Last month in Jacmel I got to relive the terror that is an army of overweight, East Asian UN soldiers swarming my Caucasian body for meaningless photos at the beach like a bunch of drunk frat boys on Spring Break. I had spent an enjoyable afternoon chillin under the palm trees with my friends and had just gone to the other end of the beach to take a pee but I didn’t even make it before the security forces were upon me to snap selfies with me. Roll my eyes, don’t crack a smile, and get it over with. It’s not a secret that I don’t like these UN guys much, especially at the beach, but in general, in the country. But this week the UN has given me reason to like them even less.
I know it’s not these goon’s on beach fault that over 8,000 of the Haitians that they’re supposed to be protecting died of cholera, but it is the fault of their Nepalese friends up in Mirebalais. It’s been proven and widely accepted that it was those UN soldiers who were responsible for the contamination of the water source that led to the epidemic that caused all those deaths and infected hundreds of thousands more across the country. It’s been widely accepted by almost absolutely everyone except the UN. And yet these soldiers still get to show up at the beach and have a good time in their vehicles with the UN logo and their uniforms with the UN logo and their atrocious shiny speedos. I understand that there’s not much a country or the population can do against an institution as powerful as the UN, but couldn’t we at least revoke their beach rites? Maybe we can’t throw them all in prison, but couldn’t we at least prevent anyone bearing that logo from ever getting to enjoy themselves within the country?
This, however, is a distant dream in itself because this week Ban Ki-moon announced that Haiti will not even be receiving an apology, compensation, or even an acknowledgement from the UN for the act or accident that caused the cholera outbreak. He let the world know that they accept no responsibility for the lives lost or the pain and illness caused all over the country. Why? Because they’re the UN dammit and they can do what they want. A convention back in 1947 granted them immunity for the effects of any of their actions. So they are apparently above the law or any sort of accountability for their actions whatsoever. Or at least when the victims are just a bunch of poor Haitians. Of course it’s not the UN’s fault for dumping their shit in the river, it’s the Haitian’s fault for not washing their hands enough.
If an institution was responsible for that many deaths anywhere else in the world, we would demand justice. The world would be outraged. But in Haiti, it seems like this defiant abuse of power by the UN will go unchallenged. Haitians are always dying of something weird anyway, right? If it wasn’t cholera, it would have been malaria, or typhoid, or AIDS, or infected paper cuts, so why make a big deal about it all? The UN now gets to decide who’s disposable. And they’ve chosen Haiti.
The people of Haiti, however, have felt this attitude from the world since long before the Cholera outbreak. In the first days after the earthquake in January 2010, while aftershocks were still upsetting the ground at intervals throughout the days, and everyone was still unsure about what was actually going on, many Haitians were believing some theories that were being spread that they were actually under attack. The claim was that the US or some other affluent war hungry country was testing some sort of super bombs in the ocean and they had to choose someone to sacrifice for the sake of their weapons testing, so they chose Haiti. And that was the cause of the quake. Now obviously, this seems far fetched from our perspective, but it showed what Haitians believed about what the rest of the world thought of them. They have been convinced that they are disposable, expendable, and altogether worthless in the eyes of the more powerful countries in this world. And although eventually education spread about earthquakes as unpredictable natural disasters, there are still some Haitians who believe it was all some sort of conspiracy. But that feeling of exploitation, of being considered trash, less than human; that feeling remains. And this week the UN proved that they plan to perpetuate that attitude toward the Haitian people. The UN is god and Haitians are nothing but vermin under their feet.
Sure they keep making sure everyone knows just how committed they are to seeing cholera eradicated in Haiti, but they won’t admit that it’s their fault in the first place. It’s not so noble to try to clean up a mess that you made in the first place, it’s your responsibility. But this isn’t just a mess, it’s lives that have been lost. And the UN may be immune, but they’re not fooling anyone by hiding behind that immunity. Simply owning up to their mistake would be a huge gift to the Haitian people, but apparently even that is asking too much.
So yeah, maybe I can’t do anything about it, Ban Ki-moon, except write about how disgusted I am over it all. But don’t expect me to take anymore photos with your soldiers next time I see them at the beach either. So there.