Sunday, January 30, 2011

1994: The Haiti Intervention

While our focus rightly continues to be on the people of Egypt, our neighbors in Haiti continue to suffer under the combination of Mother Nature's wrath and the legacy of US domination. Here's a piece from the December 1994 Tucson Comic News, written as US troops were once again dispatched to Port-au-Prince. For more background on Haiti, see chapter 41 of The CIA's Greatest Hits.

It used to be a truism of American politics that the Democrats (Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ) would get us into wars, while the Republicans (Hoover, Ike, Nixon) would get us into recessions and depressions. Well, twelve years of Reaganbush, with three wars, capped by a recession, pretty much shot down that cliche. But these days, the Democrats can't seem to run a war to save their lives.

Now, if the Republicans wanted to invade Haiti (not that they would, but bear with me) they would have leaked Forrest Gump-styled digital footage of General Cedras buggering dogs in the street, and whipped this whole country into a blood frenzy before moving any troops. The delicious ambivalence on the part of hawks in both parties towards our latest "adventure" shows what happens when they find they've taken their lip service toward democracy and human rights a bit too far.

It may just be that we've come to the point in the New World Order in which homicidal kleptocracies like Somoza's Nicaragua, or Pinochet's Chile, are just too downright embarrassing to be client states of the good old USA - though I wouldn't bet the farm on it just yet. Perhaps, though, a better-packaged neocolonialism is what is now being sought.

After expending American blood and treasure to put the Emir of Kuwait and Guillermo Endara into power-ostensibly to uphold international law-the US had a tough time explaining to its allies exactly why we would tolerate a junta of machete-wielding maniacs right in our "backyard." Fact is, as FDR said about Somoza, "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." And make no mistake about it, those are our machete-wielding maniacs down there. The Haitian military was trained and financed by the US, with many of its top leaders, including General Cedras, on the CIA payroll. Most of them learned their craft at the infamous "School of Assassins" now located at Fort Bening, Georgia.

The US has been kicking the shit out of Haiti at least since 1801, when President Jefferson cut a deal with Napoleon to help suppress a slave revolt on that tortured island. Since then, we have invaded Haiti five times (well, six, now), including, as neo-pacifists like Bob Dole and Phil Gramm like to point out, an occupation that lasted from 1915 to 1935.

The way they tell it, though, we were just a bunch of well-meaning blunderers trying to plant the seeds of democracy, just like hapless Bill Clinton is today. I'm getting a little tired of having to repeat this: Wars have never been fought for altruistic reasons. Never have been, never will be.

What is even more galling is the frankly racist blather on the Sunday chat shows about how our latest expedition is doomed to failure because these Haitians just don't understand Democracy and Human Rights like our glorious selves, and besides, their "culture of violence" is just too deeply embedded. I have simply got to stop watching so much television.

As usual, the only reason this intervention is taking place is to clamp down on democracy, not to "plant its seeds." If we had any commitment to democracy, George Bush could have ended the Cedras coup with a few well-placed phone calls. Fact is, they were only too delighted to have Father Aristide tossed out on his ear after eight months. The slightest possibility of his return sent the CIA into a frenzy of leaks regarding his psychopathic character-based on information provided by the junta itself.

With or without Father Aristide, there's entirely too damn much democracy in Haiti to suit our ruling elites, and the only way to put a lid on it is with another US occupation.

Aristide has now been sufficiently handcuffed to inhibit his freedom to reform Haiti, and whether or not the Tonton Macoutes will be reined in remains to be seen. The US embassy has been maintaining databases of dissidents, just as they did in Indonesia before the 1965 coup that killed between a half million and a million leftists.

It was certainly a dramatic bit of television to send Jimmy, Colin and Sam down for the eleventh-hour save that-surprise!-left Cedras pretty much free to do as he pleases. Whether or not it produces any lasting bulge in Clinton's approval ratings, the Cedras summit was certainly in character.

Sam Nunn had, just the day before, taken to the floor of the Senate to urge that, somehow, the opposition to Aristide, "both legitimate and illegitimate," must be allowed to take part in Haitian political life. It doesn't take a Fellini to figure out the symbolism behind that little gem. Sam just wanted to make sure that the folks who gun down Haitian leftists in the streets can keep on doing what they do best. And with the help of Colin Powell, butcher of Desert Storm and admitted Iran-contra perjurer, and Jimmy Carter, whose much-vaunted dedication to human rights somehow never extended to the people of El Salvador, Senator Sam did just that. I guess I should be grateful he's not Secretary of Defense.

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