Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Orleans all over again

Just as the U.S, federal government should not have been responsible for saving New Orleans from an incompetent Louisiana, it is not obliged to rescue Haiti from its earthquake crisis. Leftist Patrick Cockburn sees it differently, however:

The US-run aid effort for Haiti is beginning to look chillingly similar to the criminally slow and disorganized US government support for New Orleans after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. Four years ago President Bush was famously mute and detached when the levies broke in Louisiana. By way of contrast President Obama was promising Haitians that everything would be done for survivors within hours of the calamity.   

The rhetoric from Washington has been very different during these two disasters, but the outcome may be much the same. In both cases very little aid arrived at the time it was most needed and, in the case of Port-au-Prince, when people trapped under collapsed buildings were still alive. When foreign rescue teams with heavy lifting gear does come it will be too late. No wonder enraged Haitians are building roadblocks out of rocks and dead bodies.   

In New Orleans and Port-au-Prince there is the same official terror of looting by local people so the first outside help to arrive is in the shape of armed troops. The US currently has 3,500 soldiers, 2,200 Marines and 300 medical personnel on their way to Haiti.  

Who would Cockburn suggest the U.S, send in to distribute aid? The Boy Scouts, or perhaps some Brownies, would fare well against machete wielding thugs.


Anonymous Dan Lewis said...

An email doing the rounds some time ago seems appropriate:

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?' A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: 'Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?'

You could have heard a pin drop.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous spot_the_dog said...

(sorry - that was me above - forgot to enter my name)

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Dan Lewis said...

The 6 year old analogy is excellent.

I remember when then Boxing Day tsunami hit and Australian and American soldiers were sleeping on the airport tarmac, between 17 hour rescue shifts from hell. The UN had booked out all of the hotel rooms in which to hold endless press conferences about how they were 'co-ordinating' all the forces.

7:55 AM  

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