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Are Troops What Haiti Needs?

Jesse Freeston: . . . [T]he Heritage Foundation think tank responded within hours of the earthquake, with the demand that the US should use the crisis to its advantage.  They quickly took the post down, but a new one appeared soon after laying out four demands for US intervention in Haiti.

  1. Send the military.
  2. Appoint former president George W. Bush to join Bill Clinton in leading the US relief effort.
  3. Make a central task of the military to ensure that Haitians aren’t getting on boats to illegally enter the United States.
  4. Tie the US humanitarian aid to Haiti to democratic and economic reforms.

As of Monday morning, President Obama has deployed the total of 5,000 US military personnel.  On Saturday, he completed Part 2, in appointing former presidents Clinton and Bush to head up fund-raising efforts. . . .  Peter Hallward, author of the book Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment, says that, while ex-presidents are great for raising money, neither Clinton nor Bush has ever shown respect for Haitian sovereignty, or the twice-elected, twice-overthrown leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Peter Hallward: It’s a very discouraging development.  It demonstrates a kind of fundamental continuity of American strategic interests.  To start with Clinton, very briefly, Aristide was forced out of office by a military coup in September 1991 when Bush Senior was in power.  Clinton maintained the standard of US policy, which was not to return Aristide to power until, through negotiations with the coup leaders with the army, they managed to extract a whole series of concessions, which would basically involve accepting the neoliberal policies that he had opposed when he was elected.  So, the pressure they put on him was very simple, which was to kill his supporters in Haiti.  The United States was involved in the setting up of death squads and others forms of paramilitary coercion that killed hundreds, and ultimately thousands, of people in Haiti, all from 1991 to 1994.  And only when it was clear that basically Aristide had no choice — the option was basically either to allow this to continue indefinitely or to make a certain number of concessions — he reluctantly made those concessions.  Then, Clinton could revel in the restoration of democracy and cover himself with the moral rectitude of a Good Samaritan.  But it was, I think, profoundly hypocritical to do that. . . .  Bush was even worse.  Aristide was reelected with a huge majority in 2000.  Even before he has taken office, the United States cuts off all the bilateral aids to Haiti, which is to say a very substantial amount of money, about the amount roughly equivalent of half the annual Haitian budget. . . .  They immediately suspended the disbursement of pre-agreed loans that had been agreed with the Inter-American Development Bank before Aristide came back, in 1997-1998 — the pre-agreed loans for $140-plus million and the promise of $400-500 million to come.  All of that money was frozen and Aristide never saw any of it.  So, the effect was really a campaign of economic aggression against the government: cut his budget in half and prevent him from being able to invest in any of the programs that he promised and campaigned on when he was elected in 2000.  A component of US strategy under Bush was to launch a paramilitary force to sabotage the government directly: to attack police stations, to attack, later, government officials and government sympathizers.  These operations started in July 2001, just a few months after Aristide’s government’s start, and they continue right through to the insurgency.  Eventually they grow into a full-on insurgency in 2004 and lead to what is a straightforward military coup.  So, that is Bush’s legacy.  It’s a legacy of direct aggression against an elected government that led to a very brutal and violent coup.  So, to have Bush and Clinton as the people who will push through this next round of heavily managed interference in the country makes me worried.  Yes, there’s a need for emergency relief, that’s undeniable, but on what terms, and on what conditions, and in whose interests?

This video was released by The Real News on 18 January 2010.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the video.

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