HAITI: There Are No Security Issues – The Racist Myth of Haiti’s Security Crisis

Posted on January 21, 2010


From the blog Lenin’s Tomb:


Once again, just for emphasis and instruction, the security crisis is fabricated:

One thing that I think is really important for people to understand is that misinformation and rumors and, I think at the bottom of the issue, racism has slowed the recovery efforts of this hospital. Security issues over the last forty-eight hours have been our-quote “security issues” over the last forty-eight hours have been our leading concern. And there are no security issues. I’ve been with my Haitian colleagues. I’m staying at a friend’s house in Port-au-Prince. We’re working for the Ministry of Public Health for the direction of this hospital as volunteers. But I’m living and moving with friends. We’ve been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There’s no UN guards. There’s no US military presence. There’s no Haitian police presence. And there’s also no violence. There is no insecurity.

This message, now coming from aid workers in the Red Cross and Partners in Health, starkly contradicts the racist coverage of the wire services, the mainstream newspapers, and the television channels and the websites belonging to all of the above – the capitalist media in toto. Take this, for example: a wire story, reproduced in newspapers and on television programmes across the world, uncritically reproducing the claims of the Haitian police, using less than a handful of named and unnamed witnesses as editorial sock puppets to justify the attempts to spread terror and organise vigilante violence – to actually create the very suspicion, mayhem, and bloodshed that has so far been notable by its absence. Of course, the give-away is the reference to ‘gangs’ and ‘gang leaders’. In the vernacular of the White House, the US press corps, wire services, and the Group of 184 (essentially a delegation of Haiti’s comprador capitalist class), these vocables refer to activists belonging to Lavalas, the most popular and rooted political party in Haiti, and the most conspicuously excluded from recent elections.emerged that both UN and US authorities instructed people not to deliver relief directly to the victims, because doing so will lead to them being attacked by an ‘angry mob’. Such sick conduct, depriving the needy of aid by means of racist scapegoating, constitutes an incitement, among other things, to the organisation of ‘angry mobs’. However intelligently said ‘mobs’ go about trying to secure the means of existence, the right to life in other words, they can be shot without the world batting an eyelid – as recent HNP and MINUSTAH actions demonstrate. (Here, I use the phrase ‘the world’ in the same sense that the media does, in which ‘the world’ is just that combination of images and text that are generated by the news corporations themselves, and which in fact mediate our experience of the ‘real world’. ‘The world’ does not bat an eyelid, in other words, so long as the Anglophone media remains unshaken by it.)

There will be some real violence, alongside the desperate efforts by starving people to secure food and water for themselves. There is no society in the world that doesn’t have violence on a regular, daily basis, never mind in the middle of a horrendous tragedy and a reloaded military occupation. But what we are seeing here is the entirely justifiable expropriation of hoarded goods in stores and other situations being used to characterise the situation as a security crisis. In a scandalous if barely reported manipulation of aid workers, it has

This ‘security’ mytheme has also been used to justify the imposition of martial law, at the behest of the United States, which will be enforced by the US military:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had demanded the imposition of the emergency decree during her visit to Haiti on Saturday. “The decree would give the government an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us,” Clinton declared.

Haitian police and UN troops have already been firing at crowds characterised as ‘looters’, even if they didn’t necessarily have any purloined goods on them at the time. However, the US government is profoundly aware of its PR predicament, inasmuch as many people may refuse to be dazzled by the propaganda and notice the fact that the US has actually just invaded, taken control of the aid, blocked the entry of field hospitals and aid equipment on spurious grounds, and is now in the position of using its immense military advantages to impose martial law on an occupied country. So, the military bosses are telling anyone who will listen that “we’re not in Haiti to fight”. Well, of course they’re not. They genuinely expect people to do as they’re told without the question of a fight coming into it. Commentators can fulminate about machetes in Haitian hands, but 82nd Airborne has assault rifles and, if they consider it necessary, helicopter gunships, missiles, fighter jets, and behind them the entire galactically enormous arsenal of US imperialism. They are in a country whose GDP is a mere 1% of the US military budget in a single year. They are in a country that they have already tortured with death squads and terrorised under a UN mandate. Of course they don’t expect a fight.“lawlessness”. This reminds us that the overthrow of Aristide and the imposition of a UN MINUSTAH ocupation was itself already a ‘security’ operation. It was, moreover, one with a multilateral mandate, construed as a humanitarian operation and by no means an abridgment of anyone’s sovereignty. The point is made emphatically by China Mieville in this racy chastisement of international law, which notes that John Yoo, justly anathematized over the torture memos, risks no censure from liberal internationalist opponents when he describes the occupation of Haiti as an attempt to prevent a bloody civil war.

On top of the 10,000 US troops taking over, 3,500 extra UN troops are being sent to combat

Recall that according to the spurious story originating from the White House, Aristide had ‘fled’ Haiti amid turmoil and unrest resulting from his poor governance and corruption. According to the imperialist narrative, the UN then helpfully intervened at the behest of the US and other concerned members of the ‘international community’, to put a stop to this turmoil and unrest, and facilitate the development of democratic institutions (they never seem to catch on in some countries, though we never lose faith that they might). The UN has since faced a difficult struggle against ‘gangs’ (see passim), but is determined to continue to protect the slum-dwellers from such predators. That the ‘turmoil’ had itself resulted principally from US intervention in the form of Dominican Republic-based death squads, that Aristide was the elected president and was kidnapped, and that the processes set in motion under the UN’s violent occupation constituted a massive net curtailment of democracy, need not detain us for long. Nor need we malinger around the facts of the recent senatorial and congressional elections in Haiti which, even as Haiti’s most popular party was banned from participation causing turnout to sink to approximately ten percent, are represented as a signal of the international community’s determination to facilitate the democratic process. The point is that ‘security’ in this sense functions as a cynosure in a profoundly authoritarian and usually imperialist discourse in which populations rather than opposing armies, or even armed insurgencies, are construed as the source of illegitimate antagonism to be repressed. That is what ‘security’ is for.

This is important to understand because it is already a keyword of the Obama administration – in Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier Province, and now in Haiti. The new president’s language is expunged of some of the exaggerated, triumphalist self-righteousness of the hard right. The pseudo-messianic, missionary language has been subject to de-emphasis. The contention that the US is a fervent champion of democracy, and that its opponents are in some sense evil, is not entirely abandoned, but it is more carefully deployed. Liberals breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced last year that Obama was abandoning the obsession with democracy-promotion and focusing on security. But the language of security, while possessing reassuringly technocratic cadences, is not less dangerous for that. It is a primary moral and legal justification for violent repression.

Labels: capitalism, disaster politics, haiti, lavalas, US imperialism