More evidence has emerged that the international outpouring of emergency aid to save lives in Haiti has been needlessly delayed by the US military, whose priority has been to first deploy its own troops and military equipment. Because of this, many may have needlessly died, and Haitians are still wandering around Port-au-Prince waiting for medical care, water and food.
Lt. General Russel Honoré (who led the Army rescue into New Orleans) first raised this criticism a couple of days ago in the media, including USAToday and on CNN with Anderson Cooper, as noted in my previous diary. Honoré urged the US to not wait for troop deployment but bring in the aid immediately, saying "search and rescue and evacuation trumps security."
Today's New York Times has provided more confirmation of this criticism.(see "Officials Strain to Distribute Aid to Haiti as Violence Rises")
The Times writes about "a troubled relief effort" in which "only a small part of [the aid] was reaching desperate Haitians without food, water or shelter." Several paragraphs later, they reveal what has been holding up the aid for days:
Even as the United States took a leading role in aid efforts, some aid officials were describing misplaced priorities, accusing United States officials of focusing their efforts on getting their people and troops installed and lifting their citizens out. Under agreement with Haiti, the United States is now managing air traffic control at the airport, helicopters are flying relief missions from warships off the coast and 9,000 to 10,000 troops are expected to arrive by Monday to help with the relief effort.
The World Food Program finally was able to land flights of food, medicine and water on Saturday, after failing on Thursday and Friday, an official with the agency said. Those flights had been diverted so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.
"There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti," said Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the agency’s Haiti effort. "But most of those flights are for the United States military.
He added: "Their priorities are to secure the country. Ours are to feed. We have got to get those priorities in sync."
Honoré correctly called for the US to "come off script" and deploy the aid without waiting for a massive troop deployment. In fact, the delay has only worsened the security situation, as desperate people do desperate things. As Honoré told Anderson Cooper on Friday:
Just because these people are poor, it doesn’t mean they are dangerous. We ran into this same thing in New Orleans. Everybody got their flak jacket and M-16 on. It comes down to, my understanding is that people were afraid because they were poor and they were in the street and they were in crowds. It’s nothing to be scared of...You got to move and move now.