"Things to Remember While Helping Haiti."
That’s the benign-sounding headline on a Heritage Foundation paper regarding the disaster in Haiti. Released just hours after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit, the analysts at Heritage suggested that the US response should think beyond the immediate to "address long-held concerns over the fragile political environment that exists in the region."
As Naomi Klein discovered, in an early draft, the pro-corporate ideologues at Heritage were more outspoken. The early version, yanked, read:
"In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."
Reshape it how? Well, those who remember how Heritage responded to Hurricane Katrina will probably get it about right. In 2005 Heritage applauded Bush for suspending provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act, so that federally funded Gulf Coast construction projects could pay lower-than prevailing wages.
As Naomi Klein’s described in her bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, no disaster’s too disastrous to become a useful Petri Dish for the conservative corporate agenda. And no time’s too soon to start drawing up quids pro quo. We’ll give you a quid if you become more pro-our-quo. In 2005, it took Heritage almost two weeks to get their word out. This time around, as Klein pointed out in a forum Wednesday night, they were out with a statement within hours.
Just two months back, Secretary of State Clinton was promising aid for countries suffering climate change, as long as the countries in Copenhagen agreed to the U.S.’s terms. As irony would have it, the Secretary of State’s husband, Bill Clinton, now the US emissary to Haiti, oversaw a punishing regime of structural adjustment imposed on Haiti on his watch, in exchange for a US backed return of democratically elected president Aristide.
You need help? You’ll get it, the IMF (and Clinton) said, if you privatize your water, lay off public workers and shrink the public sector. There’s no mystery about the country’s paucity of first responders.
Naomi calls it blackmail. The power that comes when you’re giving money to people in need. We’re likely to see a lot of it in Haiti now, especially if the Heritagers have their way. "Oddly, it’s a power the Treasury didn’t use when it came to bailing out big bankers," pointed out Klein Wednesday night.
What are the chances, do you think, that the US Treasury will be as generous with Haiti as they were with Wall Street?
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.