by Kathleen McKinley | January 21, 2010 5:27 pm
Ben Ehrenreich has a piece at Slate.com where he tries to make the case that by the U.S. sending troops first and aid secondto Haiti, the United Statesproves itself racist. 
But before I get into that, I find it interesting that he begins with this about Pres. Obama:
Port-au-Prince is not much farther from Washington, D.C., than, say, New Orleans, and the current president of the United States, unlike his predecessor, was quick to react to catastrophe.
Really? Because Ehrenreich spends the rest of the article describing how we completely failed at getting the aid to the people of Haiti in a timely manner, just like we did with Katrina. In fact, it took much longer in Haiti than Katrina.Pres. Obama did better because he said something quicker? Is that it?
First Erenreich is critical of us sending thousands of troops to secure the nation first.He sees that as not neccessary. He writes that it took 3 days for one of our “supercarriers” to arrive, and then they promptly ran out of supplies. Later, tons of food, water, and medical supplies piled up behind airport fences. Ben writes, “a doctor at a field hospital within site of the runways complained that five to 10 patients were dying each day for lack of the most basic medical necessities. “We can look at the supplies sitting there.” Four days after that Defense Sec. Gates finally approved of the military airdropping aid. Deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command only had “four–four, in a city of more than 2 million–aid-distribution points”, and this was SIX days in.
Excuse me if I don’t see much of a difference in how Obama handled or mishandled this crisis, as opposed to how Bush handled or mishandled Katrina. The truth is that this kind of thing is never easy. Nothing will be done perfectly or timely. But Obama will never bear the backlash, smearing, and hate put on Bush after Katrina. Even this article tries to distance Obama from decisions that were ultimately his. If there is a story here, it isn’t that racism was why we sent troops first, it’s that Obama didn’t handle this any better than Bush did with Katrina, yet there is no media frenzy this time.
Let’s return to the question of race though. Ben asks why we chose to respond as if it were to confront an insurgency rather than just distribute aid. He calls it “elite panic.” He says that muchlike New Orleans, the residents of Haiti are black and poor, and that is why we reacted the way we did.After all, he contends, “danger of hunger-crazed mobs never came up after the 2004 Pacific tsunami, and no one mentions security when tornados and floods wipe out swaths of the American Midwest.”
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Good grief. That’s because theMidwest and Indonesiaaren’t known for violent military coups. For example, after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in 2004, this was reported:
Police are afraid to enter Cite Soleil, a slum that has become a lawless battlefield as rival gangs shoot each other and extort, rape and kill residents. An unknown number of families have fled; businesses and schools are closed; and the slum’s only hospital is shut down indefinitely.
On most days, gunfire crackles through the downtown area in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and streets are typically deserted after dark.
Sooo…maybe THAT is why we sent troops to secure the cities first. To try and imagine that racism is somehow involved here is absurd. Haiti has a history of chaos and disorder. Pres. Obama did exactly the right thing in making sure everything was safe before our people took supplies into the cities and towns.
I would like to say toEhrenreich, how about instead of looking for racism everywhere yougo, you just appreciate the fact that the United States can do things like this, and that we do come to the aid of even an island that gives us nothing in return.
The United States is the greatest country in the world. Why don’t you just try and live with that.
*Had to change the title. A commenter came up with it. : Too funny. My deepest apologies to Kanye West.
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