FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Haiti, U.S. Aid and Humanitarian Relief

by ANTHONY DiMAGGIO

U.S. journalists are seizing on the tragedy in Haiti in a non-stop barrage of reporting, providing endless updates on a devastating earthquake that has killed an estimated 45-50,000 people.  Coverage of the quake is accompanied by detailed updates of the suffering of those involved, in addition to assurances that the U.S. government (and private donors) is doing all it can to help those in dire need.  This framework comports well with American journalists’ self-image– reflexively accepted – that the U.S. promotes the global good through altruism and humanitarianism.

John Stewart lectures his viewers that “now’s not the time” to speak about the political aspects of the Haitian tragedy, most specifically how the U.S. reaction to the crisis relates to its own strategic objectives throughout the world (Daily Show, 1/14/2010).  But if not now, then when can we discuss whether the U.S. response is adequate?  When can we debate whether our actions are politicized by strategic interests?  An analysis of U.S. aid is absolutely vital now, more than ever, because a critical self-reflection can provide the impetus and pressure for a much needed increase in aid to those in need.

While pundits and reporters in the media celebrate the $100 million Obama pledged to Haiti, this figure needs to be put into comparative and historical perspective.  U.S. aid to those in need of disaster relief has not been uniquely generous over the last decade.  Americans would do well to remember the lackluster response to the December 2004 Tsunami that led to the deaths of approximately 288,000 people in Indonesia and surrounding countries.  The Bush administration responded to that crisis by allocating $450 million, the second largest amount in hard dollars out of any country in the world.  This figure was highly misleading, however, as the U.S. gave the second smallest contribution as a percent of its GDP of all the top donors, behind Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France.  U.S. aid levels (when compared to other countries) improved only marginally in the case of Haiti.  On the one hand, the $100 million it allocated represents almost 20 percent of the total $546 million pledged as of January 15th.  On the other hand (as the table below indicates) the U.S. hardly leads the way in the Haitian aid campaign, when aid is measured as a percent of GDP.

First world aid to Haiti should be no cause for celebration, and is actually quite depressing in spite of the media’s boasting about America’s benevolence.  The aid of all the countries on the top donor list for Haiti (again listed below) amounts to a relatively meager amount when compared to each country’s national GDP, and when compared to the aid the powerful grant to other countries.  Consider the case of the United States.  At $100 million, its aid to Haiti is embarrassing when compared to the amounts given to strategic assets such as Israel, Egypt, and Colombia.  These countries are hardly in need when compared to third world countries suffering from malnutrition, starvation, disease, and war.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. aid to Israel averaged $3 billion each year from 2000 to 2006.  Similarly, the U.S. provided Egypt $1.9 billion on average each year, with Colombia receiving $312 on average per year.

The contrast between humanitarian and strategic U.S. aid should be sobering for those genuinely concerned with humanitarianism.  A country like Colombia receives in a single year more than three times the Haitian victims in order to fight a terrorist counterinsurgency war against Marxist guerilla groups (and the civilian population more generally), while a totalitarian government in Egypt receives billions while it is accused of torture and suppression of basic civil liberties by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  The billions provided to Israel in the name of “security” have enabled the expansion of a bloody war with the Palestinians that has taken the lives of thousands, while failing to make Israelis safer, and providing Israel with the cover to illegally annex major portions of the West Bank.

Global Aid and Top Donors to Haiti (2010)

More articles by:

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail