When President Obama announced in a press conference last week that the U.S. will be donating an initial $100 million to relief efforts in Haiti, he was interrupted by applause from the audience. This donation, along with the 10,000 U.S. armed troops now stationed in Haiti, would make it seem like the U.S. is doing well at coming to the rescue of this disaster-stricken country.
While the questions of how to help the victims of this disaster is a crucial one, another question that is necessary, but surprisingly absent, is why this became such a disaster. To think that the extremity of suffering in Haiti comes solely from an earthquake would be naive. The earthquake wrecked a country with an already weak infrastructure. It is ironic that the U.S. is now spending millions to aid a country it has been hurting for so long.
A prime example of this irony comes from Obama's decision to ask former President George W. Bush and former President Clinton to co-chair the U.S. relief effort in Haiti.
Noam Chomsky describes in his 2004 article entitled ""U.S. & Haiti"" that, in 1991, the first Bush administration supported the overthrow of Haiti's president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, taking away aid from the democratically elected government and handing it over to ""the wealthy elites and the business sectors.""
Though Clinton helped restore Aristide to office, he is responsible for so many of the economic problems in Haiti, which no doubt magnified the effect of the earthquake's destruction. Randall Robinson, author of the book ""An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President,"" said in an interview with Democracy Now that Clinton forced Aristide to accept neo-liberal policies, which Aristide himself had campaigned against while running for president. Robison reports that these policies filled Haiti with sweatshops, which made the common wage among Haitians to be 38 cents an hour.
George W. Bush, not to be outdone by his father, not only cut off needed aid to Haiti in support of the second overthrow of Aristide, but Robinson explains that ""he and American forces abducted President Aristide and his wife, taking them off to Africa."" Robinson concludes that ""Bush was responsible for destroying Haitian democracy in 2004.""
Why President Obama chose these two men to be the faces of the relief efforts in Haiti is a mystery; however, looking at the U.S.'s history with Haiti, it would be difficult to find anyone fit to help this country without hypocrisy.
The troops which have been deployed for relief work are certainly not the first U.S. troops to walk the streets of Port-au-Prince. In 1915, under Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Haiti until 1934, during which time they ""seized land, redistributed it to American corporations"" and ""ran the country as if it were an American possession,"" Robinson said.
The notion that the U.S. and its $100 million and its 10,000 troops are selflessly rescuing a poverty-stricken nation is false and ridiculous. Haiti was destroyed by U.S. intervention long before the earthquake hit.
— Jennifer Koehmstedt is a junior majoring in English and creative writing. She can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org