Barbara Lee does speak for me, and I live in Wisconsin!
When Lee is asking Bush to “intervene” in Haiti, it isn’t really an intervention she is calling for so much as a cessation of intervention. The US military shipped arms to the ‘rebels’ in the Dominican Republic last year. Isn’t anyone curious that the Rebels are wearing American Khaki uniforms, toting M-16s and new US grenade launchers? Where did they get this stuff? Do we think they saved up their pennies working overtime at a McDonalds in the Dominican Republic and ordered the stuff mail order?
The current Bush team and staff at the US State Department hate Aristide. They always have. That’s because Aristide works for and supports the poor. He is a former Catholic priest and supporter of liberation theology.
I guess Aristide should be happy with his good fortune. Other liberation theology priests in El Salvador and elsewhere were murdered by US-trained assassins. We let Aristide flee the country. Pretty nice, eh?
The US has thwarted Aristide at every turn, supporting rebellion, denying his government aid and development support.
It is disgusting, really. The people getting back into power are just the same bunch that have always supported the elite, who make their fortune off of the sweat shops of the poor.
If Barbara Lee really wants a “cessation of intervention,” why isn’t that what she asked for? She called for Bush to “act now” on Haiti before she began accusing him, however correctly, of assisting a coup.
One thing that remains unmentioned is that the rebels were armed with 20,000 US made weapons that were recently shipped to the DR which is where they entered Haiti from.
That in itself is an intervention. At least that’s the way I’d see it if I were a Haitian.
Therefore, Lee’s request for an intervention in support of Aristide is ridiculous. Are we to intervene against ourselves?
I doubt the weapons manufacturers would mind.
The only logical response to what’s happened in Haiti is to impeach the president for supporting another coup against a leader that has fallen into disfavor with the administration.
On a final note: true leftists don’t have leaders or armies of intervention.
Barbara Lee is not a leftist she is a populist, a distinction that I believe should reside in the center of the political spectrum.
Let’s reserve the left for pareconists, bioregionalists, and anarchists. We need a place to call our own.
Anthony Gregory replies:
You’re right that this is just another ludicrous example of the US intervening against itself. More often than not, in recent years, the US ends up fighting the same people it armed and trained not that long before. And then of course there are the numerous examples of the US sending weapons to both sides of a conflict.
As for the “left” label business, I don’t really like the whole left-right spectrum, but I use it out of convenience. There are principled non-interventionists who consider themselves left-wing, and those that consider themselves right-wing, and both groups tend to believe that the association of their label with war advocates is unjust. If that’s true, there aren’t that many leftists or rightists out there, at least in the public sphere.
You display your ignorance the US under Clinton and Bush destabilized Aristide and then Bush (Noriega) armed and sent in the “rebels.” Barbara Lee knows the IMF/WB “pressure” put on Aristide’s government.
Popular democracy isn’t allowed by the US. And as the signs said “Hugo Chavez You are Next.”
Barbara Lee speaks for me and Barbara Lee does Not speak for Clinton.
Anthony Gregory replies:
Was Clinton destabilizing Aristide’s regime when he sent 20,000 troops in his support?
I never claimed that Bush didn’t support the rebels.
As far as Lee’s understanding of the IMF and Haiti goes, it seems she has had lofty dreams about that relationship, too. Just as she recently assumed that calling upon Bush to “act now” on Haiti so long as he does so her way will bring about positive changes, she also believed last year that the IMF should “develop a staff-monitored program with the Haitian government in order to fully recognize the scope of the economic and health care crises devastating Haiti.”
You must be joking, only a fool would believe that this administration is interested in fighting terrorism, the only interest they have is in total world domination, they will lie, lie and lie again to achieve this, but then again this theory of world domination comes with a price and we are seeing that now in Iraq, where again this administrations lies have taken us.
Have I said anything at all in support of the current administration’s War on Terrorism? In my new article or anywhere else?
I find your arguments against “intervention” in Haiti interesting. You rightly say we should be suspicious of US interventions around the world. However, the US has been actively intervening in Haiti for the last 30 years. Arming and funding the brutal dictatorship under Duvalier was violent aggression. Arming and funding terrorist groups through the Dominican Republic in the early 90’s and in the last few years is also illegal intervention. Many of the terrorists who rampaged across Haiti in the last few months, killing and torturing political opponents, do so with M-16s and M-60’s, and with the support of groups funded with our taxpayer money through the NED. The US has also been intervening by cutting off economic aid and loans and imposing a brutal regime of IMF “structural adjustments,” decimating Haitian agriculture and eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Cutting off economic loans and aid in 2000 was a brutal act of intervention against the poorest country in the hemisphere.
The US also intervened to make sure that Aristide (the democratically elected president of Haiti) did not receive the protection he requested from his security forces until it was too late. This is intervention. Sending in embassy staff and threatening Aristide and his family’s lives before flying him out of the country incommunicado is an intervention. The US could be doing a lot to support democracy and the Haitian constitution (not to mention the UN charter and therefore the US constitution) by demanding that Aristide be allowed to return to finish his term. The US needs to state unequivocally that it will not recognize a government that does not include its nation’s democratically elected leader, and then stop arming and supporting the roving terrorists like Phillippe and Chamblain. This would not be intervention, this would be a statement of support for international law and the UN Charter.
Counting some forms of intervention and not others is hypocrisy. Principled anti-interventionists would oppose all forms of violent military and economic intervention. You seem only to pay attention to the intervention that Barbara Lee advocates, ignoring the actual brutal ongoing intervention.
If you were a principled anti-interventionist, you would notice that the coup in Haiti followed an unimaginative, repetitive script that the US has used to violently overthrow democratically elected leaders from Iran to Guatemala to Chile to Nicaragua to Venezuela: create economic instability by cutting off loans and aid, arm, fund, and protect violent militias who terrorize the public, then blame all of the chaos on the president/PM and call for his resignation, all the while arranging behind the scenes a US friendly leader to come in and replace him.
Anthony Gregory replies:
I never said I supported any of the interventions you listed.
I focused on Barbara Lee because “humanitarian interventionism” might have a comeback after this November, and I wanted to expose a public figure widely respected within the antiwar movement for her inconsistencies.
Sir, when the greatest liar of all times, Bush, made the decision to conquer a militarily inferior country IRAQ, he used his utmost mendacity to construct his case.
The boy emperor lied to the American people and more importantly Congress stating, NOT TO ASSIST THE IRAQI PEOPLE, rather it was because Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and blah, lie, blah lie, blah lie etc.
Ms Lee had the courage and foresight to confront the greatest liar since time immemorial, all in the interest of protecting American and Iraqi lives.
She undauntedly again asks that gun crazy cowboy kid to do the same in Haiti.
I am a 78 year old former US Marine Corps combat machine gunner who fought 2 years in the Pacific jungles, contracted malaria on Guadalcanal and took Japanese shrapnel on Guam.
UNLIKE THE “BRING EM ON” WHITE HOUSE CLOWN I KNOW THE HORRORS OF WAR.
Anthony Gregory replies:
Anthony Gregory is either stupid or he just doesn’t get it in his attack on Barbara Lee. There is a big difference between attacking a country that was no threat to the US and sending in troops to stave off the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Haiti.
I agree that there are differences between the interventions. And I agree that the War on Iraq was far worse than what Lee called for in Haiti. But when one of the leading antiwar voices in Congress upholds the principle of foreign intervention to protect “democratically elected leaders” especially when such leaders required US support in the past there’s not really any end in sight to the potential wars America may engage in.
If even generally antiwar activists support endless interventions to “protect democracy,” don’t we need some people willing to stand up and oppose those wars, as well?
I agree with Antiwar.coms general criticisms of leftist interventionism. I think we, left, right, center and beyond, should be consistently opposed to interventionism. Leftist intervention ends up being little or no different. Cases in point, Haiti and Kosovo, if they can be called leftist interventions. (Somalia began at the end of Bush I, so doesnt really qualify.) In both cases, US support for democratic principles was superficial.
In Haiti, in 1994, unacknowledged support for the Haitian military, a traditional opponent of democracy in the country and a harsh economic embargo belied ostensible support for the democratically elected leader. In Kosovo, a humanitarian bombing campaign based on faked massacres and support for drug lords and terrorists and the killing of civilians were hallmarks, in keeping with, not departing from, the traditions of American interventionism. In theory, of course, a state could intervene in such a way to protect democratic forces without prejudice as to electoral outcome in a given country.
I think many leftists and liberals are sincere in that they are in favor of genuine democratic development in the world and I think rightly believe that US interventions generally negatively impact such developments. Leftists should be more direct and honest about their preference for certain interventions even though they often protest interventionism. They want the US to intervene on the side of popular democratic forces, generally. However, the neocons say they want that too. Of course, for them, democracy has a special meaning. The negative history of US interventionism, in spite of contrary pretexts and claims, at the very least suggests the US should just stay home and keep its hands to itself, even if it is nice leftists running the show. Maybe that is how all states, if they have to exist, should behave in any event.
Mr. Gregory needs to get his facts straight. When Ms. Lee asked for Bush’s help that was a last resort. She and others had attempted to get the international community involved. Bush and the boys advised France, several Caribbean and South American nations to halt and desist. There was an excellent program this weekend on C-Span. This program was a meeting of the Foreign Relations Comm. It brought in all Bush’s flunkies
telling one lie after another about exactly what has been going on in Haiti. You need to sit down and read and do some research before you write another article on this subject. You also owe Ms. Lee an apology, because she has totally in order in what she attempted to do .
Anthony Gregory replies:
Right ‘n’ Left
Reading your Backtalk letters, I am confused by the references to “right” and “left” positions on issues. Could Justin or another of your knowledgeable contributors write something to explain what, if anything, these appellations mean today as applied to current events? Or have those terms become the designer labels of political positions? As used by Backtalk contributors, they convey very little that is meaningful to me.
Links to articles in other sites which explain the current usage of these terms would be helpful. Have the terms “right” and “left” become as meaningless today as the once-proud moniker “conservative”? Any clarity you can offer on this would be very helpful.
I must close by thanking you for an excellent web-site, which I read first thing every day. Your work on Iraq, and your continued attention to the Balkan situation, is excellent. You deserve every success.
Sam Koritz replies:
Merriam Webster defines the Right as:
“individuals sometimes professing opposition to change in the established order and favoring traditional attitudes and practices and sometimes advocating the forced establishment of an authoritarian order (as in government),”
and the Left as:
“those professing views usually characterized by desire to reform or overthrow the established order especially in politics and usually advocating change in the name of the greater freedom or well-being of the common man.”
Each of the terms contains (at least potential) self-contradictions. In the first instance, for example, to oppose change in the established order could require opposing the forced establishment of an authoritarian order. In the second instance, reformers could oppose revolutionaries, and the advocates of greater freedom could oppose those advocating change in the name of the greater well-being of the common man.
Here’s an explanation of the origin of the terms, from the Left Handed Information Centre:
“In the French parliament before the revolution, the nobles sat in the right side of the king, while the capitalists sat on the left. The right became associated with the prevalent social order, and the left with the subversive elements wanting to change it.”
And since this is Anthony Gregory day on Backtalk, be sure to check out his article, “Libertarianism is radical deal with it.”
The reason I love the “letters” section so much is the writers seem almost more intelligent than your staff and certainly more fun to read than the OP-Ed writers (except Fisk who you seem to have killed off). That Jerry Sapienza guy you have on your staff is like Seinfeld combined with Kramer on five cups of coffee. Add more letters please even the nutcases, especially the nut cases. I know that not everyone is smarter and more sensible than you guys.
Eric Garris replies:
We haven’t killed off Fisk. The Independent is charging for his columns, and we can’t usually link to them. Sometimes they are posted elsewhere and we try to link to them, as we have done on today’s page.
Thank you for acknowledging the Iraqi military casualties. On your website you indicate: Iraqi Military (independent estimate) 4,895 to 6,370.
How was this estimate arrived at? Is it casualties or fatalities?
Mike Ewens replies:
Playing the ‘War Hero’ Card
Thanks to Michael Moore’s recent misuse of the word “deserter,” the media has rediscovered the report done by the Boston Globe in May of 2000 about George W. Bush’s war record. The Globe’s investigation found that Bush was AWOL from his National Guard duties after transferring to Alabama to work on a family friend’s Senate campaign. All of this information was available to the Democrats during the 2000 election, but they never made a very big deal out of it. The reason was that the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, had a rather unimpressive war résumé. He spent his Vietnam days working as a reporter and smoking pot. This year, however, the Democrats will likely nominate John Kerry. Kerry’s war record (which he brings up about every 5 minutes on the campaign trail) is much more interesting. Kerry served in combat and received the bronze star, the silver star, and three purple hearts.
The Democrats, in a pathetic and desperate attempt to play the “war hero” card, suddenly want to compare their candidate’s war record with Bush’s. DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe has appeared on television several times criticizing Bush’s war record, contrasting it with the record of John “War Hero” Kerry, apparently not realizing the irony of a party that supposedly represents the left making such an argument. Say what you will about George W. Bush, but being AWOL from the National Guard is one of the few honorable things he’s ever done! If you’re AWOL from the National Guard, that means you aren’t shooting Vietnamese villagers. A cursory look at Kerry’s war history makes George W. Bush look like a veritable saint.
After graduating from Yale, Kerry enlisted in the US Navy and volunteered for Vietnam, where he eventually was assigned to captain a swift boat, which he did for about three months. By his own admission, Kerry participated in “free fire” zones and killed many innocent civilians. According to Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry:
“While in command of Swift Boat 44, Kerry and crew operated without prudence in a Free Fire Zone, carelessly firing at targets of opportunity racking up a number of enemy kills and some civilians. His body count included a woman, her baby, a 12 year-old boy, an elderly man and several South Vietnamese soldiers. ‘It is one of those terrible things, and I’ll never forget, ever, the sight of that child,’ Kerry later said about the dead baby.”
One of Kerry’s crewmates, Drew Whitlow, recalled an incident for the Boston Globe in which he shot civilians in a free fire zone: “This is a free fire zone, I will fire, I will put rounds in, I’m doing my thing, I’m feeling Mr. Macho. But then when you get close, you see the expressions of the village people, people waving their arms, saying, `No, no, no! Wait a minute, hold this off.’ I ended up putting a few down, and then I found out it was friendlies.” He also said a mortar round ricocheted back at the boat, wounding three crewmen.
In an interview in 1971, John Kerry said, “I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 caliber machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages.” He has admitted that these actions are “contrary to the Hague and Geneva conventions,” but don’t count on Kerry turning himself in anytime soon. When Tim Russert recently asked Kerry about those incidents, Kerry attempted to whitewash them by saying that he and everyone else simply made an honest error in judgment as a result of the Cold War climate. Too bad the folks at Nuremberg weren’t aware of the “Whoops, my bad!” defense.
John Kerry has also come to the defense of Bob Kerrey, another Vietnam vet who was recently revealed to have participated in atrocities. Kerrey admitted to participating in an attack on a village in which six soldiers under his command slaughtered 21 women, children, and elderly men. They were rounded up after the unit had taken control of the village and massacred at pointblank range. Kerrey expressed regret and guilt over the incident, which apparently absolved him from any wrongdoing. John Kerry said that an investigation into the incident would be blaming “the warrior rather than the war,” and therefore Kerrey should get a free pass.
To his credit, when John Kerry returned home from the war he became a prominent member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). He gave a memorable testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” He also detailed some of the stories he and his comrade, Jane Fonda, had uncovered during the Winter Soldier Investigation:
“…[A]t times [American soldiers] had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.”
Apparently, this is the sort of “heroism” that wins elections nowadays.
I almost stopped reading this article after the fourth paragraph, where John Pilger talked only of “the leading Democratic presidential candidates.” Like the mainstream media pundits, Pilger never even mentioned the names of the truly antiwar candidates: Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton. Pilger’s failure to acknowledge Kucinich and Sharpton speaks volumes. It tells me that Pilger has missed the real story the story of what should have been covered, why it wasn’t and how our democratic process has been stolen.
The media, in concert with the Democratic power brokers, ensured that truly progressive and truly antiwar candidates never stood a chance of being nominated. From the beginning, these candidates, if mentioned at all, were trivialized with labels such as long shot, dark horse, not viable and unelectable. Instead of demanding fair and balanced coverage of all their candidates, the Democratic Party elite eagerly contributed to the media feeding frenzy against the so-called fringe or third-tier candidates. In addition, the Party encouraged candidates to drop out early, long before most voters had a chance to express their preference. Obviously, the Party was not interested in discussing issues, particularly divisive issues like war, or in hearing what its constituents’ priorities were. All they wanted was to quickly narrow the field and start serious fundraising for the campaign against Bush.
In such an antidemocratic environment, the anointing of centrist insider Kerry should come as no surprise to anyone. What should shake the progressive and antiwar communities to the core is the Democratic Party’s taking advantage of the Anyone But Bush mentality to give us Someone Like Bush in so many ways.
One of the articles you included in your March 5 links, Ian Thomson’s “Nightmare in the Caribbean” makes a statement that is absurd on its face that Clinton “schemed” to restore Aristide to power. Anyone who was reading the US press at the time knows that Clinton was compelled against his own inclination to get Aristide back in office. His chief motive was not a left-wing passion for justice but political nervousness.
The congressional Black Caucus had threatened to pull their support for one of his pet legislative initiatives if he didn’t do something to help the democratically elected president of an all black country in our proverbial back yard, and he was also having nightmares about the election-year consequences of thousands of very poor, very black, Haitian boat people arriving in Miami claiming asylum while the newspapers continued to report that FRAPH death squads were roaming the countryside, raping, killing and mutilating Lavalas supporters.
The proof that that Clinton had no genuine interest in seeing Aristide in power is in the details of how he was restored, and under what conditions. First, Clinton delayed doing anything until the last possible moment. By the time he got back to Haiti Aristide’s original term of office had almost passed, guaranteeing that he could not actually accomplish anything that that he had been elected to do. The US never gave him the aid he was promised but instead left him and the Haiti to the tender mercies of the IMF and World Bank. These advocates of the “free market” (I’m not assuming, by the way, that their conception of the meaning of that phrase is the same as that of the average reader of Antiwar.com) imposed as a condition for emergency loans what Haitians called “the death plan” privatizing rice, sugar, and cement production and dropping tariffs on imports. Predictably the result was to wipe out domestic production of these vital commodities, leaving the impoverished country more import-dependent than ever, and its people less able to pay.
And finally there is the glaring fact that one of the leaders of FRAPH, despite being accused of personal involvement in several brutal murders and acts of mutilation and torture, is living comfortably under US protection in Brooklyn, NY, immune from prosecution.
I would not want to have to defend everything that Aristide has done since he returned to Haiti. But the idea that that his regime was more brutal than the one likely to replace it is not at all plausible. The current military leader of the Haitian Contras lets call a spade a spade is none other than the founder of FRAPH. Nor is the notion the flow of drugs will stop or even slow down once Aristides opponents are installed in office, as Thompson seems to imply. If Panama, post-Noriega, is any indication, the flow of drugs is more likely to increase. Nor is it possible to maintain that the election in which Aristide was reelected was especially dirty by the standards of the region.
I don’t want to be entirely negative about the article. It does point out that Aristide’s recent fall is “constitutionally illegal.” But the rest of the article seems to whisper, “But what do you expect?” As a US citizen I expect more, and I would have hoped you would, too.
OK, while I agree that our so called political “pals” in Washington could spend their time on more urgent matters than Homeland Security, you have to understand this. In 2003-2004, every law enforcement agency in Wisconsin has been hit hard by the Shared Revenue Fiasco. As a police officer, I know what my department can allocate to replace, repair or buy additional equipment. This year? That dollar amount is zero (0). Oh, there are emergency funds for minor repairs to patrol vehicles like oil changes and items of the sort. But for additional equipment? Not gonna happen. Police agencies depend on grants from the government to obtain, often times, needed equipment. Now there are those few that go to the extreme buying new toys like its Christmas. But equipment, such as air tanks, do go bad and fire depts. often need to replace them. Ballistic Vests are only good for five years and then need replacing. My department could not afford to replace vests for every officer as needed without financial assistance from federal grants.
As far as terrorism in Wisconsin by Osama? Maybe, maybe not. But I am shocked that when someone says terrorism you automatically think al-Qaeda, Osama, Iraq. And people accuse police of racial profiling. If you read the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) missions, they read: To prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters. Living in Wisconsin, I am not in anyway concerned about attacks from Osama or any Mideast group. My concern? My fear? The radical groups right here in the United States.
Ever heard of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) responsible for millions of dollars in damage to facilities across the US from Oregon to Michigan. Hey!? isn’t Michigan close to Wisconsin? or how about the Aryan Nations? or the Southeastern States Alliance? or even better yet, the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) whose member was responsible for shooting at over 30 people and killing several in Indiana and Illinois. Hey!? isn’t Illinois close to Wisconsin? And who can forget Mr. McVeigh who killed 168 people in 1995. Terrorism does not have to come from abroad. It comes from our very own neighborhood. My job is to protect the citizens and their property and I want, and I will use any equipment and funds available to do just that. That’s MY JOB.
The kicker? I stumbled across your article researching DHS grants.
I was very disappointed to read most of the recent editorial commentary on Haiti on your website. All those tut-tuts, the implication that “those people” are so entirely incapable of being helped to raise themselves to even a remote glimpse of the possibility of their own democratic future, in that “pustule on the backside of the Western Hemisphere.” Despite all the empty rhetoric of the “interventionists,” other assorted ne’er-do-well do-gooder lobbies, and most of the planet’s print and broadcast media.
However comforting it might be to died-in-the-wool, leather-armchair, Brylcreem-and-Vitalis paleo-conservatives to have their own preconceptions so forcefully averred, the reality of the Haitian discussion needs to include at the very least, the following four historical facts:
1.) Haitians are the descendants of Africans kidnapped from their homes and families, who either perished in the course of the Atlantic Passage, or were literally worked to death in the “New World,” as forced laborers. (After the original, native, inhabitants of the island had been all but eliminated themselves, as insufficiently “suitable” laborers, or as a consequence of their inherited, epidemiological vulnerabilities.)
2.) After successfully organizing themselves to defeat, in turn, several armies of “superior” British, Spanish, and French military formations, the kidnapees and their descendants established the New World’s second (1804) free and independent, democratic republic. Although they attempted to establish a diverse and multiracial society, the tragic result of the crimes and faithless betrayals that had been committed against them resulted in the deaths of a goodly number of the former slave-holders, along with entirely too many of the overseers, jailers, and other, assorted persons, who had mostly watched and idled, while the kidnapees mostly worked and died.
3.) For this crime, Haiti became the Cuba /Iraq /Iran /North Korea (let’s just say it out loud, in unison, shall we: the one-dimensional /single-point “Axis of Evil”) of the 19th century. The New World’s first (1776) free and independent, democratic republic chose not only to withdraw any offer of support to the New World’s second free and independent, democratic republic (1804), but to attempt to isolate, suppress and victimize the Haitians, at every turn, for pretty much the whole of the last 200 years, for the crime of having refused to recognize the property rights of their former kidnappers.
4.) And for the inexpedient offense of having caused a potential tip or snapping point among the delicate electoral mechanisms that so precariously held “free state” and “slave state” interests in balance, in the Houses of Congress of their Great Neighbor to the North (of which we still hear occasional rustles, echoes and flourishes, today, as modern thinkers wrestle with the problems of reconciling their own hip-hip-hooray-three-cheers dedication to democracy and freedom, over and against their actuarial, strictly numerical, financial responsibilities to the IMF and World Bank.) American lenders and natural resource “developers” worked to strip Haiti, as soon as that original, 19th century embargo was lifted. So that in some ways the Haitians may have been better off living in subsistence isolation. (Or is it possible for any nation to exist in subsistence isolation?)
To be completely honest, I can’t claim to be the least sort of authority on the history of Haitian-American relations. The one thing I remember is that when I was a kid growing up (a long time ago), almost all of the baseballs you could find in sporting goods stores had the word “Haiti” on them. It was almost the only place you ever saw that word, in print. I happened to find one of those balls, last summer, in a thrift store, with a real, living Hall-of-Famer’s autograph on it. Haiti is written in a somber, formal serif font, with the name of the manufacturer, “J. deBEER and SON, established 1889”, in much larger typesize. Except what happened was that, all of a sudden, at one point, you couldn’t find those balls anymore, anywhere; on account of their having been made under “virtual slave labor conditions.”
So, like Cuban cigars and billiard balls and piano keys made from real ivory, they were all suddenly disappeared from the face of the planet, by legislative fiat. An act of contrition (and complicit admission of guilt) that was most likely unaccompanied by any direct transfers of fiscal resources, that might have kept company with the mouthings of good will and high hopes that doubtless proceeded apace with the legislative deliberations.
The Bush administration’s financial isolation of Haiti in 2001, even as the government of Haiti attempted to transfer a full 90 percent of the country’s currency reserves to begin to meet the debt responsibilities incurred by preceding administrations, to open good faith bargaining, was only the last in a long line of betrayals. One that’s now been compounded by the entry on the scene of the “mostly mulatto” sons of the sons of Doc’s Pere-et-Fils, escorted by armed thugs and assorted mass murderers and known human rights violators. I’m underwhelmed by the triumph of democratic principles represented by those events.
Because Aristide was, what, exactly? A child of the ghetto that was and still is Haiti? One of the “mostly dark-skinned” underclass?
I don’t know. I really don’t know who Aristide was, or what sort of conflicting aspirations and agendas among Haitians themselves might have helped to set the stage for Aristide’s courtesy-escort-strictly-for-his-own-safety (forced-march-coup-d’etat?) from Haiti. I wish I’d had better opportunities (on your website!) to find out what the heck has been going on there, and what Haitians themselves have had to say. A light on the subject that wouldn’t have cast so many harsh and stark, chiaroscuro shadows, with a deeper perspective on the longer-term historical reality of the place. (As opposed to the limited attention-span, editable-for-late-night CNBC debating points mentality we all have to endure daily. What’s America coming to? Are posers and intellectual flyweights like Dennis Miller, Don Imus, or Dick Cheney going to be the ones to put their imprimatur on the national awareness?)
~ Mihailo Kostic