Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Clinton defends relief efforts

Clinton Blasts Critics of Haiti Effort

January 27, 2010
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she
resents criticism of the U.S. effort to help stricken Haiti and pledged to
redouble efforts to help survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
"I deeply resent those who attack our country, the generosity of our people
and the leadership of our president in trying to respond to historically
disastrous conditions after the earthquake," Clinton said.
Separately, the State Department said the U.S. death toll in the Haiti
quake  is nearing 100. Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. has confirmed 60
American  deaths, and there are another 37 fatalities whose identities have not
been  established.
In her response to criticism of the U.S. effort in Haiti, Clinton cited the
news media but not other governments.
"Some of the international press either misunderstood or deliberately
misconstrued what was a civilian and military response, both of them necessary
in order to be able to deliver aid to the Haitians who desperately needed
it,"  Clinton told a gathering of State Department employees.
"I have absolutely no argument with anyone lodging a legitimate criticism
against our country," she said. "I think we can learn from that, and we are
foolish if we keep our head in the sand and pretend that we can't."
Asked to whom Clinton was referring, Crowley mentioned  criticism from
Italy and France, plus news reporting from Haiti by the  Al-Jazeera news network
and CNN that he said was unfair.
Crowley called reports by Al-Jazeera's English-language channel
"It suggested there was a militarization of the effort. It compared
military  activities at the airport to a little `green zone,'" he said. "We thought
that  was inappropriate."
The area of downtown Baghdad containing the U.S. occupation authority
following the 2003 invasion became known as the Green Zone.
In response to Crowley's comments, Al-Jazeera English issued a statement
defending its reporting in Haiti. It called its work "balanced, fair and
detailed," and said it reflected a range of views on quake relief efforts.
On Sunday, Italy's civil protection chief blasted the U.S. military
intervention as inefficient and out of touch with reality on the ground. In an
interview with state-run RAI television, Guido Bertolaso said the overall
relief  effort was a "pathetic" failure, and he called for the appointment of an
international civilian humanitarian coordinator.
The criticism was unusual from Italy, a close European ally of the United
States. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday said Bertolaso's
comments  had "caused misunderstandings."
"In such cases, it's best to avoid remarks that can involuntarily spark
controversies, keeping in mind that we are all working in good faith to help
Haiti's population," Berlusconi said in a statement.
He praised the "generous" U.S. intervention in Haiti, saying that without
it,  "everything would have been more difficult."
Clinton dismissed the Italian criticism Monday, saying during a news
conference with Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in Washington that a
massive humanitarian response could not succeed without military involvement.
Haitians have complained that food, medicine and water have been woefully
slow in reaching them. The aid group Doctors Without Borders has complained
of  skewed priorities and a supply bottleneck at the airport in
Port-au-Prince. And  French, Brazilian and other officials have complained about the
airport's  refusal to let their aid planes land, forcing many flights to end up
in the  neighboring Dominican Republic, a day's drive away.
French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet has urged the United Nations to
investigate the dominant U.S. role in the relief operation, arguing that
international aid efforts were supposed to be helping Haiti, not "occupying"
The U.S. military envisions being able to start handing off its mission in
Haiti to international organizations in three to six months, senior defense
officials said Tuesday.
"That three-to-six-month time frame is certainly a good logistics planning
window, but the U.S. military is committed to being there as long as we're
needed," said John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of

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