Aid flights that have been turned away from Haiti by the American military include flights from:

CARICOM, the Caribbean Community, Médecins Sans Frontieres, Brazil, France, Italy, and even the U.S. Red Cross

photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images. Port-au-Prince January 19, 2010. US troops descended by helicopter to take control of Haiti's ruined presidential palace Tuesday, as the military earthquake relief operation gathered pace. As Bag News Notes says: I would love to know how the US military thought this picture would play (in Haiti -- after the first rush; domestically; abroad) in landing American troops at the Haitian Presidential Palace. Was it all gung-ho, or was there an upside/downside consideration?

The United States, having stolen so much from Haiti, now dictates what and when foreign aid will reach the Haitian people. … President Obama’s response to the tragedy in Haiti has been robust in military deployment and puny in what the Haitians need most: food; first responders and their specialized equipment; doctors and medical facilities and equipment; and engineers, heavy equipment, and heavy movers.
Cynthia McKinney

Médecins Sans Frontieres writes, with video at the link:

Six Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cargo planes loaded with vital medical material like antibiotics have been redirected to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This will delay MSF staff’s ability to treat patients who urgently need it.

And earlier:

Port-au-Prince, January 19, 2010A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cargo plane carrying 12 tons of medical equipment, including drugs, surgical supplies and two dialysis machines, was turned away three times from Port-au-Prince airport since Sunday night despite repeated assurances of its ability to land there. This 12-ton cargo was part of the contents of an earlier plane carrying a total of 40 tons of supplies that was blocked from landing on Sunday morning. Since January 14, MSF has had five planes diverted from the original destination of Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic. These planes carried a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies.

“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the MSF’s Choscal Hospital in Cite Soleil. “I have never seen anything like this. Any time I leave the operating theater I see lots of people desperately asking to be taken for surgery. Today, there are 12 people who need lifesaving amputations at Choscal Hospital. We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue amputations. We are running against time here.”

“It is like working in a war situation,” said Rosa Crestani, MSF medical coordinator for Choscal Hospital. “We don’t have any more morphine to manage pain for our patients. We cannot accept that planes carrying lifesaving medical supplies and equipment continue to be turned away while our patients die. Priority must be given to medical supplies entering the country.”

Many of the patients have been pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings are at grave risk of death from septicemia and the consequences of “crush syndrome,” a condition where damaged muscle tissue releases toxins into the bloodstream and can lead to death from kidney failure. Dialysis machines are vital to keeping patients alive with this condition.

People who might have lived are already dead and more are in danger. Those who are lucky enough to get surgery may have no morphine to relieve their pain.

While writing this I just saw a clip on Rachel Maddow’s show of US Lt. Gen. Keane being asked about quake survivors camped within 200 yards of the airport who say they have received no aid so far. The General started talking about bringing in troops from lots of countries and ITN reporter Bill Neely had the presence to say they need aid, not troops.

With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need

AMY GOODMAN: There are now, I think it was announced, 12,000 US soldiers. The Venezuelan President Chavez called it an occupation now. What would you say?

DR. EVAN LYON: I think it has real potential to be an occupation. If there are 12,000 soldiers here, it is an occupation. I’ve not known of any violence at the hands of the American military. We’ve also just barely had the beginning of collaboration with them, literally within the last thirty minutes. General Keane, their operations person, finally showed up here after some time. And the military is helping us secure the grounds. But of course this is an occupation. It’s not a—this is a disaster area. Warm bodies help, but military is potentially very destructive in this environment.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you need? What would be constructive?

DR. EVAN LYON: What we need right now is electricity, water, nurses, surgeons and materials. We have on site right now—we have seven operating rooms up and running. We need about fifteen or twenty within the next twenty-four hours. We have materials to keep the operating rooms going for maybe another twelve hours. Once that runs out, then we’re stuck.

AMY GOODMAN: Soldiers haven’t brought you supplies?

DR. EVAN LYON: Not yet.

DR. EVAN LYON: 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 US military has promised us for several days to bring in—to bring in machinery, but they’ve been listening to this idea that things are insecure, and so we don’t have supplies.

I’m living here in the neighborhood with a friend. I’m staying with some of my Haitian doctor colleagues. We’ve been circulating on the roads to 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, moving patients, moving supplies, trying to get our work done. There is no security. The UN is not out. The US is not out. The Haitian police are not able to be out. But there’s also 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 concern for militarization, the concern for occupation is very real. There is capacity that we don’t have that the military will help us with, and that is urgently needed, because we’re losing patients minute to minute. But the first that listeners need to understand is that there is no insecurity here. There has not been, and I expect there will not be. [h/t b real]

The obvious question is why the US might be interested in occupying Haiti. Cynthia McKinney fills us in on that as well:

Ms. Laurent reminds us of Haiti’s offshore oil and other mineral riches and recent revival of an old idea to use Haiti and an oil refinery to be built there as a transshipment terminal for U.S. supertankers. Ms. Laurent, also known as Ezili Danto of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN), writes:

“There is evidence that the United States found oil in Haiti decades ago and due to the geopolitical circumstances and big business interests of that era made the decision to keep Haitian oil in reserve for when Middle Eastern oil had dried up. This is detailed by Dr. Georges Michel in an article dated March 27, 2004 outlining the history of oil explorations and oil reserves in Haiti and in the research of Dr. Ginette and Daniel Mathurin.

“The U.S. plans to use Haiti’s deep water ports either for oil refineries or to develop oil tank farm sites.”

“There is also good evidence that these very same big US oil companies and their inter-related monopolies of engineering and defense contractors made plans, decades ago, to use Haiti’s deep water ports either for oil refineries or to develop oil tank farm sites or depots where crude oil could be stored and later transferred to small tankers to serve U.S. and Caribbean ports. This is detailed in a paperabout the Dunn Plantation at Fort Liberte in Haiti.

“Ezili’s HLLN underlines these two papers on Haiti’s oil resources and the works of Dr. Ginette and Daniel Mathurin in order to provide a view one will not find in the mainstream media nor anywhere else as to the economic and strategic reasons the US has constructed its fifth largest embassy in the world – fifth only besides the US embassy in China, Iraq, Iran and Germany – in tiny Haiti, post the 2004 Haiti Bush regime change.”

McKinney also writes:

For those of us who have been following events in Haiti before the tragic earthquake, it is worth noting that several items have caused deep concern:

1. the continued exile of Haiti’s democratically-elected and well-loved, yet twice-removed former priest, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide;

2. the unexplained continued occupation of the country by United Nations troops who have killed innocent Haitians and are hardly there for “security” (I’ve personally seen them on the roads that only lead to Haiti’s sparsely-populated areas teeming with beautiful beaches);

3. U.S. construction of its fifth-largest embassy in the world in Port-au-Prince, Haiti;

4. mining and port licenses and contracts, including the privatization of Haiti’s deep water ports, because certain off-shore oil and transshipment arrangements would not be possible inside the U.S. for environmental and other considerations; and

5. extensive foreign NGO presence in Haiti that could be rendered unnecessary if, instead, appropriate U.S. and other government policy allowed the Haitian people some modicum of political and economic self-determination.

And from a Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It is understandable that many African Americans are making comparisons between the militarized character of the U.S. intervention in Haiti’s earthquake disaster and the federal government’s largely military response to the Katrina catastrophe in New Orleans, four and a half years ago. It is quite reasonable to conclude that the U.S. government is more concerned about law and order issues than in attending to the immediate needs of desperate disaster victims – especially when the victims are Black. History tells us that U.S. governments regard masses of Black people, first, as potential threats to security, and only second as fellow human beings deserving of assistance. Nevertheless, the heavy-handed militarization of U.S. disaster aid to Haiti should be seen in a larger context. As a matter of established American policy, the military has been assigned prime responsibility for U.S. foreign disaster relief, worldwide.

It’s not just disaster relief that has been militarized. The U.S. military command in Africa, AFRICOM, has assumed responsibility for much of the day-to-day duties once performed by the State Department and other civilian agencies. More often than not, the uniformed military is the dispenser of a wide range of U.S. foreign aid in Africa, as part of a general militarization of U.S. relations with the rest of the planet.

And Ford offers another reason why the US has built:

… the fifth largest U.S. embassy in the world sits in Haiti, one of the planet’s most economically unimportant nations. What purpose could it possibly serve, other than as a U.S. military and and dirty tricks base for the U.S. Southern Command – which now decides what gets in and out of Haiti. For all practical purposes, the U.S. Southern Command is the occupying power in Haiti. What we are observing is imperialism in action, under cover of disaster.

I would like to add this picture, both as a tribute to the human spirit, and as a rebuke to CNN in particular, and the media coverage in general.

Youths play with empty boxes as they collect them after food was distributed by the World Food Program in Port-au-Prince, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010. Relief groups and officials are focused on moving the aid flowing into Haiti to the survivors of the powerful earthquake that hit the country on Tuesday. (photo: Ariana Cubillos/AP)

From Bag News Notes:

We’ve been closely observing the schizophrenia in the Haiti media coverage over the past twelve hours, with some outlets describing a situation of widespread violence and looting … with others showing scenes of grateful Haitian citizens receiving their first food and water in days.

More background:

As one commenter wrote over at dKos about how this scene played out Saturday on CNN:

It was interesting – though unwelcome – to watch the narrative in the making. The anchor (somebody Lemon) broke away from another story to go to the reporter at a food distribution center, who was reporting unrest. By the time they got to the reporter he had determined that what he thought might be violence breaking out because all the food was gone – was in reality children who had discovered a field full of empty boxes and had started an impromptu game of throwing them up in the air and kicking them and doing whatever it is they do that has kids everywhere so fascinated with empty boxes.

The adults were standing around, calm as could be and the reporter was smiling a bit at these children who had been through so much, lost so much finding a bit of lightness and fun in a field full of boxes. The newsreader, however, might as well have not heard a word of this explanation, as he went on being so understanding of desperate people doing desperate things – while a loop of the children throwing boxes went on in the background. He went back to this narrative and loop a couple more times during the show. Then Wolf Blitzer starts his show and continues to promote the same narrative using the same footage of the same children who CNN are trying to make the face of desperate riot and mayhem in Haiti… all because they found some boxes in a field and decided to play.

Finally, something you don’t often see: here’s a clip of a CNN reporter on the scene actually correcting the impression.

Raj Patel posts how lethal are requests that infant formula be sent to Haiti. Where there is no reliable clean water, infant formula is a death sentence, and another predation of disaster capitalists. He points out:

It’s already bitterly ironic that Bill Clinton is the United Nation’s special envoy to Haiti, after the economic policy he imposed there to transform it into the Caribbean’s sweatshop. Now, President Obama has asked George Bush to lead fundraising efforts for relief in Haiti. After Bush took part in an international coup to overthrow Aristide. It’s like sending in the horsemen of the apocalypse to negotiate peace.

First, as poet activist Shailja Patel has posted, there’s a progressive action plan for Haiti:

Haiti: 10-point action plan
1) Grants, not loans.
2) Keep corporations and corporatist policies OUT. Stop disaster capitalism in its tracks.
3) Cancel ALL Haiti’s debt to the Inter-American Development Bank.
4) Let Aristide return to Haiti.
5) Lift the ban on Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas political party.
6) Rip up the neoliberal pre-earthquake Clinton-Obama program for Haiti: tourism, sweatshops, privatization, deregulation.
7) Do not allow US military or UN “peacekeepers” to point guns at desperate Haitians.
8 ) Allow all Haitians in the US to work, and remit money home.
9) Release all 30,000 Haitians held in US jails for deportation, and grant them Temporary Protected Status.
10) Demand that France start repaying the $21 billion it extorted from Haiti in 1825, to “compensate” France for loss of Haiti as a slave colony.”

________

h/t Bag News Notes for the photo at the top

For background on the Haitian economy, see:
An open letter to Ban Ki-Moon: Why Haiti can’t forget its past
Haiti – the first free Black republic in the Caribbean
Haiti’s Creole Pig and the Other Swine Flu Epidemic

Historian Laurent Dubois … “Anyone who lives in a democratic society in which race doesn’t equal a denial of rights has some debt to the Haitian revolution,” he reflected in an interview. “The very notion of democracy that we consider commonsense emerged because of that revolution. If that’s something we cherish then we owe that to Haiti, which has suffered more for its victory rather than been rewarded for it.” 
from the Boston Globe in 2004

People gather outside a damaged MSF office in Port-au-Prince to receive help after a 7-magnitude earthquake hit the capital city on January 12.

It would be nice to give something back to Haiti, especially when help is so urgently needed.  A friend in the medical profession sent me this appeal. I made a contribution and I recommend the opportunity to your attention. As my friend said:  This is a great organization, please consider it if you are planning to donate to help.   

Haiti: MSF Teams Set up Clinics to Treat Injured After Facilities Are Damaged

Donate here to support MSF’s work in Haiti.

The first reports are now emerging from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams who were already working on medical projects Haiti. They are treating hundreds of people injured in the quake and have been setting up clinics in tents to replace their own damaged medical facilities.

The Martissant health center in a poor area of Port-au-Prince had to be evacuated after the earthquake because it was damaged and unstable. The patients are now in tents in the grounds and the medical staff have been dealing with a flow of casualties from the town. They have already treated between 300 and 350 people, mainly for trauma injuries and fractures. Among them are 50 people suffering from burns—some of them severe—many of them caused by domestic gas containers exploding in collapsing buidings. At the Pacot rehabilitation center another 300 to 400 people have been treated. In one of MSF’s adminstrative offices in Petionville, another part of Port-au-Prince, a tent clinic there has seen at least 200 injured people. More are getting assistance at what was the Solidarite maternity hospital, which was seriously damaged.

One of MSF’s senior staff, Stefano Zannini, was out for most of the night, trying to assess the needs in the city and looking at the state of the medical facilities. “The situation is chaotic,” he said. “I visited five medical centers, including a major hospital, and most of them were not functioning. Many are damaged and I saw a distressing number of dead bodies. Some parts of the city are without electricity and people have gathered outside, lighting fires in the street and trying to help and comfort each other. When they saw that I was from MSF they were asking for help, particularly to treat their wounded. There was strong solidarity among people in the streets.”

Another MSF coordinator there, Hans van Dillen, confirmed that Port-au-Prince was quite unable to cope with the scale of the disaster. “There are hunderds of thousands of people who are sleeping in the streets because they are homeless,” said van Dillen. “We see open fractures, head injuries. The problem is that we can not forward people to proper surgery at this stage.”

So many of the city’s medical facilities have been damaged, healthcare is severely disrupted at precisely the moment when medical needs are high.

MSF is also working to get more staff into the country. Around 70 more staff are expected to arrive in the coming days. MSF is sending out a 100-bed hospital with an inflatable surgical unit, consisting of two operating theaters and seven hospitalization tents. Nephrologists will be sent as part of the team in order to deal with the affects of crush injuries. However, transport links are difficult and it is not yet clear whether supplies and medical staff will have to go in through neighboring Dominican Republic.

MSF is also concerned about the safety of some of its own staff. There are 800 of them and not all have yet been accounted for because of the poor communications and general disruption.

Donate here to support MSF’s work in Haiti.

____________________

Added January 14

Oxfam International has an ongoing presence in Haiti, and are working with the critical issues of water and shelter.

Donate here to support Oxfam

Our immediate priorities will be providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes.”
Cedric Perus
Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator in Port au Prince
January 14, 2010

A six-strong team of Oxfam emergency specialists has been dispatched to Haiti from the UK today to bolster the charity’s response to the devastation wrought by the earthquake that struck the country on Tuesday.

Cedric Perus, Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator in Port au Prince said:

“I have seen wounded people flooding into the hospitals and buildings of several stories high that are now totally flat. Several thousands have probably died in the quake, but it will it will take time to get a full picture. Bodies may stay under the rubble for a long time because it is difficult to access some sites and heavy lifting equipment is in limited supply.

“There are bodies all over the city. People have nowhere to put them so they wrap them in sheets and cardboards in the hope that the authorities will pick them. People have also piled bodies in front of the city’s main hospitals.

“Oxfam’s teams have now started to assess the scale of the disaster across the different parts of Port au Prince as some have been more severely affected than others. The epicenter was near the slum of Carrefour, where people were living in flimsy shacks. There are reports that over 90% of its buildings are in ruins.

Our immediate priorities will be providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes. Many people have lost their homes and were sleeping out in the open last night. There has been no rain yet, but there was rain earlier in the week and if it comes again it will make the situation much worse for all those made homeless by this quake. It is dangerous at night. Lootings were widespread and some markets were ransacked.”

Oxfam is preparing to send stocks from its Bicester Warehouse in Oxfordshire, UK. Materials that will be sent include plastic sheeting and equipment for water distribution, purification and storage.

Communication has been difficult since the 7.0 on the Richter scale quake struck 10 miles southwest of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, but the situation is undoubtedly grave. Homes, office buildings, roads, schools, hospitals and hotels have collapsed. Millions of people are affected and the aid agencies need millions of dollars to get aid to all the people that need it.

Donate to the Haiti Earthquake Response Fund

Please consider helping fund our Haiti Earthquake Response Fund. These Oxfam affiliates are running direct appeals:

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