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CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS
Charges of Complicity
Dramatically shifting his explicit election-year promise to oppose any U.S. nation-building operations in Haiti, President Bush deployed Marines to the island nation. In 2000, then Gov. Bush said troop intervention in Haiti was not a "worthwhile" mission, deriding such efforts as "a nation-building mission." He chastised the previous Administration's efforts to stabilize the country, saying "it cost us billions, a couple of billions of dollars." But facing similar challenges, the Administration has ordered thousands of U.S. Marines to the island just as "armed rebels swept into Haiti's capital yesterday staking a claim to power." As the Boston Globe reports "nation-building has become a defining feature of the administration's foreign policy." The Haiti intervention is one the Admi
nistration "is not eager to embrace" and "underscores how far-flung the American military's missions have become." The deployment "will put more strain on a under stress." Steps could have been taken to prevent the crisis in Haiti, but the Administration made a calculated decision to wait, raising serious questions: Why did the Administration back the demands of an armed insurgency against the democratically elected government of Haiti? Was the Administration complicit in the coup because it withheld peacekeeping help until that democratically-elected government was deposed?
THE PARADOX: Paradoxically, the Administration is citing its concern that Aristide had "lost democratic legitimacy" as a rationale for backing the demands of an armed insurgency by "death-squad veterans and convicted murderers." Furthering the paradox, Secretary of State Colin Powell signaled the Administration's support for an appointed – not an elected – government, saying an international force could install a
"responsive, functioning, noncorrupt" government.
DENIALS FALLING ON CYNICAL EARS: While the Administration continues to deny its involvement in – and support for – the overthrow of Haiti's democratic government, each day new evidence fuels more speculation that the Bush Administration was complicit in the mayhem. As the BBC reports, there is international "unease over Aristide's fall" with the Caribbean regional group, Caricom, saying that the U.S. removal of Aristide could set "a dangerous precedent for democratically-elected governments everywhere." Aristide's claims that he was kidnapped – whether true or false - are also contributing to confusion.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: The Bush Administration does not deny that it rapidly changed its position and helped force Aristide out, going so far as to issue a "harsh statement" blaming the turmoil on the Haitian president. The question that remains, however, is why did the Administration back a rebel force made up of "death-squad veterans and con
victed murderers over a democratically-elected government? Granted, Aristide's government had its human rights problems, but the White House still has not explained itself to the world community, and instead is now trying to pretend that it was not complicit in Aristide's overthrow. Powell now says that despite the U.S. government's ties to many of the rebels, and despite the Administration's support for its coup, the rebels include "individuals we would not want to see re-enter civil society in Haiti because of their past records."
AN ANSWER TO THOSE QUESTIONS: Newsday addresses questions about the Administration's motives in helping overthrow Aristide, noting that the Bush Administration's hardline, unilateralist neoconservative impulses are not limited to the Mideast. The coup, writes the newspaper, "is a victory for a Bush administration hard-liner who has been long dedicated to Aristide's ouster – Roger Noriega, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs." Noreiga,
whose influence over U.S. policy toward Haiti has increased during the past decade, "has been dedicated to ousting Aristide for many, many years, and now he's in a singularly powerful position to accomplish it," said Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay who is now president of the Center for International Policy. Noriega's ascent largely has been attributed to his ties to former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who was famous for his views on race and "behind-the-scenes influence over policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean." Also "working hand in hand with Noriega on Haiti has been National Security Council envoy Otto Reich" – a man whose role in sordid covert Latin American operations is so reviled that the President had to recess-appoint him to his post after his nomination was held up in the Senate.
A BLUEPRINT FOR MOVING FORWARD: Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs writes "the crisis in Haiti is another case of brazen U.S. manipulation of a sm
all, impoverished country with the truth unexplored by journalists." The fact is, the Bush Administration "came into office intent on toppling Mr. Aristide, long reviled by powerful conservatives." Such critics "fulminated when President Bill Clinton restored Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in getting U.S. troops withdrawn soon afterwards, well before the country could be stabilized." The opposition that was left behind was "a coterie of rich Haitians linked to the preceding Duvalier regime and former (and perhaps current) CIA operatives." Sachs asked, "What has been the CIA's role among the anti-Aristide rebels? How much U.S. money went from U.S. institutions and government agencies to help foment this uprising?" (See yesterday's Progress Report on some of the U.S.-rebel connections). He says the coup represents "an illegal power grab" meaning the U.S. "should call on the opposition, which is largely a U.S. construct, to stop the violence immediately and unconditionally and, after years of l
iterally starving the people of Haiti" the Administration should re-open "long-promised and long-frozen aid flows of $500 million." These steps, say Sachs, "would rescue a dying democracy and avert a possible bloodbath."