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Crisis in the Caribbean
A Miasma Foretold
by JOHN MAXWELL

The Caribbean has now proven that it is even more hopeless at diplomacy than it is at cricket. And, as in cricket, those who are considered guilty are not those at the top but the foot-soldiers.

Our gutless leaders–unable to look a principle in the face–are, as I write on Friday, busy selling the Haitian people down the river…again.

Meanwhile, the bombastic Latortue, fresh from embracing a choice assemblage of bloody-handed murderers, desires to sit at the table with people who consider themselves upright, law abiding and above all, respectable. The Bahamas put our position best: We simply have no choice but to deal with whatever Haitian regime is there. Of course, if we don’t, the US might just find it necessary to issue a travel advisory about Bubonic Plague or Ebola fever in Nassau or Negril. Condoleezza Rice has apparently threatened Jamaica directly, telling Patterson to get rid of Aristide or face unspecified consequences.

But, even as we speak, the Bush Administration is beginning to unravel, unconscionable lie by unconscionable lie. But we do not understand that the slavemaster is in deep trouble and that we need not follow illegal orders. I have been re-reading some of the columns I wrote 10 years ago and what surprises me is that some of them might have been written last week.

"We know that a corrupt army, representing a corrupt ruling class, has for 80 years enslaved the people of Haiti, shot them down in cold blood, tortured and beaten them, burnt them alive, raped them, flogged them to death, and tried by every means to reduce a once proud and defiant and independent people to the status of zombies, lesser than animals, things without souls . We know that there are many Americans who are ashamed of their government’s complicity in these high and stinking crimes, we know that there are many others of all races in this world, who, if they knew, would be in the struggle to restore Haiti to its peace and dignity." (‘Accomplices to Murder’–Jamaica Herald, June 5, 1994).

Now, listen to someone else, a man who is now a judge at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He too is a Jamaican; his name is Patrick Robinson. In 1994, he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On the very day my words above were published, Robinson was in Belem, Brazil, presenting a report by the Commission. I quoted him in a later column (‘The New Slave Trade’–Ja Herald, June 26, 1994)

Rape as an instrument of policy

"The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way ."

Mr Robinson then goes on to detail just how seriously the Haitians were challenged. As you read his words, please remember that Mr Robinson is speaking about some of the same people embraced last week by Mr Latortue:

"[We] received information of severely mutilated bodies deposited on the streets, and a member of the delegation actually saw one such body . the purpose of these acts is to terrorise the population . human corpses are being eaten by animals . numerous reports of arbitrary detentions routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beatings . 55 cases of political kidnapping and disappearances during February and March ."

Robinson’s report told of the actions of the so-called Haitian army and its assistants, the ‘attaches’ or tontons in their campaign of terror against ordinary people who supported Aristide. Rape, he reported, was used as an instrument of policy. "The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide .women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution."

Patrick Robinson is now doing in The Hague what he and his fellows should have been asked to do in Haiti. In the court across the Atlantic, they are trying people accused of very serious crimes, but few as noisome and depraved as those committed against the men, women and children of Haiti. The world thinks it necessary to punish those in Yugoslavia who warred like savages against their own people for two and three years, but they forgot about those who had oppressed, murdered, maimed, raped, tortured and otherwise terrorised millions in ‘peacetime’ in Haiti for more than 30 years.

I don’t believe that people were killed in Bosnia simply for trying to escape the country. As I reported in 1994, "the Haitian Goonocracy obviously regard escaping from their island prison as a capital offence. Yet the American authorities, operating from Jamaican territory, continue to send back to Haiti, men, women, children and babies who have committed this ‘offence’ and are therefore likely in President Clinton’s words, "to have their faces chopped off".

And the men who were doing the chopping were, last weekend, on a platform in Gonaives glorying in the embrace of the newly anointed prime minister of Haiti. Latortue was brought to the scene in US Army helicopters and accompanied by the resident representative of the Organisation of American States.

A Miasma foretold

That the assassins are still there was foreseen by me in 1994. I had listened to the words of two top US policymakers and drew my conclusions. James Woolsey, then head of the CIA, said that the political problem in the Haitian military was that it was the rank and file hooligans who were the engine of change in the military. "It presents a very difficult situation for the policymakers."

Defence Secretary William Perry told the Canadian defence minister that opposition to Aristide extended deep into the lower ranks of the Haitian military. Yet, Mr Perry told Meet The Press that the United States "would want to use as much of the existing military and military police as is capable". I said at the time: "This would seem to suggest that the Pentagon, and by extension the CIA and the State Department), wish to preserve their assets in Haiti and to build into any new Aristide government an American capacity for subversion and destabilisation on demand." (‘Imagine That!’–Ja Herald, July 24, 1994).

I said at the time that the interests of the Haitian Bourbons clearly coincided with the interests of the American right. I wrote then : "Aristide and his people agreed to allow an amnesty to the murdering hoodlums in the military and the private sector who had supported the Duvaliers and the Generals who had followed them. Aristide and his people could have made government impossible in Haiti, army or no army. They tried, instead, to work within the system." (‘When You Sup with the Devil’–Ja Herald Sept 25, 1994.)

Liberating the Vampire

In 1994, the Americans were intervening for the 29th time in Haiti. It was my opinion that their latest mission had "liberated the vampire from its coffin and made it an officer and a gentleman. They have legitimised the illegitimate and promised impunity to the raging lumpen who feast on blood, pain and the physical and sexual abuse of women and children. They have sanctified the fanatical band of nigger-hating mulattos who prey parasitically on the Haitian body politic and call themselves the elite. The American white power structure is making its peace with its natural allies, and as in 1915-1934, when Jim Crow reigned in Haiti, hell is going to break loose". (Sept 25, 1994).

When Aristide was at last restored, in October 1994, I watched the proceedings on television and I wrote about them in a column entitled "A Love Song for Haiti". It began by reporting Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s words to his people: ‘Look at us; We are a great people, we are a grand people .don’t be surprised that I am in love with you . I love all of you.’ Against all odds, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is back in Haiti and as far as his people are concerned, everything is going to be beautiful, ‘Isolated we are weak,’ he told his people, ‘Together we are strong’.

I commented: "They need to be both optimistic and cautious. Shortly before Aristide and his entourage landed in Haiti, CNN interviewed a pretty young mulatto woman, a member of the Haitian elite. In her looks and her attitudes she seemed almost Jamaican. "It is the Aristide supporters who need to reconciliate," she said, and she did not say that she and her ilk are the ‘civilised’–the masters–at least in their own minds. She had no intention, it was clear, of admitting any fault, any responsibility for the thousands of Haitians, slaughtered, raped, beaten and driven into exile by the elite and their myrmidons over the generations." ‘It is people like Meyrelle Bertin with whom Aristide’s supporters will have to walk hand in hand . In South Africa there is a Mandela and there is a de Klerk. In Haiti there is only Aristide.’

Sadly, Meyrelle Bertin was herself assassinated a year later, and her murder was blamed on Aristide. Everything was blamed on Aristide. As I reported in 1994: "Aristide was generous in his gratitude to the Americans and all the others who helped him get where he is. He did not worry about the political and journalistic wars which brought his cause to the brink of disaster. His message was acceptance and discipline. He was generous to his enemies, to those who want to kill him. He offered them love, reconciliation. To his people he said: ‘Be patient once again; you will find your dignity and your pride once again.’"

As I commented: "The Haitian people’s indomitable courage won them their independence, and their pride and their dignity are about all that kept them alive through generations of oppression; [Now] they are counselled by ‘Titide’ to be patient once again." I urged our Caribbean people to come to the assistance of Haiti. "We cannot provide economic assistance–that anyway, is the responsibility of those who have profited from Haiti’s misfortunes for so long. We can provide trained manpower to patch some of the holes in the Haitian body politic …Our debt to Haiti cannot be defined in material terms. It is a debt of honour and of love, among other things. We may not be able to define it at all, but it is immense and past due." (‘A Love Song for Haiti’–Jamaica Herald Oct 16, 1994)

But that was 10 years ago.

JOHN MAXWELL writes for the Jamaica Observer, where this column originally appeared.

Copyright©2004 JOHN MAXWELL