Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Politics, WORLD POLITICS — Rick Moran @ 11:20 am

You’ve heard of “Blame America First” when it comes to the man-made problems of the world. Such may not usually be true but it sure sounds good if you’re a liberal - makes you seem smart and informed.

Bill Quigley writing in Huffington Post has taken this concept to an entirely new level; he posits the notion that what is happening in Haiti as a result of the earthquake is actually America’s fault:

In 2004, the U.S. assisted in a coup against the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. This continues a long tradition of the U.S. deciding who will rule the poorest country in the hemisphere. No government lasts in Haiti without U.S. approval.

In 2001, when the U.S. was mad at the President of Haiti, the U.S. successfully led an effort to freeze $148 million in already-approved loans and many hundreds of millions more of potential loans from the Inter-American Development Bank to Haiti. Funds which were dedicated to improve education, public health and roads.

For much of 2001-2004, the U.S. insisted that any international funds sent to Haiti had to go through non-governmental organizations. Funds that would have provided government services were re-routed thus shrinking the ability of the government to provide aid.

For years the U.S. has helped ruin small farmers in Haiti by dumping heavily subsidized U.S. rice on their market making it extremely difficult for small farmers to survive. This was done to help U.S. farmers. Haitian farmers? They don’t vote in the U.S.

Those who visit Haiti will confirm that the biggest SUVs in Port au Prince are plastered with decals of non-governmental organizations. The biggest offices are for private groups doing the basic work of government - healthcare, education, disaster response. And all are guarded not by police but by private heavily-militarized security.

The government was systematically starved of funds. The public sector shrank away. Poor people streamed to the cities.

Thus there are no rescue units. Little public healthcare is available.

So when disaster struck, the people of Haiti were on their own. We can see them pitching in. We can see them trying. They are courageous and generous and innovative, but volunteers cannot replace government. So people suffer and die in greater numbers than necessary.

Is all of this the fault of the US?

Let’s examine what Mr. Quigley won’t tell you about much of that most helpful information he supplied. Little wonder, since if he had, he would have been forced to acknowledge that the US (with the agreement of the international community) was doing its best to assist Haiti in overcoming extraordinary hurdles just to keep the country from falling completely into an abyss of corruption and chaos.

You might immediately note that Mr. Quigley had little to say about the “democratically elected” leader of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide. If you are trying to blame the US for what is happening in Haiti, it is best not to supply too much information about the “little priest” whose thugs used to roam the streets of Port au Prince placing burning tires around the necks of his political opponents.

Aristide’s first chance at power in 1991 started out well, with the full backing of the United States. But a parliamentary crisis led to Aristide believing he could rule by decree and he was summarily ousted by the military.

Bill Clinton righted the situation by forcing the military out and reinstating him, backing the Haitian president with American troops. But all of this was simply prologue to what happened in 2000. Aristide’s campaign of massive violence against the opposition caused a boycott of the elections and when his opponents protested, they were arrested or, more often, simply killed. Aristide himself was a accused of ordering assassinations. The police were helpless as Aristide’s gangs wandered the streets with impunity.

The elections was pronounced fraudulent by the OAS, no bastion of pro-American sentiment. Finally, in 2004, Aristide angered enough people that a bloody coup occurred. He maintains to this day that he as kidnapped by the US and ended up in South Africa. If so, we did the Haitian people a monumental favor.

So much for the “democratically elected leader” of Haiti.

What about all that foreign aid we’ve cut off or funneled to NGO’s? Mr. Quigley’s screed is a little short on details. Allow me to remedy that.

In 2006, Haiti was named the most corrupt nation on planet earth. Any foreign aid sent to Haiti had a better chance of sprouting wings and flying than ending up helping any Haitians. The elites in Haiti and family cronies make sure of that, enriching themselves by siphoning aid into ventures they control or own outright.

One thing not mentioned by Mr. Quigley; that corruption contributed to the vastness of the disaster because most of the buildings in Haiti are so poorly constructed due to short cuts taken by contractors who then pocket the difference:

The death toll in the massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti Jan. 12 is expected to continue to rise in the coming days, likely in large part because of corruption and resulting shoddy construction practices in the poor Caribbean nation, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder seismologist.


Bilham said one of the chief causes of the high destruction and fatality rates in Haiti and other developing countries is due in large part to corruption in the construction industry. One of the problems is bribery, which often takes the form of corrupt awards of construction projects, corrupt issuance of permits and approval documents and corrupt inspection practices.

“It should be appalling to the people of the world that in 2009, more than 100 years after earthquake-resistant construction began to be understood and implemented by engineers, that it is possible to forecast large numbers of future earthquake fatalities from the collapse of cities,” said Bilham in his 2009 Mallet-Milne Lecture to earthquake engineers at The Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics meeting in London.

Quigley probably didn’t bring this up in the article because there’s no way to blame America for it.

Yes, but what about all that foreign aid we’ve cut off? What about allowing NGO’s to distribute the aid?

Bush critics complain that Aristide wasn’t given enough aid. By the end almost all assistance to Haiti was being funneled through nongovernmental groups, because no one trusted the government. The OAS and the European Union, especially the French, didn’t want to hand aid over to a corrupt regime. The United States withheld certain aid, but didn’t cut it off entirely ($71 million in bilateral aid last year), continuing a stream of assistance that has been generous by any standard.

Since 1994, the United States has spent $850 million on Haiti. If you count money spent on U.S. troops in the country and on repatriation of refugees, the figure is roughly $3 billion. “If that’s not a commitment to a country, I don’t know what is,” says a senior administration official.

Quigley conveniently uses the year 2004 to complain about aid cutoffs to Haiti. In fact, from 2004-06, the US sent $230 million in developmental aid to that nation. The 2008 regular foreign aid appropriation was $287 million which doesn’t include another $45 million in food aid.

The idea that the only reason we withheld aid in 2001-2004 was because we were “mad” at the Haitian president is laughably childish. People were being murdered in the streets, chaos and corruption reigned in government, and Quigley wanted to continue business as usual? It wasn’t just America, either. The international community made most of these determinations based on the realistic notion that any money sent to Haiti would be used to enrich the ruling elite and not end up helping the people. That’s the bottom line, Quigley’s ignorance - or deliberate obfuscation of the facts - notwithstanding.

And Quigley may be the only lefty in America who begrudge poor people saving a few cents per pound on rice. An unfortunate by product of this is the flight from rural areas of farmers who can’t compete. We’ve seen the same thing in Africa and Asia as globalization makes its uneven and problematic journey around the world. There may be cause for criticism for subsidizing rice growers in the US. But to make the preposterous leap of logic that more people died as a result of US policy is a monumental stretch that even a high school debater wouldn’t make. It sounds logical but there is no empirical evidence that remotely supports it.

Perhaps Mr. Quigley wrote his article as satire. Morel likely, he’s simply an ignorant twit who cherry picked information that he thought would make his case that America is to blame for the large numbers of dead as a result of this tragedy.

Trying to draw attention to yourself by using a catastrophe to make an invalid, and ultimately silly point that you know will play well with those already disposed to believe the worst about their own country may be the height of cynical self promotion. Congratulations are in order for Mr. Quigley. He lived down to all the lowered expectations we’ve come to expect from most writers at Huffington Post.


  1. Consider the source. Mr. Quigley, along with being a frequent diarist for HuffPo is also the Managing Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

    The following was taken from Wikipedia:

    According to NGO Monitor, an Israeli non-governmental organization with the stated aim of monitoring other non-governmental organizations in the Middle East, the Center for Constitutional Rights has a biased political position against Israel. NGO Monitor writes, “CCR consistently disregards the context of terror, denies Israel’s right to self-defense, and accuses it of deliberately targeting civilians.”


    Matthew Vadum of Capital Research Center, a conservative non-profit organization which aims to study non-profit organizations, called the Center for Constitutional Rights The Terrorists’ Legal Team because of his belief that CCR is “an ultra-leftist public-interest law firm” that “has protected the supposed constitutional rights of those who would destroy the United States.”

    CCR has also filed the following lawsuits for individuals incarcerated at GitMo:

    Al Odah v. United States
    Barre v. Gates
    Celikgogus v. Rumsfeld
    Khan v. Bush
    Zalita v. Bush

    Comment by SShiell — 1/15/2010 @ 1:46 pm

  2. Ted Rall tried to make the same stupid argument in his weekly column.

    Comment by Will M. — 1/15/2010 @ 3:11 pm

  3. Haiti was a mess before the quake and now it is worse. In the long run it will be up to the Haitian people to form a more effective government. However, at the moment they need our help and Obama is doing what is absolutely right. BTW, I am sure W would have done exactly the same.
    I just think of a 5 year old kid who has no choice in where he/she is born and now find itself in a life threatening situation and then just get mad at idiotic comments like Quigley’s or Rush and Robertson’s. These morons just need to shut up.

    Comment by funny man — 1/15/2010 @ 4:37 pm

  4. Let’s see … Haiti won its independence from France in 1803, so shouldn’t Quigley be yelling this is all Thomas Jefferson’s fault?

    Comment by John — 1/16/2010 @ 1:29 pm

  5. “Let’s see … Haiti won its independence from France in 1803, so shouldn’t Quigley be yelling this is all Thomas Jefferson’s fault?”

    Only if Jefferson was a Republican!

    Comment by SShiell — 1/16/2010 @ 3:18 pm

  6. Wasn’t Napoleon’s Josephine partly Haitian too? I don’t know what but twisted minds like Quigley and Robertson are sure to find ‘the link’.

    Comment by funny man — 1/16/2010 @ 10:13 pm

  7. I suppose you can’t blame Haiti for not producing anything because they were put out of business because “they could not compete”. Wasn’t it a nice trick we played on them when we got into the biofuels craze - with their rice production mostly gone the world prices went way up because we like using grains for fuels - ha ha, they had to eat dirt!

    This Aristide vote fraud that you mention - this dispute was over a couple of senators who ended up resigning a year later! They decided to give this Republican-created “opposition” called the Democratic Convergeance a veto on Haiti getting any development assistance. Then the plan was to have them exercise the veto in order to help chase Aristide out of office as things got worse.

    Funny thing - when the opposition called a boycott, 61% voted and 95% voted for Aristide. When Aristide’s party called a boycott last spring, the official figure was an 11% vote turnout - believed to have been inflated.

    Comment by anti-objectivist — 1/17/2010 @ 11:25 pm

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