HAITI —I have been to Haiti, once. It was in 1972. I remember it vividly. The sad thing is that Haiti has not changed materially since then. As a result of that continuing history of human failure, people are dying in the tens of thousands from easily avoidable consequences of the earthquake that centered on Port au Prince last week.
Haiti’s successful revolution to gain its freedom from being a colony of France, was only a few years after our own revolution against England. But since then, Haiti has had a series of governments composed of thieves, torturers and murderers.
I knew right away that the brick building was the headquarters of the Ton-Ton Macoute. They were the murderous thugs who kept “Papa Doc” Duvalier in power and later his son, “Baby Doc.” Whether the current thugs are as well-organized, or bear the same name, I do not know. I do know that Haiti still does not have a competent government, and thugs are still loose in the streets. When I was in Port au Prince in 1972, I took a taxi to go to the Iron Market in the center of that city. As we drove into the market, I noticed that there was one new brick building on the outskirts of the market. In my college French, I asked the driver what that building was. He replied that it was “an agricultural warehouse.” But as we passed the building, the door opened and a man came out. On the wall behind him I saw a long rack filled with dozens of machine guns.
People are dying, as you read this. They are dying because there were no bulldozers to clear the streets and get the aid that was stacking up at the airport moved just a few miles. People are dying of broken legs and other injuries that are easily treatable because there’s no medicine for routine infections.
There is no Haitian government to authorize the bulldozers to clear the streets. The Obama Administration has kept the control in the hands of a UN authority, rather than the American military. Remember the tsunamis in Indonesia a few years ago? The American military had boots and equipment on the ground saving lives, while the UN authority was still conducting meetings.
Political correctness will be the cause of up to half of all the deaths in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010.
Can ordinary people in a small town in the US provide effective help to the people of Haiti? Yes. My church, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in our tiny town of Highlands, N.C., adopted the Church, hospital and school at Tierra Muscody, Haiti, years ago. That compound is about five hours from Port au Prince.
All the buildings at Tierra Moscody are still standing. The hospital is overflowing with wounded people. It is surrounded by hundreds of people seeking treatment. The Church has become a hospital. The school has become a hospital. One of the surgeons in our congregation has managed to get there to help the doctors already there. One member of our congregation offered $5,000 to help and asked that it be matched. It was, in two days.
Our priest and several of our leading parishioners have been there repeatedly, and Haitians have repeatedly come to visit us. We are certain that every penny of our assistance is going directly to men, women and children who most need it.
No one will die in Tierra Muscody, Haiti, because basic care and normal medicines are unavailable. Though in other parts of Haiti, tens of thousands will die, or have died, not because of the earthquake, but because of human failures after the earthquake.
Some of those failures are at the doorstep of the UN, the Obama Administration, and assorted diplomats from various nations who are more concerned with seeming to help, than simple actions that actually do help.
If those human failures cannot be prevented here and now, they will not be prevented next time. And in Haiti, or in other nations with failed governments and mired in poverty, there will be a next time, and a next time and a time after that. The US always leads the efforts at disaster relief, anywhere and due to any cause. How many thousands of preventable deaths must occur until we learn how best to lead and control such efforts?