Investigative Journalism that is as
Radical as Reality Itself.

Haiti’s Blood-Soaked Paramilitaries

by BEN TERRALL

Jeb Sprague’s definitive Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti (Monthly Review Press, 2012) is the product of seven years of research and writing.  Since the 2004 Bush Administration-backed overthrow of the democratically-elected Jean Bertrand Aristide government, journalist and scholar Sprague has been investigating key players behind that coup.  His work is especially strong on interviews with figures in anti-Aristide political and paramilitary networks, and on unearthing cables from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince and other relevant documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  Sprague also combed through all the Haiti-related documents released through the activist project Wikileaks.

This volume is thoroughly sourced, containing 84 pages of footnotes.  Though it is thus a scholarly work, it is also the product of the author’s immersion in solidarity with Haiti’s poor majority, resulting in an impassioned alternative to the obfuscation which has often passed for analysis of the 2004 coup.

Sprague’s meticulous dissection of rightist propaganda about Ariside’s record emanating from Haiti and Washington makes his book an essential companion to philosopher Peter Hallward’s similarly thorough
volume Damming the Flood.  Comparing the reaction to the first coup against an Aristide administration in 1991 to the 2004 operation, Sprague writes, “… the paramilitaries and many of the powerful groups backing the opposition had historically been connected in different ways.  Scholars and human rights groups had extensively documented these connections after the 1991 coup.  But the international press largely failed to probe them during Aristide’s second government, instead more often than not credulously recycling the ‘peaceful’ opposition’s claims.”

Sprague shows how Aristide’s 1995 disbanding of the notoriously brutal Haitian army was one of the most popular acts of his presidency, at least with the majority of Haitian citizens.  Ex-military figures were not as enthusiastic about this move, and became key players behind anti-Aristide machinations.  Washington was also less than pleased.  Sprague quotes a 2004 cable in which U.S. Ambassador James Foley wrote, “One must recognize that the members of the former army suffered an injustice ten years ago.  The were fired/dismissed without ceremony, without anything. … The were left on their own. …For ten years, a long time, one does not know how they were able to survive.”  Foley and his peers showed no such concern for  the thousands of Haitian workers laid off as a result of U.S. backed structural adjustment policies; Sprague writes, “Of course, [the former military] survived as they always had, by terrorizing the poor majority and those who dared to stand up to them.”

Perhaps the book’s most distressing insight is how the right wing paramilitary actors behind so much terror against Haiti’s pro-democracy movement are still ensconced in positions of power in Haitian society and government.

In what Sprague refers to as a “selection,”  Michel Martelly was elected President in 2011 with the backing of Washington but not much of a popular mandate.  Connecting the men around Martelly to the return to Haiti of the former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Sprague writes, “Numereous neo-Duvalierists and rightist ex-army work key security positions for the Martelly government and its allies in the senate […] A committee appointed by Martelly to investigate the issue of reconstructing the military has unsurprisingly rubber stamped the plan.”  The Obama Administration has been noticeably quiet about raising any objections to such a rash plan.  As Sprague writes, “Bringing paramilitary death squad leaders (and those who facilitated them) to justice is not a major concern for Washington and its allies.”

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti is an essential book for building solidarity with those on the receiving end of paramilitary violence in Haiti.  It should be read and studied widely.

BEN TERRALL is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

 

 

July 07, 2015
Bruce K. Gagnon
Sanders Bullshit Meter Goes Off the Charts in Portland, Maine
ANDRE VLTCHEK
In Ecuador, Fight for Mankind; In Greece, Fight for Greece!
Nile Bowie
Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Trails Behind China’s Development Vision
Binoy Kampmark
Warrior Economist: the Varoufakis Legacy
Shamus Cooke
Unions Must Act Now to Survive Supreme Court Deathblow
Dave Lindorff
The Greek People Have Voted ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail
Mateo Pimentel
The Pope’s Letter: Neoliberalism and Fukushima
Raouf Halaby
Beware Those Who Speak With Forked Tongues
Ron Jacobs
The Grateful Dead: The Ship of the Sun Bids Farewell
Jonathan Cook
Hasbara Industry: Why Israel’s Army of Spin-Doctors is Doomed to Defeat
Rev. William Alberts
Charleston: a Reality Check on Racism in America
Ellen Brown
A Franciscan Alternative: the People’s Pope and a People’s Bank?
Colin Todhunter
The Warped World of the GMO Lobbyist
John Wight
Who Will Join With Greece?
W. T. Whitney
Colombia’s Fensuagro Union is Revolutionary, Persecuted, and Undaunted
Mel Gurtov
Keep It in the Ground, Obama
July 06, 2015
MICHAEL HUDSON
Greece Rejects the Troika
Steve Hendricks
Will FIFA’s World Cup Sexism Ever Die?
Binoy Kampmark
Oxi in Greece
Gareth Porter
How US Spin on Access to Iranian Sites has Distorted the Issue
Peter Bach
ISIL and Ramadan in the Rag
Paul Craig Roberts
A Rebuke to EU-Imposed Austerity
Robert Hunziker
Looking Inside Fukushima Prefecture
Quincy Saul
The View from Mount Olympus
ADRIENNE PINE, RICHARD JOHNSTON, FIONA WILMOT, et al.
Seven Reasons to Scrap the USA’s $1 Billion Aid Package to Central America
Norman Pollack
Capitalism’s Self-Revealing Practices
David Macaray
Could Justice Scalia Be the One to Rescue Labor?
Linn Washington Jr.
Storm Smashes Chris Christie’s Presidential Candidacy
Benjamin Willis
US and Cuba: What Remains to be Done?
Robert David Steele
The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes
Joan Roelofs
Whatever Happened to Eastern European Communism?
Weekend Edition
July 3-5, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Pentagon’s “2015 Strategy” For Ruling the World
Jason Hirthler
Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg
Rob Urie
Greece and Global Class War
DIMITRIS KONSTANTAKOPOULOS
The Future of Greece Without Illusions
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Ecuador Fights for Survival – Against its Elites
David Rosen
White Skin Crisis
Jerry Lembcke
Nobody Spat on American GIs!
Stavros Mavroudeas
The Greek Referendum and the Tasks of the Left
Andrew Levine
Dumping on Dixie Again
Richard Pithouse
Charleston (It’s Not Over)
Arun Gupta
What Does It Mean to Call Dylann Roof a “Terrorist”?
Michael Welton
The Tragedy of Harper’s Canada
Brendan McQuade
The Right Wing Resurgence and the Problem of Terrorism
Chris Floyd
Heritage and Hokum in Rebel Banner Row