In the News: Chomsky Post-Earthquake: Aid Should go to Haitian Popular Organizations, not to Contractors or NGOs

Chomsky Post-Earthquake: Aid Should Go to Haitian Popular Orgs, Not Contractors or NGOs
2010 March 5…

by Keane Bhatt

Noam Chomsky (photo by Duncan Rawlinson)For decades, Noam Chomsky has been an analyst and activist working in support of the Haitian people. In addition to his revolutionary linguistics career at MIT, he has written, lectured and protested against injustice for 40 years. He is co-author, along with Paul Farmer and Amy Goodman of Getting Haiti Right This Time: The U.S. and the Coup. His analysis “The Tragedy of Haiti” from his 1993 book Year 501: The Conquest Continues is available for free online. This interview was conducted in late February 2010 by phone and email. The interviewer thanks Peter Hallward for his kind assistance. This was first published in ¡Reclama! magazine.

Keane Bhatt: Recently you signed a letter to the Guardian protesting the militarization of emergency relief. It criticized a prioritization of security and military control to the detriment of rescue and relief.

Noam Chomsky: I think there was an overemphasis in the early stage on militarization rather than directly providing relief. I don’t think it has any long-term significance… the United States has comparative advantage in military force. It tends to react to anything at first with military force, that’s what it’s good at. And I think they overdid it. There was more military force than was necessary; some of the doctors that were in Haiti, including those from Partners in Health who have been there for a long time, felt that there was an element of racism in believing that Haitians were going to riot and they had to be controlled and so on, but there was very little indication of that; it was very calm and quiet. The emphasis on militarization did probably delay somewhat the provision of relief. I went along with the general thrust of the petition that there was too much militarization.
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Black is Back Coalition resolution on Haiti

From the Black is Back Coalition Conference, January 23-24, 2010
Published Feb 11, 2010

WE, the members of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace, and Reparations, following our Conference on January 23rd and 24th, 2010, where we discussed at length the current situation in Haiti, demand:

  1. The removal of all foreign military troops in Haiti including those from the United States, Canada, Europe and the combined imperial forces of the United Nations.
  2. The return of President Jean Bertrand Aristide from forced exile in South Africa and the restoration of democracy in Haiti.
  3. Reparations be made to Haiti by France as repayment for the billions of dollars that Haiti was forced to pay France following the struggle for the abolition of slavery and the creation of the First African Republic in the Western Hemisphere on the 1st January 1804. We also demand that the United States makes reparations to Haiti for its brutal and unjust occupation of Haiti from 1915 – 1934 that culminated in the looting of the Haitian Treasury. We also demand that the United States provide reparations to Haiti for its constant interference in Haiti’s domestic politics that has undermined the economy. This should include the cancellation of debt that totals approximately $1.3 billion, much of which was accumulated during the U.S. backed Papa and Baby Doc eras.
  4. The release of all Africans from Haiti who are being imprisoned in Detention Centers throughout the world.
  5. The repudiation of the Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy that unfairly discriminates against Africans from Haiti and the establishment of an open door policy that allows Africans from Haiti to enter the United States, and any other country, unfettered.
  6. An automatic removal of the $80 Temporary Protective Status (TPS) fee that is associated with the application for this status. This fee is an economic barrier to the 100,000+ Africans in Haiti who are eligible for this status.
  7. The immediate removal of trade, aide and loan restrictions by the World Bank and other international financial institutions that impose restrictions on growing food necessary for development. This includes restrictions on production on domestic rice and other agricultural products that Haiti can do for herself.
  8. The immediate removal of maritime restrictions that keep out neighboring countries of CARICOM and Latin America from providing assistance to Haiti

More on delays of Medical Aid

An order giving United States military aircraft priority to land in Haiti after last week’s massive earthquake has delayed the arrival of urgently needed medical teams and supplies by up to 48 hours.

Doctors have described a “dramatic” situation, where more than five cargo planes carrying surgical equipment have been refused landings at Port-au-Prince airport in the days after the 7.0-magnitude quake.


Benoit Leduc from Medecins Sans Frontieres says the delays have made the situation worse and doctors are now in a race against time to save the injured.

“It’s difficult operations, we’re facing logistics constraints. We had five of our planes, three cargo planes and two of our expatriate staff – including surgical teams that we tried to send in pretty quickly – five of these planes were refused to land,” he said.

“They had to go across the border. So these additional delays – we clearly had like 48 hours of delay – because of this access problem to the site.”

US troop landings delay Haiti aid

MSF Plane Diverted

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges that its cargo planes carrying essential medical and surgical material be allowed to land in Port-au-Prince in order to treat thousands of wounded waiting for vital surgical operations. Priority must be given immediately to planes carrying lifesaving equipment and medical personnel.

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 on Saturday Jan. 16, and was re-routed to Samana, in Dominican Republic. All material from the cargo is now being sent by truck from Samana, but this has added a 24-hour delay for the arrival of the hospital.

A second MSF plane is currently on its way and scheduled to land today in Port- au-Prince at around 10:00 a.m. local time with additional lifesaving medical material and the rest of the equipment for the hospital. If this plane is also rerouted, then the installation of the hospital will be further delayed, in a situation where thousands of wounded are still in need of life saving treatment.

The inflatable hospital includes 2 operating theaters, an intensive care unit, 100-bed hospitalization capacity, an emergency room and all the necessary equipment needed for sterilizing material.

MSF teams are currently working around the clock in 5 different hospitals in Port-au-Prince, but only 2 operating theaters are fully functional, while a third operating theater has been improvised for minor surgery due to the massive influx of wounded and lack of functional referral structures.

MSF Press release

Letting the soldiers in before the medicine…

The World Food Program finally was able to land flights of food, medicine and water on Saturday, after failing on Thursday and Friday, an official with the agency said. Those flights had been diverted so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.

“There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti,” said Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the agency’s Haiti effort. “But most of those flights are for the United States military.

He added: “Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync.”

“Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises”, New York Times