Saturday, January 23, 2010

Operation Pierre Pan: What Does Haiti Want?

There's been very little discussion of what the government of Haiti wants when there's talk of mass evacuations of unparented children from Haiti. In fact, there seems little recognition that Haiti is a sovereign nation that might have a say in the matter! When one commenter to this post at another blog said, "Haiti is still a sovereign nation and I’m not convinced that the United States has the right to determine the future of these children, no matter how dire the current situation may be," the response was immediate:

The Haitian government is asking for help!!! They are begging for help!!!!! We aren’t stepping in and bullying them into making them accept our help!!!!

Sheesh, we’re the bad guys because we’re trying to save lives? Sometimes the US bashing is a bit much.
Well, this article in the Miami Herald (Miami, where the Catholic Archdiocese started all the talk of repeating their Pedro Pan operation with Haiti's children) offers this:

"The Haitian civil government is starting to reemerge,'' said Florida Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon, who has been meeting with state, county and federal leaders for several days to coordinate refugee resettlement efforts.

"The desire of the Haitian people, to the extent that this can be done, is for the children to be cared for in Haiti,'' Sheldon added. "That is their preference.''
Needing help from the international community, even asking for help from the international community, does not strip a country of its right to make decisions for its own people. After Hurricane Katrina, many countries offered and provided help to the U.S. The U.S. rejected much of that assistance, admittedly, but not all. In fact, the U.S. even officially requested help from some countries. That was all well within the rights of a sovereign nation -- accepting some aid offered, rejecting other aid offered. No one suggested that having accepted some form of aid from a country gave that country the right to force other forms of aid that the U.S. did not desire to accept.

Can you imagine people's reaction if the United Arab Emirates, which gave the U.S. $100 million after Katrina, had decided to mount a mass evacuation of Louisiana's children?! And if the UAE's response had been,"You asked for our help!!! You begged for our help!!!!! We're not stepping in and bullying you into accepting our help!" If we followed the "they asked for help" rule some want to impose on Haiti, having accepted that $100 million would have stripped us of any right to reject that offer of an Operation American Pan.

The U.S. should stand firm in recognizing Haiti's sovereignty in this situation, so that our sovereignty will be recognized if we need help in the face of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. As the BBC trenchantly observed about the aid the U.S. asked for after Hurricane Katrina, "Even superpowers need friends."

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