Bush, Clinton, Keen and Shah on "This Week"

Bush, Clinton, Keen and Shah on "This Week"

By This Week - January 17, 2010

TAPPER: Good morning. By tomorrow, more than 12,000 U.S. military personnel will be helping in a massive relief effort underway in Haiti. Air is pouring in, but getting food, water and medicine to the Haitian people remains a huge challenge, and desperation has begun to lead to violence.

Tens of thousands are confirmed dead, but even five days after the earthquake, rescue crews are still pulling people out of the rubble alive.

At the White House yesterday, two former presidents met with President Obama and pledged to lead a nationwide effort to raise money to help Haiti recover and rebuild. I spoke with Presidents Bush and Clinton at the White House about their effort.


TAPPER: I want to read you an e-mail I got from a Haitian friend of mine just a few minutes ago, he -- describing the situation on the ground there. He said, "The country is in total chaos. The government is totally non-existent. Law and order no longer exist." How frustrating is it for you, President Clinton, that the response has been so overwhelming, and yet there is still -- supplies are not getting to the people in need?

CLINTON: It's frustrating, but I think we're moving on it quickly. I think having the American military, the -- President Preval signed an agreement, worked out an agreement with Hillary yesterday morning to turn the airport over. Now, the -- the military, working with the U.N. forces, they still have structure. We lost a lot of U.N. people. Most of them were non-military.

They're setting up distribution centers to safely distribute food and water, and they'll be able to have a widespread availability of medical care. And now -- so I think you'll see it get a lot better in a hurry now.

There also was an extraordinary amount of time devoted to trying to digging through those buildings to find people, living and dead. I think as -- as that effort begins to wrap up, you'll see the distribution of food, medicine, water, and basic care get better.

I think the security situation will get better. But people have to understand, not only was the city leveled and others, as well, west. The parliament building was wrecked. The presidential palace was wrecked. There's -- as of yesterday, we're still missing parliamentarians, still missing government ministers.

I mean, the -- the country, the structure of the country was taken down. And -- and I think the United States has done a good job, and I think the international community has done a good job.

The U.N. structure was taken down, biggest loss of life in a single day in human history. So President Bush and I were talking before. People get frustrated by this. But I think if you just -- within two or three days, I think, it will be in much better order.

TAPPER: Mr. President, this is an unusual partnership. How did it come about?

BUSH: Well, actually, I used to talk to President Clinton during my presidency. And I -- and then, of course, called upon he and President 41, my dad, to work together on the tsunami and then Katrina. And then when you're both retired, you kind of hang around the retirement center together. And -- and so he and I have become friends.

And I look forward to working with him. You know, one of my concerns is that these crises cause people to say, "I want to help," and then they start pouring money sometimes into organizations that aren't real or perhaps dishonest. And so if people really do want to help, here's an avenue for them, and they can look it up on to determine how they can help, and then we'll make sure there's transparency and the accounting is good and, more importantly, the programs that the money goes to help Haiti rebuild.

TAPPER: President Clinton, you've talked about this effort will -- will take years. Before the earthquake, you had convened donors -- donor conferences to raise money for Haiti. And at one donors conference, $500 million was pledged, more than that.

And before the earthquake, you were about to get on some of those donors, because about 10 percent, 12 percent of that money had been disbursed. Most of it had not. How do you keep focus of the international community of the donors on a situation like this? Obviously, in the next month, there's going to be a lot of focus, but how do you make sure that in a year, two years there's still focus?

CLINTON: Well, I think that that's part of the U.N. job. The reason -- I took this job sort of to be the U.N.'s outside person. That is, my job is to work with the donor nations, the international organizations, the Haitian diaspora, potential investors, and the nongovernmental organizations and the philanthropists.

But I can -- let me just tell you, I talked to the major donor nations on the phone two days ago. They all said they would speed up their commitment and stay involved.

I had a meeting with 55 nongovernmental organizations and wealthy investors who had promised to -- they said they would do more now. I -- I think that if we keep doing our job, if we'll hang around and do this and -- and, you know, needle and nudge people, and the Haitians do what they were doing before this happened, keep proving that they want to modernize the country, I believe we can get the long-term commitment.

BUSH: Yeah, I think it's important for the Haitian government, once this initial stage of the crisis passes, to explain in clear terms a strategy that'll mean the money will be well spent. And, obviously, a lot of people are going to be concerned about spending.

It's one thing to save lives, and it's going to be another thing to make sure that the long-term development project has got a reasonable plan. The president has been very much involved in that and told me they have developed a reasonable strategy. And it'll make it much easier to attract capital in the long term if that's the case.

TAPPER: And following up on that, there have been some prominent conservative voices who have expressed a concern that the U.S. has done so much for Haiti already and throwing money at Haiti isn't going to solve the problem, because that's -- it's a corrupt government, and the money never goes to the right people. How do you make sure it goes to the right people?

BUSH: Well, first of all, the first concern is the one that everybody ought to be thinking about, and that is to help save lives. I mean, I've seen it on the TV screens. You've seen it on the TV screens. There's just unbelievable devastation.

You read the -- the e-mail report from -- from a person who's obviously desperate. We've got to deal with the desperation. And there ought to be no politicization of that.

Secondly, obviously, there needs to be a strategy that -- that makes sense to people. And -- and the president has said that, prior to the devastation, there was such a strategy that would be able to deal with Haiti as it is with a bright future.

And the question -- fundamental question for the country is, do we care? Beyond the storm, do we -- or the earthquake, do we care? And the answer is, I think we should, and I think we ought to care from a humanitarian perspective and I also think from a strategic perspective, because it makes sense to have a stable democracy in our neighborhood.

TAPPER: When you were heading up the tsunami relief with President Bush's father, one of the mottoes you had was, "Building back better." A lot of the interesting in Haiti to begin with was -- was really shoddily constructed. How do you focus reconstruction after the rescue of -- of Haitians and Americans in -- in that country right now takes place? How do you focus the reconstruction so that it is better?

CLINTON: You have to have, first of all, a system you can work with in the Haitian government. And to complement what he said, before this happened, I watched the Haiti government do things I never thought they'd do. They dramatically speeded up the time that they would approve foreign investment. They finally gave dual citizenship to the Haitian diaspora in the United States, for example, something the old political powers were scared to do. They want to modernize the country.

So what we'll do is we'll get the donors together and we'll ask the donors to condition the release of their funds based on construction meeting certain standards and being part of a certain plan. And I think the Haitian government will welcome that. That will give them the support they need. They want to build a modern country.

TAPPER: You both have been presidents during times of huge natural disasters. What lessons can we learn from previous disasters to apply to the rescue and relief efforts here to make sure we don't repeat mistakes of the past. And I'll start with you.

BUSH: Well, I think the -- the most obvious one that comes to my mind is that there are going to be a lot of people who want to help, and it's important to have organization to funnel that compassion in the proper way. The other thing is, expectations are never met. Like your friend, your friend -- I'm sure your friend has heard that, you know, Americans want to help, and then he's saying, "Where is it?"

And -- and the president is just going to have to do his very best to set proper expectations -- I thought he did so today -- and then funnel the -- you know, the most effective organizations that he's got at his control. That would happen to be the military, in my judgment, and -- and USAID, to get -- get aid out there as quickly as possible so lives can be saved. So that e-mail turns to, what are you going to help us in the long run?

TAPPER: President Clinton?

CLINTON: The lessons are in the -- right now, logistics matter. Distribution channels have to be built. When there is no structure, you've got to create a structure. Otherwise, nothing's sustainable.

CLINTON: And a metaphor. You have everybody seeing the pictures on television of the -- the food truck being assaulted and then running off, filled (ph) with food to be distributed. So we have to be patient. Give the military and the U.N. forces a day or so to build those logistics.

The second thing is, housing always takes too long. It's the thing that takes the longest. So we need to start thinking soon, like in the next few days, about how we're going to provide for a long-term living space for the people in a city that looks like a nuclear bomb hit it.

The third thing is, keep them informed. Keep information out there. Get the radio network working again. Get the cell phone systems working again so that they're not frightened.

I find people are angrier and more destructive not because they're in trouble, but because they don't know what's going on. They don't understand. The more people understand about what's happening to them, the more they can endure the long-term process of rebuilding.

TAPPER: President Clinton, President Bush, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

CLINTON: Thanks.


TAPPER: We'd like to put up the Web site where you can donate. It's -- that's all one word --

As the president said, the needs are almost overwhelming, but is the relief getting to those who need it most? ABC senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz has been in Haiti tracking the relief effort this week. She joins me from Port-au-Prince.

So how about it, Martha? Is the relief effort getting to those who need it most?

RADDATZ: Well, we actually went with a convoy, one truckload of supplies yesterday. We arrived really early in the morning, expecting to track this truck, come back, and go out with another truck. It took us five-and-a-half hours to get these supplies where they were needed. But it's understandable it took that long. There was an aftershock, and all the people who were loading the goods into the truck left, the Haitian locals. They were volunteers. They've just lived through an earthquake. When they felt the other one, there was fear that the warehouse would collapse. And, believe me, it could have collapsed, because it was already damaged.

Finally, got into the truck, going through the streets, hit a roadblock. It's just impossible to drive on some of the roads. And then when we finally got there, there were also difficulties. They had to divide people up. They only wanted the women and children to line up, and you had a few younger males who were kind of pushing their way forward.

But all in all, it went fairly smoothly, but they sure didn't dole out a lot of aid yesterday, Jake. Lots coming to the airport, lots. Flights all day, in and out to the airport, but a lot is still in those warehouses because they are concerned about security.

The one scene I thought that was -- I saw that I thought was quite incredible was a helicopter flying very low over masses of people, and they just dumped boxes out. That's very dangerous. I'm quite certain that was not a U.S. helicopter. Then, of course, all the people just ran, and there was real chaos there. And that's a real dangerous way to deliver supplies.

TAPPER: Speaking of chaos, Martha, we keep hearing about reports of sporadic violence. Where is the U.S. military in all this? Are they making attempts to secure the island?

RADDATZ: Absolutely not, Jake. They really aren't. I keep hearing these numbers. There are about 4,200 American military supporting this mission, but mostly they're out on the ships. They're on the cutters. You've got the 82nd Airborne, not all of the 82nd Airborne, a brigade, about 3,500 soldiers are here. They're expected to be here sometime next week. The Marines are not yet here, 2,200 Marines.

What they will do is secure the sites where they're delivering aid. That's what they're going to do, and they're securing the airport and, in a sense, protecting the workers already here and the other military already here. I don't think you'll see anybody really roaming the streets trying to secure the island, just the aid.

TAPPER: All right, ABC's Martha Raddatz. Thank you so much for joining us.

RADDATZ: You bet, Jake.

TAPPER: Now to the two men in charge of the relief effort, General Ken Keen, U.S. military commander of the joint task force for what's being called Operation Unified Response, and here in Washington, Dr. Rajiv Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

General Keen, I'd like to go to you first. Martha Raddatz just reported that U.S. troops are not out there securing Haiti, even though there are sporadic outbursts of violence, some of them horrific. We heard a report of -- in Petionville, a suburb of Port- au-Prince, a policeman handed over a suspected looter to an angry crowd. They stripped him, beat him, and set him on fire. We've also heard that some medical personnel are clearing the area because they don't feel secure.

Why aren't U.S. troops helping to secure Haiti?

KEEN: Well, we are here principally for an humanitarian assistance operation, but security is a critical component of that. And having a safe and secure environment is going to be very important. And we are working alongside the United Nations forces, which have been here, obviously, for years, and their mission is to provide stability and security. And we are going to have to address the situation, the security.

As you said, we have had incidents of violence that impede our ability to support the government of Haiti and answer the challenges that this country faces as they're suffering a tragedy of epic proportions.

TAPPER: General Keen, one more question for you. The -- we're told that, by tomorrow, more than 12,000 U.S. troops will be in the region. Will that be enough for you? And how long do you anticipate those troops staying?

KEEN: Well, today, I have approximately 1,000 troops in Haiti. And as you've mentioned, I've got another approximately 3,000 that are in the area working off of ships. And we're going to increase that footprint in Haiti as we go forward.

We are going to have to address how many troops that we need to do all of the missions we have at hand, our principal mission being humanitarian assistance, but security component is going to be an increasing part of that. And we're going to have to address that, along with the United Nations, and we are going to have to do it quickly.

TAPPER: And any idea how long U.S. troops will need to be in Haiti?

KEEN: Well, we're going to be here as long as needed. I think the president has made it very clear that we are here to support the government of Haiti and the survivors of this tragedy of epic proportions.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Shah, officials say 180 tons of relief have been delivered to the airport. How many of the 180 tons has made their way to the Haitian people?

SHAH: Well, you know, I first want to step back and point out that, immediately after this happened on Tuesday, just before sundown -- and this is an earthquake of tremendous proportions, as the general points out -- the president immediately asked us to mount a swift, aggressive and coordinated response.

And so that's why we've mobilized a broad range of civilian and military capabilities. Nearly every part of our government, including DHS, my agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the military, our Health and Human Services, are all involved.

And immediately we began putting in place the -- the capabilities and doing the work to make sure we could get as much commodity flow and as much services down in Haiti to the people of Haiti as possible.

TAPPER: Right. But it's five days later, and still a lot of the relief effort, a lot of the aid has not gotten to the people who need it most.

SHAH: Well, it is five -- it is five days later. And -- and, you know, here's what we've done. We've -- we were the first people on the ground with the disaster assistance response team. Our urban search-and-rescue teams from Fairfax, Virginia, or Florida or California were the first teams there. They've had successes, working around the clock.

I met these teams yesterday when I was in Haiti. They work around the clock to save lives. They've saved dozens of lives, most of which are Haitian. They've also coordinated the efforts of nearly 27 other teams from countries around the world so that we have thousands of people engaged in active search-and-rescue...


TAPPER: I don't think anybody -- nobody doubts the sincerity of the effort or that you -- or the USAID and the U.S. military are doing everything they can to save lives. I think -- no one's saying you're not doing a good job or you're not working hard. But, obviously, the supplies are not getting to the people who need them most right now. What do you need?

SHAH: Well, here -- here's what we need and here's how we're doing it. We started with an effort that was focused primarily on saving lives in urban search-and-rescue. In parallel, we've put in place the conditions to allow for significant commodity and supply support to get to the people of Haiti.

Doing that took -- you know, initially, the airport was not functional. The U.S. military got in quickly, established a relationship with the government of Haiti. We are doing this in partnership with the Haitian government. I met with the president yesterday on this point and -- and secured the airport so that -- and is now operating the airport so that we can increase significantly throughput, which allows all countries, including ours, to get much more supply in there.


TAPPER: Right, there's 180 tons there right now. How much of that has gone out? And -- and why hasn't more gone out? SHAH: Well, I -- I don't know the exact number. There are not a lot of supplies piling up at the airport. Things that are getting there are going out. The challenge is, we're talking about 3.5 million people in need. We're talking about a significant degradation of what was already relatively weak infrastructure, no port access. Roads are -- are difficult to get around.

So what we're now doing is putting in place military assets, the carrier -- aircraft carrier arrived this week. It has 19 helicopters. A lot of the transport of commodities and supplies is through the helicopters. We are getting more and more out each day, and that's our metric of success. Every single day, we need to do more than we did before. We need to do exponentially more.

SHAH: And this coming week, we'll have even more capabilities. We'll have more troops and more military personnel actively engaged in the humanitarian mission on the island to support distribution. We're working with the U.N. more aggressively to establish a network of distribution sites to enable much more rapid flow of commodities to -- to families and to individuals in Haiti.

And we're bringing other assets to bear. The USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship, will be 1,000-bed hospital, will get there, I believe, on the 20th. The Jack Lummus will get there this week, as well, which will allow us to get commodities and supplies onto shore without using the airport, which is a narrow throughput environment. And we're working aggressively to create alternative transport and logistics pathways into Haiti and around Haiti so we can -- we can increase the supply flow.

But this is a complex logistical challenge with countries around the world providing support, and the president's been very clear. Get in there, lean in, be swift, be organized, and make this work. And that's exactly what we intend to do.

TAPPER: General Keen, what casualty count is the U.S. military preparing for? We've heard estimates ranging up to 150,000 Haitians feared dead. What are you preparing for?

KEEN: Well, I think it's too early to tell what the casualty count is, but it's clear this is a tragedy of epic proportions. And we are working with the United Nations as we address it, and we are going to have to be prepared for the worst.

TAPPER: By the worst, would you say -- I mean, is -- is -- is 150,000 to 200,000 the top end of that? Or should we expect worse?

KEEN: Well, I think the international community or -- that's looking at those figures, and I think that's a start point. But like I said, I think it's too early to tell exactly what the casualty count will be. And, as well, we've got a lot of injured, obviously, that need to be taken care of. And everyone is pushing forward to get the medical supplies and the hospitals that we're seeing, that nations are showing up every day to put into operation. And that is going to increase our capability.

And as pointed out, we're going to have our hospital ship here this week. And we need all of that and more.

TAPPER: Dr. Shah, we're running out of time, but I want to get your thoughts on some quotes from retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who was brought onboard to take control of the response to Hurricane Katrina. He told USA Today, "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. What we saw instead was discussion about, well, we've got to send an assessment team in to see what the needs are. And any time I hear that, my head turns red. I was a little frustrated to hear that USAID was the lead agency. I respect them, but they're not a rapid deployment unit."

Very quickly, should the military have been in charge of this effort, instead of USAID?

SHAH: Well, let me refer back to that quote, because I think it's -- it's somewhat inaccurate. We -- we -- immediately after this happened, the president pulled everyone together and said, "Look, I want you all to work together, I want you to move quickly, and I want you to be aggressive and be coordinated." And that's exactly what we did.

So USAID sent a disaster assistance response team and search-and- rescue teams right away. We did that also with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a number of other partners so that we could increase the scale of that effort and deploy quickly.

In parallel and right away, we began securing commodities, 600,000 humanitarian daily rations for food, units that produce 100,000 liters of water a day. We've already got four in. We have six more on the way from Dubai, and a number of others things in medicine and -- and tarps and tents, so we could get commodity flow moving. That happened in parallel. We didn't wait.

And in terms of engaging the military and the response, that happened from the very beginning. The reason we're going to have all these military assets there that will expand our distribution capability this coming week is because we acted to make that happen immediately after this disaster occurred.


SHAH: And the president was very clear about his expectations, and I was with General Keen yesterday in Haiti, and we spoke about what it's going to take to meet that. It's going to take a strong and coordinated effort.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Shah, General Keen, thanks so much for joining us, and good luck to both of you on what looks like a very, very tough job.

SHAH: Thank you.


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