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The 'U.S. Caused The Haiti Earthquake' Meme

Sometimes earthquakes just happen. But sometimes, if you believe the conspiracy theorists out there, they are made to happen -- usually by secret U.S. military weapons.

It isn’t surprising that the idea that the U.S. military caused the tragic January 12 earthquake in Haiti is making the rounds. But the way that it is making the rounds is interesting.

Figuring out exactly where to pick up the thread is hard, but it appears a story appeared on January 18 on the website of Venezuela’s ViVe TV that Russia’s Northern Fleet had reported that a “flawed” U.S. Navy weapons test had caused the horrific events in Haiti.

For the sake of veracity, apparently, the ViVe TV report claimed the U.S. Navy was also behind a January 9 earthquake near the northern California town of Eureka, which fortunately caused no casualties.

The report added that the weapon was being developed and tested for use against Iran.

Shortly thereafter, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez went on television to repeat the report. Chavez’s analysis was picked up by RT (formerly Russia Today, the Kremlin’s English-language television channel) on January 20.

The RT report does not mention that Russia's Northern Fleet was supposedly the original source of the Chavez sensation.

RT has been pushing various anti-American themes in its Haiti coverage, including the notion that Washington is using the crisis to "occupy" the country.

Where there is this much smoke, there must be fire, so Iran's Press TV jumped all over the story on January 23. The report picks up on some earlier reports that Lieutenant General Ken Keen of U.S. Southern Command, who is now heading U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti, was in the country at the time of the earthquake and concludes that he had been "prepositioned" in the country because Washington knew the horrible damage its super weapon could inflict.

Press TV also notes that the story got "special attention" in some U.S. and Russian media outlets, including Fox News and Russia Today. The Fox News report is limited to a mocking account that compares Chavez to a goat and spends most of its time discussing whether he is crazy.

All of the other references in the Press TV story can be easily assembled by typing HAARP into Google. HAARP stands for the U.S. High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which the U.S. government claims is a research program to study the ionosphere in order to improve communications technology.

Some of the conspiracy buffs out there note that Russia and the EU have similar projects and suspect that all of them could be used in tandem to create devastating effect.

An Internet search for "Haiti" and "HAARP" reveals that the "story" is all over the blogosphere with embellishments of the most fantastic kinds.

In fairness, the RT story does admit that the use of "tectonic weapons" is a favorite theme of conspiracy theorists. But as an example of this, it dismissively cites only a 2002 Georgian claim that Russia caused an earthquake in the South Caucasus country.

What none of them seem to have noticed is that on January 20, the very same day that RT pushed this snowball down the mountainside, Interfax ran this story in which a spokesman for Russia's Northern Fleet categorically denied the Russian Navy had anything to do with the original report, which he dismissed as "science fiction."

"The vessels of the Northern Fleet in the North Atlantic are occupied with completely different tasks and have nothing to do with the investigation of natural disasters in conjunction with the tests of the weapons of any country," the spokesman said.

But who is going to let that get in the way of a good conspiracy story, especially one that seems to be doing so much to bolster the growing ties between Venezuela, Russia, and Iran?

-- Robert Coalson

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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