relief network is a post-disaster zone. She explains the evolution of the community permaculture manuals from Timor, to Aceh and now, via Project Racine, to Haiti.
Petra Schneider of IDEP Foundation, Bali, Indonesia, describes the history of the foundation doing post-tsunami disaster relief and permaculture aid. She explains the start of the trainer-the-trainer network with Robyn Francis, and its origins in post-tsunami work done by Steve Cran and Ego Lamos and the evolution of the Aceh-wide permaculture networks.
Yayasan IDEP is an Indonesian non-profit NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). Innovative and effective, IDEP encourages program sharing with other grass roots projects through media and curriculum development.
We are committed to developing self-sustainability and directly empowering local communities to improve their own situations. We believe that permanent results can be achieved through local empowerment.
Sharing knowledge gained and media through local NGO networks
Conducting media training & supporting local NGO partners with their programs
Since the Bali Bombing tragedy in October 2002, the rapid decline of Bali’s economic stability has brought harsh focus to the un-sustainability of an economy primarily based on tourism. Yayasan IDEP is addressing increased requests for support from local communities to continue and expand its programs.
At IDEP we are extremely grateful for the support we have received from our international and local advisors, overseas voluntary programs, volunteer support and financial assistance received from these and local supporters of our programs. Thank you, we could never have achieved so much without you.
IDEP’s website is an on line resource center for local NGOs & communities to easily access and download information in support of their local project planning & development.
“They (the Haitians) are astonishing people. How can they be so calm in the face of such enormous loss of life and loved ones, and all the physical damage?”Bill Clinton
“Actually,” Clinton told Frei, “when you think about people who have lost everything except what they’re carrying on their backs, who not only haven’t eaten but probably haven’t slept in four days, and when the sun goes down it’s totally dark and they spend all night long tripping over bodies living and dead, well, I think they’ve behaved quite well [...].
Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
The Sustainment Command is a United States Army Logistics Headquarters. The Sustainment Command’s primary mission is to command the Sustainment Brigades that provide combat support and combat service support in the areas of supply, maintenance, transportation, field services and the functional brigades or battalions that provide medical, general engineering & construction, smoke generation, biological detection and decontamination support. The Command is designed to deploy into a theater of operations, assume command of the logistical units in place and provide oversight and materiel management.
Nine days after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, it’s now clear that the initial phase of the U.S.-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island’s recent history.
It has adopted military priorities and strategies.
It has sidelined Haiti’s own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people.
And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor.
All three tendencies aren’t just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. These same tendencies will continue to govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them.
Haiti is not only one of the poorest countries in the world, it is also one of the most polarized and unequal in its disparities in wealth and access to political power.1 A small clique of rich and well-connected families continues to dominate the country and its economy while more than half the population, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), survives on a household income of around 44 U.S. pennies per day.2
Mass destitution has grown far more severe in recent decades. Starting in the 1970s, internationally imposed neo-liberal “adjustments” and austerity measures finally succeeded in doing what no Haitian government had managed to do since winning independence in 1804: in order to set the country on the road toward “economic development,” they have driven large numbers of small farmers off their land and into densely crowded urban slums. A small minority of these internal refugees may be lucky enough to find sweatshop jobs that pay the lowest wages in the region. These wages currently average $2 or $3 a day; in real terms they are worth less than a quarter of their 1980 value.
Haiti’s tiny elite owes its privileges to exclusion, exploitation, and violence, and it is only violence that allows it to retain them. For much of the last century, Haiti’s military and paramilitary forces (with substantial amounts of U.S. support) were able to preserve these privileges on their own. Over the course of the 1980s, however, it started to look as if local military repression might no longer be up to the job. A massive and courageous popular mobilization (known as Lavalas) culminated in 1990 with the landslide election of the liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. Large numbers of ordinary people began to participate in the political system for the first time, and as political scientist Robert Fatton remembers, “Panic seized the dominant class. It dreaded living in close proximity to la populace and barricaded itself against Lavalas.”3
Nine months later, the army dealt with this popular threat in the time-honored way—with a coup d’etat. Over the next three years, around 4,000 Aristide supporters were killed.
However, when the U.S. government eventually allowed Aristide to return in October 1994, he took a surprising and unprecedented step: he abolished the army that had deposed him. As human rights lawyer Brian Concannon (director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) observed a few years later, “It is impossible to overestimate the impact of this accomplishment. It has been called the greatest human rights development in Haiti since emancipation, and is wildly popular.”4 In 2000, the Haitian electorate gave Aristide a second overwhelming mandate when his party (Fanmi Lavalas) won more than 90% of the seats in parliament.
More than anything else, what has happened in Haiti since 1990 should be understood as the progressive clarification of this basic dichotomy—democracy or the army. Unadulterated democracy might one day allow the interests of the numerical majority to prevail, and thereby challenge the privileges of the elite. In 2000, such a challenge became a genuine possibility: the overwhelming victory of Fanmi Lavalas, at all levels of government, raised the prospect of genuine political change in a context in which there was no obvious extra-political mechanism—no army—to prevent it.
In order to avoid this outcome, the main strategy of Haiti’s little ruling class has been to redefine political questions in terms of “stability” and “security,” and in particular the security of property and investments. Mere numbers may well win an election or sustain a popular movement but as everyone knows, only an army is equipped to deal with insecurity. The well-armed “friend of Haiti” that is the United States knows this better than anyone.
As soon as Aristide was re-elected, a systematic international campaign to bankrupt and destabilize his second government set the stage for a paramilitary insurrection and another coup d’etat. In 2004, thousands of U.S. troops again invaded Haiti (as they first did back in 1915) to “restore stability and security” to their “troubled island neighbor.” An expensive and long-term UN stabilization mission, staffed by 9,000 heavily armed troops, soon took over the job of helping to pacify the population and criminalize the resistance. By the end of 2006, thousands more Aristide supporters had been killed.
Over the course of 2009, a suitably stabilized Haitian government agreed to persevere with the privatization of the country’s remaining public assets,5 veto a proposal to increase minimum wages to $5 a day, and bar Fanmi Lavalas (and several other political parties) from participating in the next round of legislative elections.
When it comes to providing stability, today’s UN troops are clearly a big improvement over the old national forces. If things get so unstable that even the ground begins to shake, however, there’s still nothing that can beat the world’s leading provider of security—the U.S. Armed Forces.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that struck on Jan. 12, 2010, it might have seemed hard to counter arguments in favor of allowing the U.S. military, with its “unrivalled logistical capability,” to take de facto control of such a massive relief operation. Weary of bad press in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. commanders also seemed glad of this unexpected opportunity to rebrand their armed forces as angels of mercy.
That was before U.S. commanders actively began—the day after the earthquake struck—to divert aid away from the disaster zone.
As soon as the U.S. Air Force took control of Haitian airspace, on Wednesday, Jan. 13, it explicitly prioritized military over humanitarian flights. Although most reports from Port-au-Prince emphasized remarkable levels of patience and solidarity on the streets, U.S. commanders made fears of popular unrest and insecurity their number-one concern. Their first priority was to avoid what the U.S. Air Force Special Command Public Affairs spokesman (Ty Foster) called another “Somalia effort”6—presumably, a situation in which a humiliated U.S. Army might once again risk losing military control of a “humanitarian” mission.
As many observers predicted, the determination of U.S. commanders to forestall this risk by privileging guns and soldiers over doctors and food has actually provoked some outbreaks of the very unrest they set out to contain. To amass a large number of soldiers and military equipment “on the ground,” the U.S. Air Force diverted plane after plane packed with emergency supplies away from Port-au-Prince. Among many others, World Food Program flights were turned away by U.S. commanders on Thursday and Friday, the New York Times reported, “so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.”7
Many other aid flights met a similar fate, right through to the end of the week. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) alone has so far had to watch at least five planeloads of its medical supplies be turned away.8 On Saturday, Jan. 16, for instance, “Despite guarantees given by the United Nations and the U.S. Defense Department, an MSF cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital was blocked from landing in Port-au-Prince and re-routed to Samana, in Dominican Republic,” delaying its arrival by an additional 24 hours.9 Late on Monday, Jan. 18, MSF complained that “One of its cargo planes carrying 12 tons of medical equipment had been turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday,” despite receiving repeated assurances they could land. By that stage, one group of MSF doctors in Port-au-Prince had been “forced to buy a saw in the market to continue the amputations” upon which the lives of their patients depended.10
While U.S. commanders set about restoring security by assembling a force of some 14,000 Marines and soldiers, residents in some less secure parts of Port-au-Prince soon started to run out of food and water. On Jan. 20, people sleeping in one of the largest and most easily accessed of the many temporary refugee camps in central Port-au-Prince (in Champs Mars) told writer Tim Schwartz, author of the 2008 book Travesty in Haiti, that “no relief has arrived; it is all being delivered on other side of town, by the U.S. Embassy.”11
Telesur reporter Reed Lindsay confirmed on Jan. 20—a full eight days after the quake—that the impoverished southwestern Port-au-Prince suburb closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, Carrefour, still hadn’t received any food, aid, or medical help.12
The BBC’s Mark Doyle found the same thing in an eastern (and less badly affected) suburb. “Their houses are destroyed, they have no running water, food prices have doubled, and they haven’t seen a single government official or foreign aid worker since the earthquake struck.” Overall, Doyle observed, “The international response has been quite pathetic. Some of the aid agencies are working very hard, but there are two ways of reporting this kind of thing. One is to hang around with the aid agencies and hang around with the American spokespeople at the airport, and you’ll hear all sorts of stories about what’s happening. Another way is to drive almost at random with ordinary people and go and see what’s happening in ordinary places. In virtually every area I’ve driven to, ordinary people say that I was the first foreigner that they’d met.”13
It was only a full week after the earthquake that emergency food supplies began the slow journey from the heavily guarded airport to 14 “secure distribution points” in various parts of the city.14 By that stage, tens of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents had finally come to the conclusion that no aid would be forthcoming, and began to abandon the capital for villages in the countryside.
On Sunday Jan. 17, Al-Jazeera’s correspondent summarized what many other journalists had been saying all week. “Most Haitians have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets and inside the well-guarded perimeter [of the airport], the United States has taken control. It looks more like the Green Zone in Baghdad than a center for aid distribution.”15
Later on the same day, the World Food Program’s air logistics officer Jarry Emmanuel confirmed that most of the 200 flights going in and out of the airport each day were still being reserved for the U.S. military: “… their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed.”16 By Monday, Jan. 18, no matter how many U.S. Embassy or military spokesman insisted that “we are here to help” rather than invade, governments as diverse as those of France and Venezuela had begun to accuse the U.S. government of effectively “occupying” the country.17
The U.S. decision to privilege military over humanitarian traffic at the airport sealed the fate of many thousands of people abandoned in the rubble of lower Port-au-Prince and Léogane. In countries all over the world, search and rescue teams were ready to leave for Haiti within 12 hours of the disaster. Only a few were able to arrive without fatal delays, mainly teams—like those from Venezuela, Iceland, and China—that managed to land while Haitian staff still retained control of their airport. Some subsequent arrivals, including a team from the UK, were prevented from landing with their heavy lending equipment. Others, like Canada’s several Heavy Urban Search Rescue Teams, were immediately readied but never sent; the teams were told to stand down, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon eventually explained, because “the government had opted to send Canadian Armed Forces instead.”18
USAID announced on Jan. 19 that international search and rescue teams, over the course of the first week after the disaster, had managed to save a grand total of 70 people.19 The majority of these people were rescued in specific locations and circumstances. “Search-and-rescue operations,” observed the Washington Post on Jan. 18, “have been intensely focused on buildings with international aid workers, such as the crushed UN headquarters, and on large hotels with international clientele.”20
Tim Schwartz spent much of the first post-quake week as a translator with rescue workers, and was struck by the fact that most of their work was confined to certain places—the UN’s Hotel Christophe, the Montana Hotel, the Caribe supermarket—that were not only frequented by foreigners but that could be snugly enclosed within “secure perimeters.” Elsewhere, he observed, UN “peacekeepers” seemed intent on convincing rescue workers to treat onlooking crowds as a source of potential danger, rather than assistance.21
Until the residents of devastated places like Léogane and Carrefour are somehow able to reassure foreign troops that they can feel “secure” when visiting their neighborhoods, UN and U.S. commanders clearly prefer to let them die on their own.
Exactly the same logic has condemned yet more people to death in and around Port-au-Prince’s hospitals. In one of the most illuminating reports yet filed from the city, on Jan. 20 Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman spoke with Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health/Zamni Lasante from the General Hospital—the most important medical center in the country.
Lyon acknowledged there was a need for “crowd control, so that the patients are not kept from having access,” but insisted that “there’s 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 first thing that [your] listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be.”
On the contrary, Lyon explained, “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 U.S. military has promised us for several days to bring in machinery, but they’ve been listening to this idea that things are insecure, and so we don’t have supplies.”
As of Jan. 20, the hospital still hadn’t received the supplies and medicines needed to treat many hundreds of dying patients.
“In terms of aid relief the response has been incredibly slow. There are teams of surgeons that have been sent to places that were, quote, ‘more secure,’ that have 10 or 20 doctors and 10 patients. We have a thousand people on this campus who are triaged and ready for surgery, but we only have four working operating rooms, without anesthesia and without pain medications.”22
In post-quake Haiti it seems that anyone or anything that cannot be enclosed in a “secure perimeter” isn’t worth saving.
In their occasional forays outside such perimeters, meanwhile, some Western journalists seemed able to find plenty of reasons for retreating behind them. Lurid stories of looting and gangs soon began to lend “security experts” like the London-based Stuart Page23 an aura of apparent authority, when he explained to the BBC’s gullible “security correspondent” Frank Gardner that “all the security gains made in Haiti in the last few years could now be reversed [...]. The criminal gangs, totaling some 3,000, are going to exploit the current humanitarian crisis, to the maximum degree.”24
Another seasoned BBC correspondent, Matt Frei, had a similar story to tell on Jan. 18, when he found a few scavengers sifting through the remains of a central shopping district. “Looting is now the only industry here. Anything will do as a weapon. Everything is now run by rival armed groups of thugs.” If Haiti is to avoid anarchy, Frei concluded, “What may be needed is a full scale military occupation.”25
Not even former U.S. President (and former Haiti occupier) Bill Clinton was prepared to go that far. “Actually,” Clinton told Frei, “when you think about people who have lost everything except what they’re carrying on their backs, who not only haven’t eaten but probably haven’t slept in four days, and when the sun goes down it’s totally dark and they spend all night long tripping over bodies living and dead, well, I think they’ve behaved quite well [...]. They are astonishing people. How can they be so calm in the face of such enormous loss of life and loved ones, and all the physical damage?”26
Reporters able to tell the difference between occasional and highly localized incidents of foraging, and a full-scale “descent into anarchy” made much the same point all week, as did dozens of indignant Haitian correspondents. On Jan. 17, for instance, Ciné Institute Director David Belle tried to counter international misrepresentation. “I have been told that much U.S. media coverage paints Haiti as a tinderbox ready to explode. I’m told that lead stories in major media are of looting, violence, and chaos. There could be nothing further from the truth. I have travelled the entire city daily since my arrival. The extent of the damage is absolutely staggering [but...] NOT ONCE have we witnessed a single act of aggression or violence [...]. A crippled city of two million awaits help, medicine, food, and water. Most haven’t received any. Haiti can be proud of its survivors. Their dignity and decency in the face of this tragedy is itself staggering.”27
But it seems that to some, dignity and decency are no substitute for security. No amount of weapons will ever suffice to reassure those “fortunate few,” whose fortunes isolate them from the people they exploit. As far as the vast majority of people are concerned, “security is not the issue,” explains Haiti Liberté’s Kim Ives.
“We see throughout Haiti the population organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population that is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for many years.”28
While the people who have lost what little they had have done their best to cope and regroup, the soldiers sent to “restore order” treat them as potential combatants. “It’s just the same way they reacted after Katrina,” concludes Ives. “The victims are what’s scary. They’re black people who, you know, had the only successful slave revolution in history. What could be more threatening?”
“According to everyone I spoke with in the center of the city,” wrote Schwarz on Jan. 21, “the violence and gang stuff is pure BS.”
The relentless obsession with security, agrees Andy Kershaw, is clear proof of the fact that most foreign soldiers and NGO workers “haven’t a clue about the country and its people.”29 True to form, within hours of the earthquake most of the panicked staff in the U.S. Embassy had already been evacuated, and at least one prominent foreign contractor in the garment sector (the Canadian firm Gildan Activewear) announced that it would be shifting production to alternative sewing facilities in neighboring countries.30
The price to be paid for such priorities will not be evenly distributed. Up in the higher, wealthier, and mostly undamaged parts of Pétionville everyone already knows that it’s the local residents “who through their government connections, trading companies, and interconnected family businesses” will once again pocket the lion’s share of international aid and reconstruction money.31
To help keep less well-connected families where they belong, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has taken “unprecedented” emergency measures to secure the homeland this past week. Operation “Vigilant Sentry” will make use of the large naval flotilla the U.S. government has assembled around Port-au-Prince.
“As well as providing emergency supplies and medical aid,” notes The Daily Telegraph, “the USS Carl Vinson, along with a ring of other Navy and Coast Guard vessels, is acting as a deterrent to Haitians who might be driven to make the 681-mile sea crossing to Miami.”
While Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade offered “voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to [the land of] their origin,” American officials confirmed that they would continue to apply their long-standing (and illegal) policy with respect to all Haitian refugees and asylum seekers—to intercept and repatriate them automatically, regardless of the circumstances.32
Ever since the quake struck, the U.S. Air Force has taken the additional precaution of flying a radio-transmitting cargo plane for five hours a day over large parts of the country, so as to broadcast a recorded message from Haiti’s ambassador in Washington. “Don’t rush on boats to leave the country,” the message says. “If you think you will reach the United States and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. They will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
Not even life-threatening injuries are enough to entitle Haitians to a welcome in the United States. When the dean of medicine at the University of Miami arrived to help set up a field hospital by the airport in Port-au-Prince, he was outraged to find that most seriously injured people in the city were being denied visas to be transferred to Florida for surgery and treatment. As of Jan. 19, the State Department had authorized a total of 23 exceptions to its restrictive immigrant and refugee policies.
“It’s beyond insane,” O’Neill complained. “It’s bureaucracy at its worst.”33
This is the fourth time the United States has invaded Haiti since 1915. Although each invasion has taken a different form and responded to a different pretext, all four have been expressly designed to restore “stability” and “security” to the island. In the wake of the earthquake, thousands more foreign security personnel are already on their way, to guard the teams of foreign reconstruction and privatization consultants who in the coming months are likely to usurp what remains of Haitian sovereignty.
Perhaps some of these guards and consultants will help their elite clients achieve another long-cherished dream: the restoration of the Haitian Army. And perhaps then, for a short while at least, the inexhaustible source of “instability” in Haiti—the ever-nagging threat of popular political participation and empowerment—may be securely buried in the rubble of its history.
Peter Hallward is a Canadian political philosopher. He is currently a professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University. He is the author of Damning the Flood.
4. Brian Concannon, “Lave Men, Siye Atè: Taking Human Rights Seriously,” in Melinda Miles and Eugenia Charles, eds., Let Haiti LIVE: Unjust U.S. Policies Toward its Oldest Neighbor (Coconut Creek FL: Educa Vision, 2004), 92.
5. See for instance Jeb Sprague, “Haiti’s Classquake,” HaitiAnalysis, January 19, 2010.
6. BBC Radio 4 News, January 16, 2010, 22:00GMT.
7. Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, “Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
8. “Médecins Sans Frontières says its Plane Turned Away from U.S.-run Airport,” Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2010.
9. “Doctors Without Borders Cargo Plane with Full Hospital and Staff Blocked from Landing in Port-au-Prince,” January 18, 2010, .
10. “America Sends Paratroopers to Haiti to Help Secure Aid Lines,” The Times, January 20, 2010.
11. Email from Tim Schwartz, January 20, 2010.
12. “No aid [in Carrefour]. In the morning at UN base they said they would distribute there, but it didn’t happen” (Reed Lindsay, Honor and Respect Foundation Newsletter), January 20, 2010,http://www.hrfhaiti.org/earthquake/). Cf. Luis Felipe Lopez, “Town at Epicenter of Quake Stays in Isolation,” The Miami Herald, January 17, 2010.
13. BBC Radio 4, News at Ten, January 18, 2010.
14. Ed Pilkington, “We’re Not Here to Fight, U.S. Troops Insist,” The Guardian, January 18, 2010.
15. “Disputes Emerge over Haiti Aid Control,” Al Jazeera, January 17, 2010.
16. Ginger Thompson and Damien Cave, “Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises,” New York Times, January 17, 2010.
17. “Haiti Aid Agencies Warn: Chaotic and Confusing Relief Effort is Costing Lives,” The Guardian, January 18, 2010, .
18. Don Peat, “HUSAR Not up to Task, Feds Say: Search and Rescue Team Told to Stand Down,” Toronto Sun, January 17, 2010.
19. USAID, http://www.usaid.gov/helphaiti/index.html, accessed on January 20, 2010.
20. William Booth, “Haiti’s Elite Spared from Much of the Devastation,” Washington Post, January 18, 2010.
21. Tim Schwarz, phone call with the author, January 18, 2010; cf. Tim Schwartz, “Is this Anarchy? Outsiders Believe this Island Nation is a Land of Bandits. Blame the NGOs for the ‘Looting,’” NOW Toronto, January 21, 2010.
22. “With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need,” Democracy Now! January 20, 2010.
23. Stuart Page is chairman of Page Group,http://www.pagegroupltd.com/aboutus.html.
24. Gardner then explained that, with the police weakened by the quake, “Thousands of escaped criminals have returned to areas they once terrorized, like the slum district of Cité Soleil [...]. Unless the armed criminals are re-arrested, Haiti’s security problems risk being every bit as bad as they were in 2004″ (BBC Radio 4, Six O’clock News, January 18, 2010). In fact, when some of these ex-prisoners tried to re-establish themselves in Cité Soleil in the week after the quake, local residents promptly chased them out of the district on their own (see Ed Pilkington and Tom Phillips, “Haiti Escaped Prisoners Chased out of Notorious Slum,” The Guardian, January 20, 2010; Tom Leonard, “Scenes of Devastation Outside Port-au-Prince ‘Even Worse,’” Daily Telegraph, January 21, 2010).
25. BBC television, Ten O’clock News, January 18, 2010.
26. BBC Radio 4, News at Ten, January 18, 2010. It sounds as if Clinton, in his role as UN special envoy to Haiti, may be learning a few things from his deputy—Zanmi Lasante’s Dr. Paul Farmer.
27. David Belle, January 17, 2010.
28. “Journalist Kim Ives on How Western Domination Has Undermined Haiti’s Ability to Recover from Natural Devastation,” Democracy Now! January 21, 2010 . Ives illustrates the way such community organizations work with an example from the Delmas 33 neighborhood where he’s staying. “A truckload of food came in in the middle of the night unannounced. It could have been a melee. The local popular organization was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members [...]. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the [Matthew 25] house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion. They were totally sufficient. They didn’t need Marines. They didn’t need the UN. [...] These are things that people can do for themselves and are doing for themselves.” Kershaw makes the same point: “This self-imposed blockade by bureaucracy is a scandal but could be easily overcome. The NGOs and the military should recognize the hysteria over ‘security’ for what it is and make use of Haiti’s best resource and its most efficient distribution network: the Haitians themselves. Stop treating them as children. Or worse. Hand over to them immediately what they need at the airport. They will find the means to collect it. Fill up their trucks and cars with free fuel. Any further restriction on, and control of, the supply of aid is not only patronizing but it is in that control and restriction where any ‘security issues’ will really lurk. And it is the Haitians who best know where the aid is needed” (Andy Kershaw, “Stop Treating these People Like Savages,” The Independent, January 21, 2010).
29. Andy Kershaw, “Stop Treating these People Like Savages,” The Independent, January 21, 2010.
30. Ross Marowits, “Gildan Shifting T-shirt Production Outside Haiti to Ensure Adequate Supply,” The Canadian Press, January 13, 2010.
31. William Booth, “Haiti’s Elite Spared from Much of the Devastation,” Washington Post, January 18, 2010.
32. Bruno Waterfield, “U.S. Ships Blockade Coast to Thwart Exodus to America,” Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2010; “Senegal Offers Land to Haitians,” BBC News January 17, 2010.
33. James C. Mckinley Jr., “Homeless Haitians Told not to Flee to United States,” New York Times, January 19, 2010.
Young men have organized into teams to guard communities of homeless families. Women care for their own children as well as others now orphaned. Tens of thousands are missing and presumed dead.
The scenes of destruction boggle the mind. The scenes of homeless families, overwhelmingly little children, crush the heart.
But hope remains. Haitians say and pray that God must have a plan. Maybe Haiti will be rebuilt in a way that allows all Haitians to participate and have a chance at a dignified life with a home, a school, and a job.
One young Haitian man said, “One good sign is the solidarity of the world. Muslim doctors, Jewish doctors, Christian doctors all come to help us. We see children in Gaza collecting toys for Haitian children. It looks very bad right now, but this is a big opportunity for the world and Haiti to change and do good together.”
Our Vision: To generate sustainability and abundance on all levels, starting from within.
Our Pledge: Through our programs, we pledge to catalyze the planting of 1,500,000 trees in Haiti by 2014. This is to be done in the form of three key approaches:
a) Family Food Security Gardens promoting fresh, organic nutrition.
b) Community agroforestry on existing sites providing community services e.g. Churches, Hospitals, Schools.
c) Large-scale Agroforestry initiatives – public/private agroforestry inititives based on permaculture principles.
Our Mission and Approach
1. Inspire individuals, cultivate community leaders. Through a program of youth leadership training developed by the International Association for Human Values, we provide practical tools to help young Haitians adults (18-25) manage trauma, anger and stress, rid themselves of hopelessness, and become powerful community organizers and leaders.
2. Train and support sustainable designers. Through training in Permaculture design and support for implementation of Permaculture-based systems, we provide practical tools and resources to support the ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable reforestation of Haiti.
3. Train and support entrepreneurs. We provide training in advanced leadership and entrepreneurship, source capital to support the start-up and expansion of microenterprises, and partner with local microfinance organizations to support young Haitians in developing businesses that offer market-based solutions to the root causes of environmental degradation.
This is great television, but it’s not great journalism. In fact, it’s irresponsible journalism.
CNN’s star anchor Anderson Cooper narrates a chaotic street scene in Port-au-Prince. A boy is struck in the head by a rock thrown by a looter from a roof. Cooper helps him to the side of the road, and then realizes the boy is disoriented and unable to get away. Laying down his digital camera (but still being filmed by another CNN camera), Cooper picks up the boy and lifts him over a barricade to safety, we hope. “We don’t know what happened to that little boy,” Cooper says in his report. “All we know now is, there’s blood in the streets.”
Cooper goes on to point out there is no widespread looting in the city and that the violence in the scene that viewers have just witnessed appears to be idiosyncratic. The obvious question: If it’s not representative of what’s happening, why did CNN put it on the air? Given that Haitians generally have been organizing themselves into neighborhood committees to take care of each other in the absence a functioning central government, isn’t that violent scene an isolated incident that distorts the larger reality?
Cooper tries to rescue the piece by pointing out that while such violence is not common, if it were to become common, well, that would be bad — “it is a fear of what might come.” But people are more likely to remember the dramatic images than his fumbling attempt to put the images in context.
Unfortunately, CNN and Cooper’s combination of great TV and bad journalism are not idiosyncratic; television news routinely falls into the trap of emphasizing visually compelling and dramatic stories at the expense of important information that is crucial but more complex.
The absence of crucial historical and political context describes the print coverage as well; the facts, analysis, and opinion that U.S. citizens need to understand these events are rarely provided. For example, in the past week we’ve heard journalists repeat endlessly the observation that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Did it ever occur to editors to assign reporters to ask why?
The immediate suffering in Haiti is the result of a natural disaster, but that suffering is compounded by political disasters of the past two centuries, and considerable responsibility for those disasters lies not only with Haitian elites but also with U.S. policymakers.
Journalists have noted that a slave revolt led to the founding of an independent Haiti in 1804 and have made passing reference to how France’s subsequent demand for “reparations” (to compensate the French for their lost property, the slaves) crippled Haiti economically for more than a century. Some journalists have even pointed out that while it was a slave society, the United States backed France in that cruel policy and didn’t recognize Haitian independence until the Civil War. Occasional references also have been made to the 1915 U.S. invasion under the “liberal” Woodrow Wilson and an occupation that lasted until 1934, and to the support the U.S. government gave to the two brutal Duvalier dictatorships (the infamous “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”) that ravaged the country from 1957-86. But there’s little discussion of how the problems of contemporary Haiti can be traced to those policies.
Even more glaring is the absence of discussion of more recent Haiti-U.S. relations, especially U.S. support for the two coups (1991 and 2004) against a democratically elected president. Jean-Bertrand Aristide won a stunning victory in 1990 by articulating the aspirations of Haiti’s poorest citizens, and his populist economic program irritated both Haitian elites and U.S. policy-makers. The first Bush administration nominally condemned the 1991 military coup but gave tacit support to the generals. President Clinton eventually helped Artistide return to power Haiti in 1994, but not until the Haitian leader had been forced to capitulate to business-friendly economic policies demanded by the United States. When Aristide won another election in 2000 and continued to advocate for ordinary Haitians, the second Bush administration blocked crucial loans to his government and supported the violent reactionary forces attacking Aristide’s party. The sad conclusion to that policy came in 2004, when the U.S. military effectively kidnapped Aristide and flew him out of the country. Aristide today lives in South Africa, blocked by the United States from returning to his country, where he still has many supporters and could help with relief efforts.
How many people watching Cooper’s mass-mediated heroism on CNN know that U.S. policy makers have actively undermined Haitian democracy and opposed that country’s most successful grassroots political movement? During the first days of coverage of the earthquake, it’s understandable that news organizations focused on the immediate crisis. But more than a week later, what excuse do journalists have?
Shouldn’t TV pundits demand that the United States accept responsibility for our contribution to this state of affairs? As politicians express concern about Haitian poverty and bemoan the lack of a competent Haitian government to mobilize during the disaster, shouldn’t journalists ask why they have not supported the Haitian people in the past? When Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are appointed to head up the humanitarian effort, should not journalists ask the obvious, if impolite, questions about those former presidents’ contributions to Haitian suffering?
When mainstream journalists dare to mention this political history, they tend to scrub clean the uglier aspects of U.S. policy, absolving U.S. policymakers of responsibility in “the star-crossed relationship” between the two nations, as a Washington Post reporter put it. When news reporters explain away Haiti’s problems as a result of some kind of intrinsic “political dysfunction,” as the Post reporter termed it, then readers are more likely to accept the overtly reactionary arguments of op/ed writers who blame Haiti’s problems of its “poverty culture” (Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times) or “progress-resistant cultural influences” rooted in voodoo (David Brooks, New York Times).
One can learn more by monitoring the independent media in the United States (“Democracy Now,” for example, has done extensive reporting) or reading the foreign press (such as this political analysis by Peter Hallward in the British daily “The Guardian,” ). When will journalists in the U.S. corporate commercial media provide the same kind of honest accounting?
The news media, of course, have a right to make their own choices about what to cover. But we citizens have a right to expect more.
Subject: Nouvelle Vie Haiti – Responding to the Haitian earthquake
Dear friends and colleagues,
Many thanks for all your expressions of concern and support regarding the situation in Haiti, I know we all share a concern for what can be done in order to contribute to an effective response and long-term abundance and real security for the immediately affected and wider population of Haiti. I spent a month with Shenaqua in Haiti last summer working with the Internation Association for Human Values, and teaching two permaculture courses there.
Our feedback thus far from Haiti is that all our graduates are safe in terms of immediate earthquake impacts.
We are working on a medium term program to support our local graduates in carrying out trauma counseling using tried and tested approaches championed by IAHV, as well as longer-term, permaculture-based strategies to help promote local food, and water security, safe housing etc. A general program description follows below:
Nouvelle Vie *Haiti*, an ongoing project of the International Association of Human Values (IAHV- www.iahv.orghttp://www.iahv.org/ ). IAHV is an international humanitarian and educational NGO that aims to revive human values that transcend religious, ethnic and cultural differences. IAHV along with its sister organization, The Art of Living Foundation, has conducted effective trauma relief programs addressing the psychosocial needs of disaster victim in numerous post-conflict and natural disaster situations around the world, including the 2008 hurricanes in Haiti, the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 the South Asian tsunami in 2004, the Kosovo conflict, and many others, and have served many thousands of individuals through these efforts.
IAHV’s Nouvelle Vie *Haiti* has over the past two years conducted youth leadership, sustainable agriculture, and entrepreneurship training, impacting 350 young adults from 5 regions of Haiti: Cap Haitien, Mirebalais, Hinche, Carrefour and Les Cayes.
The earthquake in Haiti has now devastated the country and our youth leaders on the ground in Haiti. We are preparing to undertake a new mission to Haiti. Our objectives are to provide immediate trauma relief to the affected population and aid workers, and to mobilize young adults of Haiti by establishing the Nouvelle Vie Youth Corps, a body of 50 Haitian youth committed to serving their country for 2 years.
The Youth Corps will receive the training and support necessary to take leadership roles in serving the Haitian people, developing powerful skills in trauma relief, food and water security, and appropriate technology and construction. Nouvelle Vie will provide training and financial, material, and programmatic support to the Corps.
In the coming weeks we will send teams of IAHV trauma relief workers to assemble and organize our existing youth leaders, recruit additional youth leaders, and deliver trauma relief programs. Through participation in organizing and delivering these programs, we will train our Youth Corps to deliver trauma relief services, and to become fully certified teachers of The Art Of Living Foundation’s stress-reduction and self-development programs.
Youth Corps members will also receive on-ground training in implementation of small-scale home and community gardens, design and construction of rainwater catchment and sanitation systems (composting toilets), and appropriate building design and construction.
Basic training will be conducted at the Youth Corps headquarters by training leaders who are expert in the area of sustainable design and permaculture, with extensive experience in developing world urban and peri-urban design. While basic trainingis taking place, Corps members and training leaders will developprojects to install garden, sanitation, water, and building systems tosupport IDP settlements, households, communities, and organizations.
One of the components of our strategy is the translation of the IDEP Permaculture Resource Manual into French/Haitian Creole in oder to provide accessible local tools to those who will be rebuilding their communities. We expect to support this process with permaculture related trainings and workshops.
For any of you wishing to be involved in this effort, through donation, direct involvement or for consideration as part of the team, I recommend that you keep up with the program via the IAHV website (www.iahv.org ), or through direct contact with Joshua Tosteson
You can access IDEP’s English permaculture and community disaster management reources as free downloads from the IDEP site, they have been developed following extensive community rebuilding experiences in East Timor and Aceh, Indonesia: http://www.idepfoundation.org/idep_downloads.html#b
For those of you wanting more detailed and technically oriented reports and updates on Haiti, I recommend the site: www.reliefweb.org
Lastly, the Haiti earthquake serves to remind us of the importance of disaster preparedness for all of us so that we can be effective in response when disaster strikes. I have 8 pages of disaster preparedness notes for download at my nascent website: www.ajventure.com
They are currently being posted, should be up by Jan 21, otherwise – check back soon!
Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow discuss the situation in Haiti following Tuesday’s massive earthquake, as well as the history of Haiti, with two guests who have spent a lot of time there: Bill Quigley, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest here in studio is Bill Quigley. He’s the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has spent years also working in Haiti. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Bill, you also were deeply involved in the situation in New Orleans, and you were—in the break, you were talking about the similarities, in terms of the ability of the local authorities to respond. Could you talk about that?
BILL QUIGLEY: Yeah. The trauma that this causes affects the elected officials, the police, the fire, everybody through. And ultimately, you know, until order is restored—and “order” meaning a just order is restored—people break into small groups, family groups, neighborhood groups and that to try to care for each other. The police are just as bewildered and traumatized as everybody else.
And I want to say, one of the big worries that we have about Haiti is this, you know, sending in the military, that there is this real sense that you can’t actually start to feed people, you can’t actually share water with people, until you have people there with machine guns to prevent, you know, these—the worries of folks. And there’s an actual fear of the victims by people who are coming. They’re afraid of the people, when in fact the people are the most resilient, cooperative, generous folks who have already survived on their own. And this sort of militarization and scaredness—you know, scariness of the people there is something that’s common to all disasters. And we can talk some more about that in a bit, but it’s a very eerie sense of what’s happening there.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’ve been struck, too, by the disparate responses of governments, not just the United States, but other governments around the world. President Obama, listening to him talking about that we’re doing military flyovers to assess the damage and prepare our aid. But while the United States is assessing the situation, there have all been reports that a China airplane, from halfway around the world in China, landed yesterday with supplies and equipment to help the people of Haiti. The Cuban foreign minister announced that Cuba has 400 people already in Haiti that have been working on a—medical people working on a mission. They’ve already set up two field hospitals and, just yesterday alone, treated 800 people. And Venezuela, President Chavez, sent a plane that landed last night with firefighters and medical personnel and other equipment. So these other countries are moving faster than we are here in the United States, even though we have these enormous resources.
BILL QUIGLEY: Cuba has always been a real partner of Haiti. And I was always struck there, because the United States was keeping people from Haiti out of the United States; Cuba was pulling people into Cuba to train them as doctors. They were—a scholarship in every church and every village and everything there to do as doctors. So they have been friends for some time.
The United States’ relationship with Haiti has been troubled for hundreds of years and is really one of the causes of—not of the earthquake itself, which would have devastated any place, but what one of the exacerbating things that—why Haiti is so impoverished to begin with, why people are building these houses on the sides of ravines, why there are so many people in Port-au-Prince and why they’re not in the countryside anymore. You know, and I don’t know if you want to talk about that now, but the history really lays the foundation for why the impact of this natural disaster is going to be so severe.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about that history. Actually, Juan, I first met you not here in the United States, but in Haiti.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, in Haiti, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And it was during that first coup against President Aristide from 1991 to 1994. It turned out the CIA was involved in that coup. And for three years, he was kept out. We’re talking to Bill Quigley here in our studio, as we’re also joined by Skype by Brian Concannon, who is a director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. And I want to continue that discussion of the history, which is so critical, Brian.
BRIAN CONCANNON: Thanks, Amy. It’s good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the history and how, as Bill was just saying, this—how the history exacerbates the crisis of the earthquake that has afflicted so many millions of people in Haiti right now?
BRIAN CONCANNON: Sure. The history really defines the response and the vulnerability of Haiti to the earthquake. One of the most obvious ways it does that is, as Bill was mentioning, the reason why the people got to the hillsides where they were most vulnerable to the earthquakes—and I’m pretty sure when we start getting more detailed reports on how many people have died that most of the people who have died will have done so in shantytowns perched on the hillsides.
And they got there because they or their parents or grandparents were pushed out of Haiti’s countryside, where most Haitians used to live. And they were pushed out of there by policies thirty years ago, when it was decided by the international experts that Haiti’s economic salvation lay in assembly manufacture plants. And in order to advance that, it was decided that Haiti needed to have a captive labor force in the cities. So a whole bunch of aid policies, trade policies and political policies were implemented, designed to move people from the countryside to places like Martissant and the hills—hillsides that we’ve seen in those photos.
AMY GOODMAN: And would you like to add to this, Bill, this history from, well, 1804?
BILL QUIGLEY: Well, as you—not everybody does know, but, you know, in 1804, the imported African slaves that were brought to work the island revolted against their French rulers and colonial folks there and established a free state, a free black state, first time in the world. And the United States responded very badly, because we clearly—you know, we still had enslaved millions and millions of Africans in the United States. And it wasn’t ’til after the Civil War that we even had any sort of relationship with them. And Haiti is much closer to the United States than even some parts of the United States.
France put a military blockade around Haiti to force them to pay reparations for their own freedom, to recompense people for the slaves that were freed. And in the last century, the United States supported dictator after dictator, and the elected officials, we supported the coups that knocked them out. We have kept the country dependent. We have kept the country militarized. And we kept the country impoverished. We have dumped our excess rice, our excess farm produce and that stuff on the country, thereby undercutting the small farmers who would make up the backbone of the place.
So, there are two really good articles for the people in the audience, today’s New York Times, Tracy Kidder, and also in The Guardian by Peter Hallward, saying the crisis that we helped create. We didn’t create the earthquake, but we created some of the circumstances that made the earthquake so devastating.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course. And it took Haiti all of the nineteenth century to pay the reparations to the French, so they were in debt throughout the nineteenth century. But I’d also like to raise this issue of the relationship between Haiti and Latin America that most people are not aware of, because, Amy, as you recall, the times that we were in the Presidential Palace in Haiti, the palace that has now collapsed, there was a statue on the second floor of the Presidential Palace in Haiti to Simón Bolívar, the great liberator, because in the early nineteenth century, when Simón Bolívar attempted his first revolt against Spanish rule, he was defeated, and he fled in exile to Haiti. The Haitian government at the time, the new republic, agreed to outfit a new force for Bolívar to return to liberate Latin America. But it had one condition, that he had to agree to abolish slavery in Latin America if he was successful. And as a result, there’s always been this close tie between Venezuela, long before Hugo Chavez.
BILL QUIGLEY: Right.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In fact, when Aristide was first overthrown, it was not Chavez who was president, but it was Venezuela who granted him asylum and offered him to come to their country, because there has been the long tie of appreciation from Venezuela, Colombia and the peoples of the America for the assistance that Haiti gave them in their liberation.
BILL QUIGLEY: And one other thing, I think, that’s important, when people are saying, “Well, where are the police? Where’s the rescue squad? Where’s the fire departments? Where’s that?” Haiti has the most non-governmental organizations of any country in the world. The entire country has, in a sense, been privatized. And anybody who’s ever visited Haiti is struck by the fact that—of these big SUVs that are flying through town with the UN forces in them. Every NGO and charity that you’ve ever heard of in your life is working in Haiti. But their first reaction when something like this happens is to withdraw to try to find their own people, to try to make sure that their place is up. So the flipside of the good that they are doing is that they have substituted for the public sector, and so the public sector is not vibrant, is not there. It is not connected. It is not resourced, and the like. And the role of the NGOs has this really—has this negative part to it, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting you raise that. I wanted to turn to Naomi Klein for a minute. We were together last night at the Ethical Culture Society, where she addressed the crisis in Haiti.
NAOMI KLEIN: But as I write about in The Shock Doctrine, crises are often used now as the pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind of aid—
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go back to that in a minute. We’re just going to improve the sound of that tape. But let me go a different direction then. I wanted to bring you the quote of someone else who was talking about history, and that was the evangelist Pat Robertson. I wanted to get your response to Pat Robertson. He made this comment yesterday. It was on the Christian Broadcasting Network program. He claimed that Robertson—well, Robertson claimed that Haiti was cursed after it made a pact with the devil.
PAT ROBERTSON: And, you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and the people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.” True story. And so, the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor.
That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Pat Robertson. Bill Quigley, your response?
BILL QUIGLEY: Well, this is very sick, twisted man, you know, to have that approach. I think Pat is same person who said Katrina was the revenge for sodomy in the South and that 9/11 was something. I have been in many, many churches in Haiti. I have been to the National Cathedral. I was a friend of the Archbishop who died. These folks have nothing. They are so generous. They are so inspiring, because when they—even though they have nothing, to meet a stranger, as you would know from going there, they’ll give you half of their nothing. And people spend Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays in church praying, asking for health, asking for cures for the illness for their children, asking for the chance to go to school. They’re deeply, deeply religious people.
And this idea that they made a pact with the devil, I think, is not something that’s peculiar, unfortunately, just to Pat, because this idea that Haitians and voodoo, that there’s some sort of very, very special thing, not talking about the Irish—the myths that we have as Irish or the different kinds of traditions that we have as Germans or Italians or other people like that, is a very deep racism in that. There’s also a very, very deep—just a twisted understanding of what the role of the Church is and what it can be for people. The first thing—I would guarantee that the very first thing that people did once they found their relatives alive or dead is that they prayed. And a lot of the screaming and crying that people are hearing in the streets, those are screams and cries to God asking for help, asking for forgiveness, asking for assistance.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Naomi Klein. We’re going to try that tape again, her commenting on what is going on in Haiti right now and who is profiting already.
NAOMI KLEIN: But as I write about in The Shock Doctrine, crises are often used now as the pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind of aid, any kind of money, and are not in a position to negotiate fairly the terms of that exchange.
And I just want to pause for a second and read you something, which is pretty extraordinary. I just put this up on my website. The headline is “Haiti: Stop Them Before They Shock Again.” This went up a few hours ago, three hours ago, I believe, on the Heritage Foundation website.
“Amidst the Suffering, Crisis in Haiti Offers Opportunities to the U.S. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the image of the United States in the region.” And then goes on.
Now, I don’t know whether things are improving or not, because it took the Heritage Foundation thirteen days before they issued thirty-two free market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. We put that document up on our website, as well. It was close down the housing projects, turn the Gulf Coast into a tax-free free enterprise zone, get rid of the labor laws that forces contractors to pay a living wage. Yeah, so it took them thirteen days before they did that in the case of Katrina. In the case of Haiti, they didn’t even wait twenty-four hours.
Now, why I say I don’t know whether it’s improving or not is that two hours ago they took this down. So somebody told them that it wasn’t couth. And then they put up something that was much more delicate. Fortunately, the investigative reporters at Democracy Now! managed to find that earlier document in a Google cache. But what you’ll find now is a much gentler “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti.” And buried down there, it says, “Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.”
Now, why I say I don’t know whether it’s improving or not is that two hours ago they took this down. So somebody told them that it wasn’t couth. And then they put up something that was much more delicate. Fortunately, the investigative reporters at Democracy Now! managed to find that earlier document in a Google cache. But what you’ll find now is a much gentler “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti.” And buried down there, it says, “Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.”
But the point is, we need to make sure that the aid that goes to Haiti is, one, grants, not loans. This is absolutely crucial. This is an already heavily indebted country. This is a disaster that, as Amy said, on the one hand is nature, is, you know, an earthquake; on the other hand is the creation, is worsened by the poverty that our governments have been so complicit in deepening. Crises—natural disasters are so much worse in countries like Haiti, because you have soil erosion because the poverty means people are building in very, very precarious ways, so houses just slide down because they are built in places where they shouldn’t be built. All of this is interconnected. But we have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our corporations. And this is not a conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein speaking last night at the Ethical Culture Society. She’s the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Aceh has been troubled for many years. Before the tsunami, the Achenese were struggling with general poverty, military conflict, pollution, corruption, and the destruction of forests from illegal logging. After the tsunami the military conflict ended but new problems arose. The flow on effect from the broken infrastructure, missing people, loss of incomes of surviving families and lack of services ruined the economies of many communities outside the zone. The full impact of the tsunami is still not understood The December, 2004 tsunami was a low blow to people already down on their luck.
The influx of hundreds of charities and organizations rushing in to assist the victims of the tsunami was a needed relief at first but as the months rolled on and people stabilized, the shock wore away and the depressing realities of being homeless in a harsh landscape set in.
On top of the difficulties of living in rough camps with poor sanitation, aid- dependency began to take hold on the people. Survivors in the zone became totally dependent on food handouts and other charity supplies to the point where many people stopped struggling to rebuild with the misguided belief that any day now , an NGO will come along and give them everything they need.
Survivors began to lose the will to help themselves.
I’d seen this before in East Timor where I spent 5 years introducing permaculture to the world’s newest nation .In Aceh, I was determined to build a project which made people strong and independent, not turn them into professional beggars.
Working in partnership with the Balinese NGO, IDEP ( Indonesian Development Education and Permaculture) I began planning the project needed. After my initial recon in February, 2005, I was able to convince IDEP that the best way to help the Achenese was to build a permaculture training centre in Aceh to assist the survivors to rebuild their communities using permaculture best practice methods.
To make a project like this successful in the difficult conditions it had to be a “lead from the field” project. This meant that the field (me mostly) made all the decisions and the NGO administration supported them. This system is effective in situations where rapid change is happening, there’s poor communication, and the field team need to respond quickly in a confusing environment. It’s a bit scary for an organization to let the field make the decisions but IDEP rose to the challenge.
Steve Cran is a sustainable community development specialist. With 15 years of constant field project experience Steve enjoys the challenge of assisting people living on the edge of survival to rebuild their communities.
“There is a lot written about so called community development but in the field it doesn’t work or it doesn’t last” says Steve. “ Permaculture gets real results by helping the people restore their community using local resources”.
Steve focuses on training the trainer from whatever community he’s working with. Local people training local people by building working models to inspire the rest of the community bring solid results. “The worlds problems grow at an exponential rate so I design projects that solve problems at an exponential rate”.
Steve worked for 5 years with rural Aboriginal communities in outback Australia. In 1999 Steve went to East Timor and formed a Permaculture training network which he developed over 5 years. This network continues to grow.
Steve returned home to Maleny, Queensland, Australia in November 2004 for a well earned rest. A month later the tsunami wiped out over 200,000 people in several countries.
Steve’s field experience was called upon to set up a project in Aceh, Indonesia. “This is a tricky project as we have earthquakes every week, possible further tsunamis as well as a protracted guerilla war in our area, not to mention the poverty that was here before the tsunami. The deck is really stacked against these poor people here”, says Steve from Lamsujen, 45 kms Southwest of Banda Ache.
Steve has joined IDEP to build an “Greenhand Field School” in Ache, on of the worst affected areas hit by the tsunami. The Greenhand Field School will be a training centre to train trainers in sustainable community development best practice. The Greenhand Field School will focus on food security, organic farming, community agro-forestry, appropriate technology, and local solutions for the tsunami survivors. The trainers being trained are mainly Achenese and the Greenhand Field School is designed so the best trainers will run this facility within 2 years.