"Responding to criticism that Poland’s financial aid to earthquake-torn Haiti was mean fisted, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said that, “150,000 USD - the equivalent of three four-wheel drive vehicles - is not a ridiculous sum.”Polskie Radio
To avoid accusations of being "uncaring" Sikorski could just argue that it's none of Poland's concern what happens in Haiti and maintain that it is the business of richer nations like the USA to help.
Yet this would damage the image of Poland as being a responsible member of "the international community" which usually is reduced in power political terms to a minority of two, the UK, the USA and, Sikorski hopes, Poland.
Hence Sikorski's statement,
Minister Sikorski stressed that the Polish rescue team - which set off from Warsaw airport, yesterday, - is one of 11 worldwide that are certified by the UN to be able to carry out such a task.What Sikorski is indulging in here is using a humanitarian crisis to advance US interests in Haiti, the same former neoconservatives who planned and executed the coup in Haiti in 2004.
“We can be proud that as a country that once received assistance can now give it,” said Minister Sikorski.
These neoconservatives were the very same who organised the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 with Sikorski's backing and his wife Anne Applebaum, leader writer for the Washington Post.
When responding to the concern over the crisis in Iraq in the run up to the invasion, Applebaum claimed this,
“I still don't understand what the Germans propose to do about Saddam Hussein's weapons: send in more inspectors, so that the inspectors can be deceived? impose more sanctions, so more Iraqi children will starve?That omitted to mention the one million Iraq children who died as a result of the sanctions imposed on a stricken nation like Iraq which was effectively crushed after the First Gulf War of 1991.
The reason sanctions were abandoned for 'not working' had less to do with starving Iraq children, which Madelaine Albright proclaimed was "a price worth paying" to contain Saddam's threat to the globe.
The real reasons were far more different and had much to do with the crumbling infrastructure of Iraq in 2003 threatening the productive capacity of existing oilfields which, because of sanctions, could not produce as much oil.
As David Strachan has shown in The Last Oil Shock, once the drilling equipment packed up the oil well supply would be permenently lost and that would be a major setback to maintaining global oil supplies and price stability.
Just as in Iraq, the prating about the humanitarian crisis is really about sending measly sums to people who are mostly black, the kind Sikorski made jokes about when he was stung by the election of Barack Obama instead of his erstwhile neoconservative allies.
As the Daily Telegraph revealed on November 17 2008, Sikorski was reported to have made a this joke "Have you heard that Obama may have a Polish connection? His grandfather ate a Polish missionary."
Whether or not Sikorski was making a "racist comment" or just being a bit silly and undiplomatic, the sneer clearly has as a subtext the idea that the histoty of the USA is one of white man's winning of the West not that of blacks and other insignificants.
A spokesman for the Polish foreign office conceded that Mr Sikorski had made the controversial comment, but denied that the foreign minister had intended to insult Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan.That may be so but Sikorski did not make that clear at the time and the damage limitation only came later. There are a number of Poles who think that Obama is not the right face for the USA, not even a 'real American' in the same way the Polonia diaspora community in Chicago.
"Mr Sikorski did not tell a racist joke," said Piotr Paszkowski, the spokesman. "He was only giving an example of the unpalatable and racist 'jokes' that surround President Elect Obama."
Anyway, between Iraq and Haiti lies in the comparison is that humanitarian crises offer a pretext not for careful aid packages but to ram through "reforms" which will make humanitarian aid a profitable investment.
For Poland the sum reflects the fact that Poland has little economic connection with Haiti and merely wants to look benevolent. As usual the important point at stake is nothing to do with humanitarianism but showing itself a willing model pupil to the USA in maintaing its superpower.
What it does share is the view that as a satellite power of the USA it must maintain its global profile in advancing US hegemony over not only Eurasia but also Latin America. This is what client states with elites embedded in the same networks of transatlanticist power do.
The double standards in Sikorski, a member of The American Enterprise Institute which contains the architects of the Iraq War-Perle, Frum, Wolfowitz et al-saying “We can be proud that as a country that once received assistance can now give it"
This mendacious piece of public diplomacy is belied by a cusory look at the facts of US involvement in Latin America which is still regarded as a "sphere of influence" even if when applied to Russia this is a sign of hideous imperial machinations of their "New Cold War".
The radical writer and activist Naomi Klein knows that Sikorski's approach of exploiting a humanitarian crisis to advance US economic interests in Haiti is part of the "shock doctrine", tying aid to "reforms" that impoverish nations like Haiti.
The liberal reformer Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed by a coup as he has decided that key Haitian resources ought to remain owned by the state and work for the people who had voted him into power.
Aristide was intially supported by the USA in the 1990s as preferable to the other polical rivals but as is usual the noble ideals of US democracy were sacrificed to the economic greed of the corporate lobbyists who dominate the US political system.
Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation in 2005,
"[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."The same tactics used in Venezuela to remove Chavez, a populist and nationalist who, despite all his corny anti-US rhetoric, irresponsibility and failure to diversify Venezuela's economy away from dependence on oil, is elected fairly by the vast majority of Venezuela's voters.
As Mark Almond wrote in the Guardian 25th July 2007,
Chávez rides a wave of popularity because he is the first Latin American leader to mix anti-gringo populism with making life better for ordinary people. But booming oil prices are a mixed blessing, even when the money isn't diverted to offshore bank accounts.As with Haiti with Aristide, Chavez is genuniely popular and does not run Venezuela as a "dictatorship", a stupid slur that does make for contructive democratic politics which depends on responsible opposition.
Certainly Chávez has redirected a great proportion of revenue into projects that help the majority.
This infuriates the opposition, which feels housing, doctors and education are wasted on the poor with darker skins. Yet high oil revenues are helping to push up inflation, and even government plans to lop three zeroes off the bolivar won't cure that trend.
Yet in Haiti the same tactics were used by US funded "oppositionists" in Venezuela via the Sumate : boycott the elections which are proclaimed to be free and unfair even before they are held.
As Almond put it,
Washington's meddling in Venezuela has not paid dividends so far. Five years ago, it backed a coup against Chávez only to see a tidal wave of the poor sweep him back into office. The US-backed opposition has tried poll boycotts, fraud allegations and mass demonstrations without effect.Sikorski's position on Haiti reflects his belief that "the New Cold War" is one between a heroic USA acting the arsenal of democracy and any state that wishes to retain its sovereignty but which humanitarian crises offer an opportunity to give "tied aid" and
"Sikorski told the TVN 24 station, Friday, that the bulk of Poland’s financial assistance and humanitarian aid to Haiti will be via the EU"As if that was necessarily a selfless action from the "international community" That is, of course, why in 2000 European nations suspended government-to-government assistance to Haiti. Haiti had received no help from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for years.
Aristide was abducted from Haiti by a US helicopter in 2004 .The US Congress forbade any U.S. assistance from being funneled through the Haitian government, legitimising on paper an existing situation.
The inability of one of the poorest nations in Latin America to respond to the earthquake is a result of the history of poverty and immiseration the USA has imposed on Haiti since it invaded it in 1915.
In 2003, the very zenith of neoconservative power and dominance, it was through the CIA that funds to The Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) or get rid of any government that served the peopole of Haiti instead of US business interests.
This Orwellian term for a CIA backed group of paramilitary death squads was dedicated to plunging the nation into choas and removing Aristide, a breakdown of order that explains why aid is so difficult to get into Haiti now.
With the corrupt machete wielding thugs civilised statemen like Sikorski seem to have forgotten that they are are there partly because of aspects of US foreign policy in the past, though they did not cause the chaos alone.
None of that matters to those still rigidly stuck in the mentality of the Cold War and defending the "dirty war" tactics of the USA against the exaggerated threat of "Communist subvertion" in Latin America.
Clearly the struggle for liberation in Poland, as worthy and heroic as that was against a repellent Soviet dictatorship which crushed dissent through tanks, is more worthy that the solidarity movements in Latin America, often led by priests to.
Sikorski's mention of the choas in Haiti as a reason for not giving aid is not about pragmatic policy. It's ideology. The New Cold War to be fought on "multiple fronts" from Iran, to Belarus, the Venezuela to the evil Kremlin itself.
All despite the fact that the USA is using tactics of subvertion that any Stalinist Comintern agent would have been proud to promote in order to use repellent means to justify the ultimately benign end of promoting the hegemony of the universal imperium.
In November, 2004, the University of Miami School of Law carried out a Human Rights Investigation in Haiti and documented serious human rights abuses. It stated that "Summary executions are a police tactic."
It also mentioned the following pattern which is a continuity in US policy in Haiti,
"U.S. officials blame the crisis on armed gangs in the poor neighborhoods, not the official abuses and atrocities, nor the unconstitutional ouster of the elected president. Their support for the interim government is not surprising, as top officials, including the Minister of Justice, worked for U.S. government projects that undermined their elected predecessors. Coupled with the U.S. government’s development assistance embargo from 2000–2004, the projects suggest a disturbing pattern".People in Poland need to wake up and think more globally instead of dwelling only on what Soviet Union did to Poland as the Soviet Union is finished and Russia is not the Soviet Union. The Cold War is over. But "the New Cold War" is being reborn as propaganda at least.
Yet US actions in Latin America are as often brutal, though far more covert and clever than sending in tanks to crush Polish democrats and Solidarity, whose leaders shamefully sold out the workers who had made their victory possible in 1990.
The silence in Poland over US crimes in Latin America and Iraq, usually reduced to talk of "blunders" and "mistakes" is craven and censorship by omission. That "gadula" Adam Michnik has nothing to say on US crimes in Latin America.
Yet the history of Polish involvement in Haiti dates back to the support Poland gave to Napoleon in trying to suppress the Haitan slave rebellion after the revolt led by Touissant D'Ouverture, later put in prison by Napoleon's General Leclerc where he died in 1803.
As a result of their understandable loathing for the Tsarist Empire of Catherine the Great who was driving for the dismemberment of Poland by 1795 under the partition plans, Polish leaders began the tradition of supporting any rival Empires that could destroy Russian power.
That led Polish soldiers being placed at the disposal of Napoleon who posed as a beacon of Enlightened reform but acted according to principles not so different from certain sections of the US political establishment do today.
Just as Sikorski, Tusk and Kaczynski genuflect before the request of the USA to send more troops on futile neo-colonial adventures as Afghanistan and Iraq ( often ill equipped ), the Polish expedition to Haiti did nothing for Poland's freedom.
Being used by Napoleon as expendable troops, the Polish Legions were sent to Haiti to reimpose slavery on the black population.
In 1802, France sent the legions (5,280 strong) to Haiti to crush the Haitian Revolution (on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, known then as French West Indies or St. Domingue.
Napoleon wanted to regain the colony of Saint Domingue, but had no wish to diminish his main French army any more than was necessary. Polish legions were the less favoured units of Napoleon's French army.
As Norman Davies remarked in God's Playground Vol II' ( page 257 )
"No European nation has reaped fewer rewards for the sweat, and the blood expended......When marching under the Polish flag, or in Poland's cause, he ( the soldier ) has met almost invariably with defeat. It is a sad fact, but poland has been obliged to act as one of Europe's principal nursuries of cannon fodder".Obviously, fighting in Afghanistan as part of a voluntaristic union of nations, largely democratic, known as NATO, is not directly comparable to Polish troops being sent as cannon fodder anddying of tropical diseases in Haiti in a doomed expedition to re-impose slavery.
Yet it shows that Sikorski's messianic neoconservative creed and obsessional devotion to Alexandrine schemes to expand NATO into dangerous areas destablised by ethnic irredentism and sucessionist tendencies is a continuity with the foolhardy stereotype that many have of Polish adventurism.
The idealism in which humanitarian interventionism via war is justified is also the latest fig leaf for material, interests, money, profit and power just as it was to Napoleon and his backers and the US neoconservatives, some who like Michael Ledeen admire Benito Mussolini.
Sikorski's following of the neoconservative mantra, though softened by his renewed faith in the EU when convenient, shows his far-right support for bacing coups against leaders who baulk against near totalitarian imposition of the the Washington IMF consensus.
The uncritical devition to any request that the USA makes of Poland and failure to criticise its more subtle colonialism in Latin America has continuities with the past in the binary and simplistic mindset of the Polish messianic tradition.
The concept that "we" are always on the side the good and "them" the "enemies of freedom" are the enemies of the USA which is a force for the good against the Evil Empire of the USSR and that the USA representsthe purest intentions as white as the White House itself.
The USA is as Niall Ferguson asserts forthrightly is an "empire in denial" and that it should be open about its foundational creed as a universalist empire of liberty and use military force to remove dictators, authoritarians, tyrants and impose neoliberal 'reforms'.
The USA like all global superpowers, has a consistent approach to international diplomacy and Poles concerned with their governments grovelling to every Whitehouse and Pentagon demand for men and material must realise that it is not morally consistent; it is strategically consistent.
Yet the fact of the USA's continued meddling in Latin America, surreptitious backing for coups is just not news in Poland but it is essential if US influence and bases are to be phased out of Europe and the EU takes responsibility for its own foreign policy.
The appointment of a halfwit careerist like Lady Ashton as EU foreign minister was proof that is a long way from happening, though it could have been worse if a war criminal like Tony Blair has accompanied her as EU President.
Poles who correctly revel in "the return to Europe" should also have realised it is a return to the world, as Poland's diaspora and influence on the modern world in culture and science is one much undervalued.
Moreover, as Poland regains an air of cosmopolitanism, those enjoying jazz in Krakow might have cause to reflect that the bloodshed then with the slave revolt led to a multicultural exodus to the Francophone New Orleans which as part of the USA had been bought from the USA in 1803.
In 1809; about 10,000 refugees from Saint-Domingue arrived en masse from Cuba to New Orleans, doubling the city’s population and preserving the city's French character for several generations.
Yet New Orleans was an American city subjected to the same rapacious forces of "the shock doctrine" where corporations used the damage to buildinds as a pretext to justify rebuilding on the larger prperties and raking off huge profits.
As Noami Klein put it on December 21st 2007,
"- First came the shock of the original disaster: the flood and the traumatic evacuation.That is the way neoliberalism in action works with the blood and iron power of the state comprising the neoconservative political concept of using force and violence to make the world safe for US hegemony and dominance through its globally rigged market system which it calls without irony "the free market"
- Next came the "economic shock therapy": using the window of opportunity opened up by the first shock to push through a rapid-fire attack on the city's public services and spaces, most notably it's homes, schools and hospitals.
-Now we see that as residents of New Orleans try to resist these attacks, they are being met with a third shock: the shock of the police baton and the Taser gun, used on the bodies of protestors outside New Orleans City Hall".
As John Gray, a political conservative wrote in defending Klein's criticism of the neoliberal philosophy of "creative destruction" back in 2007,
"Klein believes that neo-liberalism belongs among "the closed, fundamentalist doctrines that cannot co-exist with other belief-systems ... The world as it is must be erased to make way for their purist invention. Rooted in biblical fantasies of great floods and great fires, it is a logic that leads ineluctably towards violence."Klein writes,,
As Klein sees it, the social breakdowns that have accompanied neo-liberal economic policies are not the result of incompetence or mismanagement. They are integral to the free-market project, which can only advance against a background of disasters"
"An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial.The greatest irony is that the USA, with the neoconservatives being the most extreme proponents of expanding US model of politics and economy by military interventionism, promotes a neoliberal doctrine with many similarities with Marxism-Leninism, even though Sikorski was a great admirer of Margeret Thatcher who supported Pinochet's Fascist Chile.
The appetite for easy, short-term profits offered by purely speculative investment has turned the stock, currency and real estate markets into crisis-creation machines, as the Asian financial crisis, the Mexican peso crisis and the dotcom collapse all demonstrate."
As John Gray maintains,
"....free market ideology must bear responsibility for the crimes committed on its behalf - just as Marxist ideology must be held to account for the crimes of communism themselves blinded. "Over the past few decades, many of the ideas of the far left have found new homes on the right.
Lenin believed that it was in conditions of catastrophic upheaval that humanity advances most rapidly, and the idea that economic progress can be achieved through the devastation of entire societies has been a key part of the neo-liberal cult of the free market.
Soviet-style economies left an inheritance of human and ecological devastation, while neo-liberal policies have had results that are not radically dissimilar in many countries.
Yet, while the Marxist faith in central planning is now confined to a few dingy sects, a quasi-religious belief in free markets continues to shape the policies of governments"
An interesting perspective has been put forward by Peter Hallward in The Guardian, Our Role in Haiti's Plight ( 13 January 2010 )
What is already all too clear, however, is the fact that this impact will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the "poorest country in the western hemisphere". This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.
The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.
Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.
Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day". Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.
It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums.