The slow, fumbling, half-hearted response to the Western Hemisphere's greatest catastrophe, from Haiti's next-door neighbor USA, is simply shocking -- and now we're mistakenly acting as if it's over.
American media, and America, has already turned most of its attention away from Haiti to "more important" issues -- a car-bomb in the Middle East that kills dozens, or Toyota defects that have killed less than 20 -- while broken, bleeding Haiti continues to loose easily 100 times that number of people every day, from the earthquake's continuing effects.
Weeks after the quake, UN Deputy Envoy to Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer, reported that probably 20,000 were still dying daily from lack of adequate medical care -- weeks later! That's a half-dozen times as many as died in the 9-11 terror attacks, dying in Haiti every day -- still!
Yet to look at America's rapidly diminishing focus on this monstrous horror, you'd think nothing much happened. And it started with the utter ineffectiveness of America's disaster-response, and actual impact on lifesaving, and the responses of our private and public bureaucracies:
* BLOOD ON OUR HANDS: Days after the earthquake, the American Red Cross -- manager of half of our nation's 13-million-unit-a-year blood supply -- announced it was just beginning to ship "over 100 units of blood" to a nation desperately needing thousands of gallons of blood. Over the next several days, ARC bragged in press releases and web pages about several similar micro-response farces -- absurdly tiny bits of medical aid, water, food, supplies -- until someone hit them with a wake-up call, and they temporarily began stripping their press releases of hard numbers.
* SHIP OF FOOLS: As if announcing it had solved Haiti's problem, The U.S. government proudly announced it would send a hospital ship -- a week later -- with room for only 250 patients -- to a nation urgently needing medical care for 250,000.
* HELICOPTER HOARDING: When it quickly became clear that roads were impassible, and land transport unavailable, the call went out for helicopters. Right off Haitian shores, America has half of the world's helicopters. That includes over 5,000 civilian helicopters, nearly a quarter of them in Florida (for the tourist trade) and the Gulf Coast (to service offshore oil rigs). And America has over 5,000 military helicopters -- more of them stationed on military bases in Florida, Georgia, and the Gulf Coast states, than anywhere else in the U.S. Yet, 3 days after the call went out, we only had a few dozen helicopters in Haiti to assist a million desperate people.
* THE REAL RESCUE HEROES - HAITIANS: A reckless scattering of international-aid responders, including Americans, shouted loudly about Westerners' rescuing 165 Haitians, days after the quake, with sophisticated rescue teams -- after Haitians themselves, unaided for days (weeks in the rural areas) had already rescued thousands of their own loved ones, forced to dig them out of the rubble with only their bare hands, for lack of aid.
Thousands more died slowly in the rubble, before anyone reached them. Thousands
* DOCTORS OUTSIDE THE BORDERS: Our huge, rich nation, with over a half-million doctors -- most of them living closer to Haiti than to the U.S. West Coast -- managed to have only a few hundred doctors arrive in Haiti, a full week after the earthquakes and dying began.
* MILITARY "INTELLIGENCE": Our military, upon seizing control of the capital's airport, repeatedly turned away a massive shipment of desperately-needed medical supplies (enroute to working medical teams of Doctors Without Borders) -- while airlifting in hundreds of armed U.S. troops -- who then stood haplessly in the streets, doing nothing for the relief effort, but acting as intimidating scarecrows to "maintain order."
What does this catastrophe warn us of, about our prospects for life-saving response to the soon-expected "Big One" in Southern California? Or a terror attack with a weapon of a mass destruction? Or even another Hurricane Katrina?
Journalists have mostly packed up and left Haiti, and with them, America's attention. America's media (and Americans) have returned to fussing obsessively over comparatively trivial losses of life, in other incidents at home and abroad, while ignoring the continuing massive catastrophe right next door.
The editor's protest: "It's not new-- so it's not news," rings as hollow today as it did following Hurricane Katrina (a comparatively tiny disaster, claiming only about 1,500 lives -- less than 2% of the Haitian toll to date -- about equal to the continuing DAILY toll in one Haitian city alone). As it turned out, Katrina was a big, BIG story. Haiti is a HUNDRED times bigger.
Our inept, unprepared, uncoordinated, fumbling, tardy, careless and shallow response to Haiti's earthquake makes us look like the world's idiots -- and warns our allies, and potential allies, of what a truly useless "friend" we can be in times of real need.
But it doesn't seem to have yet captured our own attention -- and we are surely going pay dearly for this national stupidity, soon enough.