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Posted on Tue, Mar. 02, 2004
Might of U.S. did not make right in Haiti
Ultimately, it may be a matter of semantics whether Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ''kidnapped'' by American forces, as he has told several members of Congress, or simply had no choice but to leave with them early Sunday morning.
The result is the same.
An appropriate analogy might be: If I place you in a house and nail all the windows shut, and lock every door but one, and then I set the house on fire, did I force you to run out that unlocked door or did you choose to go out that door?
Make no mistake. Aristide certainly bears a large measure of responsibility for the problems in Haiti. He did not do enough to stem corruption or to curtail the violent actions of some of his supporters.
But my fear is that if
we get distracted by the allegations surrounding Aristide's final hours in Haiti, we will stop examining the very real role the United States played in the days, weeks, months and even years before Aristide went into exile.
The United States may deny that it was involved in a coup in Haiti, but no matter what you call it, this fact is clear: The United States wanted Aristide out and that is exactly what they got.
Eight years ago, the United States abandoned its efforts to train and equip a competent police force in Haiti that would have been capable of maintaining order.
Seven years ago, the United States stopped providing direct financial support to the Haitian government, even though the country is the poorest in the hemisphere.
These actions, coupled with Aristide's own failures, slowly raised the temperature in Haiti until it reached a boiling point a month ago when a small band of rebels, led by throwbacks of Haiti's ugly past, stormed into the country from the Dominican Re
Rather than defend a democratically elected leader, the United States sided with Aristide's critics and demanded that he share power with the opposition. Aristide agreed. Yet when the opposition rejected the U.S. proposal, rather than chastise the opposition, the United States started distancing itself from Aristide, further emboldening his opponents.
With the rebels advancing on the capital, Aristide tried to hire additional bodyguards from the Steele Foundation, a private U.S. company that specializes in executive security. But as The Herald reported Monday, the State Department allegedly interceded to discourage the company from sending in the well-trained former soldiers, further isolating Aristide.
As each day passed last week, the U.S. government, in its public statements, continued to pull away from Aristide, until finally it made it clear it wanted Aristide to leave.
Privately, the messages being sent to Aristide were even more ominous. Several sources close to Ari
stide said that on Saturday, Secretary of State Colin Powell talked to former U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums, a lobbyist for Haiti. The message: The rebels were going to enter Port-au-Prince on Sunday and the United States would do nothing to discourage them and they would do nothing to protect Aristide. He could either leave or die. A few hours later, Aristide was on a plane.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters says she is amazed at the actions taken by her country.
''I feel as if I have found my way into a side of America and a way that America operates that most people will never see or understand,'' the California Democrat told me Monday. "I feel as if the power America has is so overwhelming I'm at a loss. All the talk we do about democracy and fairness is for naught.
"Because when you have a regime-change policy, in many ways we are all helpless. These guys have orchestrated this thing in ways that most people will never ever understand. There are a lot of parts of it t
hat I have stumbled upon and I began to learn. And I feel as
if the awesome power of our government can get away with whatever they want to get away with and there is not a lot that can be done about this.''