“Will I resign? No, I will not resign, I will fulfill my term and I will not allow criminals and terrorists to take over.”
This long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide’s making. His failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarization and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today.” Press Secretary, Scott McClellan
The Bush Administration’s response to the rebellion in Haiti is the most explicit example of contempt for democracy we’ve seen yet. The United States has had 2000 Marines ready for immediate deployment to the beleaguered island, but has held back until Haiti’s “first democratically elected President” was spirited out of the country by force of arms. It is currently being reported by the BBC that Mr. Aristide was escorted to the plane in which he made his dawn escape by US Marines already in the country. This only adds to the suspicion of US complicity in the President’s ouster.
Aristide pleaded for help from the international community, and particularly the United States, saying that perhaps only a few dozen marines could salvage his presidency. The US flatly refused, condemning the Aristide government to certain collapse. The culpability for that collapse resides entirely with the Bush Administration.
We cannot imagine what conclusions are being drawn by the various leaders in the Middle East who are now being presented with Mr. Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative (GME). They are being asked to launch democratic reforms in their own countries while at the same time, witnessing the flagrant duplicity of the Administration’s actions in Haiti. Are we to believe that Bush and co. have a genuine interest in democracy when then they refuse to even lift a finger to help a struggling neighbor in their own back yard? Instead, they issue a steady stream of criticism at the elected government (via the media) which further emboldens the rebel leaders to continue their onslaught.
Things really started going downhill for the Aristide Government when the Bush Administration began their well-calculated attack on its legitimacy. As Scott McClellan said, “Aristide’s actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern.”
Really? Then who should govern, if not the man who was elected by over 80% of the Haitian population? Not every country accepts the idea that the Supreme Court should decide elections. Some nations still entertain the archaic notion that the president should be chosen by popular mandate, a view that has been regrettably abandoned in the US. The action taken in Haiti is an affront to the basic principle of representative government.
Statements like McClellan’s this made it abundantly clear to everyone that Bush supported the overthrow of Aristide by the dubious gang of terrorists and misfits who instigated the coup. As ex-ambassador Richard Holbrook opined, they are nothing more than “murderers, drug-lords and criminals.” Holbrook added that, “Bush had pulled the plug on Aristide and must accept responsibility” for what happens now.
As Democracy Now reported earlier this week, “Many of the men leading the armed insurrection in Haiti right now are well known to veteran Haiti observers and, for that matter, the US intelligence agencies that worked closely with the paramilitary death squads which terrorized Haiti in the early 1990s. People like Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in FRAPH, Guy Philippe, a former police chief who was trained by US Special forces in Ecuador and Jean Tatun, another leader of FRAPH.”
“The question is, will the international community stand by and allow a democracy in this hemisphere to be terminated by a brutal military coup of persons who have a very, very sordid history of gross violations of human rights?” (Democracy Now)
Ira Kurzban, the Miami-based attorney who has served as General Counsel to the Haitian government since 1991, said that the paramilitaries fighting to overthrow Aristide are being backed by Washington.
“I believe that this is a group that is armed by, trained by, and employed by the intelligence services of the United States. This is clearly a military operation, and it’s a military coup.” (Democracy Now)
“There are enough indications from our point of view, at least from my point of view, that the United States certainly knew what was coming about two weeks before this military operation started,” Kurzban said. “The United States made contingency plans for Guantanamo.” (Democracy Now)
“All of the men were trained in Ecuador by US Special Forces during the 1991-1994 coup….Because it is a military operation. It’s not a rag-tag group of liberators, as has often been put in the press in the last week or two.” (Democracy Now)
So, why has the Bush Administration decided to rid itself of the Aristide Government?
Aristide has always sought to address the crushing poverty and hunger of his countrymen. After following the “free trade” dictates issuing from Washington during the 1980’s, Haiti’s domestic rice production was in shambles. US subsidies to American farmers left “a hungry nation even hungrier.”
Aristide knew that “we could either enter the global economic system, in which we cannot survive, or, refuse, and face death by slow starvation.” This is the same dire situation that faces many third world countries. For them, free trade is not so free.
International donors to poorer countries base their loans on a neoliberal economic plan; lower tariffs, tight monetary control and privatization. These oftentimes have a devastating affect on fragile economies.
As Aristide said, “we wanted to guard against a quick total sale of state assets.” This is what the IMF required to guarantee the needed loans. When Aristide balked on the sale of state owned cement and flour plants, the hammer came down. The IMF threatened “cutting off all funds to Haiti. The international media followed suit with a frenzy of condemnation and character assassination.”
This is a familiar pattern for the leaders of countries who try to resist the seizure of their most valuable resources and assets from outside corporations.
And, this is essentially how Aristide fell from grace with the Bush administration. He refused to comply with the economic regimen that forces poor countries to deepen their poverty and surrender their assets. He defied the highway robbery that disguises itself as “free trade”, but only offers more suffering and grief.
As we can see, he paid for his defiance.
Make no mistake; this form of despotism is now backed by the full force of the United States Military, the gendarmes of the new economic order.
Aristide is just the latest victim.
MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org