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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Our Military Needs to Take Charge in Puerto Rico

The Daily Escape:

Floating lanterns in Motoyasugawa River, Hiroshima Japan. The lanterns mark the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. There is one lantern for each person who died in the bombing – photo by the Asahi Shimbun

Why hasn’t Trump mobilized America’s military to help rescue Puerto Rico from the disaster that grows worse every day? Why the Band-Aid of repealing the Jones Act?

After eight days of delay, the Trump Administration has issued a Jones Act waiver. The Jones Act prohibits the transportation of cargo between points in the US, on any vessel owned or operated by a foreigner. The Trump administration issued a Jones Act wavier earlier this month, for petroleum products to be delivered for relief assistance in anticipation of the effects of Hurricane Irma.

Similar to many things that happen in Washington, the Puerto Rican Jones Act waiver is a sham. Why? Because it is a 10-day waiver. This, from the DHS announcement: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

This waiver will ensure that over the next ten days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico. It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms…

And the clock has already started. Wrongo used to handle shipping finance in Europe for a top-three bank. It will take a few days to get foreign ships loaded with the appropriate goods. Then it will take many days, possibly a week or more, for them to travel to Puerto Rico.

As an example the US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, leaving from Norfolk Virginia will take at least five days to reach Puerto Rico. And the Comfort travels at about the average speed of a container vessel, or a tanker, 17 knots. Even if a foreign tanker or container ship was already loaded and ready to go this morning, it is clear that few, if any, could arrive and unload in less than 5-7 days.

So, Trump’s “waiver” is a sham. OTOH, the situation in Puerto Rico is already far beyond needing a waiver of the Jones Act. Bloomberg reports that:

Thousands of cargo containers bearing millions of emergency meals and other relief supplies have been piling up on San Juan’s docks since Saturday. The mountains of materiel may not reach storm survivors for days.

Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in San Juan operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has also taken the equivalent of almost 3,000 containers. The two facilities have become choke points in the effort to aid survivors of Hurricane Maria.

Mark Miller, a spokesman for Crowley, said:

…that’s where the supply chain breaks down — getting the goods from the port to the people on the island who need them…Trucks are ready to be loaded with the goods and precious diesel for backup generators, but workers aren’t around to drive. Instead, they’re caring for families and cleaning up flood damage — and contending with the curfew.

The buildings that would hold the supplies are either destroyed, or have no power. The over-the-road transport companies that have staff available and diesel on hand encounter downed poles and power lines while attempting to navigate on washed-out roads.

Planning for something of this scale should have started once we knew that Maria was a CAT 5 storm making a direct hit on Puerto Rico. But that didn’t happen, and now, the number of people who are out of money, food, water, fuel and critical medical supplies grows every day.

We should be sending vast amounts of equipment and manpower to help clear roads, and get things in a condition to where people can begin to rebuild. We should be sending mobile medical teams that can move in and out of remote areas and evacuate those who may die without medical intervention.

Our military has divisions of logistics experts that can supply an army even under very difficult conditions. They have units that can build bridges in a day, or rapidly repair roads for supply convoys.

Our military has the mobile medical teams that can handle wartime injuries. They need to be on the ground. We need a military-style operation to stem the tide of this disaster.

Why hasn’t General Little Hands ordered them into action?

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  • Fred Van Kempen says:

    My own “why” to the question of the delay tactics of Puerto Rican relief, though cynical, fits the well established Trump methodology. When we consider that many of “the base” didn’t even know that the people of Puerto Rico were American citizens, and therefore wondered why we were talking about aid at all, given the ongoing needs of REAL citizens in Fla and Texas, Trump didn’t want to get ahead of that information curve lest his ratings suffer, even for a short time. As we have learned all too well by now, ratings are the ultimate value for general little hands.

    September 29, 2017 at 9:27 am

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