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  • Anti-Americanism and Haiti


    by Rumbold
    19th January, 2010 at 4:35 pm    

    The disaster in Haiti has brought out another surge in anti-Americanism. You would think a relief effort that saw thousands of US troops, support equipment, supplies and over $100 million in immediate cash (as opposed to pledges) would win widespread praise. Sadly not. The usual suspects led the way, with the Socialist Worker claiming that it was all part of a plot to occupy Haiti. This rested on the appointment of George Bush Junior as proof that Barack Obama doesn’t care about Haiti (the more prosaic reason that the president wanted a non-partisan fundraising drive was ignored). The French too were angry about US control of the airport, and talked about the US ‘occupation’.

    There is a need for a strong hand in Haiti at the moment. As more than one charity worker has pointed out, one person needs to take charge. And at the moment the only ones capable of doing that are the Americans. Yet whatever the Americans do, some people will detect a sinister motive behind their actions.


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    58 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      Blog post:: Anti-Americanism and Haiti http://bit.ly/65VHHg


    2. Agnieszka Tokarska

      RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: Anti-Americanism and Haiti http://bit.ly/65VHHg


    3. O.W.J. Burnham

      RT @pickledpolitics: Blog post:: Anti-Americanism and Haiti http://bit.ly/65VHHg


    4. Naadir Jeewa

      Reading: Anti-Americanism and Haiti: The disaster in Haiti has brought out another surge in anti-Americ.. http://bit.ly/7uO7Tw




    1. Dan — on 19th January, 2010 at 5:56 pm  

      You do realise the article you’re accusing of Anti-Americanism is from the American Socialist Worker don’t you?

    2. Ravi Naik — on 19th January, 2010 at 5:59 pm  

      The French too were angry about US control of the airport, and talked about the US ‘occupation’.

      Pathetic and petty.

    3. marvin — on 19th January, 2010 at 5:59 pm  

      You can’t get much more anti-American than an American Socialist Worker ;)

    4. marvin — on 19th January, 2010 at 6:01 pm  

      Pathetic is the right word for that Ravi. In this scenario, I think we can safely say fuck the French. They are the ones who should have sent 10,000 troops to their former colony.

    5. David Wearing — on 19th January, 2010 at 7:38 pm  

      Presumably you’re aware of the history of US-Haiti relations? Its been solidly disgraceful going back over a century and right up to the present.
      http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20040309.htm

      People who are suspicious of the US role now are not being reflexively “anti American”. They’re raising rational concerns based on a knowledge of the factual record.

      It would be quite irrational to blithely assume that the US had just gone to Haiti on some altruistic humanitarian mission, with self-interest never intruding, nor any willingness to pursue that self-interest with extreme ruthlessness when required. Unless you think the US is capable of transforming into Aslan’s Narnia overnight, you are not entitled to pretend that its record where that country is concerned does not exist.

      and btw. I have to say there’s a real need now for some sort of rule in political debate whereby anyone who uses the phrase “anti Americanism” is automatically disqualified. What on earth is it supposed to mean? That people who disagree with the actions of the US government are racist?

    6. Rumbold — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:27 pm  

      Dan:

      People can be self-hating.

    7. Kulvinder — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:35 pm  

      People can be self-hating

      Thats just cheap, and should be beneath you.

      He has a valid point questioning what the US is doing doesn’t amount to ‘anti-americanism’ and pointing to US socialists as being ‘anti-american’ or ‘self-hating’ is the type of rhetorical crap we’d expect from dalbir.

      If the haitians disagree with the decisions made by the US military are you going to label them as being ungratefully anti-american?

      The fact that someone has to ‘take charge’ doesn’t mean the one with the biggest guns should do it, or that criticism of those that ‘take charge’ amounts to an ingrained hatred of their core values.

    8. Rumbold — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:37 pm  

      Kulvinder:

      The US shouldn’t be above criticism, and I am sure there has been some failures in the Haiti effort. What annoys me is the reaction to the American relief effort. People just take any chance to badmouth it/suggest it has a sinister motive.

    9. Naadir Jeewa — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:45 pm  

      Did you know Haiti owes Venezuela $179mn, and Chavez has said not a word in response to the Paris Club’s call to cancel debt. SWPers heads should be asplode just about now.

      I was wondering why I got an email from a more-to-the-leftie asking specifically what I thought about Dubya’s appointment to Haiti. I just thought it was a way of stopping people like Rush Limbaugh disgustingly commenting that the Haiti tragedy is good for the Democrats because it allows their liberal side to come out.

    10. Kulvinder — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:48 pm  

      People just take any chance to badmouth it/suggest it has a sinister motive.

      What do you base that on though? the fact that criticism exists?!

      I’d expect any relief effort to attract similar comments - and thats good it allows people to point out failures; the relief effort during hurricane katrina was likewise criticised by americans!

    11. Yakoub — on 19th January, 2010 at 8:48 pm  

      I’ve just finished reading the intro to Ahmed Rashid’s ‘Descent into Chaos’ (and Rashid is no bosom buddy of the postcolonial left), which is a swift reminder of the reasons for global anti-American hatred(Bush + Neoconservatives = Imperialist loonies). I know we’ve got Obama now, but considering facts like the humungous size and spread of the US military, and the US govts past foreign policy record under both Dems and Reps, its understandable folks remain a mite suspicious. In fact, it’s probably wise they do.

    12. FlyingRodent — on 19th January, 2010 at 9:05 pm  

      Socialist Worker bleats about Americans = Surge of anti-Americanism. Maybe we need to talk about the definition of “surge” here?

    13. Naadir Jeewa — on 19th January, 2010 at 9:15 pm  

      SWP are framing things as saying the USA are at war with Haiti:

      http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=20056

    14. Rumbold — on 19th January, 2010 at 9:28 pm  

      Kulvinder:

      What do you base that on though? the fact that criticism exists?!

      Rather that I have heard quite a lot. The French and the ‘anti-imperialist’ left were just two examples.

      Flying Rodent:

      Perhaps ‘surge’ was the wrong word. More conspicious perhaps?

      Naadir:

      Good points. But Chavez will be excused.

    15. Ravi Naik — on 19th January, 2010 at 9:38 pm  

      I’d expect any relief effort to attract similar comments – and thats good it allows people to point out failures; the relief effort during hurricane katrina was likewise criticised by americans!

      Wait - it is one thing to criticise how the relief effort is being orchestrated specially in one’s country, it is another thing to suggest that there is a sinister motive behind this humanitarian mission.

      This is just a case of the French being jealous of Americans, and the hard Left being loonies. And quite frankly the majority not caring about either.

    16. Dalbir — on 19th January, 2010 at 11:38 pm  

      Question 1: Is there oil or other valuable natural resources worth grabbing in Haiti?

    17. Naadir Jeewa — on 20th January, 2010 at 12:35 am  

      @15

      No.

    18. Dalbir — on 20th January, 2010 at 12:43 am  

      ’self-hating’ is the type of rhetorical crap we’d expect from dalbir.

      Is it the dissonance caused by this phrase that gets you all riled up?

    19. Dalbir — on 20th January, 2010 at 12:46 am  

      #16

      Then it may well be possible that Obama does genuinely have some ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ invested into what he has ordered.

    20. Barbs — on 20th January, 2010 at 1:25 am  

      @15 & 16: actually, some people do think there may be offshore oil and gas reserves in Haiti. As yet unexploited, and (I think) unproven. Other than that, there’s nothing, except a very large and very cheap manual labour force. But I doubt there’s any economic motivation, and I’m not suggesting that there is. The more plausible self-interested consideration is that the Americans would like to prevent Haitians trying to flee to the US en masse.

      @Rumbold, I am troubled by this phrase:
      “There is a need for a strong hand in Haiti at the moment.”

      Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but there’s a ring of colonialism to the way that is expressed. Is a strong hand the only thing they’d understand, by any chance?

      Jeering at the Socialist Worker is shooting fish in a barrel. But not all criticisms of the US military presence are so easily dismissable. The Marines have a poor record from their many past occupations of, and operations in, Haiti over the past two centuries. It’s not anti-American to observe that; it’s just a fact. Atrocities have been committed, dictators have been supported, and there is still controversy over the way a popular progressive leader - Aristide - may have been forced out. Plenty of more credible publications and academic books than the American Socialist Worker have discussed this. For instance, see this article by the much-lauded American expert on Haiti, Paul Farmer: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n08/paul-farmer/who-removed-aristide

      Maybe the Americans’ motives this time are absolutely pristine. I don’t claim to know. For what it’s worth, I think Obama’s heart is in the right place, and it’s clear Bill Clinton genuinely cares. The appointment of Bush may be unfortunate in the light of his mishandling of Katrina, but I agree with Naadir Jeewa that it was probably necessary to make clear that it’s a bipartisan effort, so fair enough.

      Nonetheless, it is possible to see why Haitians might have genuine reason for concern when 10,000 Marines show up. They have plenty of experience of Marine occupations/operations, and so far the results have not been pretty.

    21. Bill Brown — on 20th January, 2010 at 3:08 am  

      Isn’t it obvious?

      The American Imperialists want to control the leading schools of voodoo and exercise control over those artists who produce such splendid canvases inspired by Douainier Rousseau.

    22. Refresh — on 20th January, 2010 at 10:21 am  

      Rumbold, you have to be careful here. Past experience shows that they never leave.

      I am still unhappy Aristide was driven out by a US backed coup. And according to Mark Steel (Independent), the neocon Heritage Foundation seems to see this as an opportunity to recreate Haiti to their own fashion.

      It may not be Obama you worry about, its only a matter of time before the baton transfers back to the neocons.

    23. MiriamBinder — on 20th January, 2010 at 11:08 am  

      From what I have heard there is a profound lack of coordination in the aid and rescue efforts. In that sense there certainly is a need for some(one) coordinating the various agencies involved …

      If, as has been suggested the fear that America, once ensconced, will not leave once the emergency has been addressed then surely this is not the time to try and resolve that. One thing America has learnt over the past few years is that it cannot go anywhere alone and unsupported. The cost in terms of manpower alone would be far too immense; that is not to mention fiscal matters.

    24. Golam Murtaza — on 20th January, 2010 at 11:52 am  

      While I’m always wary of American intentions (or the intentions of ANY powerful Government) I think it’s pretty rich for the FRENCH of all people to accuse America of giving Haiti a hard time.

    25. cjcjc — on 20th January, 2010 at 12:31 pm  

      At least one government has got its act together.

      http://www.forward.com/articles/123770/

    26. Leon Green — on 20th January, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

      Anti Americanism is a nonsense term; it has as much value as calling someone an anti-semite if they critisise Israel.

      Take an honest look at the history of the nation and the US involvement and you can see quite clearly where some skeptism comes from.

    27. Gareth Penn — on 20th January, 2010 at 1:34 pm  

      @ cjcjc

      You talking about Cuba?

      http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/15-6

    28. falcao — on 20th January, 2010 at 1:46 pm  

      Well with america’s track record people always see condition’s attached. Once they in a country they tend to build military bases and get amnesia and forget to leave for a decade or two or three!

    29. Random Guy — on 20th January, 2010 at 1:53 pm  

      I am struggling to think of any US foreign intervention that has been strictly benevolent. Arguably, the Haiti response is a good opportunity for some positive PR about the US for a change…

    30. bananabrain — on 20th January, 2010 at 3:30 pm  

      Anti Americanism ….has as much value as calling someone an anti-semite if they critisise Israel.

      in other words, sometimes it’s perfectly obvious, other times not. i think it might be worth pointing out that a significant proportion of haiti’s gdp comes from remittances sent by haitians working in the usa. i think this idea that the americans want to “occupy” (the new worst-possible sin) haiti is the real nonsense - nonsense on stilts, in fact. like they really want a situation like that to sort out on top of their other commitments. tchah, i say - tchah!

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    31. soru — on 20th January, 2010 at 4:10 pm  

      Well with america’s track record people always see condition’s attached. Once they in a country they tend to build military bases and get amnesia and forget to leave for a decade or two or three!

      The thing is, that kind of statement is what anti-americanism actually _is_. It’s the equivalent of saying ‘I’m not racist, but blacks/Jews/… do tend to be lazy/greedy/…’.

      The key thing about is a belief is that it is something the believer thinks to be true, justified and relevant. It isn’t generally an irrational hatred out of nowhere. In fact, there is almost always some level of supporting objective evidence.

      The only way to distinguish between a bigoted, biased and irrational belief and a sensible and justified one is to see whether it is rational, justified, etc. Which is always going to be a matter of judgement.

      For example, I would judge anyone who thinks Haiti’s major problem now is US occupation to have levels of anti-americanism that pass beyond the sensible into at least the prejudiced.

    32. Rumbold — on 20th January, 2010 at 6:05 pm  

      Good points Soru.

      Upon reflection, ‘self-hatred’ was the wrong phrase. Kneejerk anti-Americanism is better. The belief that wahtver the US does is bad, and can be traced back to a sinister big business/neocon/other stereotypes plot.

      Barbs:

      My phrase wasn’t meant to have any overtones. A strong hand is needed, whoever is in control (the Haitans, the US, the UN), because it is a country where law and order has broken down (understandably- it would happen here too). At the moment the US are best placed to take command.

    33. Refresh — on 20th January, 2010 at 6:36 pm  

      Rumbold, bigotry of the kind you refer to surely applies when referring to the american people not the state.

      Why should criticism of a state be given an -ism?

      If I recall it was Mrs T that started this anti-americanism farce, in her case it was a tool to tackle the Greenham Common campaign and CND. Mr Heseltine could elaborate (and probably did in some memoir or other).

      I think you are taking it too far, if people are wary they are wary. You are forgetting history, very recent history and contemporary events.

      As for maintaining some order in the delivery of aid, all they needed to have done is consulted with other major contributors - if France has complained publicly, it would be reasonable to presume the US is being gung-ho which is not helping the people that matter, the Haitians.

    34. Rumbold — on 20th January, 2010 at 6:46 pm  

      Refresh:

      I have no problem with criticism of America. I criticise it myself plenty. What I dislike is the attitude, which is anti-American, that rages against whatever America does and accuses it of a massive conspiracy.

      Imagine each time Ghana did something benign or nice I wrote a blog post saying Ghana was trying to conquer West Africa and wipe out the Nigerians. You would probably call me anti-Ghanian. Or everytime Muslims raised money for charity I called it a ‘front for terror’, because ‘we all know what Muslims are like’. You would probably accuse me of being anti-Muslim.

    35. Refresh — on 20th January, 2010 at 6:49 pm  

      And does it not irritate seeing more guns on display than actual aid being handed out?

      It bothers me considerably, that there is this presumption that order has broken down. Give it another week of these shenanigans, and then we really will see order all but disappear; and with it departure of these aid missions.

      I along with many others, across the world, have made contributions to various aid bodies - and we do not want to see guns pointed at desperate people. And we do not want to hear aid agencies claiming things are improving because they had managed to supply food and water to ’35,000 people and tomorrow it will be 95,000′ a week in. And that they can’t move to an area because they don’t have a US escort.

      Do you realise how pathetic this all looks?

      I am minded to ask DEC and DfID directly what the hell is going on.

    36. Refresh — on 20th January, 2010 at 6:56 pm  

      Rumbold, I think you miss the point. There are plenty of people who really would like to see the US turn over a new leaf. Haiti could still be one. But it doesn’t explain why or how people can presume that that leaf is turned at a stroke when it comes to some countries compared to others.

      I will withold judgement.

    37. marvin — on 20th January, 2010 at 7:08 pm  

      it is possible to see why Haitians might have genuine reason for concern when 10,000 Marines show up.

      What a joke. I expect 99% of Haitians are worrying about how they and their family are going to get through this tragedy.

      It’s only the loony left / conspiracy theorists / american haters that squeal conspiracy and see sinister motives.

      No surprise that there’s a number of those on this thread at PP! It’s almost like CiF.

    38. Rumbold — on 20th January, 2010 at 7:43 pm  

      Refresh:

      And does it not irritate seeing more guns on display than actual aid being handed out?

      Not really, because that is the media narrative. And you do want the presence of neutral troops, because they can help to keep order (and that isn’t a criticism of the Haitans, as we would act the same).

    39. soru — on 20th January, 2010 at 8:34 pm  

      Rumbold, bigotry of the kind you refer to surely applies when referring to the american people not the state.

      It is pretty unusual, if it ever happens, for it to be actual bigotry, but prejudice, bias, justified dislike, personal preference, etc. are all commonly observable.

      The number of people who have selective recall, know all the details of some US atrocity from the 1930s but not some French, Russian, British, … one from the 1950s is pretty astounding.

      Why should criticism of a state be given an -ism?

      So would you also object to the use of the terms anti-imperialism, anti-racism, anti-war, anti-capitalism?

      Some people have a particular idea about what the primary underlying cause of the world’s problems is. The number of them who can be simultaneously right is limited, so it is useful to have terms for the different such groups so you can try to track which, if any, are right.

      Anti-americanism is the belief that the are distinctive, unique and persistent feature of US culture or national institutions that make something the US did in 1890 in radically different circumstances a more relevant example than something the UK did in 1990 in similar ones.

      It’s obviously the mirror image of pro-americanism, which believes the same premise but with opposite conclusions.

      Admittedly, you do occasionally who try to defend, say, banker’s bonuses by claiming those with a different plan for organising financial incentives are just the same as those who want to smash in the faces of bankers.

      Be aware that anyone using that argument probably doesn’t have a better one…

    40. Refresh — on 21st January, 2010 at 2:58 am  

      Rumbold, this is well worth a read.

      ‘Andy Kershaw: Stop treating these people like savages

      Haitians have faced their tragedy with dignity and stoicism – not that you would know it from the way the disaster has been reported’

      http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/andy-kershaw-stop-treating-these-people-like-savages-1874218.html

    41. MiriamBinder — on 21st January, 2010 at 4:28 am  

      Interesting article … thank you Refresh

    42. Ravi Naik — on 21st January, 2010 at 2:34 pm  

      An Hugo Chavez expert says that the US provoked the earthquake using a special weapon. Yes, I understand now why we should be suspicious.

    43. Ravi Naik — on 21st January, 2010 at 2:55 pm  

      The US has nothing to gain by occupying Haiti, apart from improving their standing in the world and doing the right thing. And this may become a liability for Obama if the American economy doesn’t improve and Republicans exploit this.

      The US response to Haiti, in my view, matches the dimension of the catastrophe, as anything else would be a symbolic gesture. I think it is unfortunate that some people suggest that this is another American occupation.

    44. douglas clark — on 21st January, 2010 at 3:06 pm  

      Ravi @ 42,

      Och no, not HAARP! I thought it was the devil wot done it. I saw it on TV, so it must be true.

      Though….

      Haven’t those mad evil scientists just restarted another acronym called CERN? It is almost definitely a mini black hole. Yes, that’s what it is. And most of it’s in France, so that makes a lot of sense too.

      Who are these nutters?

    45. Niels Christensen — on 21st January, 2010 at 8:34 pm  

      Who was the first to help Banda Ache when the tsunami hid the area ?
      did they stay ?

    46. Rumbold — on 21st January, 2010 at 9:01 pm  

      Refresh:

      It doesn’t surpise me that elements of the media are exaggerating the reaction. Thank you for the article. But there is still a need for troops.

    47. MiriamBinder — on 21st January, 2010 at 10:04 pm  

      I don’t think that anyone is denying the need for troops. What I think needs to be questioned is the prioritisation of the international aid agencies. What is that ‘conducting assessments’ that Oxfams’ spokeperson, speaks of? I would have thought that it is fairly obvious that having just undergone a major earthquake basic necessities would be a priority need; food, clean water, shelter, clothing … it doesn’t need assessment … it just needs distributing.

    48. douglas clark — on 21st January, 2010 at 10:22 pm  

      Niels Christensen,

      And we have also, apparently, learned some lessons:

      http://tinyurl.com/yzassav

    49. sonia — on 22nd January, 2010 at 11:11 am  

      yes there are people who enjoy scare-mongering (governments for example love to do this!) but ‘anti-americanism’ as a term needs to be used carefully. “the americans” i am afraid (ha ha) are a disparate bunch like anyone else and if we mean the US government, surely we can say so.

    50. Shaki — on 24th January, 2010 at 5:33 am  

      The French are complaining? How dare you?
      You ARE the reason why YOUR fomer colony is in such a state of deprivation! As in all your other colonies, you only took from them and never gave!

    51. Martin Sullivan — on 24th January, 2010 at 6:52 am  

      Hait is obvious a prize well worth having.

      If only the existing inhabitants could be infected with a faster-acting and untreatable form of AIDS, the entire coastline could be developed as resort real estate, while the interior could be restored to tropical rain forest to keep Attenborough and the enviro-bores happy.

    52. halima — on 24th January, 2010 at 8:38 am  

      Refresh at 39

      Here’s a link to the DFID’s website for Haiti, quite a lot of work is underway. http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/News-Stories/2010/Haiti-Earthquake/

      DFID also has a facebook page set up for updates on Haiti, I’d post a link but I can’t access facebook at the moment.

      I’ve also received information through other aid networks such as the education one (the multi-donor education Fast Track Initiative) about how 95% of schools have been destroyed - the tremendous amount of work needed now, and in years to come will be colossal. I worked some years back on this education initiative, which is supporting education in poor countries – and we worked quite tirelessly with the UK mission to get the initiative to be able to respond to emergencies, and finally the way the aid system was adapted did include such a response. Save the Children, too, were campaigning for the UN emergency cluster system to accept education as a first priority response in humanitarian disasters. The point of telling this story is to show that the immediate reconstruction efforts and the work that goes behind the scenes to build education or health systems in countries like Haiti – can’t be separated.

    53. halima — on 24th January, 2010 at 8:39 am  

      The Development Studies Association also pointed out recently that Haiti is at the fault line for many different conflicts – but the latest one really is about the appalling lack of investment in early warning systems. Geologists all knew this was coming and had this been Japan, or Australia, the devastation would be of a different magnitude.

      Interestingly Kathmandu is the most likely city KNOWN to be hit by an earthquake anytime now - a very large earthquake is predicted to hit Nepal, and everyone knows this. The scale of devastation is going to be horrific from secondary after effects from buildings that are in no way earthquake proof, the country’s only airport will be unable to cope with the demands for rescue operations – and even if it did – the roads will all break and nothing can run along it so the point of an airport is redundant. Everyone knows this. In the meantime among disaster preparedness there’s a whole lot of other work to do in Nepal by the UN agencies, so…

    54. Refresh — on 25th January, 2010 at 4:13 pm  

      Now the Italians have a go:

      ‘Italian official condemns Haiti earthquake relief as ‘vanity parade’ Guido Bertolaso, who led L’Aquila quake response in Italy, targets lack of leadership and role of US military’

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/25/italy-condemns-haiti-earthquake-relief-effort

      I also wondered which teams were better at PR than others. One mother even had her child named after one of the teams. Great telly!

      Not long before these agencies start signing up Max Clifford.

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