Posted by: Jim | February 23, 2004

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Democracy’s Stepchild

The story in Haiti is getting buried beneath the election hype and news out of Iraq and Iran. While Iraq’s current situation might be a glaring result of American hubris in foreign policy, the situation in Haiti is a proving ground for lessons learned—or not. I’ve been watching with great interest as America proclaims its distaste for the bloody coup that is going on there, but does absolutely nothing to stop it. We sent in a “small number of troops”, yes. But the small number ended up being 50, and those are assigned to protect the American Embassy.

In 1991, under Bush Sr., Aristide was ousted in a similar rebellion. Three years later, under Clinton, the U.S. backed up Aristide with a far more significant number of troops and their bullets, and restored him to power.

Since then, the embers under Aristide have slowly grown hotter, and G. W., not to be outdone by his father, fanned them into a flame by blocking $300 million in loans that Haiti needed. Why did he block those loans? Apparently there was concern that Aristide’s election hadn’t been entirely fair. I won’t even begin to comment on this irony …. Needless to say, this action by Bush has created a precarious situation for Aristide.

In a statement that can only be described as posturing—as it is inconsistent with the Bush Administration’s policy against Haiti—Colin Powell said that the U.S. could not support anything short of a democratic solution.

Powell’s urgings won’t keep Democracy going in Haiti, however. As I write this, Aristide’s opponents are implementing a sort of “Spanish Inquisition” style of Democracy. According to one rebel, “The people show us the (chimere) houses. If they are there, we execute them.” “Chimere” are what rebels call Aristide supporters. My my. Now there’s an approach that will ensure justice and create democratic good will in the long run.

So now we are faced with this question. Should we help Aristide or shouldn’t we? Whatever opinion I might have about Aristide would be half-baked at best, so I won’t offer one. Not helping him, however, looks as if it would be a grave mistake. The rebels have no “vision” other than to get Aristide out. This is a recipe for anarchy and more blood.

But helping Aristide might simply be a continuation of the U.S.’s intrusive and damaging foreign policy. If we hadn’t implemented such a foreign policy in the first place, none of this would be our concern. We would simply watch in Horror as Haitians murdered Haitians, but we wouldn’t do anything about it because it would be a Haitian problem. Unfortunately, however, the U.S. government has a nasty habit of sticking its nose where it ought not be whiffing. To compound the issue, it has the worse habit of obfuscating our true interests when doing so. The most notable examples, of course, would be our first and second invasions of Iraq. Our intent in both cases was to ensure stable oil prices. (Is this a bad intention? I’m not really sure it is!) In neither occasion did we come out and admit that we were simply protecting American interests. Instead, we mamby-pambied our way into derision on a world scale by pointing to Human Rights abuses or weapons of mass destruction when most people—in the end—knew the real reason for the bloodshed.

It still looks very evident to me that Bush is not going to do anything about the situation in Haiti. We’ve sent in troops to protect the embassy but Aristide is on his own. In a better world, this might be the right approach; but, in a world where we’ve insinuated our politics without honesty, we’re opening ourselves up to criticism by our lack of “compassion” on our American neighbors.

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