Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Myth of Haiti's Lawless Streets

The myth of Haiti's lawless streets by Inigo Gilmore in the Guardian (UK).

As a member of the media covering the tragedy in Haiti, it's with a sense of alarm and astonishment that I've witnessed how some senior aid officials have argued for withholding aid of the utmost urgency because of sensational claims about violence and insecurity, which appear to be based more on fantasy than reality.

From what I've observed, such chilling claims do not match the reality on the ground; and by trumpeting a distorted and sensational picture about the violence, some senior aid officials may be culpable of undermining the very aid effort they are supposed to be promoting. When I traveled into Haiti's disaster zone last week from the Dominican Republic, I did so alone and on a bus, whose passengers were mostly Haitians, including some living in the US. Since then, whether on the road to Port-au-Prince or within the city, I have not witnessed anyone wielding a gun, a machete or a club of any kind. Nor have I witnessed an act of violence. (I have seen one badly wounded man who had been shot in circumstances which were unclear and who was eventually rescued by US soldiers after an American reporter sought help.)

Any violence is localised and sporadic; the situation is desperate yet not dangerous in general. Crucially, it's not a war zone; it's a disaster zone – and there appears to have been little attempt to distinguish carefully between destructive acts of criminality and the behaviour of starving people helping themselves to what they can forage. For Haitians and many of those trying to help them, the overriding sentiment is that a massive catastrophe on this scale shouldn't have to wait for aid because blanket security is the absolute priority.

There's an old saying. If you are a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. At the very least, this is what happens when you put the military in charge of disaster relief. If you are the military, then everything looks like a war zone.

"Haitians here cannot understand why they're not getting help, especially as the way the violence is portrayed is not right. The people are unhappy that there's been no assistance but do you see them rioting in the streets? No.
"People are hungry and needy and yet they're being portrayed as savages. Aid is not getting there quick enough and that's sad because the solution is right there and we have the power to do it."

Keeping us safe from Dork Hunter terrorists.

Children's TV Stars Face Anti-Terror Quiz

Now tell me, do these people look like 'terrorists'?


"We were out and about doing 'dork hunting' ourselves on the streets of London.

"Jamie and I were kitted out in fake utility belts. We've got hairdryers in our belt, a kids' walkie-talkie, hairbrushes and all that kind of stuff, and we were being followed by a camera crew and a boom mike and we get literally pulled over by four policemen and we were issued with a warning 'under the act of terrorism'."

TV hosts Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers dressed as they were when police questioned them under anti-terrorism powers (see picture)

Rickers, 32, added: "We were stopped, not arrested, but they had to say 'we are holding you under the Anti-Terrorism Act because you're running around in flak jackets and a utility belt', and I said 'and please put spangly blue hairdryer' and he was, like, 'all right'."

I really hope 'spangly blue hairdryer' made it into the police report. :)

Sometimes words in England and America mean totally different things. So, I'm wondering if 'dork' means the same thing there as here? If so, then I think I see what the problem is. They were probably using their secret 'dork detector', and it led them right to the terror police squad.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Liberal Self-Deception

Coup in Honduras: D by Mark Engler via FPIF.

Generally, this is a pretty good piece. He correctly points out the awful policies that Obama pursued that basically legitimated the right-wing coup in Hondurus.

The Obama administration's true failure was that it bombed the final exam: the scheduled November 29 presidential elections. Shortly after brokering a deal designed to pressure the Honduran Congress to reinstate Zelaya and allow him to serve the end of his term, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon reversed himself and declared that the United States would recognize the elections even if Zelaya remained out of office. And that is exactly what happened.

We're now left with a new government tarnished by the legacy of the coup and elected amid massive protest and popular abstention. Pro-coup forces continue to perpetuate frightening human rights abuses, including the repression of critical journalists and the abduction of prominent pro-democracy activists. Yet the Obama administration has articulated no plan for exerting its considerable leverage to promote the return of legitimate democracy.

My problem with the piece overall is that the author gives Obama way too much credit for words. He says the Obama administration did fairly well early on, mainly because of its words that criticized the coup. Later on, he says that we shouldn't be too hard on Obama because the words from ex Bush officials were worse.

This is the deception that the liberals try to sell. When you look at actions, when you look at policies, there is very little difference between a Democrat government and a Republican government. The only difference is that the Republicans will crow about how great the coup is, while Obama will just utter some words where he says that coups are awful things. But, while uttering the pretty words, the Obama administration was very helpful to the coup in keeping key aid flowing (despite the words) and in blocking any OAS action on Honduras.

I guess if words are important, then you can say the Democrats are better than the Republicans. But, if you dismiss the words as being the equivalent of a magician's patter or a con man's game, and if you learn to only watch the actions .... then you can see that nothing changes.