Are we witnessing the ‘Shock Doctrine’ in Haiti?
By STEPHON JOHNSON
Amsterdam News Staff
Unpopular, usually right wing, economic and political reforms tend to pass through with no mention in times of duress. Whether it’s within a nation or on foreign soil, the dominant power that claims “we’re here to help” ends up creating the new power structure of a nation. The foreign power rebuilds the country in its own image. Some people have referred to this policy as “The Shock Doctrine,” making reference to the Naomi Klein book of the same name.
In the book, Klein speaks of how the United States takes advantage of nations in the midst of disaster by exploiting their need for aid of any kind. Freedoms come under the whims of U.S. occupation, much needed services are cut or provided with strings attached and other services that were once public are forced into the private sector.
It looks like Haiti could be in the throes of the Shock Doctrine.
U.S. troops have recently taken control of the presidential palace grounds in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian government, with the help of U.S. troops, declared a state of emergency and has imposed martial law in the nation, leaving little to the imagination. With Haiti in desperate need of medical supplies and clean water, and an increase of 7,500 soldiers this past Monday, America is in Haiti for the long haul. The American right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation sure hopes that’s the case.
In a blog post titled “Things to Remember While Helping Haiti,” the organization presented several points they felt were the most important to Haiti relief.
“The U.S. government response should be bold and decisive,” read the post. “It must mobilize U.S. civilian and military capabilities for short-term rescue and relief and long-term recovery and reform. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms.”
The post also called for the U.S. to interrupt the “nightly flights” of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and to make sure that there isn’t a “large-scale” movement by Haitians to escape their land and enter the U.S. illegally.
It’s something that New York Councilman Charles Barron has seen one too many times.
“First of all, the American government, if you look at their history in Haiti, has always been about disaster capitalism,” said Barron, who declared himself a fan of Naomi Klein’s book.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson sent the marines to Haiti to protect American business interests, while the rest of the nation dealt with several government coups. Wilson eventually took over Haiti’s national bank and transferred half a million dollars in Haitian money over to the U.S. for “safety” reasons. In 1994, the U.S. led an intervention to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. He was eventually overthrown again with the help of George W. Bush administration.
“Yes, [‘The Shock Doctrine’] is happening,” said Barron. “That’s why it’s important for Black leaders to go to our Black nations to say, ‘What are your needs? And ‘we got your back.’” But a certain third-term politician doesn’t want Barron to have any Haitian’s back.
Barron had some words for the current mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, after getting word of the mayor’s comments about him and the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Bloomberg has the nerve to tell me and Sharpton to stay out of Haiti. Yet Clinton is down there with his daughter Chelsea and no one is saying anything,” said Barron. “We’re talking about bringing doctors, aid and water supplies; not to stay. We’re just going to drop off supplies and find out what’s going on, on the ground and this arrogant mayor is telling us to stay out of the way?”
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been tapped to come into Haiti and begin to plan the rebuilding process. They’ve been told to seek the help of private organizations.
“They are preparing to rip off Haiti just as they did in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina],” said Barron.
Barron spoke of the public housing that wasn’t destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that was eventually destroyed to expand the French Quarter, the commercial district of New Orleans. He also spoke of how the aftermath of Katrina brought about a desire to convert public schools in charter school. “They used it as an excuse,” said Barron. “This is what we must fight against.”
One man has chosen to take his fight online. Adam Ramsay, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh in England, created the “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti” group on the social networking site Facebook. Ramsay explained his reasons for starting the group.
“Corporations took advantage of the war in Iraq, Asian tsunami, and Katrina to plunder,” Ramsay said. “Neo-conservatives at the Pentagon and International Monetary Fund used these disasters to push damaging pro-corporate policies passed distracted peoples. Centuries of western colonialism created the poverty, which made this earthquake so deadly. We must now let Haitians decide their economic policies.”
Ramsay hopes that the group encourages people to donate and to do the proper research on Haiti’s most recent crisis. “We can’t let the Thieves of Baghdad become the Pirates of the Caribbean,” declared Ramsay.
Klein, the original author of the age-old phenomenon, took to her website to tell those who are aware to stop America before they “shock again” in Haiti. But stopping the Haitian installment of the Shock Doctrine might be too little, too late.