Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A hundred dead people in my truck

Shortly after midnight January 10th, 2010, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit Northern California according to the US Geological survey.

Trivial news coverage included this story from the Times Standard in Eureka on NBC about a dog who sensed the quake and bolted out of the room before shaking started

The US quake caused some property damage, but our neighbors to the south were not so lucky.

Three days later, on Tuesday Jan 12th, the Haiti quake was faithfully recorded by the USGS and the tsunami system even predicted there would be NO tsunami.

According to the timeline published by the Merced Sun Star, aid started pouring in to the country quickly, however delivery of that aid was problematic due to the security situation.

By the time the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson brought it's aircraft to bear on the situation on Friday, the Israeli defence forces had already set up an advanced field hospital and begun saving lives.

In other words, Israel, a country in ANOTHER hemisphere, had boots on the ground and a secure hospital next to the airport in the amount of time it took the Americans to send an aircraft carrier.

To summarize, the American military response to the Haitian disaster was to send an aircraft carrier when there was a functional airport capable of handling an advance field hospital and supplies, then they proceed to airlift water by helicopter to this airport and guard it with paratroopers from the US 82nd airborne.

The paratroopers which could have been flown FROM the continental US within minutes of a disaster are sent to guard supplies at the airport. Shouldn't the US have started airlifting supplies to drop points from it's Air Force bases rather quickly? Couldn't the 82nd Airborne be sent to guard these drop points? Why in an age of air superiority is the US Military relying on ships to get it's troops in theater?

Why wasn't an advanced US field hospital simply airlifted to Haiti immediately with a unit of troops to guard it? Israel managed to achieve that from another hemisphere, without an embassy undamaged by the quake (the US embassy was not damaged in the quake)

In the US, by the time the Israeli forward field hospital was ALREADY set up, volunteers from local universities such as the University of California at San Diego were shown on local news, packing medical supplies. Desperate emergency physicians in the US were prepared to go to help armed with bandaids, when what was really needed was surgeons and operating rooms for debridement.

The desperation on the faces of these American Physicians and the CNN reporter is evident. They are amazed Israel has managed to achieve what they cannot.

While most media coverage focuses on who is wearing what at the Golden Globes, the football playoffs, and the Leno/Conan controversy brouhaha causes the media to point fingers at NBC, NBC news has reporters and physicians on the ground in advance of the real substantial aid arriving. Dr Nancy Snyderman at NBC called the response within 48 hours and up to 148 hours a "civil war kind of medicine".

A facebook post by a surgeon lamented that he was unable to assist because MSF did not have him on their list of emergency doctors. This reminds me of my residency colleague lamenting the fact that during Katrina the US government sent a swamp boat full of soldiers armed to the teeth to a hospital in New Orleans without space to evacuate casualties.

According to the Merced Sun Star, civilians were treated in Haiti on the USS Carl Vinson on Saturday only after being diverted due to weather. News broadcasts showed Haitian civilians being evacuated by US forces clutching their US passports. What about the quake victims without US passports?

The United States has never winked at invading, sponsoring the military coup of Haiti's original democratically elected president.

As proven in Rwanda, in New Orleans, and every day in America's inner cities, it seems the US Government just doesn't care about black people. Happy MLK Jr. Birthday America. It's a week after a terrible disaster gave you an opportunity to shine, and so far Lady Liberty is looking pretty tarnished for those poor sick hungry masses.

The title of this blog post comes from an aptly named 2008 Irish documentary about Haitian aid workers, in which a weekly convoy of trucks set out to bury people in Haiti. This was BEFORE the earthquake.

I couldn't say whether dogs can really predict earthquakes, but I can say that it doesn't take a genius to spot institutionalized neglect and racism.

The sad thing is that this Haitian tragedy didn't have to happen. It could have been prevented. As Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson and Bill Moyer explained on PBS, for every American troop sent to Afghanistan to be maintained there for a year it costs a million dollars. How much could that money achieve with simple seismic improvements, basic preventive medicine, and a ready and able worldwide disaster relief task team which could be dispatched on a moment's notice anywhere in the world? Sounds like a job for Israel.


sunseasurf said...

In the age of air superiority, the US which is in charge of AIR traffic control in Haiti, BLOCKED a plane carrying a mobile field hospital from landing sent by Medecins Sans Frontiers. This, while we see military planes unloading Hummers in Port Au Prince. Land those planes in D.R. and have the US jeeps DRIVE to Haiti.


sunseasurf said...

a cruise ship beats the US marine amphibious team efforts leaving from Camp Lejeune.


Anittah said...

Do you think the ability for the IDF to quickly respond might be a function of the frequency with which they have to deploy forces like this?

I mean, our military isn't really set up to respond to stuff like this -- whereas a key duty of the IDF (from what I understand) is to help when there's a bombing in Jerusalem (etc.).

sunseasurf said...

If the "Big One" hits California, (PRIME earthquake real estate) and big hospitals here are destroyed in an earthquake this implies there is NO ready and stockpiled American government response capability. Or it just wasn't deployed to Haiti.