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Is U.S. military relief effort Operation Tomodachi really about friendship?

April 23, 2011 

A post on the Japan Today blog asks:

“Tomodachi?” Friends? To many Japanese living near U.S. military bases, the bilateral “friendship” has seemed more like a prolonged occupation. Will Operation Tomodachi make friends of them, and turn their sullen resistance into gratitude?

It’s the biggest ever U.S. humanitarian mission in Japan – 20,000 troops, 113 aircraft and 12 ships thrown into the battle against chaos in the wake of Japan’s greatest postwar crisis, the earthquake-tsunami-radiation nightmare.

The blogger cites the Shukan Post’s claims that the entire military operation is for publicity:

The whole vast operation is purely for show, it says – and who will be paying the bill, it demands, when the hearts and minds have been won? You guessed it – Japan.

One example cited of the shibai (deception) was story of 78 bodies found along the Iwate Prefecture coast, supposedly by Japanese and American rescuers working cooperatively. However, a Japan Maritime Self Defense Force member was quoted as saying: “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”

The cost to Japan for U.S. “friendship”?:

Friendship doesn’t come cheap, Shukan Post notes. Operation Tomodachi, it says, is an $80 million undertaking, the cost to be covered through supplements to Japan’s financial commitment to support American troops stationed in Japan.

“When nuclear reactors blow, the first thing that melts down is the truth”; What They’re Covering Up at Fukushima

March 24, 2011 

Yesterday the EPA reported its first detection in Hawai’i of radiation from the Japanese nuclear meltdown: “The isotope was “far below any level of concern for human health,” the EPA said.”

As the New York Times reported that Japanese authorities have issued a warning not to drink tap water in Tokyo due to contamination by radioactive Iodine 131, Chip Ward reminds  us in “How the “Peaceful Atom” Became a Serial Killer”, “When nuclear reactors blow, the first thing that melts down is the truth. ”

Doug Lummi published in Counterpunch this partial translation of a Japanese news media interview with Hirose Takashi, a well known Japanese nuclear expert.  The picture he paints of the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima is much worse than the media has reported.  Similar to the arguments made by anti-DU activists in Hawai’i, reports that radiation detections being at “safe levels” are terribly misleading:

They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it.  The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping.  What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside.  These industry-mouthpiece scholars come on TV and what to they say?  They say as you move away the radiation is reduced in inverse ratio to the square of the distance.  I want to say the reverse.  Internal irradiation happens when radioactive material is ingested into the body.  What happens?  Say there is a nuclear particle one meter away from you. You breathe it in, it sticks inside your body; the distance between you and it is now at the micron level. One meter is 1000 millimeters, one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter.  That’s a thousand times a thousand: a thousand squared.  That’s the real meaning of “inverse ratio of the square of the distance.”  Radiation exposure is increased by a factor of a trillion.  Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger.

According to Mr. Takashi, the only solution is to bury the damaged nuclear plants in a solid block of cement.  But the only thing Japanese authorities seem intent on burying is the truth.

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Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/takashi03222011.html

March 22, 2011

“You Get 3,500,000 the Normal Dose. You Call That Safe? And What Media Have Reported This? None!”

What They’re Covering Up at Fukushima

By HIROSE TAKASHI

Introduced by Douglas Lummis

Okinawa

Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex.  Probably his best known book is  Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they’re safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires?

He did the TV interview that is partly translated below somewhat against his present impulses.  I talked to him on the telephone today (March 22 , 2011) and he told me that while it made sense to oppose nuclear power back then, now that the disaster has begun he would just as soon remain silent, but the lies they are telling on the radio and TV are so gross that he cannot remain silent.

I have translated only about the first third of the interview (you can see the whole thing in Japanese on you-tube), the part that pertains particularly to what is happening at the Fukushima plants.  In the latter part he talked about how dangerous radiation is in general, and also about the continuing danger of earthquakes.

After reading his account, you will wonder, why do they keep on sprinkling water on the reactors, rather than accept the sarcophagus solution  [ie., entombing the reactors in concrete. Editors.] I think there are a couple of answers.  One, those reactors were expensive, and they just can’t bear the idea of that huge a financial loss.  But more importantly, accepting the sarcophagus solution means admitting that they were wrong, and that they couldn’t fix the things.  On the one hand that’s too much guilt for a human being to bear.  On the other, it means the defeat of the nuclear energy idea, an idea they hold to with almost religious devotion.  And it means not just the loss of those six (or ten) reactors, it means shutting down all the others as well, a financial catastrophe.  If they can only get them cooled down and running again they can say, See, nuclear power isn’t so dangerous after all.  Fukushima is a drama with the whole world watching, that can end in the defeat or (in their frail, I think groundless, hope) victory for the nuclear industry.  Hirose’s account can help us to understand what the drama is about. Douglas Lummis

Hirose Takashi:  The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and the State of the Media

Broadcast by Asahi NewStar, 17 March, 20:00

Interviewers: Yoh Sen’ei and Maeda Mari

Yoh: Today many people saw water being sprayed on the reactors from the air and from the ground, but is this effective?

Hirose:  . . . If you want to cool a reactor down with water, you have to circulate the water inside and carry the heat away, otherwise it has no meaning. So the only solution is to reconnect the electricity.  Otherwise it’s like pouring water on lava.

Yoh: Reconnect the electricity – that’s to restart the cooling system?

Hirose:  Yes.  The accident was caused by the fact that the tsunami flooded the emergency generators and carried away their fuel tanks.  If that isn’t fixed, there’s no way to recover from this accident.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power (Part 1 of “Japanʻs Nuclear Nightmare”)

March 18, 2011 

In “Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power,” Tim Shorrock, an independent journalist and blogger on Asian Pacific issues gives an excellent and critical account of the origins and rise of Japanʻs nuclear industry:

The nuclear industry was born a deformed monster in Japan when the U.S. warplane Enola Gay dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

As a journalist covering Japanese nuclear issues in the early 1980s, he witnessed and wrote about the community struggles against nuclear power.   The catastrophe unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was to be expected as an outcome of the corrupt and anti-democratic processes driving their proliferation.  He describes several ʻbig holesʻ in the public rationale for nuclear power in Japan:

I’m speaking of the industry’s and government’s tendency to play up the positives of nuclear power and ignore its many downsides; the undemocratic nature of the siting and building process, which has historically excluded citizens’ groups and made it very hard to oppose – let alone block – the construction of new plants; and the two-tiered labor system, which has created an underclass of contract workers – “nuclear gypsies” – who do the dirty work at the plants and suffer the most from radiation and other industrial diseases.

This is the first part a series Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare READ THE FULL ARTICLE The second part deals with “nuclear gypsies”.

Check out Tim Shorrockʻs blog for many other articles related to the National Security Agency and intelligence matters, North East Asia issues, globalization and global justice movements.

What the U.S. Can Do to Help Japan Recover – Stop Demanding Billions From Japan for U.S. Bases

March 17, 2011 

The following appeal was sent by the New Japan Womenʻs Association calling for an end to the billions of dollars Japan pays to the U.S. to cover the cost of foreign military bases.

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Dear our friends in the U.S. peace community,

This is Emiko HIRANO, international section head of the New Japan Women’s Association (Shinfujin).

Thank you very much for solidarity, compassion and support you have been extending to us, in this most difficult time in our postwar history. You keep reminding us that we are not alone in enduring and recovering from the unprecedented tragedy.

President Barack Obama said in his statement on Thursday, “We will stand with the people of Japan as they contain this crisis, recover from this hardship, and rebuild their great nation.” We are grateful that the president of our ally is ready to do whatever it can to help us out of this tragedy.

The New Japan Women’s Association calls on our sisters and brothers, friends of the U.S. peace and just movement to ask your president to return the money he receives from the Japanese government, that is our taxpayers’ money, to cover the 75 percent of the cost of the U.S. military stationing in Japan. We have over 130 U.S. military bases and facilities with about 40,000 personnel. The expenses for the maintaining the U.S. military in our country is called “sympathy budget,” (host nation support in your media) because it covers far beyond the Japan’s obligation under the Security Treaty; it includes the salaries of the Japanese employees working in the bases, as well as heating, electricity and water, and even dry-cleaning charges of military families. In 2010, the expenses totaled nearly 190 billion yen (about $1.6 billion), and Japan covers 50 percent of all the cost of U.S. military stationed around the world.

With the unprecedented scale of damage in Tohoku region, well-known for its fishery and agricultural products, and the possible radiation contamination, we need money for the rescue work and for assisting the people who barely survived to recover. In the long run, Japan will need more and more money not only for the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas but also for recovering from the economic and human losses we are facing as a whole nation. We cannot afford sustaining U.S. military bases and daily life of the military families any more while we need money to help our fellow people living in sorrow, grief and fear to get back to their normal life as soon as possible, although life will not be the same as it used to be.

Please tell your president to show his support by saying that he kindly declines to receive the “sympathy budget.” Please tell your congresswomen, congressmen and senators to present a resolution to this end.

Here in Japan, the New Japan Women’s Association, urges the Japanese government to stop spending the Japanese people money for maintaining the U.S. military and to reallocate the budget for human need, with immediate focus on the assistance to the Tohoku population. We believe this will lead to the drastic cut in military spending to make our world safer for all and more sustainable.

HIRANO Emiko

****************************************

International Section Head

New Japan Women’s Association

5-10-20, Koishikawa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-0002 JAPAN

Phone: +81-3-3814-9141

Fax: +81-3-3814-9441

E-mail: s-intl@shinfujin.gr.jp / hiraemi@concerto.plala.or.jp

URL: http://www.shinfujin.gr.jp

As Japan’s nuclear crisis goes critical, we are all downwind

March 13, 2011 

In the wake of the terrible earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan, a new threat rises from the rubble with the partial meltdowns of radioactive cores in two nuclear reactors that were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

News reports paint a picture of a crisis rapidly spinning out of control.  The New York Times reported:

Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a widening nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors and that they were facing serious cooling problems at three more.

The emergency appeared to be the worst involving a nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago. The developments at two separate nuclear plants prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people. Japanese officials said they had also ordered up the largest mobilization of their Self-Defense Forces since World War II to assist in the relief effort.

On Saturday, Japanese officials took the extraordinary step of flooding the crippled No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 170 miles north of Tokyo, with seawater in a last-ditch effort to avoid a nuclear meltdown.

Then on Sunday, cooling failed at a second reactor — No. 3 — and core melting was presumed at both, said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. Cooling had failed at three reactors at a nuclear complex nearby, Fukushima Daini, although he said conditions there were considered less dire for now.

The article went on:

The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that as many as 160 people may have been exposed to radiation around the plant, and Japanese news media said that three workers at the facility were suffering from full-on radiation sickness.

Even before the explosion on Saturday, officials said they had detected radioactive cesium, which is created when uranium fuel is split, an indication that some of the nuclear fuel in the reactor was already damaged.

How much damage the fuel suffered remained uncertain, though safety officials insisted repeatedly through the day that radiation leaks outside the plant remained small and did not pose a major health risk.

However, they also told the International Atomic Energy Agency that they were making preparations to distribute iodine, which helps protect the thyroid gland from radiation exposure, to people living near Daiichi and Daini.

Assurances by Japanese officials that the reactor container has not been breached are being questioned.  Statfor reports that:

Reports of iodine and cesium outside of the plant indicate that the reactor’s containment structure has been breached.

Iodine is in the fuel pins and cesium is a particulate, meaning there are heavy particles in the air, which are basically radioactive dust. Cesium 137, which Yomiuri Shimbun reports has been discovered in the surrounding area, is probably a product of the nuclear fission process and a strong demonstration of severe damage to the nuclear reactor’s core. The fact that the government has prepared a series of iodine treatments for locals in the vicinity of the nuclear plants suggests it is anticipating the need to prevent iodine exposure.

Meanwhile 90 people were reported as possibly exposed to radiation, including 30 refugees from the area and 60 people on staff at Futaba hospital. Sources suspect that Japan has already undergone “clad failure” (when zirconium in the rods reacts with water) leading to a violent exothermic reaction. This produces large quantities of hydrogen. The March 12 blast was probably caused by a combined steam and hydrogen explosion. The explosion may have destroyed the containment structure in the reactor vessel. This raises the distinct possibility that the core will gain heat to the point that it will melt through the reactor at the bottom of the reactor vessel. While there remain too many uncertainties to make reliable forecasts, the disaster has clearly escalated to a high level. Critical questions will be whether the radiation count rises above 1000 millirems per hour and whether winds should change direction to blow radiation from the north into Tokyo.

Another New York Times article reported:

Japan’s nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.

The emergency flooding of two stricken reactors with seawater and the resulting steam releases are a desperate step intended to avoid a much bigger problem: a full meltdown of the nuclear cores in two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. On Monday, an explosion blew the roof off the second reactor, not damaging the core, officials said, but presumably leaking more radiation.

U.S. military personnel aboard ships assisting in the earth quake and tsunami rescue and recovery effort have been exposed to the radioactive cloud:

On Sunday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it expected no “harmful levels of radioactivity” to move on the winds to Hawaii, Alaska or the West Coast from the reactors in Japan, “given the thousands of miles between the two countries.”

“No harmful levels of radioactivity”?  Not very reassuring given that the jetstream blows eastward over the northern Pacific ocean.

As the devastating tsunami plowed across the Pacific, damage outside of Japan appears to have been minimal.  Hawai’i experienced powerful surges in certain locations. Homes were ripped off foundations, boats and docks were trashed and businesses flooded. But Hawai’i had no tsunami related deaths or injuries.

Guam was also minimally affected. However the Navy reported that two nuclear powered submarines came loose in the surge:

The Navy reported that at around 8 p.m., the mooring lines for the submarines the USS Houston and the USS City of Corpus Christi broke free from the pier at Alpha wharf at Naval Base Guam due to a tsunami wave.

Officials say tug boats from Naval Base Guam responded quickly to the situation and safely moored both submarines. The submarine tender USS Frank Cable and the submarine the USS Oklahoma City remained safely moored throughout the tsunami event.

Thankfully, there were no major mishaps related to this incident.  However, it reminds  us of the danger posed by nuclear powered and armed naval vessels in our islands.

Hawai’i has no nuclear power plants.  Early planners had the wisdom to go nuclear free. Some counties like Hawai’i island have declared themselves nuclear free zones.  But U.S. military ignores these nuclear prohibitions.  Nuclear weapons have long been stored in Hawai’i. Back in the 1980s, activists exposed the presence of nuclear weapons in Waikele gulch only hundreds of yards from the heavily populated Waipahu neighborhood.  After having their cover blown, military officials moved the nukes to West Loch.  Global Security lists 50 W-80-0 nuclear warheads (150-kiloton yield each) for Tomahawk Sea-Launched Cruise Missles and 40 B-61 nuclear aerial gravity bombs (170-kiloton yield) stored at Naval Magazine Pearl Harbor West Loch.  A dense concentration of O’ahu’s population lives within a ten mile radius of this site.

We have also  had close encounters with nuclear accidents. According to the navysite.de June 14, 1960:

USS SARGO suffers an explosion and fire in her aft end while docked at Pearl Harbor. The fire starts from a leak in a high-pressure line that was pumping oxygen aboard. The explosion occurs a few moments later. When dock units and boats are unable to bring the fire under control quickly, officers take the SARGO a short distance from the dock and submerge it with the stern hatch open to put out the blaze. The Navy says the ship’s nuclear reactors were sealed off. and there was “absolutely no danger of an explosion from the reactor compartment.” The submarine is extensively damaged and is drydocked taking three months to repair. The SARGO is the first nuclear ship in the Pacific Fleet and was scheduled to take the visiting King and Queen of Thailand on a cruise the next day.

Assurances of “absolutely no danger” are not convincing, especially when shipyard workers tell their stories of how close we were to a “China Syndrome”.  The USS Sargo had other accidents including a collision with an ice keel during Ice Exercise ’60 damaging her bow, and in 1963, collision with another nuclear powered sub, the USS Barb.

There have been a number of smaller accidents involving the release of radioactive contamination into Pearl Harbor.  The sediment near the shipyard is contaminated with radioactive Cobalt 60.

Depleted uranium has also been released in Lihu’e (Schofield) and Pohakuloa.

Anyone know good recipes for potassium iodide cocktails?

Pilger: The Kidnapping of Haiti

January 29, 2010 

Bits and pieces of news have begun to emerge about the U.S. militarization of relief efforts in Haiti.   In the article below, John Pilger describes what he calls the “Kidnapping of Haiti”.  France has accused the U.S. of “occupying” Haiti.  Others including Naomi Klein warned of a new disaster capitalism assault on Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.  Compare Cuba’s response in Fidel Castro’s op ed at the bottom.   Some groups have organized petition drives to call for “food not troops” for Haiti.

For ordinary Haitians, the sentiment was summed up in an article in the Tehran Times:

“We don’t need military aid. What we need is food and shelter,” one young man yelled at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to the city Sunday. “We are dying,” a woman told him.

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http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/02/haiti-pilger-obama-venezuela

The Kidnapping of Haiti

John Pilger

Published 28 January 2010

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“With US troops in control of their country, the outlook for the people of Haiti is bleak”

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The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude. On 22 January, the United States secured “formal approval” from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to “secure” roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in a US naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

The airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is now a US military base and relief flights have been rerouted to the Dominican Republic. All flights stopped for three hours for the arrival of Hillary Clinton. Critically injured Haitians waited unaided as 800 American residents in Haiti were fed, watered and evacuated. Six days passed before the US air force dropped bottled water to people suffering dehydration.

A very American coup

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”. In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti’s past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. “There’s no doubt,” reported Frei in the aftermath of America’s bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, “that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East . . . is now increasingly tied up with military power.”

In a sense, he was right. Never before in so-called peacetime have human relations been as militarised by rapacious power. Never before has an American president subordinated his government to the military establishment of his discredited predecessor, as Barack Obama has done. In pursuing George W Bush’s policy of war and domination, Obama has sought from Congress an unprecedented military budget in excess of $700bn. He has become, in effect, the spokesman for a military coup.

For the people of Haiti the implications are clear, if grotesque. With US troops in control of their country, Obama has appointed Bush to the “relief effort”: a parody lifted from Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in Papa Doc’s Haiti. Bush’s relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to an ethnic cleansing of many of New Orleans’s black population. In 2004, he ordered the kidnapping of the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and exiled him to Africa. The popular Aristide had had the temerity to legislate modest reforms, such as a minimum wage for those who toil in Haiti’s sweatshops.

When I was last in Haiti, I watched very young girls stooped in front of whirring, hissing binding machines at the Superior baseball plant in Port-au-Prince. Many had swollen eyes and lacerated arms. I produced a camera and was thrown out. Haiti is where America makes the equipment for its hallowed national game, for next to nothing. Haiti is where Walt Disney contractors make Mickey Mouse pyjamas, for next to nothing. The US controls Haiti’s sugar, bauxite and sisal. Rice-growing was replaced by imported American rice, driving people into the town and jerry-built housing. Year after year, Haiti was invaded by US marines, infamous for atrocities that have been their speciality from the Philippines to Afghanistan. Bill Clinton is another comedian, having got himself appointed the UN’s man in Haiti. Once fawned upon by the BBC as “Mr Nice Guy . . . bringing democracy back to a sad and troubled land”, Clinton is Haiti’s most notorious privateer, demanding deregulation that benefits the sweatshop barons. Lately, he has been promoting a $55m deal to turn the north of Haiti into an American-annexed “tourist playground”.

Not for tourists is the US building its fifth-biggest embassy. Oil was found in Haiti’s waters decades ago and the US has kept it in reserve until the Middle East begins to run dry. More urgently, an occupied Haiti has a strategic importance in Washington’s “rollback” plans for Latin America. The goal is the overthrow of the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, control of Venezuela’s abundant petroleum reserves, and sabotage of the growing regional co-operation long denied by US-sponsored regimes.

Obama’s next war?

The first rollback success came last year with the coup against the Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya, who also dared advocate a minimum wage and that the rich pay tax. Obama’s secret support for the illegal regime in Honduras carries a clear warning to vulnerable governments in central America. Last October, the regime in Colombia, long bankrolled by Washington and supported by death squads, handed the Americans seven military bases to “combat anti-US governments in the region”.

Media propaganda has laid the ground for what may well be Obama’s next war. In December, researchers at the University of the West of England published first findings of a ten-year study of BBC reporting on Venezuela. Of 304 BBC reports, only three mentioned any of the historic reforms of Hugo Chavez’s government, while the majority denigrated his extraordinary democratic record, at one point comparing him to Hitler.

Such distortion and servitude to western power are rife across the Anglo-American media. People who struggle for a better life, or for life itself, from Venezuela to Honduras to Haiti, deserve our support.

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http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/5474-castro-on-haitiqsend-doctors-not-troopsq.html

WE SEND DOCTORS, NOT SOLDIERS

by Fidel Castro l HAVANA TIMES

In my Reflection of January 14, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti,  which destroyed that neighboring sister nation, I wrote:  “In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country.

Cuban doctors on the ground in Port-au-Prince
Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country. On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country.

They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.”

“The head of our medical brigade has informed that ‘the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives.’”

Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have started to work nonstop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the population feared new aftershocks.

The situation was far more serious than was originally thought.  Tens of thousands of injured were clamoring for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons laid, dead or alive, under the rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses where the overwhelming majority of the population lived.

Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed.  Besides, it was necessary to look for the Haitian doctors who had graduated at the Latin American Medicine School throughout all the destroyed neighborhoods.  Many of them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.

Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN contingent.  The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.

Haiti’s Presidential Palace crumbled.  Many public facilities, including several hospitals, were left in ruins.

The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what was going on through the images aired by the main international TV networks.  Governments from everywhere in the planet announced they would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other resources.

In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical staff from different countries –namely Spain, Mexico, and Colombia, among others- worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they had improvised.  Organizations such as PAHO and other friendly countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and other resources.  The impeccable behavior of Cuban professionals and their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of the limelight.

Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances, when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, offered to send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources.  But at that moment what was needed were trained and well- equipped doctors to save lives.

Given New Orleans geographical location, more than one thousand doctors of the “Henry Reeve” contingent mobilized and readied to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, carrying with them the necessary medicines and equipment.  It never crossed our mind that the President of that nation would reject the offer and let a number of Americans that could have been saved to die.  The mistake made by that government was perhaps the inability to understand that the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does not blame it for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.

Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does not need to beg for favors or forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.

Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately responded to the   US authorities requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba as well as other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had been affected by the earthquake.

Such have been the principles characterizing the ethical behavior of our people.  Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have been the ever-present features of our foreign policy.  And this is known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the international arena.

Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.

Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world.  Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad.  That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member States were trampled upon.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls.  UNICEF has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which will deprive their close relatives from their rights.

There are more than one hundred thousand deadly victims.  A high number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage their own.

Eighty per cent of the country needs to be rebuilt.  Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity.  The reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the population, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti.  There, as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for a sustainable development.  In only forty years time, humanity will be made of more than nine billion inhabitants, and right now is faced with the challenge of a climate change that scientists accept as an inescapable reality.

In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti.  Worse still is the fact that neither the United Nations Organization nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops.

Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources that have been sent to Haiti.

Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending an additional number of troops and military equipment.  In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, which is already in itself complex.  It is necessary to seriously discuss this issue.  The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these so delicate matters.

Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission.  To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal.  The will of our people, who takes pride in   its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.

Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human resources of our homeland.

It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest aircrafts and the important human resources that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination without any difficulty whatsoever.

We send doctors, not soldiers!

Superferry craft Haiti-bound

January 19, 2010 

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20100119/NEWS01/1190362/Superferry+craft+Haiti-bound

Posted on: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Superferry craft Haiti-bound

Advertiser Staff

One of two high-speed catamarans built for Hawaii Superferry is being sent to Haiti to help with relief efforts following the devastating earthquake.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said the Huakai is among five ships owned or controlled by the federal Maritime Administration being prepared for the relief operation.

“Sending these ships will help those on the front line of this effort save as many lives in Haiti as possible,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a statement. “These ships will add crucial capabilities by supporting operations to move large volumes of people and cargo.”

Huakai was built for Hawaii Superferry but was never used for ferry service in the Islands because the company ceased operations and went bankrupt last year. The Huakai and a sister vessel, the Alakai, have been berthed in a Norfolk, Va., shipyard since last summer.

The Maritime Administration, which guaranteed loans for construction of the catamarans and holds first priority mortgages, took possession of the vessels after they were abandoned by the company.

Austal USA, the Alabama shipbuilder that built the vessels, and the state of Hawai’i, which provided $40 million in harbor improvements, hold second and third mortgages.

The Maritime Administration has looked into the possible sale or charter of the catamarans.

Natural disasters provide a showcase for military capabilities

October 3, 2009 

The U.S. military is mobilizing disaster relief in the Philippines, Indonesia and Samoa.   The three natural disasters to hit Asia and the Pacific in the past week (typhoon in the Philippines, earthquake and tsunami in Samoa and earthquake in Indonesia)  have provided the U.S. military with a showcase for its capabilities and a public relations bonanza.   Without belittling the human tragedy of these events, the urgent need for assistance, or the sacrifice of those involved in the rescue and relief efforts, we must question why is it, with civilian agencies and NGOs that have long responded to disaster response needs,  that the U.S. military is the only agency or organization that seems to have the resources to mobilize humanitarian relief on this scale.   Ever since the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami, there has been increasing militarization of humanitarian assistance and talk of humanitarian missions as the justification for the U.S. military expansion into the Asia-Pacific region.   Undoubtedly, the present crisis will be used to bolster arguments for intensifying and expanding the military reach in the Pacific.

Indonesia is a good example.  The U.S. Congress cut off military aid to Indonesia due to the horrendous human rights record of its military.  The Indonesian military was responsible for terrible human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh, Maluku and West Papua.  In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. Senator Inouye inserted a clause in a bill that renewed military training for Indonesian military officers at the Pacific Command’s Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Waikiki.  This opened the door for more military cooperation with a country that the U.S. considered a valuable ally in the global war on terror.   A couple of years ago, the Hawai’i National Guard, through a Pentagon program called the State Partnership Program, established a formal military partnership with the Indonesian military.  In a high profile visit to Indonesia, Governor Lingle signed the agreement, which included among other things cooperation on military training and humanitarian assistance.

It will be worth watching to see how these natural disasters will effect the military’s posture in the region in the future.

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http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20091003_military_mobilizes_relief_aid_across_asia_and_the_pacific.html

Military mobilizes relief aid across Asia and the Pacific

By Gregg K. Kakesako

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 03, 2009

The USS Denver, equipped with heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and a contingent of Marines, is moving from the Philippines to Indonesia to be part of the relief effort after an earthquake killed more than 1,000 people.

Adm. Timothy Keating, in charge of all military forces in the Pacific, briefed reporters in a conference call from his Camp Smith headquarters yesterday about military aid for natural disasters in Indonesia, the Philippines and the Samoas.

So far, the Pacific Command redirected about a dozen Special Forces soldiers, who were already going to Indonesia on a scheduled training exercise, to help with an Indonesian Army damage assessment, Keating said. A Navy admiral is being sent to Indonesia to oversee the response efforts, he said.

The United States has provided $300,000 for emergency relief, dispatched a team to assess needs and has set aside an additional $3 million for assistance pending the full assessment.

The Denver had been part of the amphibious ready group, including the dock landing ships USS Harpers Ferry and USS Tortuga, which were diverted from a previous scheduled training mission with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Manila to provide emergency relief assistance following Tropical Storm Ketsana, which struck Sept. 25, said Maj. Brad Gordon, Pacific Command spokesman.

The Harpers Ferry, the Tortuga and the Marines will remain off the northern coast of Luzon because of the threat posed this weekend by a second storm, Typhoon Perma.

Gordon said that there have been 400 medical and dental assistance cases in the Philippines as of yesterday, and more than 4,300 food packages that can each feed four people have been distributed.

As for American Samoa, Gordon said there have been five C-17 Globemaster jet cargo relief flights from Hickam Air Force Base carrying supplies, food, power generation equipment, search and emergency vehicles, and rescue and mortuary affairs teams. Gordon said that several more C-17 relief missions from Hickam to ferry Red Cross relief workers to American Samoa are planned.

Keating said the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Readiness Group is east of Guam ready to respond if Typhoon Melor proves to be a threat in the Northern Mariana Islands.