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A Statement On Haiti From The War Resisters League
Please join the War Resisters League in calling for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawl in Haiti, an end to the militarization of aid, and a focus on the self-determination of the Haitian people.
"It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." -Abraham Maslow
The War Resisters League stands in support of the grieving families left in the wake of the disaster in Haiti. We celebrate the efforts of Haitian organizations currently working on the ground, including Haiti Action, Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA), the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movement (MPNKP), the Kordinasyon Rejyonal Oganysasyon Sides (KROS), Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen (TK), and the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP). We also honor the work of outside organizations, including many from the United States, such as Doctors without Borders, Partners in Health, and Grassroots International, supporting the relief effort with respect for the self-determination of the Haitian people during the long process of healing and recovery.
We are gravely concerned about the growing U.S. military presence in Haiti and the lack of a clear timetable for the withdrawal of troops. The U.S. military is a central conduit for the distribution of aid in Haiti and has been given temporary control of the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called the work ahead "a long-term undertaking" for the United States, stating that "the length of time that we will have thousands of troops in Haiti or off-shore, frankly, is impossible to predict right now." The top U.S. commander in Haiti, Army Lt. General P.K. Keen, has said that the security side of U.S. humanitarian relief operations in Haiti will take on a larger role in the days and weeks following the quake. As of January 21, 2010, 4,000 additional sailors and marines were deployed to Haiti, bringing the total number of U.S. troops in the country to 16,000.
Many have cited the inefficiency of aid operations in Haiti, which have left over five-sixths of those directly affected by the quake without food and little access to water while stores of food and medical supplies continue to sit on the ground at the airport. Reasons for this inefficiency have included the U.S. military's exaggerated and racist concerns about violence in Haiti, in spite of multiple reports that violence has been minimal and people have been helping their friends, families, and neighbors in a spirit of cooperation.
The fundamental question raised and often overlooked in the news coverage of the aid effort is--why is the relief effort in Haiti a military operation? Rebecca Solnit has documented the extraordinary degree of mutual aid that arises after major disasters, and Haitians are building on this tradition. Instead of re-militarizing and occupying the country, we need to support these initiatives.
TIME magazine online, four days after the earthquake, called the U.S. relief effort in Haiti a "compassionate invasion." The article stated that "only the U.S. military has enough aluminum matting to boost the runway capacity of Port-au-Prince airport. Only the U.S. military has the surveillance capability to quickly assess additional Haitian airfields and seaports for use in rescue relief operations. Only the U.S. military has the wide variety of vessels and aircraft to utilize those fields and ports, including air-cushioned vehicles capable of ferrying 60 tons of supplies from ship to shore at 40 knots." But why does "only the U.S. military" have control over these resources and this technology?
On February 1, the White House will present a federal budget that will include $708 billion for "defense," including the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--close to what the rest of the world combined spends on the military. With the highest military budget since World War II, the U.S. under the Obama administration has pledged a record-shattering amount of money to continue a long history of wars and occupations abroad. A small portion of those funds could be used to build international civilian capacity to respond to the natural and other disasters, like Haiti's earthquake, that will inevitably occur and will worsen with climate change. A small portion of those funds could have been used to strengthen homes and other buildings in earthquake-prone areas throughout the world.
Considering the long history of U.S. invasion and intervention in Haiti, any discussion about the U.S. government's involvement in the relief effort must acknowledge that, for many, the U.S. military is an unwelcome occupation force in the nation (see Marine Corps General Smedley Butler's regretful summary of his career invading Haiti and other places between 1915 and 1934 ). We must highlight Haitian concerns over the militarization of aid to the country. As Patrick Elie, former Defense Minister in the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide--twice overthrown with U.S. support--stated, "We don't need soldiers, there's no war here."
What Haiti does need is the cancellation, not intensification, of its burdensome external debt to global financial institutions led by the United States and other rich countries. Haiti currently owes hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign debt. Richard Kim has noted that "Haiti's vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor--by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank."
Please join the War Resisters League in supporting the self-determination of Haiti in the months to come and the creation of a comprehensive, sustainable, and accountable transnational response to the crisis.
To get involved in organizing with the War Resisters League, contact Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.