by Ron Spangler
I wrote the this post seven days after the Haitian earthquake. The following video is a recent video that only validates my concern. This is in Port-au-Prince Haiti virtually the only area the media has covered for the first seven days of the crisis. Watch the video and read the following post.
Could Haiti turn into Obama's Katrina? If the situation is not brought under control very soon, things will become extremely dangerous and ugly for the United States. The answer to the question is a definite yes.
Seven days into the crisis and few desperately needed supplies are reaching are being distributed outside of the capital of Haiti. The Obama administration warned the media not to venture too far away from the airport and asked the media to limit news of violence and unrest in the areas outside of the capital.
Some would argue that it would be counter productive to broadcast too much of what is really going on in areas that cannot be reached for security reasons. This is probably true but it leaves the impression that things are going better than they really are and the situation is improving daily. This is not the case for areas 15 or more miles away from the capital. There are areas both large and small from Cap-Haitien to Les Cayes that have been devastated the same as the capital with hundreds of people dieing daily. Seven days later very little food or medical supplies have reached these areas. Our military has started setting up areas to drop supplies but they cannot police the areas to prevent it from becoming chaotic. Secretary of Defense Gates announced our military would have no police action authority in Haiti. They have the right of self defense but if the situation becomes chaotic or violent their only alternative action would be to leave the area.
President Obama and the State Department insist they are working with the Haitian government but in reality the Haitian government has totally collapsed. Most of the government officials have been killed or simply disappeared. Except for the Haitian President very little is left of Haiti's government. The Haitian police have no control of the cities and 90% of the police force have simply walked away. Areas that have been taken over by roaming gangs are not challenged by the U.N. Security Force. Like all U. N. Security detachments they are not authorized the use of deadly force if confronted by a opposition force. Now the U N has called for more international forces. They say they need more forces in order to police the country and stabilize the the upsurge in violence.
It is only a matter of time before the really bad news starts to come out in the mainstream media. As more and more people die and the violence escalates the media will have no choice but report it. When this happens people around the world will be horrified and the comparison of the response to the Katrina Hurricane and the Haiti earthquake will begin. The President will deny any attempt to censure the news coming out of Haiti and the media will simply say they couldn't get to these areas to report the true devastation and slow response of the rescue and humanitarian efforts. Seven days into this effort there is still a lack of coordination in getting much needed help to the areas outside of the capital and the airport is running out of room to stock these supplies.
Until this effort is completely turned over to the United States Military the lack of coordination will continue to cost lives. When it is finally turned over to the military and they begin to deliver the much needed help, chaos will break out all over Haiti. In some areas the military may have to use deadly force to protect themselves and deliver aid, if this happens some in the media will turn against the military and accuse them of being too heavy handed. Unfortunately some in our military may find themselves in a situation where they could face prosecution for simply doing their job.
While I commend the administration for its quick action I am afraid they have taken too long to plan a course of action. This should have been turned over to the U S Military in the very beginning, after all Haiti is in our own backyard. The Pentagon has contingency plans for just about every crisis imaginable. As soon as the news came out in Haiti our military personnel should have been put on standby. The U.N and the President of Haiti should have been told the United States was willing and ready to take control of the situation. Instead government agencies and civilian organizations started rushing in civilian personnel to assess the damage, this created chaos at the airport and slowed the American response. It wasn't until the U S Air Force took control of the airport and started limiting commercial aircraft that the situation at the airport became manageable.
The American people will continue to give the same as they did during Katrina. After Katrina the American will not stand for another bureaucratic debacle that cost innocent lives when they could have been prevented. When a crisis develops this close to home, speed and immediate action is of the utmost importance. Americans expect that deliberating a plan of action and acting on this plan should be accomplished within the first 24 hrs. Watching from the outside I am afraid we have learned nothing from Katrina. It looks like we are still tied up by bureaucracy and infighting between government officials.