Warning: U.S.-sponsored regime change can leaving you drowning in [excrement]

There are so many ways that war and political conflict kills people. Getting blasted to death by high-power munitions, regular guns, or car-bombs is one way; and people who’re killed in those ways are relatively easy to count.
In many conflicts, though, deaths caused by serious infrastructure degradation are more numerous. They’re also much harder to count. How can you count all the babies or vulnerable older people who succumb to water-borne diseases spread by the conflict-induced degradation of sewage systems??
Which brings us to two places where the Bush administration has effected its own form of force-backed “regime change” over the past 18 months: Iraq and Haiti. (I’m not even going to start analyzing Afghanistan here.)
So now, according to the many reports coming out of Iraq recently, large portions of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities are almost literally swimming in human waste. This is 18 months into the US occupation of the country. As occupying power, the US is responsible under international law for the repair and maintenance of items of major infrastructure–particularly those so central to the public health of the Iraqis.
But because of the ideological, anti-‘government’ biases of the Bremer ‘plan’ for Iraq, major infrastructure repair contracts were all doled out to foreign contractors, most of whom didn’t know beans about Iraq and cared less. (And now, even some of the money set aside for those projects has been diverted into “security”.)
So now, Iraq is seeing the emergence of something called Hepatatis E, which is particularly dangerous for pregnant women.
This article, from the UN’s news agency IRIN, tells us that a study by UNICEF had found that acute malnutrition among children had almost doubled since the war in March 2003, moving from 4 per cent to 7.7 percent. “Children who are acutely malnourished are literally wasting away and for severe cases their condition can be fatal,” the agency warned.
And the cause of those cases of malnutrition? Before the war, they were more or less straighforward cases of not having enough to eat, linked to the sanctions regime imposed on the country. Now, however, IRIN tells us that,

    80 percent of current [malnutrition] cases are due to infections caused by dirty water resulting in diseases such as cholera.

In other words, because vulnerable people get cholera or other water-borne diseases they basically excrete out too many micronutrients and die of malnutrition that way, instead.
And then, there’s Haiti

I’ve been thinking more and more about Haiti since I lasted posted about it, here and here.
What has killed at least 1,500 people–maybe, as many as 2,500 of them– in Haiti in the past 8 days could perhaps be described as “the terrible storms”. But those exact same storm systems have also battered Cuba, Grenada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Florida, Alabama, etc etc just as badly… And nowhere else have the casualties been on anything like the scale of the losses in Haiti. Indeed, the last report I saw said that Cuba–which evacuated two million people from low-lying areas– had suffered not a single storm-related death.
I think you have to assign the responsibility for the losses in Haiti to (1) The lack of any organized evacuation from low-lying areas, and (2) The massive deforestation of the Haitian interior.
Both of those problems have centrally to do with the lack of good governance in the country…
Since February/March, Haiti has been (mis-)governed by a US-installed president, Gerard Latortue, who was sent there to replace the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Now, I am prepared to accept that, in the space of only 6 months, Latortue could do little or nothing to reverse the longstanding processes of deforestation that have afflicted the Haitian interior. (And it would be great if Aristide had been able to do more to stem it.)
But organizing an evacuation of people from storm-threatened lowlands is something that any government should consider to be a major priority, and would not take 6 months to organize. I don’t know if Haiti had any decent mass-evacuation plans on the books under Aristide? It would sure be nice to think that it did. But even if Latortue came in and found none, since he was “sold” to everyone by the US State Department as being such an effective, technocratic “manager”, surely he could have put together such a plan at fairly short notice?
It ain’t rocket science. I guess what you need for such a plan to work is:

    1– good storm-forecasting info [Yes, that now exists and is widely shared among the governments of the Caribbean]
    2– a means to organize and communicate with the people to be evacuated
    3– a plan for trucks or other means of trasnportation to do the evacuating
    4– a plan for reception centers outside the threatened area, where people can find the basic necessities of life (including food, clean water, and adequate sanitation), and
    5– a basic level of trust among the members of society, so that the evacuees are prepared to leave their homes at short notice without having undue fears of looting, and while having some basic trust that their basic survival needs will be met during the evacuation.

So I wonder whether, in the six months since Latortue was installed, he had put into place any of the elements 2, 3 or 4 above? Serious tropical storms, remember, are a quite foreseeable part of the life of the Caribbean every year.
But even if he had all of numbers 1 through 4 above, without having #5, the basic level of trust, even the best-laid plans would have gone seriously awry.
Actually, it seems fairly clear that Latortue’s people didn’t have much of a plan. And I saw many reports that in the face of the disaster, many Haitian policemen just deserted their posts and weren’t there to help out at all.
So this is what it has come to in Gonaives, and perhaps in other parts of Haiti:
Many people were literally washed away by the floods of 7 days ago. The flood waters are still two feet deep or more throughout much of Gonaives (pop.250,000-plus) — and they are carrying untold numbers of decaying bodies of people and livestock and considerable amounts of human waste from the people who still remain in town, clinging to the shacks that hold all their worldly possessions…
Except that now, all those worldly possessions have themselves become badly polluted by the waste- and corpse-bearing water. And even if they dry out, they will continue to hold all kinds of microbial landmines for their owners…
In normal times, most of us think so little about the systems we have that quickly and efficiently separate communities of people from the excrement that they (we) produce. This separation is a basic step that needs to be taken if diseases are not to spread unchecked… Most of us in rich countries have flush toilets. Some (in Africa) have long-drop pit latrines. Some, I guess in China, still have the daily collection and removal of “night-soil” from people’s houses.
But people in Haiti and Iraq?? No, that most basic function of public health, community protection, and good governance has been left undone… Thanks to Uncle Sam, world-wide exporter of excrement-laden regime change.

11 thoughts on “Warning: U.S.-sponsored regime change can leaving you drowning in [excrement]”

  1. Helena, i would like your opinion on why you get fewer (or none) comments on your Haiti posts. It seems a common opinion that Haiti is ‘beyond hope’ amongst the people i know.

  2. Warren, the situation is Haiti isn’t beyond hope; however, there are many indicators showing that a coup or another bloody revolution are coming soon to the Haitian island. Haiti – in order to grow (economically) – out of its current situation must institute Venezuelan-style reforms of:
    (1) land-redistribution,
    (2) higher taxes on the rich
    (3) higher wages for wokers
    (4) an overall FDR-stlye “New Deal” program
    Aristide – it has been reported – was attempting to put in place some of the aforementioned reforms; however, the recent US-backed coup ended any progress towards economic growth and monetary democracy.

  3. why the double standard here?…pretty obvious to me…The suffering in Haiti serves no political purpose…unlike that in Iraq which can be used to excoriate American policy.

  4. I assume the reason for the lack of comments on Haiti is that not many of us know much about it. I’m absolutely fascinated by the Haiti posts, but there isn’t much I can usefully add. So please don’t take lack of comments to indicate lack of interest!

  5. My explanation for the (relative) lack of comments on the Haiti posts is that a large proportion of JWN readers are probably looking for news about the Middle East first and foremost. I’ve noticed when I write about Africa, China, Milosevic, or other non-ME topics, those posts also generally get fewer comments.
    If I had the time and the energy I could produce a “full-service” “Just World News” like the BBC, with separate departments for different areas of the world / different issue areas, etc. As it is, I realize that JWN is just the idiosyncratic reflection of what has particularly piqued my interest on any given day. That comes with its minuses and (perhaps) a few pluses.
    As it is, I appreciate (nearly) all the comments that get posted on the site. Keep ’em coming!
    Btw, Wesley– I personally think the situation in Haiti adds up to an even greater reproach of US policies and priorities than the situation in Iraq.

  6. Helena, no response to the carbomb attacks on US soldiers handing out candy to children at the opening of a waste treatment facility? The timing of your post here was apropos.
    Although at least the rumormongers are already spreading word that the attack was of American design. Just sick.

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