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U.S. Military Retreats from Haiti

17 May

The American military is getting out of the helping-Haitians business. U.S. soldiers hit the ground within hours of the earthquake, and played a crucial role in the emergency relief effort, getting the airport back in business, delivering tons of aid and maintaining order. There were over 20,000 of them in-country or on nearby ships by the end of January. But that number has dropped to some 850 and will soon be down to eight, according to my confreres at’s Danger Room.

Now, I’m rarely someone who cheers for American military involvement in other countries. It tends not to work out well either for us or for them, and it’s usually them that get the worst of it. And of course what with Afghanistan and Iraq still dragging endlessly on, it’s understandable that the Pentagon would want to disengage as quickly as possible from a third theater of operations. But. There are still over a million Haitians living in tents, and the hurricane season starts soon. Personally, I wouldn’t mind taking a few troops off Taliban-hunting in Helmand so we could deploy more of them for nation-building in Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Stacy Bourne,

How Much Help is Haiti Getting?

10 May

It’s really hard to know. CBS News has a dispiriting breakdown of how it is that aid groups are reporting to their donors that they’ve installed over 10,000 new latrines – but the UN counts barely half that number actually on the ground. What’s the deal? According to CBS, “One group may pay for a latrine, two others install it, and all three count it among the total help they’ve provided. There’s nothing improper about that, but what looks like three latrines – may really be just one.”

Meanwhile, at least there’s a little good news next door in the Dominican Republic, according to the Associated Press, via Bloomberg Business Week. After losing business to the recession in 2009, hotels in Santo Domingo have been full since January 12 – thanks to aid workers en route to Haiti.

ESPN Goes to Haiti

10 May

I’m not much interested in sports – actually, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about sports if I was paid to  care less about them. But the new issue of ESPN-The Magazine has an interesting angle on the Haiti quake, a minutely detailed account of the contrasting fates of the two guys who ran the  Haitian Football Federation. Some really vivid you-are-thereness, like this bit describing the Federation president’s flight from his office as the earthquake comes on:

“The building sways. The president slips and falls on the stairs, bricks and pieces of concrete dropping all around him, like shells pocking an invasion beach. One lands on his right hand, crushing the tips of the ring and middle fingers. … A brick lands on his back, another on his shoulder. This is how he’ll die, a few feet from safety, crushed by the building he ruled. But his legs still work. He feels them, feels strength remaining, so he struggles to his feet….”

Thanks to sports journalist extraordinaire David Davis for sending me the link.