Recently, with the earthquake disaster in Haiti, I have noticed a marked uptick in the criticism of the disaster relief efforts aimed at helping the people of Haiti with care and support. Accusations of a flat-footed response, cries that the relief is “too slow”. Bemoanings by some that the efforts have a political twinge. To which I can only shake my head in wonder: is this what we’ve become? A nation that simply complains without facts, without educating ourselves as to the realities of the situation? Are we really that shallow?
Some facts about the Haiti relief efforts: The United States has committed more to the relief efforts of any other nation, group, or organization. The US administration has committed $100M to Haiti’s relief efforts. The people of the United States are on track to beat the $2B in donations they made to the Tsunami disaster of 2004. Compare this to the $10M commited by the United Nations, or the $5M committed by Japan–or the $1M commited by China. No nation on the face of the planet is as generous as the United States in times of disaster. And we’ve not even tallied up how much the US commitment in troops and emergency response teams will cost the country–all at a time when the United States is experiencing the worse fiscal crisis it’s had since the Great Depression. No one, absolutely no one can argue that the people of the United States aren’t incredibly generous and giving. And it’s something that I wonder if the rest of the world realize? It’s definitely something that political operatives in the United States–who have a vested interest in playing down–have been curiously ignorant of. In fact, instead of being proud of the response of the United States (and it is a response by the entire country–not just one political party), they instead focus on negative points–all of which are lacking in any substance. In essence, they’re lying. For political gain.
Myth: The Response by the United States has been slow
Really? The United States responded within 24 hours to send emergency rescue teams to Haiti. Other nations also responded within this time. As soon as the magnitude of the disaster was realized, the US immediately began mobilizing it’s resources to aid the Caribbean nation–activating reservists, mobilizing military assets to provide law enforcement and engineering resources, as well as private organizations mobilizing their efforts to gather together necessary disaster relief supplies (tents, high energy food rations, medicine, etc.). Four US Coast Guard ships are dispatched as immediate aid for Haiti.
Within 48 hours, assets were on the move, shipping from the major ports of the US in the Gulf and East coast. US military assets started moving, including the USS Carl Vincent–one of the country’s largest aircraft carriers–which sped at 30 knots (it’s top speed) to Haiti, picking up helicopters enroute which flew out to the carrier without it slowing down off the coast of Florida. American relief flights started arriving in Port-au-Prince. US Coast Guard ships begin operations, beginning reconnaissance missions to begin to understand what areas of Haiti have been most heavily damaged. US military assets from Guantanamo Bay begin emergency relief flights to Haiti. The US flies doctors from around the country to man the USS Comfort–and floating hospital, carrying over 500 doctors and medical staff.
72 hours after the quake: The US Marine Corps started immediately loading an amphibious landing ship (the USS Bataan) after an emergency call-up of forces were rallied in North Carolina the day before, having loaded and launched the Bataan within 24 hours of call-up. The Carl Vincent arrived off the coast of Port-au-Prince and began coordinating flights into the capital city. The American Red Cross announced that it had received an outpouring of $10M from private US donations for Haiti relief–the quickest it had ever reached $10M in donations in its history. Initial private relief efforts deploy, field hospitals are set up. Food distribution begins. After loading medical supplies, the USS Comfort launches for Haiti.
96 hours after the quake: US military assets begin relief operations in earnest. Relief efforts from US private organizations start to arrive on-scene. US military engineers begin assessing and repairing Haiti port facilities. Initial efforts at law enforcement and coordinated humanitarian efforts with joint US military and private organizations begin; USS Bataan arrives offshore of Haiti.
With that, how can anyone say the US response has been “slow”? How can anyone criticize the rapidity of the US response? The US (government and private organizations) could not have responded and deployed their assets any faster–it’s physically impossible to get assets there any quicker. In fact, the response was so overwhelming that the air traffic over Port-au-Prince ran into congestion issues. Yet, seeking political gain, some in the US (and abroad) have decried the “slow” US response. Do facts and reality matter at all to these people? Of course not: it’s all about politics, afterall.
The US should be incredibly proud of the response. The administration, the people of the US have shown the world (again) that this nation’s generosity is overwhelming in times of need. We proved it in 2004 with the Asian Tsunami, we’re proving it again today with Haiti. The single blemish on this record was the admittedly flat-footed response to an American disaster, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It is somewhat ironic that the US seems to respond better to other nation’s disasters, than to it’s own. That said, to those who are attempting to portray the United States as somehow slow on it’s response to Haiti: shame. Either educate yourself as to the facts, or if you are aware of them, stop attempting to use the massive suffering of the Haitian people for your own political gains. There has to be a special place in Hell reserved for such people, and it’s up to the rest of us to not only call them out when they attempt their despicable attempts at manipulation…we are better than that, and we are better than them. Today, I am reminded as to why I am incredibly proud to be an American.