News Release

Haiti: “Militarization Hinders Relief”

The front-page headline in the Washington Post this morning says: “Haiti relief efforts stifled by chaos.”

Patrick Elie, former Haitian Secretary of State for National Defense, told Al Jazeera English: “There is no war here. We don’t need soldiers as such. … The choice of what lands and what doesn’t land [at the airport] … should be determined by the Haitians. Otherwise it’s a takeover, and what might happen is that the needs of Haitians are not taken into account — but only either the way a foreign country defines the needs of Haiti, or [tries] to push its own agenda.”

Al Jazeera English also reports: “Two Mexican aircraft with vital lifesaving equipment were told they can’t land on Sunday.” Similarly, Doctors Without Borders released a statement: “Despite guarantees, given by the United Nations and the U.S. Defense Department, an MSF [Doctors Without Borders] cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital was blocked from landing in Port-au-Prince on Saturday, 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.” For video and background, see RaceWire.

BILL QUIGLEY
Quigley is legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. He has been a longtime Haiti human rights advocate. He was also in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Quigley said today that “after Katrina, the constant looping [by the TV networks] of looting gave people the impression that looting was the major event going on. Helicopters even stopped for 24 hours when pilots feared they were being shot at — a ‘fact’ that no one was ever able to confirm as accurate. Troops on site were unnerved by thousands of hot hungry thirsty black people until General [Russel] Honoré arrived and told troops to turn their guns away from the people and restored some calm. There is a clear tendency among some to demonize the locals. Reports saying ‘the locals are restless’ or ‘it appears we are on the edge of violence’ — these feed into a ‘blaming of the victim’ mentality that will give some an excuse to say that ‘these people live in a culture of poverty and violence and there is no helping them.’

“Militarization hinders relief. The goals of humanitarian assistance are radically different from the goals of the military. There are places that the United Nations will not go, places they have never gone. In those places … there are community leaders all over Haiti who can help make sure relief goes smoothly and peacefully. The international community has to work with communities and their leaders. The international community has to give Haitians the tools to help themselves. They do not need military assistance, they need food, water, healthcare and help.”

Quigley just wrote “Why The U.S. Owes Haiti Billions.”

He also recently wrote “Ten Things the U.S. Can and Should Do for Haiti.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167