THE MILITARIZATION OF EMERGENCY AID TO HAITI: IS IT A HUMANITARIAN OPERATION OR AN INVASION?
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 16 Jan 2010
Haiti has a longstanding history of US military intervention and occupation going back to the beginning of the 20th Century. US interventionism has contributed to the destruction of Haiti’s national economy and the impoverishment of its population.
The devastating earthquake is presented to World public opinion as the sole cause of the country’s predicament.
A country has been destroyed, its infrastructure demolished. Its people precipitated into abysmal poverty and despair.
Haiti’s history, its colonial past have been erased.
The US military has come to the rescue of an impoverished Nation. What is its Mandate?
Is it a Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion?
The main actors in America’s "humanitarian operation" are the Department of Defense, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (See USAID Speeches: On-The-Record Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, 01/13/10). USAID has also been entrusted in channelling food aid to Haiti, which is distributed by the World Food Program. (See USAID Press Release: USAID to Provide Emergency Food Aid for Haiti Earthquake Victims, January 13, 2010)
The military component of the US mission, however, tends to overshadow the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate and impoverished population. The overall humanitarian operation is not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as FEMA or USAID, but by the Pentagon.
The dominant decision making role has been entrusted to US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
A massive deployment of military hardware personnel is contemplated. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has confirmed that the US will be sending nine to ten thousand troops to Haiti, including 2000 marines. (American Forces Press Service, January 14, 2010)
Aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships has already arrived in Port au Prince. (January 15, 2010). The 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit as well as and soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division "are trained in a wide variety of missions including security and riot-control in addition to humanitarian tasks."
In contrast to rescue and relief teams dispatched by various civilian teams and organizations, the humanitarian mandate of the US military is not clearly defined:
“Marines are definitely warriors first, and that is what the world knows the Marines for,… [but] we’re equally as compassionate when we need to be, and this is a role that we’d like to show — that compassionate warrior, reaching out with a helping hand for those who need it. We are very excited about this.” (Marines’ Spokesman, Marines Embark on Haiti Response Mission, Army Forces Press Services, January 14, 2010)
While presidents Obama and Préval spoke on the phone, there were no reports of negotiations between the two governments regarding the entry and deployment of US troops on Haitian soil. The decision was taken and imposed unilaterally by Washington. The total lack of a functioning government in Haiti was used to legitimize, on humanitarian grounds, the sending in of a powerful military force, which has de facto taken over several governmental functions.
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 Jan 2010.
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