Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that American relief efforts in Haiti had fallen short and told U.S. President Barack Obama to "send vaccinations, kid," instead of armed soldiers.
The left-wing foe of Washington has accused the United States of using the earthquake in Haiti as a pretext for an "imperial occupation" of the devastated Caribbean nation.
"Obama, send vaccinations, kid, send vaccinations," Chavez said during his weekly broadcast. "Each soldier that you send there should carry a medical kit instead of hand grenades and machine guns.
Without a doubt, the American military is one of the best assets to any disaster relief effort. Let's face it, the US military moves men and material farther and faster than any organization known to man.
During the first few days after the earthquake struck, many hard decisions were made, particularly those that involved allowing US military aircraft to land, forcing relief aircraft to be diverted away from the sole functioning airport in Port-au-Prince. Such decisions are not made lightly, but it would be wise to bear in mind that, had American military aircraft not landed with important equipment--such as forklifts for unloading cargo, equipment for repairing airfields, air traffic service equipment, and heavy vehicles--that rescue workers would continue to only trickle in. While contributions from around the world are pouring in to Haiti, it's safe to say that the aid could not have gotten there had the US not operated the airports and started to improve the ports.
The logistical difficulties and distances involved are mind-boggling. While some have criticized the fact that the US Navy's hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, took nearly a week to arrive in Haiti, keep in mind that the Comfort travels at a mere 17 knots--that's roughly 20 miles per hour (30 kph)! Interestingly enough, despite their age, the Comfort and her sister ship, the Mercy, have certainly done their share of work in the past few years, responding to the Tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina, and now the earthquake in Haiti. To think that there were those who suggested decommissioning the ships a mere six years ago!