The United States military is getting more involved in the Haiti relief effort by the day. On Wednesday, 4,000 more troops were added, bringing the total U.S. presence in the country to about 16,000. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation's highest ranking military officer, tells The Takeaway that he recognizes the scale of the U.S. footprint and insists the focus is to support other organizations. He also says the use of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is an option in the treatment of the many wounded Haitians.
John Hockenberry sat down with Adm. Mullen in the Pentagon on Wednesday. Here is a partial transcript of the interview.
Washington, DC –
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: How does what appears to be U.S. control of the airport in Port-au-Prince conflate with the idea that the Haitians are in control of their own destiny right now? We heard reports that the police are essentially in a lot of the urban areas and that the responsibility of the government is of concern right now.
ADM. MULLEN: Well, we’ve worked with the Haitian leadership from the beginning. We are there in support of the Haitian leadership overall ... Our main effort, our main focus, our main goal is to provide this relief and to provide security for the relief effort. So as we’ve approached this and recognized that we’re a big footprint — and I understand all of that — the intent is, and certainly from the military standpoint, the intent is to focus on this kind of assistance, in support of these organizations, including the Haitian government, to relieve the really destitute situation in so many places as rapidly as we can. Also, the U.S. military is not the lead, even in our own country, its USAID. So we’re working very closely in support of USAID as well.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Some of those thousands of patients come from being injured to actual patients to then possibly medical refugees. How important are facilities like the immigrant holding facilities, Guantanamo Bay, in the transitioning off of Haiti to other locations?
ADM. MULLEN: We are aware of the medical support that’s available at a place like Guantanamo. We haven’t seen any large requirement for that right now. What’s been the struggle initially with this is because those that have been injured so badly, many of them are crush injuries and we’ve seen infections set in and many amputations have had to occur. You just can’t show up to a medical facility if it’s not any kind of non-serious injury; we’re really trying to focus on those major ones. But there are also significant additional medical requirements that we’re trying to meet. It takes supplies, it takes distribution and we’re just not there yet and an awful amount of people working trying to get this right. And I see this as, along with food and water, as the most significant challenge.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Is the Gitmo facility available to you, however, for people to move off island?
ADM. MULLEN: It’s an option, certainly, an option that [U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander] General Fraser and [SOUTHCOM deputy director] General Keen and USAID has as a part of this. There are actually distribution issues, literally there are hospitals on Haiti that have rooms. They’re not located necessarily right downtown so we think we need to work to distribute some of the patients that are in hospitals once they’ve received the care to move them out to some of these other areas.