News reports of the military in Haiti take it as a given that the military is helping in Haiti. But evidence that most soldiers are doing anything to directly help Haitians is very shaky. Most are just providing security. It takes a giant leap of faith to believe that US troops standing around Port-au-Prince, while people all around them are in need of water, food, medical help, and supplies, is “providing aide.” I’m not jumping.
There are over 10,000 soldiers in and around Haiti right now. With so many warm bodies, you’d think their relief efforts would be remarkable; instead they’re rather unconvincing.
There’s slim evidence such as this CBS report of the 82nd airborne division, which consists of 50 soldiers in Haiti, flying one helicopter out to deliver water and a bit of temporary medical assistance. The report begins with an exasperated-sounding reporter saying “water water everywhere, and finally it got to the people.” That was earlier this week.
The camera work shows only a few hundred bottles of water being distributed to Haitians. Not a tanker filling five-gallon jugs. Bottles.
And then there’s a Reuters report of the 82nd airborne providing food to “a few hundred” Haitians. It was their first time providing food to people. The report addresses what “lessons” the soldiers had learned from the experience. That was on Friday, ten full days after the earthquake hit, and it was their first time actually delivering food to actual Haitians.
The Carl Vinson provided some medical support. But a BBC reporter aboard the ship only reports on a few isolated cases of people who were helicoptered, one by one, to receive medical attention there. Several days after the earthquake, a Wall Street Journal reporters observed that only seven people were being treated on this ship. The Journal’s description criticizes the naval ship’s operations, quoting a naval doctor who said that he is ready serve thousands of injured people, rather than just seven people. But he has not been given orders to serve more people.
The USS Bataan, a ship that USS Carl Vinson personnel said had more extensive medical facilities than its own, arrived just this past Wednesday (a bit late?) and only took in 19 injured or sick people in its first day of operations.
The much-anticipated USNS Comfort was supposed to provide some meaningful medical support, arriving finally on Haiti’s shores this past Tuesday. By Friday, wrote a reporter in Port-au-Prince for Sphere, the USNS Comfort, the much-celebrated naval ship, had only treated “hundreds of the wounded and evacuated.”
By contrast, the same report also states that, “Hundreds of Haitians in Port-au-Prince have been treated for quake-related injuries at a field hospital set up by the University of Miami medical school.” They did so without guns or a big ship.
I’m not jumping at this bait. The US military purports to be one of the most efficient, best-organized forces in the world. If their real purpose for being in Haiti was to actually help Haitians, they would have done better than this.