FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

 

 

Ben Terrall is a writer living in the Bay Area. He can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

May 03, 2016
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail