Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti's Agony

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake centered near Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince Tuesday was just what the country did not need. Haiti was making some progress in recovering from massive damage suffered from 2008 hurricanes. Damage in the capital is widespread, and the country has little infrastructure to deal with those injured and trapped. Follow-up reports tell of bodies of the dead lining the roads, millions of people unable or unwilling--due to aftershocks--to return to their homes, and the national governmant is essentially unable to assist.

I have received a deluge of urgent email requests for donations. As with the tsunami in S.E. Asia and earthquakes in Pakistan and Turkey in recent years, I have no doubt Americans will heed the call. My recommendations are groups that were already in place in Haiti: Doctors Without Borders (or MSF--Medecins Sans Frontiers), and the U.N. Foundation. The U.N. had significant presence in Haiti and have suffered tragic losses, as have other aid groups.

In the short run, there will be heroic efforts to save some of the trapped and injured, but we must soon look to the long-term problems Haiti will face, which basically run the gamut. Former President Bill Clinton has been committed to Haiti for years as Special Envoy from the U.N., and he will look to rally investment there. I feel that we are looking at a serious case of nation building, whether we like it or not (and despite our long, troubled history of ineffective meddling in Haitian politics). The alternative--to let the country slide into chaos, anarchy, disease, without relief for its poverty--is inconceivable. President Obama has put the Navy to Haiti's assistance, and his email messages to his network ask for donations to the Red Cross (a third group to recommend).

The only positive spin I can put on this disaster--despite the best efforts, it will be too late for so many unfortunates trapped in crushed buildings--is that Rush Limbaugh may have finally put himself beyond the pale, even for Republicans and many of his ditto-heads. Intemperate comments by Limbaugh include blaming Obama for playing politics with Haiti (no evidence at all of that) for racial reasons, and discouraging contributions to aid Haiti. Is Rush --who just had bypass surgery, for which he paid "the American way", with cash--having a relapse with the pain pills?

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