Saturday, July 15, 2006


Haiti under occupation

Sometimes you wonder about journalists, even non-American ones. The following paragraph is about events in a Haitian slum: The killings began before dawn. Men armed with automatic rifles walked through the hillside slum of Grand Ravine, warning of a fire and yelling for residents to come out of their cinder-block and sheet-metal shacks. Those who obeyed were gunned down. ... The body count totalled 21, including three women and four children. Most of the victims were killed with a bullet to the head.Yves Jean-Philippe, a 56-year-old street vendor, was found in a dirt courtyard, his eye socket ripped apart by a bullet. Alnosia Desir, wife of a Christian pastor, was shot in the mouth and throat in her bedroom. The body of Jean Willerme Sanon, 12, lay face down on a twisting pathway, his head split in half.'What is shocking is that all victims appear to have been innocents. "We're talking about women and little children - these were no bandits," said Jean Gabriel Ambrose, the Port-au-Prince JP...the massacre that took place last Friday was so arbitrary - family members, neighbours, human rights observers and police all agree the victims were not gang members - that UN and Haitian officials believe it may have been in part an attempt to destabilise the newly elected government of President Rene Preval. So, who committed the crime? The reporter spends a lot of time talking about two "gangs," an anti-Aristide "gang" called the Little Machete army and another gang called Ti Bwa, as well as "renegade police officers," Renan Etienne and Carlo Lochard. Let's re-write the article: An anti-Aristide militia associated with the police, the Little Machete Army, is suspected of serving as a death squad to terrorize the population of a Haitian slum called Grand Ravine. Twenty people were executed by men armed with automatic weapons. Unknown is any role of a rival militia, called Ti Bwa. The effect of the shootings has been to cause many people to flee. Notice how it suddenly makes sense? It's exactly what the Ton Ton Macoutes did pre-Aristide. Except the Ton Ton Macoutes didn't have nice automatic weapons, shipped from the US through Santo Domingo.
It makes one wonder about their editors, too. Though it could be that the folks at the Guardian assume that the UN just can't be on the side of the bad guys.
I have stopped wondering about the editors, PW. Whoever writes their "Leader" opinion pieces doesn't have enough brains to even be a follower, and possibly not even enough to be a slug.

There's sort of a deal that has been cut on Haiti at very high levels. I don't understand it fully, but it crosses political ideologies. It may be political compensation to the US for not having joined in the Iraq invasion. It may simply be white man's blindness. I don't know. But some of the UN troops involved in atrocities have been Canadian, French, and Brazilian.

These are the basic facts that any progressive person should be concerned by:
1. The US has interfered in Haitian affairs routinely for centuries occupying it in 1916 under Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler. He later denounced the occupation.
2. The goal of the interference has been economic repression using elites, most notably Papa Doc Duvalier and his so, Baby Doc, who engaged in terroristic campaigns against their brothers and sisters.
3. The most recent intervention began under Poppy Dog Bush and extended through the Clinton Administration through right-wing CIA assets. A good guess is that the intensity of the repression has to do with using Haiti for transshipments of drugs to finance off-the-shelf "diplomacy", as Oliver North called covert black operations.
4. Under Baby Dog Bush, the elected head of Haiti was removed under threats of force. The US supplied the weapons that entered the hands of the "freedom fighters," which is what we call "thugs," nowadays.
5. Despite all this, plus numerous steps to keep Lavalas off the ballot, intensely nationalistic Haiti returned Aristide ally Rene Preval to office.
6. Since the ouster of Aristide, death squads--which had essentially vanished while Aristide was in charge-- have returned. The UN joins in assaults against pro-Aristide neighborhoods.

If Haitians were white, this would be impossible. We'd all recognize it as the brutal and totalitarian rape of a nation. but because Haitians are black, they are criminalized as a whole people. One manifestation is that they have "gangs" instead of militias, attacks against the wealthy are committed by "bandits," instead of an enraged populace, and so on.

If this piece had been in the Torygraph, I'd have shrugged. But it was in The Guardian, which prides itself on being independent and committed to journalism, which has attracted some progressive writers like Palast.
One of the bitterest ironies of the past twenty years was watching Jesse Helms and the CIA openly fighting to undermine Aristide even as Bill Clinton worked to ensure Aristide could take the seat he'd won fair and square.
Clinton was no saint when it came to Aristide. Typically, he was slightly less horrible than the people who worked against him.

I don't think that Haiti has anything to do with anything but Haiti. It's a very valuable pearl in the string of globalization.

The people there are fiercely brave. They are proud of their historic leadership in anti-slavery movement. The CAFTA/NAFTA crowd wants Haiti to succomb to the slavery of globalization. On top of all that, it's a seriously fucked-up place with thousands of crazies running around armed.

Rene Preval must not have done all the right things to ensure that Haiti would sit down and play nice with the corporatists that run the world and now he is paying the price.
eRobin, Clinton was the guy who -- in defiance of both the Republican congress AND his own CIA (which from that point on worked to undermine him -- remember the "accidental" bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia? The CIA was in charge of target selection there) -- worked like a dog to put Aristide (who himself looks good mostly in comparison to his opponents, as even some of the folks at The Nation have admitted) back in power. Clinton has many sins that can be laid at his door, but nobody can truthfully deny that he fought like hell to get Aristide to take office, and stationed US Marines there for over a year to help keep the Duvalierists from kicking him out.
I'm not sure I understand, eRobin. If Haiti is "a very valuable pearl in the string of globalization," then the conflict is about something more than Haiti.

Further, it's not clear to me why it should be so valuable. There's very little work done in Haiti, and it's of the most rudimentary sort. Toys. Baseball caps. Cement. Sugar. Narcotics. Some inexpensive generic pharma.

As for the crazies, they only exist by American indulgence. As I mentioned, the US shipped many weapons to the Dominican Republic. I should note that Rachel Stohl of CDI says that those apparently did not end up in the hands of Haitian "rebels." However weapons did cross that border. This is what Stan Goff says:

Fenton: What about the issue of American weapons finding their way into these Haitian paramilitaries hands?

[Goff]This is far too detailed and tedious to go into here, but there's a specific linear practice for the importation of American weapons into the Dominican Republic, that are then passed on to the Dominican military. All arms procurement in the Dominican Republic is done by a private company and then all weapons that are military in character can only be resold to the Dominican military, they're not allowed to be resold in the private market. Shotguns and hunting rifles, etc. that's fine, but assault weapons no. The biggest arms procurement company [Ejelio Peralte] in the Dominican Republic received a consignment of 20,000 weapons, Espejo told us that there were 20,000 M16s that never arrived at the Dominican military, so they did come in and they did go to this company, but all of the sudden there's this disconnect. Well, where did they go? I've been told on the civilian market; that would be a violation of Dominican law. We strongly suspect that a lot of those ended up in the hands of Haitians, and may very well be in Haiti right now.

So, am I missing something, eRobin? Haiti is close, black, and unprotected. That makes it convenient for people who want cheap labor, narcotaffickers, and others. So, is the repression of the Haitian people fundamentally racist, fundamentally economic, or simply d--n convenient? I wouldn't hazard to select just one.
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