Bill Clinton Digs In to Speed Haiti's Recovery

"Well, I think first the State Department and the Haitian government are both on this, and they are going to find a quick and just way to do it," Clinton said. "And they are represented by lawyers, they haven't been mistreated, but the Haitians are very sensitive to what has happened in countless other places around the world in the wake of natural disasters, where people have come and taken children, had parents that still wanted them, or had aunts and uncles that still wanted them.

"It is quite possible that all of these people made an innocent mistake in not following Haitian law, but that is why you have a fact-finding mission. And I think that the Haitian government and the American government will work this out."

Still Much Suffering

In the meantime there is still much suffering. At the hospital the former president held a little 2-month-old named Eneul. What he did not know was that without surgery the baby -- who was stable for the moment -- would in fact die.

A doctor pulled "Nightline" aside and said that a U.S. hospital had agreed to provide the surgery for free, but there was no plane to take the child.

We take Eneul's story to the Clinton team. Dr. Paul Farmer, who is traveling with Clinton and is a legend in Haiti for his 28 years of work here, agreed to help, with the assistance of a young Haitian doctor colleague.

Farmer promised to make sure Eneul got the care she needed and that the former president would know.

But it was a small reminder of the big problem: Nothing quite works in Haiti -- and certainly not easily.

We asked Clinton about the balance of humanitarian and strategic need in the country.

"First of all, what it would cost us to do our part to rebuild Haiti is, given the low cost of living here, is a tiny fraction of what it costs to bring back the economy of any U.S. state. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere, already vulnerable to narco-traffickers and other organized crime, highest AIDS rate in the hemisphere.

"And I work here on that, I know about that, they've got a good program. You don't want a failed state here, that's why Brazil and Argentina [were] sent to run the UN operation here [and are] investing here, making a commitment here -- they know it's important to their national security too. That's why when George W. Bush gave a presentation together in Orlando, he, not I, said we have a national security interest in having Haiti succeed and not be a failed state.

In all, Clinton spent six hours on the ground -- and left with a renewed commitment that he says will pull him back here until the job is done.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...