Five years after he was kidnapped from his country, Haitians gather in Port-au-Prince in the thousands to demand the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Check out a clip from Kevin Pina’s groundbreaking new film: “Haiti: We Must Kill the BANDITS”
Democracy Now clip featuring Amy Goodman interview with President Aristide on the way back from the Central African Republic where the US dumped him after kidnapping him from Port-au-Prince days before. (The clip begins with a few non-related news stories and goes directly to the Haiti story.)
THREE ARTICLES ABOUT A VERY TOUGH YEAR IN HAITI – 2005
July 6, 2005: Haiti, the Gaza Strip of the Caribbean
by Shirley Pate
“Two helicopters flew overhead. At 4:30 a.m., UN forces launched the offensive, shooting into houses, shacks, a church and a school with machine guns, tank fire and tear gas. Eyewitnesses reported that when people fled to escape the tear gas, UN troops gunned them down from the back.” – from a report by a San Francisco-based labor/human rights delegation that was in Haiti on Wednesday, July 6, when UN forces committed a massacre against the residents of the neighborhood of Cité Soleil
Back in April, I wrote an article* warning the head of the UN “peacekeeping” effort in Haiti, Brazilian Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, that if he continued to implement the UN Security Council’s unwritten mandate to insure a Haitian elite victory in the upcoming elections by killing as many Aristide supporters as possible, there would not be enough soap and water to wash the blood off his hands. It looks like General Heleno may have figured this out for himself – last month, he declared his intention to resign his post.
Yet, it appears he was still in command in the wee hours of the morning of July 6, when 300-400 UN troops attacked Cité Soleil, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, and slaughtered close to 50 residents and wounded many more. It was a bloodletting worthy of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and, on that day, Haiti moved a step closer to becoming the Gaza Strip of the Caribbean. It was a bloodletting that, if there is any justice left in the world, will land Gen. Heleno before an international tribunal.
On Feb. 29, 2004, the lives of most Haitians turned decidedly worse when a U.S.-inspired coup d’état deprived them of their democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The coup was masterminded and supervised by a colonial cabal consisting of the U.S., France and Canada, supported by military forces that slipped into Haiti days before. From that moment on, Haiti was under occupation.
Shortly thereafter, the cabal formed a multi-lateral force that reigned for three months. Knowing that the political stakes were too high to remain the sole supplier of the military muscle in Haiti, the cabal cleverly engineered a UN “peacekeeping” operation that has, by all standards, mutated into an occupying IDF-like assault force.
It is proving extremely difficult for Haiti solidarity activists, who are working to stop this carnage, to convince the public that a UN peacekeeping effort could be capable of such heinous crimes. Most think of UN peacekeeping missions as non-belligerent, neutral operations that are deployed to separate warring factions in order to reach a peaceful settlement to conflict.
And this is the genius of the cabal’s decision to bring the UN to Haiti. It is vital for the public to understand that, in Haiti, the UN is the primary warring faction, a proxy for the cabal and nothing about their mission is neutral. The permanent members of the UN Security Council dictate the nature and scope of UN peacekeeping operations.
As the more dominant of the permanent members, the U.S. and France are masters at designing peacekeeping operations to serve their own foreign policy interests. As a result, peacekeeping missions are more insidious and deadly than most people are aware.
In 1961, the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was betrayed by UN peacekeepers when they failed to maintain neutrality in the conflict between the central government and Lumumba’s Western-supported opponents. Lumumba was subsequently kidnapped and murdered, leaving the Congolese, for the next 32 years, in the vicious grip of Sese Seko Mobutu, the U.S.’ main man in Africa.
In Bosnia, thousands of Muslims sought safe haven with Dutch-led UN peacekeepers. The peacekeepers yielded to Bosnian Serbs, who kidnapped the Muslims and killed them.
The purposeful impotency of the UN peacekeeping mandate in Rwanda resulted in an indescribable genocide that has soiled forever the legacy of UN peacekeeping. Yet, amid the presumed “failures” of each of these UN peacekeeping efforts, one can be assured that the interests of the permanent members of the UN Security Council were well served regardless.
Throughout their occupation of Haiti, UN forces have maintained that the primary objective is to bring peace to Haiti so that elections can be held in the fall. The problem is that a lot of lousy things are done in the name of “peace.” Not unlike the lousy things that are done in the name of “democracy.”
The same tactics used by the IDF to kill, maim and wreck the lives of Palestinians were employed by UN forces against Haitians in Cité Soleil on July 6: aerial attacks with gunfire aimed into densely populated residential areas, use of massive numbers of troops, destruction of homes by firebombs and grenades, indiscriminate tank fire into alley ways and homes and not so indiscriminate assassination of residents as they were shot in the back trying to flee the horror.
When the UN forces first arrived in Haiti, their activities consisted largely of securing the perimeter of poor neighborhoods for the Haitian National Police while they conducted raids that, more often than not, ended in summary executions of residents. But it was not long before UN forces began joint operations with the HNP and then graduated to doing raids on their own.
This is all to say that the UN’s deadly assaults on poor and largely Aristide-supporting neighborhoods are not new. Yet the UN raid on July 6 was in another category altogether. The arrogance, massive nature and sheer audacity of the operation signaled that, for UN forces, killing Haitians had become sport.
Khan Younis is one of the most god-forsaken refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. In the late afternoon when the children are out to play, the Israeli soldiers taunt them, through a loud speaker, with disgusting sexual innuendo about their mothers. The children, incensed, climb the highest hill, perch themselves atop like sitting ducks at the carnival, and engage in their own mini intifada of rocks. The Israelis, having lured the children to the designated target area, play a game of maiming them by calling out the body part they are aiming at before they shoot – sort of like calling out your shot in billiards. Sometimes, a head shot is called for and the kids are executed on the spot.
Much of the cabal’s genius lies in the make-up of the UN forces in Haiti – largely Latin American.** It serves to tie Latin America and the Caribbean together in a tight knot. Brown brother helping Black brother. Yet, the unifying theme belies a cruel reality.
Brazil’s populist-seeming president, its overwhelmingly multiracial society and desperate ambition to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council made it the perfect choice to lead the UN “peacekeeping” effort in Haiti. Yet, this is a country that has over 30 different descriptions used by Brazilians to differentiate themselves from one another based on skin color. This is a country, where an Afro-Brazilian, after attaining a certain level of success, might start referring to himself as white. Racism in Latin America is pervasive and is directed at both Indians and African descendants of slaves. It is based on the concept of “the crabs at the bottom of the barrel.” Being close to the bottom of the barrel, the crab wrestles viciously to stay on top of the crab just below lest he slip and fall to the bottom himself. This social structure was created and perpetuated by colonial powers in Latin America because they knew they had everything to lose if black, brown, and red ever got together. Like most conflicts of imperial intent, manipulating racial tensions is key to ensuring that people of color stay engaged in the dirty business of fighting one another. Belief in the inherent inferiority of those whose land you occupy is an essential element of occupation.
Haiti is Gaza and Gaza is Haiti because occupation always yields the same things: relentless provocations of the population, murder on a massive scale, oppression, persecution, incarceration, disenfranchisement, joblessness, homelessness, starvation and resistance.
It’s a wicked, purposeful merry-go-round of peace through provocation – profess peace, provoke the occupied until they resist, label the resistance a criminal car stealing, kidnapping , gang mongering, raping, murdering “threat to peace” and then it’s an open season for the occupier. This method has worked quite well for the IDF.
Just like the meaningless UN resolutions demanding an end to the slaughter in Palestine, it is doubtful that we will see any sanctions against the cabal or Gen. Heleno for their crimes against humanity. No doubt the UN will proceed to issue its cheerful press releases re-emphasizing its commitment to peace and democracy in preparation for the fall elections, and the incursions into the popular neighborhoods for a night of sport will continue.
But this will not go on forever. When and how will it stop? The UN would do well to check out the Haitian history books for answers to these questions. There, they might learn that they are occupying the land of the sons and daughters of Dessalines. If the UN is unable to grasp the significance of this, they should seek clarification from the French.
** Where do the Jordanian forces fit into all of this? With chilling regularity, in assault after assault, the Jordanians are the primary shooters for the UN forces in Haiti and have committed some of the most heinous crimes. It could be that they are used as the trigger men time and time again because they are the best marksmen. Yet the cabal leaves very little to fate. They know that one day they may end up in a tight spot and need to make a sacrifice – the Jordanians may be their scapegoat-designates.
Shirley Pate is a Haiti solidarity activist in Washington, D.C. Email her at email@example.com.
August 13, 2005
MINUSTAH LIES, HAITIANS DIE
by Shirley Pate
On August 2, MINUSTAH, the Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, issued a curious press statement concerning a training course it will offer to political parties preparing for Haiti’s upcoming elections. The course will emphasize the harmful effect that conflict has on children and the need for politicians to incorporate concerns of children into party platforms. After months of pleas to the UN by Haiti solidarity activists to investigate sexual abuse and other forms of violence, including murder, against street children in Haiti, the UN wants Haitian politicians to place children in front, and center, of their political agendas. The hypocrisy of the UN is stunning – the only thing they have put children in front of so far is the barrel of a gun.
In the wee hours of the morning on July 6, in the poor Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Cite Soleil, UN troops entered a home during a massive raid and shot, at close range, a mother and her two children, aged 18 months and four years. The four-year old had received a bullet to the head. I know this because I have seen the video footage of the aftermath of this raid in which the shattered husband, and father, tells the story, as his wife and children lie dead on the floor at his feet. UN forces had thrown a colored smoke bomb into his house before they entered. He thought his wife and children were close behind him as he ran from the house.
Only hours before this footage was shot, the UN “peacekeeping” forces entered this poor man’s neighborhood with 300-400 troops, 20 tanks, and two assault helicopters and the stated objective of disrupting “gang” activity. This husband, and father, is trying to understand how his whole family could have been mistaken for gang members. Other families are wondering the same thing. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) runs a hospital in Haiti. Officials at the hospital reported that, in the later morning hours after the raid, they received 26 gunshot victims – 20 were women and children. In a July 25 press statement, MINUSTAH said they killed five gang members on July 6 in Cite Soleil and that any other casualties were due to “gang” violence. MINUSTAH lied and men, women and children died.
In the video footage of the carnage left by UN troops, wounded victims and relatives of dead family members state repeatedly that the trigger men were the “casques bleus,” or blue helmets, the nickname given to UN peacekeeping troops because of the light blue helmets they wear. If you saw the film, Hotel Rwanda, you may remember the initial relief with which Rwandans received the news that the “casques bleus” were coming to help them. The UN Security Council handcrafted a particularly anemic mission for the peacekeepers in Rwanda and strung the world along for several days by feigning willingness to strengthen the mission, if needed. The Security Council lied and over 800,000 people died.
In Haiti, the “blue helmets” are immersing themselves in a sea of bloody red as they go from impotent bystanders to a proxy army for the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The US and France are the architects of this particular slaughter. Why? The US, France and Canada plotted and implemented the overthrow of Haiti’s democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, because he refused to play neo-colonial ball. With fall elections rapidly approaching and an overwhelming number of Haitians supporting President Aristide and demanding his return, the coup plotters are starting to sweat. Election fraud is a given. The exact number of young, poor, Aristide supporters who became of voting age since the last national elections in 2000 is unknown, but must pose a serious threat to the victory of a Haitian elite government that the US, France and Canada desperately seek. The problem is that support for Aristide is so massive in Haiti, no amount of fraud can conceal the farce that s about to unfold. So, a potential voter reduction program in poor, Aristide-supporting neighborhoods is underway. Rather than US Marines committing the massacres, the “casques bleus” are doing the deed. The UN dodged a bullet by resisting Bush’s crusade to Iraq. But, Brazil, vulnerable to the US’ treacherous promise of a permanent seat on the Security Council, sold its soul and agreed to head up the UN forces in Haiti. Rather than becoming the first Latin American country to win a permanent seat on the Security Council, Brazil will be remembered for presiding over the most deadly, violent, and destructive peacekeeping operation in UN history.
Haitian street children have always been the victim of unimaginable violence – most often at the hands of the Haitian National Police. Violence against these children has risen markedly since the coup. Demands that the UN investigate these crimes have gone unheeded because the Haitian police are the UN’s partners in the political slaughter in Haiti.
As late as two days ago, Haiti solidarity organizations sent out alerts about a major upsurge in assaults on street children. MINUSTAH, knowing that their massacre on July 6 is still fresh, needed to do some damage control – after all, we’re talking about kids here. So, it comes up with a training course to teach Haitians how to protect their children. How patronizing. How dare the UN use the children of Haiti to cover their murderous ways?
In Haiti, it matters not whether children live in the streets or in homes with their parents – if they are poor, they are targets of the UN “peacekeepers.” The US, France, Canada, and their UN accomplices are lying, as they always have and Haitians are dying, as they always have.
-Shirley Pate is a Haiti solidarity activist in Washington, DC.
Haiti, Imperialism, and the Treachery of Liberals
by Shirley Pate
October 15, 2005
What liberals choose to overlook is dangerous.
“Unfinished Country,” a film about Haiti by Jane Regan, aired on PBS on September 6. I’m not sure if I have seen a documentary so devoid of context. For the life of me, I don’t understand how one can discuss present day Haiti without chronicling the several-year, international effort to destabilize the country that involved a full-court press by: the US Agency for International Development (along with its French and Canadian counterparts) and its funding of the National Endowment for Democracy (and associated NGO-like tentacles); Washington free-market policy wonks; US State Department officials Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Roger Noriega; US-trained and funded paramilitaries and the stooges in the Dominican Republic that hosted them; Haitian elites; fake Haitian human rights organizations; the duplicitous US Embassy staff in Port-au-Prince; the IMF; and the World Bank.
The initial goal of the destabilization campaign was two-fold: first, remove Aristide from power and second, systematically “eliminate” his abundant political support (largely, the poor) to pave the way for a Haitian elite victory in the next presidential elections. Regan’s failure to provide this vital background in her film leaves the viewer little context for what is taking place in Haiti today. Not only is this omission inconceivable, it is dangerous.
It is dangerous because the “elimination” of Aristide’s supporters involves summary executions by Haitian National Police (HNP), deadly raids in poor neighborhoods by United Nations (UN) troops, and machete massacres by “attaches” or associates of the HNP. Unless context is provided about why this all-out slaughter of Aristide’s supporters is underway, their deaths lose their political significance.
And, make no mistake, what’s happening in Haiti is political.
In 2000, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became president of Haiti for the second time. His first presidency, which he won with 67% of the vote in Haiti’s first democratic elections, was interrupted eight months after it began by a coup d’etat in 1991. His proposals to raise the minimum wage and to initiate literacy programs were more than the US and their Haitian elite partners could handle. Haitian death squads sealed the coup with a massive slaughter of his supporters. Aristide returned to power in 1994 and, in 1995, he disbanded the Haitian military, a historic tool of state repression. US officials assumed mistakenly that Aristide would not buck a plan to privatize all state-owned companies. When Aristide refused, the US signaled international lending institutions that it was time to withdraw loans made to Haiti. As was intended, the withdrawal of the loans was a major blow to the Haitian economy, yet Aristide did his best to continue expansion of social programs. At the end of his term in 1996, Aristide stepped down.
After his second election as president, which Aristide won with 92% of the vote, Haiti remained under an economic aid embargo. Yet, Aristide made good on proposals he put forth during his first term in office. In 2001, he mandated that 20% of Haiti’s budget be dedicated to education. In 2003, he doubled the minimum wage. His determination to improve the lives of all Haitians was a red flag waved in front of the imperialist bull.
In another key destabilization tactic, the USAID (and its Canadian and French counterparts) dumped millions of dollars into Haiti for the formation of “opposition” groups (mainly from the ranks of the business elite) to destroy Aristide politically. At the same time, the US was amassing and arming paramilitaries in the Dominican Republic – most were former soldiers from the Haitian army that was dissolved during Aristide’s first term – in preparation for a “rebellion.”
The final tentacle of this plan was an indictment of Aristide through the press. US operatives wrote the copy for news stories and funneled it to members of the international press who were more than willing to publish the stories without question or analysis.
The stage was set. Shortly before the coup, the US landed Marines in Haiti to provide the muscle for the US embassy staff, already engaged in directing the coup, to ensure that Aristide was kidnapped successfully and put on a plane to the Central African Republic. After Aristide’s forced departure, the remainder of the multi-national force, consisting of US, French, Canadian and Chilean troops, invaded and occupied Haiti.
With the occupation established, the elimination of Aristide supporters at the hands of the multi-national force and the Haitian National Police began in earnest. Specific targets for many of the attacks were, and still are, two of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince: Belair and Cite Soleil.
The US never planned to be in Haiti long, partly due to the criticism it was receiving about its invasion and occupation of Iraq, and partly because it had made arrangements already for a force to succeed it. The US, working through the UN Security Council, cleverly engineered a UN “peacekeeping” mission to replace the multi-national invasion force. It was a brilliant idea to use UN “peacekeepers” for this bloody occupation. Many would not catch on until it was too late that the “peacekeepers” would become soldiers in the US’ proxy army and their purpose in Haiti would be to continue with the “elimination” of Aristide’s supporters. In June 2004, under the leadership of Brazil, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym – MINUSTAH) arrived in Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s second occupation in four months was underway.
On the Haitian side of the equation, the minuscule elite class, whose opposition to Aristide continues to be funded by the USAID, are allied with the US’ illegal, immoral puppet government in Haiti in hopes that its murderous state security apparatus will preserve their free-market joy ride.
Throughout these deadly occupations, Aristide supporters have continued to mount one demonstration after another demanding his return. Early on, the police response to these demonstrations took on a disturbing pattern. Hiding behind parked cars or in alley ways along parade routes, police began to fire on demonstrators randomly. The intention to kill was obvious. Many demonstrators died of gun shots to the head. Time after time, the UN troops stood by and watched or conveniently disappeared just before the police were about to open fire.
To justify their actions, the police falsely accused the murdered demonstrators of having been armed criminals. Police have planted weapons next to the dead bodies of their victims as well.
The HNP and the MINUSTAH seemed to work in tandem from the start. The troops served as look-outs along the perimeter of poor neighborhoods as the police conducted raids that often featured summary executions. Finally, MINUSTAH graduated to doing raids on its own.
Perhaps the most heinous of these is MINUSTAH’s raid on July 6, when 300-400 troops attacked the residents of Cite Soleil in the middle of the night with tanks and at least one helicopter. The UN claims that they raided the neighborhood in an effort to arrest “gang member,” Dred Wilme. Going after Wilme had a two-fold purpose: first, Wilme was a dynamic, young community leader and Lavalas supporter who condemned the Haitian National Police, MINUSTAH and Haitian elite for their various roles in the rotating slaughters of the residents of Cite Soleil. Wilme exhibited all the characteristics of a leader capable of organizing the poor in Cite Soleil to resist the state-sponsored terror. Because of this, Wilme had to be eliminated. The second reason for going after Wilme was that he provided the UN with the cover they needed – ridding Cite Soleil of a “criminal” – to unload massive weaponry as part of a massacre on an entire neighborhood. MINUSTAH’s murder of Wilme and its full-throttle attack on Cite Soleil were meant as warnings to poor, Lavalas supporters throughout Haiti—”don’t think about engaging in a resistance movement.”
Witnesses and victims of this horrendous attack have stated in video footage taken the day after (see Kevin Pina’s film, Haiti: The Untold Story) that the raid was conducted by UN troops firing indiscriminately into homes and shooting residents in the back as they ran for cover. While the exact number cannot be known, it is estimated that upwards of 50 or 60 residents were killed and countless more were wounded. Women and children were among the dead. Physicians from Doctors without Borders, who operate a hospital in Port-au-Prince, said they received 26 wounded people later on that day – 20 of them were women and children.
Throughout the post-coup period, Lavalas supporters, and poor Haitians in general, have been the victims of mass illegal arrests. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 political prisoners in Haiti’s prisons. Most of the political prisoners are being held without charge or on trumped up charges. Prominent individuals have been jailed because of their membership in or support of the Lavalas Party and demand that Aristide be returned to Haiti. These include activist and singer, So-Anne Auguste; Aristide’s former prime minister, Yvon Neptune; and priest and Lavalas leader, Father Gerard Jean-Juste.
Recently, it was confirmed that Haitian authorities have rounded up children in mass illegal arrests and are holding them in various locations throughout Port-au-Prince. Some of these children are as young as 10 years old and many of them are orphans. Several have been locked up since a few days after the coup – nearly eighteen months.
Of the millions of dollars poured into Haiti as part of the destabilization plan, a considerable amount was devoted to shaping public opinion about Aristide and his followers. Some of the money was directed at training programs for Haitian journalists and some was spent cultivating journalists who write for international publications. In addition, much effort was devoted to planting stories and editorials in major US newspapers to rally American support for the coup. The US State Department propaganda machine that coordinated and fed all of these efforts fixated on demonizing Aristide.
Perhaps the most ridiculous lie spread about Aristide, in an obvious attempt by the State Department to capitalize on white fear of a black Haiti and its voodun religion, was a portrait of Aristide as a devotee of ritual sacrifice involving babies. His young, largely poor followers, were labeled as “chimeres,” (the original meaning is “mythical, fire-breathing monsters”, but when applied to Aristide supporters its meaning is closer to “thugs.”) a word first introduced by an American journalist who was, no doubt, in close contact with the State Department.
Another aspect of the “spin” on Haiti is downplaying of the political. In Regan’s documentary, and in most of the conventional media, Haiti is viewed through a sociological prism in which the country’s problems are boiled down to a neat cycle of poverty, gang violence, crime and more poverty. Through this prism, the undeniably political murders of Lavalas supporters and other poor Haitians are recast easily by slick public information officers for the Haitian National Police, the international cabal, and the UN into legitimate responses to a growing “crime/gang problem.”
This hoax allows the US, French, and Canadian footprints to fade from the canvas and the UN troops seem less like occupiers and more like, well, peacekeepers. How can the situation in Haiti, in which the US, France and Canada spent millions of dollars to de-stabilize Aristide’s government and where the UN has marshalled as many as 300-400 troops at a time to commit deadly raids, be characterized simply as a police action to counter “criminal elements” in poor neighborhoods? The answer is that it can’t because this scenario is a propaganda fabrication.
On the day after Regan’s film aired, she participated in an online discussion about her film (http://discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=36080). When challenged by a critic for not addressing the coup d’etat that ousted democratically-elected President Aristide, she stated:
“First of all the program was not about how Aristide was overthrown out/chased away. It was about how it happened again… and why and what is next.
There is little mystery here. Anyone who knows a lick about Haiti understands why this is happening. It is the same reason France occupied Haiti in the late 1700’s and the same reason US Marines occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 — imperial domination.
Another critic pressed Regan further about her omission of the US role in destabilizing Haiti and the kidnapping of Aristide. Regan provided a bizarre, but revealing response:
“It is true that the US government, and also the EU, Canada, etc., all do and did fund opposition groups, NGOs that were anti-Aristide etc., and that these were the ones who were involved in lots of anti-government demos. It is also true that it was a little convenient that Philippe and another 100 camouflage-clad men with guns were able to mass in the DR and come across the border… certainly there was DR government involvement and probably US, although I have never (not yet) found proof. But the film was not about that… If I had been the editor (WNET has final say) I would have put in more about US involvement in Haiti over the years, supporting Duvalier, funding what I call the ‘real coup’ against Aristide. etc. But in the end, WNET had the final say.”
Which was it? Did she originally include footage about the imperialist web of deceit that facilitated Haiti’s most recent descent into hell but WNET decided to cut it? Or, in hedging her bets about how to fund her film, did she make a conscious decision to omit this vital political background altogether?
The Treachery of Liberals
I can’t know for sure what motivated Jane Regan to make her film, “Unfinished Country” (it should have been titled, “The Guy Philippe Show,” with all the footage devoted to the preening, human rights abusing, US-backed “rebel leader” who now dons business suits and visions of becoming Haiti’s next President). But, I speculate that her freakish, patronizing (what is an “unfinished country,” anyway?) portrait of Haiti was intended to be just that.
However, for the imperialists, Regan’s film is a diamond in the rough. It voids all memory of how and why Haiti got screwed (how Haiti always gets screwed). It will be another piece of imperialist propaganda that will be aired around this country to keep us looking the other way as the killing field in Haiti widens. This film, and others like it, will bring together a corps of misguided liberals who believe that, in spite of the massive evidence to the contrary, the UN presence in Haiti is that of a benign peacekeeping force rather than a murderous occupier and that the coup d’etat that removed Aristide was the result of an internal squabble rather than an illegal, deadly violation of Haiti’s sovereignty by the US, France and Canada.
In this particularly conservative political climate in which the US government funds the bad guys through the National Endowment for Democracy and money for Haiti (and other) solidarity work is all but dried-up, some activists are selling their souls to keep their organizations afloat. For some, the price may seem right, but for the people on whose behalf they claim to work, it is a cruel betrayal. Liberal meets capitalism and makes the wrong choice.
Many organizations that traditionally fund solidarity movements seem to be experiencing financial difficulties causing some activists to turn to larger, more mainstream funding organizations. These larger funders tend to be run by liberals, but their core set of contributors is increasingly conservative. As might be expected, these funders are applying significant pressure to solidarity groups to de-politicize their messages and activities. Hence, solidarity work takes on a distinct “human rights” tenor and focus shifts to counting the bodies and mounting campaigns to spring “high profile” political prisoners from jail. Less and less is said about why people are being killed or why massive illegal detentions of ordinary citizens are taking place.
Further, the rhetoric, so necessary to enlist the solidarity of others, must be “cleansed” so that concepts such as racism and its monster partner, imperialism, are no longer part of the discussion.
Either because funders advise it, or solidarity organizations think they need it, considerable effort is devoted to attracting mainstream members of Congress to the cause. In the case of Haiti, it seems clear that the solidarity movement has about all the friends it’s going to get in Congress – these are the same members who have been supportive all along and who, throughout their careers, have taken consistent stands against US imperialist forays around the world. Softening the message may help get a foot in the door of a potentially sympathetic, more mainstream member of Congress, but before long the cause will be betrayed.
The betrayal will be captured on C-SPAN as the lobbied member recommends legislation to bring more US-owned sweat shops to the global south or announces that an obviously fraudulent election, such as the one that is about to unfold in Haiti, is free, fair and legitimate. The US Congress is a pillar of imperialism and, only in a very few cases (Haiti is one), are there brave members who will stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with you.
Liberals are treacherous because many never learned their history. Or, if they did, they forget it when it is expedient. Liberals cannot grasp the fact that the keepers of imperialism – governments, corporations, elected representatives – are not going to help us get rid of its ravages. We grew up in a country that has a lengthy imperialist resume, yet we still don’t understand how it plays on the other end and what lessons it might offer us here.
If you know your history, you know that the same thing that toppled Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and Mossadegh in Iran is the same thing that killed Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and Salvador Allende in Chile. It is the same thing that has blockaded Cuba for over forty years and threatens an invasion of Venezuela today and it is the same thing that kidnapped a beloved leader and democratically-elected President of Haiti on February 29, 2004. The culprit has always been, and forever will be, imperialism.
Talk to any solidarity activist from the global south and you will be advised not to waste time petitioning elected representatives whose re-election coffers are filled with contributions from corporate elites. You will be warned not to trust UN peacekeeping efforts because the permanent members of the UN Security Council use them too often as proxy armies to fulfill imperialist objectives. You will be encouraged to seek alliances throughout the world with other solidarity groups and you will be reminded that the struggle is not about you, but about the people who are under the gun, facing the repression and waking up every day to fight anew.
Resistance to Imperialism and Our Role
When you see the lengthy historical trail and the harm imperialism inflicts throughout the world, you can appreciate what I believe is one of the most efficient and successful anti-imperialist forces in recent memory – the indigenous people of Bolivia. Former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who grew up in the United States (he speaks Spanish with an American accent) decided in 2003 (along with his US cronies) to privatize the country’s gas reserves by initiating a government contract with a transnational consortium to export the gas to the US by way of Chile and Mexico. The consortium, Pacific LNG, is made up of British, Spanish, and Argentine corporations. A US company held the contract to transport Bolivian gas from Chile to Mexico. Within three weeks of de Lozada’s attempted sell-out of the country, the people of Bolivia sent him packing.
In responding to this threat to their sovereignty, the people of Bolivia did not petition members of their legislature for help because they understood that many of its members had something to gain from the privatization. They were not naive enough to think an election would drive out de Losada and other traitorous politicians — how else could a series of privatizing capitalists with the mentality of white men continue to hold the presidency in this largely Indian country unless the elections are perpetually rigged?
No, they got the bastards out by marching, blocking roads, raising hell for weeks and not stopping. The de Lozada government did not help itself when it sent the Bolivian army into the fray, killing over 70 protesters. Like most victims of perennial imperialism in the global south, the Bolivians had nothing left to lose. You either fight back or you die. They know that it is a tactical mistake to enlist the keepers of imperialism in their fight. This is something too many people still don’t understand well here in the US.
In the case of Haiti, its solidarity movement will have to make some tough choices ahead regarding its underlying philosophy and tactics to be used for furthering the cause. In the meantime, Haitians will continue to die and liberals within and outside the movement will continue to chastise those who advocate withdrawal of the UN “peacekeeping” troops because they believe the UN is the only thing that will protect Haitians from an all-out slaughter by Haitian National Police. It’s too late. Haiti is drowning in a sea of blood already and the UN “peacekeeping” mission, serving as the US’ proxy army, is a partner to the police in this well-choreographed carnage. Ask any victim of the July 6, UN troop massacre in Cite Soleil if they want the “casques bleus” (referring to blue-helmeted UN “peacekeeping” troops) to leave.
The next major struggle within the Haiti solidarity movement will come as the resistance to the occupation grows. I am certain that liberals will denounce it based on non-violence grounds just as they denounced the Palestinians’ right to resist the murderous Israeli occupation.
Our role, as solidarity activists, is to help others understand what imperialism is and to call it by name consistently. We must connect dots so that those who wish to join our movement understand, for instance, that the occupations of Palestine, Iraq and Haiti are related.
We must acknowledge that resistance may involve violence and that the only people that can decide whether, how, when and in what form are the Palestinians, the Iraqis and the Haitians. We must do our part by never softening the message, diluting the truth, nor de-politicizing the reality.
Our solidarity work must be centered on fighting imperialism and racism and the core of our strategy must involve international alliances with other anti-imperialist groups. There are too many lives on the line to do otherwise.
–Shirley Pate is a Haiti solidarity activist in Washington, DC. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org