Mr. Coburn Goes to Haiti

“ . . . the end result will be a lower standard of
living for the United States . . .”

–Tom Coburn in explaining his hold on S3317, Haiti Rebuilding Act

Jonathan Katz of the AP lit up news organizations and the internet on September 29 when he reported that Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was preventing $1.15 billion in new reconstruction funds to Haiti. Predictably, the one state newspaper in Oklahoma, The Oklahoman, has not reported on Katz’ article or Coburn’s tyranny.

Coburn has been a senator from Oklahoma since 2004, after three terms as a Representative in the 90s. The Okie from Muskogee is running for reelection and is expected to win easily on November 2. He has no worry that his withholding aid from Haiti will have any effect on his constituency and re-election.

Coburn, a Southern Baptist deacon, weakly attempted to defend his despotism by manipulating the truth, i.e. lying, in his various explanations. On his Senate website, Coburn puts up a smokescreen by referencing the $1.14 billion that USAID, the DoD and other agencies spent in the immediate days and weeks after the disaster as evidence that U.S. aid to Haiti has been provided. Coburn has yanked a separate form of funding, S3317, which was intended “to provide assistance in support of the reconstruction and rebuilding of Haiti.”

Just this past week Bill Quigley, writing from Haiti, describes the reconstruction and rebuilding in Haiti nine months after the earthquake:

There are an estimated 1300 ‘camps’ of homeless people in Haiti.
Homeless people live literally everywhere. People are camped in the
middle of many streets. Shanty structures are built right up to the edge of streets. Every park, every school yard, every parking lot appear to have people living under sheets or lean-to tents.

The most fortunate families live in modest plastic tents. The newest
tents are royal blue with red flags with yellow stars on them – donated in the last week from China. Less fortunate families, and there are many of them, live under faded sheets stretched between wooden poles made from tree branches. Within the camps there are dirt paths – some only inches wide. Tents and sheet shelters are side
by side – inches apart.

In a blundering statement on his website, Coburn continues to confuse: “The State Department is expediting the aid to Haiti but that (sic) the lack of this authorization bill is not holding up their delivery of relief funding to Haiti.”

Since Katz’ article, the State Department has attempted to circumvent Congress, specifically Coburn, and release the funds. Asked when that might occur, State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet could only reply “in the coming weeks and months.”

Coburn’s sole verbal comment on his withholding funds from Haiti came this past week at a speech he gave to the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County. He again denied placing a hold on aid to Haiti, though he admitted he had placed a hold “on a different bill,” moving from telling no truth to at least a half-truth. And he came up with yet another fabrication, “The real problem is the inability of the U.S. State Department to spend $1.1 billion to improve the lives of the Haitian people.”

In his current visit to Haiti, Quiqley documented, ” . . . a million other Haitians are slowly dying from starvation, illness, lack of security and neglect.” It seems that Coburn, a physician, applies his Hippocratic oath conditionally.

Dr. TRUDY BOND is a psychologist and native of Oklahoma. She can be reached at