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Tè Tremblé—The Haitian Earth Trembled

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Posted on Jan 19, 2010
Courtesy Democracy Now! / Sharif Abdel Kouddous

“Drs at Matthew 25 House, where we are staying, prepare to perform an amputation in the living room,” writes Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous. To see more of his photos, click here.

By Amy Goodman

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Tè tremblé is Haitian Creole for “earthquake.” Its literal translation: “The earth trembled.” After the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, the stench of death is everywhere. At General Hospital, bodies had been stacked 4 feet high near the morgue. In the community house called Matthew 25, doctors laid out a plastic tablecloth to perform a kitchen-table amputation, aided by headlamps. The injured Haitian man in his 20s might be considered fortunate: He was among the minority of injured people getting medical attention. And, unlike many amputations being performed elsewhere in Haiti, the doctors who arrived Monday were using anesthesia they had brought.

While this grim amputation was happening, an unexpected delivery of food aid arrived. Matthew 25 House typically accommodates 35 guests. Now more than 1,000 are there, camped out in the adjoining soccer field. There has been much reporting on the concerns about possible riots and violence that aid distribution might provoke. We witnessed the polar opposite, because an established community group was empowered to distribute the food. People lined up and got their supplies, leaving undisturbed the difficult surgery being conducted nearby. This has been typical as we’ve traveled through the catastrophe: People with nothing—hungry, thirsty, seeking their loved ones, burying their dead, caring for their injured—have shown fortitude, civility and compassion despite their quiet desperation.

We went to the home of Myriam Merlet, the chief of staff of the Haitian Ministry of Women. She helped draw international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon and worked with playwright and activist Eve Ensler on the V-Day movement to help end violence against women. We found her house, indeed the entire surrounding community, destroyed. “We have just pulled her body out,” they told us Sunday, five days after the earthquake. There is no telling when she died, or whether she might have been rescued. Her sister Eartha brought us to her fresh grave.

We ventured beyond Port-au-Prince, to the earthquake’s epicenter, past Carrefour to Léogâne. A United Nations assessment put the level of destruction in Léogâne at 80 percent to 90 percent of structures destroyed, with no remaining government buildings. On the way, a young man hailed our car, saying: “Please, we see some helicopters overhead, but they don’t stop here. We have no aid. We have no food.”

One man covered in dust was using a mallet to break the cement that had entombed his grandfather. A father nearby had just dug out his 1-year-old baby, dead in his playpen. According to Agence France-Presse, the U.N. warned it cannot “extend their aid operation to outlying areas until security there can be confirmed.” Traveling to Léogâne, we felt no threat; we only saw people in dire need of help. While we were in Léogâne, a missionary helicopter landed, then inexplicably lifted off again, and the crew began hurling loaves of bread to the ground. Young Haitian men grew incensed. One cried, tearing up the rolls and yelling, “We are not dogs for you to throw bones at!”

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We spoke with the mayor of Léogâne, Alexis Santos, who seemed almost helpless before the near-total destruction around him. I asked him, in light of the unified front offered by the U.S. government, with President Barack Obama naming former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead the U.S. response, what he thought about the offer of Jean-Bertrand Aristide—the ousted former president of Haiti—to return to Haiti from exile in South Africa to stand with Haitian President Rene Preval, a united front to help the recovery. Santos, by no means an Aristide supporter, told me he thought it would be a good idea.

Back at Matthew 25 House (named after the biblical verse “Whatever you do for my least brothers and sisters, you do for me”), I spoke with one of the surgeons. Dr. Jennifer Bruny, who flew down with other doctors from Children’s Hospital in Denver, performed the amputation earlier. The nature of the disaster, with thousands of crushing injuries, and the lack of care for so much time make amputation one of the only means available now to save lives. “This amputation should not have been necessary,” she told me. “This could have been easily treated earlier. These people needed help sooner.”
 
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
 
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By jean richard pierremont, February 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’VE BEEN READING A STORY CONCERNING THE EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI(US QUAKE TEST GOES HORRIBLY WRONG)SOURCE:LE FIGARO,LE POST.FR,I GOOGLED THE STORY.THE FACT THAT I ONLY TRUST WBAI CAN YOU PLEASE INVESTIGATE THE STORY AND COVER IT.

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By ofersince72, January 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

Norberto,  very few people knew the sad history
of that country,  I am thankful DN told this story.

What I am able to do is of little consequence to how
my government reacts to a disaster.

We have a large enough military to handle these
problems very effectivly, unfortunatly they are
spread out all over the world causing the very type
of disaster DN showed to us.
With one Trillion dollars a year spent, there should
be plenty of dollars to help in disasters.

I will quit,  this is silly, we both want the very
same things for those poor folk down there. With this
governments history of involvment in Haiti, I am glad
there was a news service other than MSNBC, FOX,CBS
on the ground.
I only wish the dead and mutilated bodies from Afgan,
and Iraq were spread accross American video screens.

Report this

By Norberto, January 26, 2010 at 5:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ofersince72

I am sure that image just makes you want to go out an donate to the Red Cross or a volunteer organization doesn’t it?  And that’s the problem with coverage - it insults those volunteers risking their lives on the ground in Haiti and discourages those who might want to give a donation.

Let me put it to you - have you opened up your wallet?  Are you more or less likely to do it now?

So even assuming DN’s coverage was accurate, does it really help the Haitian people?  A resounding no.

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By ofersince72, January 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Norberto,  I am not familiar with sarcasm.

Still glad that I saw the images that I saw on DN

Strapping young men walking around with machine guns
listening to desperate cries coming from concrete.

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By Norberto, January 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ofersince72.

My statement that “if I want my news biased…I will watch Fox” was sarcasm, which would be obvious to anyone of average intelligence.  I will continue to listen to Pacifica, thank you very much.  I just think Amy’s reporting was a bit slanted in this segment.  You can’t report about the violence the US Sponsered violence Haiti a year ago when Toto was on trial and the pretend that volunteers from the Red Cross and other private organizations should have no concern for their safety.  That’s preposterous.

johannes

And as far as what the US has given or hasn’t given in aid in comparison to the Dutch, is just silly.  A government gives whatever they give, right or wrong that’s that.  For some, when they hear 100 million, they think that’s a lot of money - especially for a country in which 1/3 of its populations subsists on less than $2.00 a day.  I have found that there has been an overwhealming sense of responsibility and charity on the part of the regulary average American, which I think has been pretty incredible.  Many in Hollywood have given substantial donations as well.

Look, I am all for conspiracy theories, but be smart about it.  If you think that an impoverished country like Haiti, prior to the Earthquake wouldn’t agree to allow an American Military presence on there shores, you are sadly mistaken.  They have requested are presence regularly.  We hardly need a natural disaster for that.

So far, the US doesn’t control the weather or techtonnic plates.

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By johannes, January 24, 2010 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

ONE. The Cuban’s where one of the first to arive with Doc’s and Sister plus their material, but never seen them on the news channels.


TWO. The USA was very late in his respons, but wonder, lots of soldiers very heavy armed, who knows do they have big plans for this D’Haîti.


Third. The small country the Netherlands collected about the same amounth of money as the USA, 43 000 000, and the Dutch governement will double this money.


Some small facts in an very dark situation, with a smell.

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By ofersince72, January 23, 2010 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

Norberto…...  I have never kown Amy Goodman

to spin any news….  Just deliver the fact…

Maybe you   should be   watching GLEN BECK !!!!!

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 23, 2010 at 3:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1514/when_the_media_is_
the/

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By Norberto, January 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was saddened by Amy Goodman’s coverage from Haiti and I do not think it served the Haitian people well.  My son is a volunteer for the Red Cross and is in Haiti helping with the relief effort.  He, like many of the volunteers there, is concerned about safety, yet they press on.  In addition to the obvious desparation of those affected, there is an enormous paramilitary presence who are adequately armed and dangerous.  I presumed Ms. Goodman was aware of the ongoing (pre-earthquake) violence in Haiti inasmuch as she covered the trial of war criminal Emmanuel “Toto” Constant in New York.  Today, however, she conveyed a message that the concern of the volunteers in Haiti were fabricated or exagerated. 

The predictable result of Ms. Goodman’s coverage is make it seem as if there is little efforts being done to help the people of Haiti or that those charged with helping are incompetant, which is disengenious and unfair to the volunteers and certainly discouraging to anyone who was considering donating money.  After all, it is not doing any good?

If I want my news biased and unfair, I will watch or listen to FOX.  Please Amy, use your head.  You are not helping anyone by spinning the coverage like that.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 22, 2010 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How the corporate media - for the sake of getting a
story - intensifies the suffering when a natural
calamity takes place:
http://www.guernicamag/blog/1514/when_the_media_is_the/

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By kfju47, January 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment

PART 2 of 2


Clinton says that his work with the Inter-American Development Bank was at the investment stage prior to the earthquake. Whether the IDB will be positive for Haiti is a debatable question with some saying no. This from wiki:

“There are claims that operations funded by the IDB may have adverse impacts on local environments and indigenous peoples. According to the Bank Information Center (BIC), “civil society groups have long been concerned about the negative impacts the IDB’s operations have on the environment and on indigenous and traditional peoples, as well as on the prospects for genuine economic and democratic reform in the region.” The BIC cites environmental and social damage funded by the IDB as adversely impacting local economies, contrary to IDB’s stated goal of fostering social and economic prosperity.”

Given Clinton’s prior roles in Haiti doesn’t provide a lot of hope that this latest effort will be much different.

Aristide may not be a saint and Bush smells of sulfur, but that is not my point with this post. My point is about Clinton and his role in worsening the conditions in Haiti today.

Doesn’t it look ironic that Clinton was appointed as the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti? Not really if you consider that the major world powers like the USA, the IMF, the World Bank, and now the IDB, have long tried to manipulate Haiti away from a socialist course. Remember Haiti’s long history of trying to be a populous run nation, and their attempts to export that concept. It started with the slave revolt and attempts to mimic the revolt in the Carolinas. Then in the 1800s and the support provided to Simón Bolívar, even while Haiti was being forced to pay the French for the value of the slaves that had been freed. These payments continued into the 1920s. In recent times, Haiti has had a close relationship with Cuba with Cuba providing free medical training to the improvised nation, much to the displeasure of the USA. Every time the country started to move in a more socialist direction, there has been intervention.

Although Clinton is widely regarded as a more left leaning politician in this country, remember his signing of the bill that repealed parts of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act and the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act. Remember it was under Clinton that the practice of staffing the federal regulatory agencies with high ranking members of the very industries that they were to regulate became common.

Clinton a lefty? Well he is the left side of the coin that sits in the pocket of the banksters and the mega corporations.

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By kfju47, January 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

Clinton and GWB have teamed up to help with the relief and rebuilding efforts. It would be humorous if not so sad.
Here is a little something that speaks about Clinton’s role so far in Haiti.(PART 1 OF 2)

Actually some do believe that Clinton does have some responsibility for the extent of the damage. As we all know, the poor construction of many of the buildings in Haiti greatly increased the human toll. The lack of readily available local foods supplies, and the general poverty also increased the toll and will increasing be the cause of suffering as the days go on.

Apparently, when Clinton used the US Military to return Aristide to power in 1994, Clinton required Aristide to take several actions. One was an IMF-sponsored plan that cut tariffs on imported rice from 35 percent to 3 percent, the lowest in the region. In one year, the number of rice imports doubled. This destroyed the county’s rice growers’ businesses. These farmers then moved to the cities to work for wages that ranged from 1 to 3 dollars per day. The collapse of the rice growing industry has furthered the poor building practices and lead to a lack of domestic food production.

One of Haiti’s other main products prior to 1994 was chicken. The tariff for chicken was also greatly reduced. And like the rice farmers, the chicken farmers were put out of business. There is some evidence that the large chicken producers in the USA even dumped chicken in the Haitian market at below cost, insuring that there would be demand at a later date.

Clinton’s basically blackmailing Aristide into IMF and World Bank concessions has led to serious ramification for the people of Haiti. Of course Aristide’s return has also had some positive outcomes. One is the reduction in deaths caused by the right death squads that followed the orders of Haiti’s small in number but relatively wealthy business owners. These business owners naturally had close ties to the largest customer country in the region, the USA. And of course there was a common goal in preventing Haiti from moving towards socialism. Like a nail that stands up….

Apparently the concessions that Aristide gave were not enough in the end. From Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Haiti ... terprisesm )

The events after early 1994 were discussed by Naomi Klein and Aristide in 2005. After that discussion, and after research assistance by Aaron Maté, the following words of Klein were published by The Nation and Now Magazine:

“[After] early 1994 . . . Washington’s negotiators made one demand that Aristide could not accept: the immediate selloff of Haiti’s state-owned enterprises, including phones and electricity. Aristide argued that unregulated privatization would transform state monopolies into private oligarchies, increasing the riches of Haiti’s elite and stripping the poor of their national wealth.”

End Wiki Quote

A lot transpired in the Clinton years, leading up the US abduction of Aristide in 2004 by US forces. One thing that visitors to Haiti remark about is that nearly all of Haiti’s services are now privately owned. The process did go forward in time. I am not clear on exactly when or if it was while Aristide in office or not. I suspect that Preval has been more open to western business interests than was Aristide.

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By NYCartist, January 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

charmion jandall,
  For transcripts of the shows, go to the website and you’ll find the author/book you ask about:
http://www.democracynow.org

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By NYCartist, January 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment

Outstanding coverage on DemocracyNow by Amy Goodman and producers, all. http://www.democracynow.org
In the first days, I wondered why the dead couldn’t have their faces photographed before burial so people would not go forever anonymously into mass burials? So many digital cameras around. 

Gestating art.  To include apologies to Haitian people for past and present policies and behaviors of the US government.  (I hope I get it completed.)

And on last Thurs.,while listening to Kim Ives (sic)on WBAI “Haiti:the struggle continues” (and I posted the show here, as I listened, I have been listening to the Haiti show since its onset also), I wondered why Amy G. and the journalist, Kim didn’t work together?  And there they were, together on the weekend in Haiti and on Dem.Now.
(I hear Dem.Now on WBAI, which I have done since the show began around 13 or 14 years ago.  WBAI has experienced a coup.  And dopey article in NYTimes, which has no creds to me already.  So, please visit http://www.takebackwbai.org - an excellent, user friendly website.)

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Medith,
We don’t understand why help has not gotten to you and
your family.  It is beyond comprehension.  The whole
world it seems has been involved in the relief effort.
We are thinking of the people of Haiti constantly.  May
you be comforted very soon.

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By ofersince72, January 21, 2010 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

All my comments have been made by others quite well

I just wanted to take a moment to thank
DEMOCRACY NOW for their coverage.

especially to Amy for her sarcastic comment to the
soldier.  “NICE BULLETS”

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By ofersince72, January 21, 2010 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Most everyone already has made my comments…

Would just like to thank Amy Goodman and
Democracy Now for their invaluable reporting and
hard work.

How disturbing it is to see machine guns in the
faces of those desperate people.

I loved her sarcastic comment to the soldier….

“NICE BULLETS”

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By berniem, January 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

Thank goodness for the 12,000 well-armed American troops ensuring that none of those troublesome Cuban doctors get in there, Hugo doesn’t sneak in any of that free oil of his, or that any other of those OAS Lefties land and start spreading bad ideas around about,you know,the Haitian people retaking their country from the neo-liberals that forced them to privatize all their assets to be bought up at bagain basement prices by those benevolent multi-nationals. Oh, and good move Barry appointing two of the most responsible for Haiti’s dismal plight to raise relief funds for reconstruction. Who’s reconstruction are we talking about here, the Haitian people or their corporate masters? By the way, didn’t you think Carter could help, what with all that Habitat for Humanity stuff and all?

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By charmian jondall, January 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy interviewed an author, about a week ago, who is an expert on the political history of Haiti and has a book.  How can I learn the names of both?

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

democracynow has done the best reporting on Haiti.  The
corporate media has given a very distorted picture of
what is happening there, and in fact may have made
things worse for the Haitian people by giving a false
impression that there are wide spread security problems
in Port-Au-Prince.  Because of those false reports
desperately needed medical aid was held up and led to
hundreds if not thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Report this

By cokids, January 20, 2010 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

Your truly,

I’ve been reading about the ouster of Aristide and wondering why they would go to such trouble to be rid of a leader. Well, you’ve answered it well and it’s just about what I thought it would be! Amazing how we do these things, then pat ourselves on the back for being so generous!

Once residents have left Port Au Prince wonder who will buy up the dirt cheap beachfront and hills with views? Wonder who benefits? Wonder how many Americans will benefit? What is our stake in this place? Gotta be a BIG one!

Another factor I haven’t seen talk of is the fact that we don’t want another Cuba anywhere near our shores. Could Haiti become another Cuba?

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By rollzone, January 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

hello. yes the response appeared slow, with blame on not being summoned. this is just another reason i support complete disclosure from our government. i am sorry for the losses, prayers are going out; and spent time working on designing portable recycled plastic housing for the homeless today. i read there were left overs on the kitchen table today. it is still a blessing how much is being done compared to the scenario only one hundred years ago.

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By yours truly, January 19, 2010 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This humanitarian mission in Haiti has an eery resemblance to how our government responded after Katrina struck New Orleans, namely, too little and too late, with lives lost that might have been saved had the arrival of aid not been delayed.  Considering the sharp decline in the city’s African-American population after Katrina, one wonders whether the failure of emergency services to arrive promptly may have contributed to the exodus of black New Orleanders, such that, it’s no longer majority black?  Likewise will this delay in the arrival of lifesaving supplies and health care to Port-au-Prince lead to a decrease in that city’s population?  And if so might this be what’s behind said delay - to shrink Port-au-Prince down to a more manageable size, still with more than enough people to work in the sweat-shops but too few to stage a revolt?  As for the lives that could have been saved had aid only arrived sooner, how likely is it that the Pentagon is concerned with Haitians who’ve suffered crush injuries when, after all, so many of the injured will die, treated or untreated, on account of their not getting any post-treatment care.  Besides, the reason that the 11,000 U.S. troops have been sent to Haiti has less to do with providing so-called security than with forestalling an uprising by Haitians in support of the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whom the CIA kidnapped four and one-half years ago and whisked away to the Central Republic of Africa.  Why?  Because he had raised the minimum wage, thereby infuriating the foreigners who own and the local elite who run Haiti’s sweatshops.  What’s in it for the government of the U.S. of A.?  Only it’s constant fear of the emergence of a nation that stands as a beacon of what can be achieved when a society is based on human need instead of greed, the seriously we rather than the exclusively me.  In other words that good example that people elsewhere will look at and say, “Well wadayaknow, that’s for me.”

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By medith, January 19, 2010 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for the information’s. I am from Haiti Southwest of Leogane call tigoave (petit-Goave)we still have families and friends under the rubble 6 peoples on my families confirms dead 10 of them injured badly,Broken ribs,broken broken head unable to get help.The conditions is unberable

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