The U.S. relief effort after the Haiti earthquake started too slowly and cautiously, says a retired general who led the military relief effort on the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"The next morning after the earthquake, as a military man of 37 years service, I assumed … there would be airplanes delivering aid, not troops, but aid," said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated military operations after disaster struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. "What we saw instead was discussion about, 'Well we've got to send an assessment team in to see what the needs are.' And anytime I hear that, my head turns red."So, how is that working out for the Haitian people?
The problem, Honore told USA TODAY, is that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, instead of the military, take the lead in international disaster response.
Food handouts were shut off Tuesday to thousands of people at a tent city here when the main U.S. aid agency said the Army should not be distributing the packages.
It was not known whether the action reflected a high-level policy decision at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or confusion in a city where dozens of entities are involved in aid efforts.Smart power ..... or humanitarian assistance run by the Vogan?
"We are not supposed to get rations unless approved by AID," Maj. Larry Jordan said.
Jordan said that approval was revoked; water was not included in the USAID decision, so the troops continued to hand out bottles of water. The State Department and USAID did not respond to requests for comment.
Jordan has been at the airport supervising distribution of individual food packages and bottled water since his arrival last week. Each package provides enough calories to sustain a person for a day.
The food is flown by helicopter to points throughout the capital and distributed by paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. At the tent city, set up at a golf course, more than 10,000 people displaced by the Haitian earthquake lay under makeshift tents. Each day, hundreds of people, many young children, line up for a meal.
Tuesday morning, the helicopters came only with water. Soldiers carried boxes of water in the hot sun and supervised Haitian volunteers who handed the supplies out.