As Haiti asks the world for help turning around the destruction wrought by the January 12th earthquake, the U.S. is funding destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama is expected to ask for another $33 billion for the military budget this year, on top of the $1 trillion that has come out of U.S. taxpayers’ pockets since 2001, to fund the so-called War on Terror.
In contrast, the president has pledged $100 million in aid to Haiti, amounting to not much more than the mortgage on a rich person’s house.
The U.S. government has sent over 5,000 U.S. military personnel to Haiti, with the total expected to reach 10,000, as aid becomes increasingly militarized in the wake of this disaster. Some aid groups are openly complaining about the U.S. military presence: Doctors Without Borders said that five of its airplanes carrying medical equipment were turned away by the U.S. military and rerouted to the Dominican Republic. French and Mexican planes carrying medical aid were also turned back. U.S. soldiers are now patrolling the streets of Haiti, many with large weapons slung over their shoulders.
And many Haitians are suspicious of the influx of U.S. troops, claiming that the U.S. has been looking for excuses, for a long-time, to regain U.S. military control of their country.
With the inundation of images of death, injury, and collapse in Haiti, realities are emerging about the global relationships that set the stage for these kinds of catastrophes and divert resources to war and militarism instead of real relief.
Over eight years of war and occupation in Afghanistan and six in Iraq have left those countries utterly devastated. More than a million Iraqis and thousands of Afghanis have died, with countless people in Iraq and Afghanistan displaced to neighboring countries. Infrastructures, homes, schools, and mosques lie in ruin, and those who remain must deal with societies destabilized and ethnically polarized by wars that fuel these divisions, on top of the constant U.S. and international military presence. As we enter 2010, there is no end in sight to the occupations, and viable alternative social structures in these countries have been flattened by devastating military campaigns.
If the images of these wars were widely circulated in the media, they too would shock and horrify the world.
Now, as Haiti lies in shambles, the Obama administration is asking Americans to reach deep into their pockets to fund an escalating military campaign and countless more years of destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the same troops being sent to fight these wars are also being deployed to Haiti, a country desperately in need of humanitarian aid, not military presence.
As we live this painful historical moment, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – whose birthday was celebrated Monday – in reference to the Vietnam War, are eerily relevant:
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now, let us begin. Now, let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world… Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4th, 1967