28 March 2004

Our Debt is Long Past Due

Common Sense
John Maxwell

The Caribbean has now proven that it is even more hopeless at diplomacy than it is at cricket. And, as in cricket, those who are considered guilty are not those at the top but the foot-soldiers.

Our gutless leaders - unable to look a principle in the face - are, as I write on Friday, busy selling the Haitian people down the river. . .again.

Meanwhile, the bombastic Latortue, fresh from embracing a choice assemblage of bloody-handed murderers, desires to sit at the table with people who consider themselves upright, law abiding and above all, respectable. The Bahamas put our position best: We simply have no choice but to deal with whatever Haitian regime is there. Of course, if we don't, the US might just find it necessary to issue a travel advisory about Bubonic Plague or Ebola fever in Nassau or Negril.

Condoleezza Rice has apparently threatened Jamaica directly, telling Patterson to get rid of Aristide or face unspecified consequences.

But, even as we speak, the Bush Administration is beginning to unravel, unconscionable lie by unconscionable lie. But we do not understand that the slavemaster is in deep trouble and that we need not follow illegal orders.

I have been re-reading some of the columns I wrote 10 years ago and what surprises me is that some of them might have been written last week.

"We know that a corrupt army, representing a corrupt ruling class, has for 80 years enslaved the people of Haiti, shot them down in cold blood, tortured and beaten them, burnt them alive, raped them, flogged them to death, and tried by every means to reduce a once proud and defiant and independent people to the status of zombies, lesser than animals, things without souls . We know that there are many Americans who are ashamed of their government's complicity in these high and stinking crimes, we know that there are many others of all races in this world, who, if they knew, would be in the struggle to restore Haiti to its peace and dignity." ('Accomplices to Murder' - Jamaica Herald, June 5, 1994).

Now, listen to someone else, a man who is now a judge at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He too is a Jamaican; his name is Patrick Robinson. In 1994, he was a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On the very day my words above were published, Robinson was in Belem, Brazil, presenting a report by the Commission. I quoted him in a later column ('The New Slave Trade' - Ja Herald, June 26, 1994)

Rape as an instrument of policy

"The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way."

Mr Robinson then goes on to detail just how seriously the Haitians were challenged. As you read his words, please remember that Mr Robinson is speaking about some of the same people embraced last week by Mr Latortue: "[We] received information of severely mutilated bodies deposited on the streets, and a member of the delegation actually saw one such body. . .the purpose of these acts is to terrorise the population. . .human corpses are being eaten by animals. . .numerous reports of arbitrary detentions routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beatings. . .55 cases of political kidnapping and disappearances during February and March ."

Robinson's report told of the actions of the so-called Haitian army and its assistants, the 'attaches' or tontons in their campaign of terror against ordinary people who supported Aristide. Rape, he reported, was used as an instrument of policy.

"The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide. . .women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution."

Patrick Robinson is now doing in The Hague what he and his fellows should have been asked to do in Haiti. In the court across the Atlantic, they are trying people accused of very serious crimes, but few as noisome and depraved as those committed against the men, women and children of Haiti.

The world thinks it necessary to punish those in Yugoslavia who warred like savages against their own people for two and three years, but they forgot about those who had oppressed, murdered, maimed, raped, tortured and otherwise terrorised millions in 'peacetime' in Haiti for more than 30 years.

I don't believe that people were killed in Bosnia simply for trying to escape the country. As I reported in 1994, "the Haitian Goonocracy obviously regard escaping from their island prison as a capital offence. Yet the American authorities, operating from Jamaican territory, continue to send back to Haiti, men, women, children and babies who have committed this 'offence' and are therefore likely in President Clinton's words, "to have their faces chopped off".

And the men who were doing the chopping were, last weekend, on a platform in Gonaives glorying in the embrace of the newly anointed prime minister of Haiti. Latortue was brought to the scene in US Army helicopters and accompanied by the resident representative of the Organisation of American States.

A Miasma foretold

That the assassins are still there was foreseen by me in 1994. I had listened to the words of two top US policymakers and drew my conclusions.

James Woolsey, then head of the CIA, said that the political problem in the Haitian military was that it was the rank and file hooligans who were the engine of change in the military. "It presents a very difficult situation for the policymakers."

Defence Secretary William Perry told the Canadian defence minister that opposition to Aristide extended deep into the lower ranks of the Haitian military. Yet, Mr Perry told Meet The Press that the United States "would want to use as much of the existing military and military police as is capable".

I said at the time: "This would seem to suggest that the Pentagon, and by extension the CIA and the State Department), wish to preserve their assets in Haiti and to build into any new Aristide government an American capacity for subversion and destabilisation on demand." ('Imagine That!' - Ja Herald, July 24, 1994).

I said at the time that the interests of the Haitian Bourbons clearly coincided with the interests of the American right.

I wrote then: "Aristide and his people agreed to allow an amnesty to the murdering hoodlums in the military and the private sector who had supported the Duvaliers and the Generals who had followed them. Aristide and his people could have made government impossible in Haiti, army or no army. They tried, instead, to work within the system." ('When You Sup with the Devil' - Ja Herald Sept 25, 1994.)

Liberating the Vampire

In 1994, the Americans were intervening for the 29th time in Haiti. It was my opinion that their latest mission had "liberated the vampire from its coffin and made it an officer and a gentleman. They have legitimised the illegitimate and promised impunity to the raging lumpen who feast on blood, pain and the physical and sexual abuse of women and children. They have sanctified the fanatical band of nigger-hating mulattos who prey parasitically on the Haitian body politic and call themselves the elite. The American white power structure is making its peace with its natural allies, and as in 1915-1934, when Jim Crow reigned in Haiti, hell is going to break loose". (Sept 25, 1994).

When Aristide was at last restored, in October 1994, I watched the proceedings on television and I wrote about them in a column entitled "A Love Song for Haiti". It began by reporting Jean-Bertrand Aristide's words to his people: 'Look at us; We are a great people, we are a grand people .don't be surprised that I am in love with you. I love all of you.' Against all odds, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is back in Haiti and as far as his people are concerned, everything is going to be beautiful, 'Isolated we are weak,' he told his people, 'Together we are strong'.

I commented: "They need to be both optimistic and cautious. Shortly before Aristide and his entourage landed in Haiti, CNN interviewed a pretty young mulatto woman, a member of the Haitian elite. In her looks and her attitudes she seemed almost Jamaican. "It is the Aristide supporters who need to reconciliate," she said, and she did not say that she and her ilk are the 'civilised' - the masters - at least in their own minds. She had no intention, it was clear, of admitting any fault, any responsibility for the thousands of Haitians, slaughtered, raped, beaten and driven into exile by the elite and their myrmidons over the generations."It is people like Meyrelle Bertin with whom Aristide's supporters will have to walk hand in hand. In South Africa there is a Mandela and there is a de Klerk. In Haiti there is only Aristide."

Sadly, Meyrelle Bertin was herself assassinated a year later, and her murder was blamed on Aristide. Everything was blamed on Aristide.

As I reported in 1994: "Aristide was generous in his gratitude to the Americans and all the others who helped him get where he is. He did not worry about the political and journalistic wars which brought his cause to the brink of disaster. His message was acceptance and discipline. He was generous to his enemies, to those who want to kill him. He offered them love, reconciliation. To his people he said: 'Be patient once again; you will find your dignity and your pride once again.'"

As I commented: "The Haitian people's indomitable courage won them their independence, and their pride and their dignity are about all that kept them alive through generations of oppression; [Now] they are counselled by 'Titide' to be patient once again."
I urged our Caribbean people to come to the assistance of Haiti. "We cannot provide economic assistance - that anyway, is the responsibility of those who have profited from Haiti's misfortunes for so long. We can provide trained manpower to patch some of the holes in the Haitian body politic ."
"Our debt to Haiti cannot be defined in material terms. It is a debt of honour and of love, among other things. We may not be able to define it at all, but it is immense and past due." ('A Love Song for Haiti' - Jamaica Herald Oct 16, 1994)

But that was 10 years ago.

21 March 2004

'We Ugly! But We Here!'

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It's the Haitian equivalent of "You-ah go tired fi see mi face". In Haitian Creole it is "No lèd, Men Nou La!".

The Haitian people are the facts on the ground, and whoever pretends to be ruling Haiti has to deal with eight million of them.

It does not really matter that Mr Patterson has assured the Americans that President Aristide will not use Jamaica as a launching pad to overthrow the so-called government of Haiti; or that Mr Aristide promises that he will not interfere in the politics of Haiti.

It does not matter, because President Aristide is the politics of Haiti - until the Haitian people decide otherwise. No one else has that competence.

The so-called new prime minister of Haiti is one monsieur Latortue, who has a lot of chat for someone without a mandate from anyone except the US ambassador and his bosses. He is, he says, going to unite Haiti, so he has begun by boldly leaving out of his 'government' any representative of the people of Haiti. I give him three weeks.

My attitude to the farce now being played out in Haiti has drawn fire from a fellow columnist in this newspaper, who has described my columns as "Anti-American dissertations".

It would be easier to treat Lloyd Smith seriously if he could get even a few facts right, but when he says that it was Mr Loren Lawrence who was declared persona non grata by the Jamaican Government, he is 10 years and four or five ambassadors out of joint. He forgets that Mr Lawrence was thought by many to be Mr Seaga's manager. It was Vincent de Roulet who was asked to leave.

"No lèd, Men Nou La!" or as Michael Manley said one day in 1975, "We are not for sale".

Lectured on Democracy

I am personally tired of being lectured on democracy by the representatives of a government whose citizens gained universal adult suffrage 20 years after we did. It seems that I am not alone. The most recent Pew international poll suggests that the rest of the world does not endorse the Bush administration's policies.

I have nothing to apologise for when the world should know that the United States and France bear the major responsibility for the predicaments in which Haiti now finds itself. It is a savage irony, that two of the three nations founded at the end of the 18th century on the ideals of the Brotherhood of Man should continue to hypocritically dismiss the third on no other visible basis but that Haiti is black.

Racism is Racism is Racism. To describe Haiti as a 'failed state", to say that Aristide misgoverned his country, to allege that the mulatto elite in Haiti are capable of operating a democracy are sick jokes. The mulatto elite and the military have been the junior partners in the franchised predation of Haiti for most of its history.

Aristide was not perfect. Nobody ever claimed that he was. But is George W Bush perfect? or Jacques Chirac? The money misappropriated when Chirac was mayor of Paris could feed a great many Haitians. Does that make Chirac unfit to lead France? Does the fact that Ken Lay of Enron was the largest contributor to President George Bush, or the fact that Vice-President Cheney's company is accused of overcharging the US army for food make either Mr Bush or Cheney unfit to govern the United States and the world?

Whose Failure?

"His failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarisation and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today... His own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people of Haiti" - Colin Powell, secretary of state, USA.

"I am the chief, the military chief.. The country is in my hands" - Guy Philippe, 'rebel leader', convicted coup plotter, reputed cocaine baron.
"Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. Its per capita income - $250 - is considerably less than one-tenth the Latin American average. About 80 per cent of the rural Haitian population live in poverty. Moreover, far from improving, the poverty situation in Haiti has been deteriorating over the past decade, concomitant with a rate of decline in per capita GNP of 5.2 per cent a year over the 1985-95 period.

"The staggering level of poverty in Haiti is associated with a profile of social indicators that is also shocking. Life expectancy is only 57 years, compared to the Latin American average of 69. Less than half of the population is literate. Only about one child in five of secondary-school age actually attends secondary school. Health conditions are similarly poor; vaccination coverage for children, for example, is only about 25 per cent. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population are living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty" - The World Bank - Challenges of Poverty Reduction.

"The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations announced that the poorest nation in Latin America was undergoing a 'silent' food crisis. The organisation implies that the crisis is 'silent' because the people somehow survive despite the dire food situation" - Foreign Aid Watch.

"The task facing this nation of eight million people is enormous.

"About 30,000 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed in Haiti last year. And though the spread of the disease has stabilised somewhat in recent years, about 4.5 per cent of the population - some 360,000 people - is infected, the highest rate in the region, according to the Ministry of Health.

"We have a detailed plan for fighting AIDS from 2002 through 2006," said Public Health Minister Henri Claude Voltaire. "It's a plan that was created by experts, not government ministers, although they are certainly involved."

But the plan is being stymied by a political quagmire stemming from disputed parliamentary elections in May 2000 that led to the suspension of some $500 million in foreign aid - Michael Deibert, Associated Press.

A quagmire and its sponsors

People are starving to death in Haiti, thousands are dying of AIDS. Thousands of children and adults are dead, dying or unable to function in any adequate sense because of polluted drinking water, lack of food and AIDS. The situation is dire, and it has been for years - long before Aristide. The High Panjandrums of the USA, France, Canada and the UN know all that and have known it for years.

Yet, the plans were "being stymied by a political quagmire". The political quagmire, according to the US and its clients, is entirely due to Aristide, except that the disputed senatorial seats were vacated three years ago and offers made for a new election. The Opposition refused. They refused as they have refused every single attempt by President Aristide to make peace and develop Haiti. One fundamental demand of the 'democratic opposition' was non-negotiable. There would be no democratic dialogue with Aristide!
But, according to the US, it is Aristide that is the problem.

The democratic opposition is almost entirely financed by USAID and by a far-right US Government outfit called the National Endowment for Democracy, which some describe as the human face of the CIA.

So while Mr Powell was urging Mr Aristide to make concessions, Dr Condoleezza Rice's people were presumably telling their clients not to speak to him. I am not sure what the Americans mean by "a zero sum game", but this sure sounds like one. The US Government was telling Aristide to play Russian Roulette, with bullets in all chambers.

Former US Congressman Ron Dellums has been working on behalf of President Aristide. According to him, a day or two before the president's departure from Haiti, Colin Powell told him (Dellums) to give Aristide a message. It was that Guy Philippe was coming to his palace to kill him and that the United States would do nothing to prevent it.

Patterson & Powell

Under various international laws and conventions people like Aristide and his family are specially protected persons. Officials of foreign governments such as Powell and Patterson are obliged to accord them a special duty of care. Additionally, according to custom, tradition and law, Patterson is obliged to offer as much aid, comfort and assistance to President Aristide as possible, since he is the democratically-elected head of a friendly state - removed by unconstitutional means, whether by threats, menaces or any other illegal procedure is immaterial.

The behaviour of Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council was barbaric. They refused to help a UN member in good standing when his country was threatened by the most disreputable, bloodthirsty assassins. Yet, two days later, when Aristide had been overthrown, kidnapped or whatever, the same group felt impelled to send a 'peace-keeping' force to Haiti. And a few days ago, the World Bank held a donors meeting to consider aid for Haiti. The hypocrisy runs like blood in an abattoir.

The problem for Aristide's enemies was that neither Plan A nor Plan B worked. Plan A was to starve the Haitians into submission. Despite starvation they stood firm. Plan B was to intimidate and overawe the president and his people by capturing some soft targets, police stations in rural areas with populations starving and unable to protect themselves. The people did not flinch, nor did Aristide.

Plan C then came into play, a last desperate option. It seemed to work, and since the world Press was prepared by hogsheads of propaganda about Aristide's wickedness, there would be no trouble, no backlash.

As the Haitian slaves said 200 years ago: "No lèd, Men Nou La!"

They're still there. No longer slaves. And they are not for sale.

14 March 2004

Sold Down the River

Common Sense
John Maxwell

When I discovered a few years ago, that Colin Powell's roots were in St Elizabeth, I had already remarked his resemblance to my stepfather and to my Uncle Harry, my mother's brother. Since the parents of all three were born within five miles of each other, I wondered if they were related, since, the scientists say, people who resemble each other are likely to be kin.

I never pursued the inquiry and I now know I never will.

Brothers & sisters from all over

A few columns ago I mentioned meeting some former Haitian students of mine at the Quebec Summit of the Americas. In four weeks it will be two years since I walked down from the Heights of Abraham where the summit was, having been turned back at the checkpoint by soldiers goggled and suited like creatures from Star Wars.

My former students, now practising journalists, were accredited to the summit and passed through the checkpoint with no problem. When they recognised me they mobbed me, wanting to know why I wasn't inside with them.

I was one of perhaps 200,000 demonstrators - "Raging Grannies", miners, nuns, schoolteachers, maquiladora workers from Mexican sweatshops, French farmers and all kinds of people from all over. As I got to the bottom of the hill I heard the whoomp, whoomp of exploding tear-gas canisters. The first volley was directed at anarchists who were trying to tear down a fence between them and the summit.

But it soon became apparent that we were all targets - saints, sinners and anarchists alike were all soon enveloped in an acrid miasma of 'tear-smoke' and CS gas. It drifted across the whole quarter, engulfing people who were perfectly peaceful. We were the overwhelming majority, despite what the kennelled press claimed. At the bottom of the hill I ran into a melee of Haitians, mainly older people in their Sunday best come to greet their President "Titid" as they called him - two bus-loads of them, in various stages of respiratory distress, gasping for breath on the pavement, some retching, others in a state of collapse.
They came to greet Aristide and met democracy masked, goggled and jack-booted.

They had intruded unknowingly into what the Canadian Government had decided was to be a cordon sanitaire - a democracy-free zone - round the summit. The purpose of the summit, of course, was to lock the countries of the western hemisphere into the famous Free Trade Area of the Americas - a monolithic construction which promised to impoverish the hemisphere's workers in the interest of multinational corporations.

Now, two years later, the Americans themselves are waking up to the fact that Free Trade is destroying their own economy, taking away well-paying jobs from Americans and decimating the middle class.

The jobs exported from the United States end up in some of the poorest quarters of the world - in Bangladesh, in Indonesia, in China and even in Haiti.

In Haiti the leading Haitian Opposition spokesman, the multi-millionaire Andy Apaid, operates factories making goods for American multinationals with famous brand names like Walmart, in factories which pay their workers less than a dollar (US) a day or about one-tenth the Jamaican minimum wage.

Suffer the little children

In my e-mail on Friday morning was a report made by a former youth reporter with the Haitian children's radio station, Radyo Timoun.

Here is part of it:
I was living in the gutter, dressing in old clothes and begging at the airport when President Aristide took office in 1990. One of the first things Titid did when he moved into the National Palace was invite a group of children who sleep in the streets to visit the palace and speak out about the conditions of the street children.

When Titid became president, he told the world that we street children were people, we had value, that we were human beings.

Many adults didn't like this message. They said we were dirty and should be thrown out like the trash that we are. But Titid loved us, and when I met him, he kissed me and put his hand on my face and told me he loved me. And they were not the empty words of a politician.

During the first coup in 1991, the street kids were attacked and Lafanmi Selavi [a shelter for homeless children started by Aristide when he was a parish priest] was burned.

I was just a little child at that time, but with Titid I felt important. We went to Titid and told him that we wanted to have a voice in democracy, to have a voice for children and he gave us Radyo Timoun. We were the first children's radio station in the world, run by children and promoting the human rights of all Haitians. . .Adults all over the country heard our voices and were forced to accept that we children are people too.

Yesterday, at the [Aristide] Foundation I saw gangsters and criminals in army uniforms destroy the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people. They destroyed the building, burned books and killed many people. A new government run by these people will surely be bad, not only for the children, but for all the people of Haiti.

I do not believe that President Aristide has abandoned us to this misery. .He would never leave us willingly. Last week Titid said on the radio he would die before he would give up the struggle for democracy in Haiti.

We are fearful of the old army because they are those who killed the street children of Lafanmi Selavi. They killed the peasants in the North who wanted to have democracy and supported Aristide.

A new government has no hope for the children of Haiti. I am scared, I think the criminals will try to kill me too because I am one of Titid's boys. But I am not just scared for myself. I am scared for all the children of Haiti. And today I cannot stop crying.

As they did in Baghdad, one of the first buildings pillaged by the terrorists in Haiti was a museum - the brand new Museum of Haitian Culture. As it burned, a fundamentalist preacher danced round the flames, denouncing the priceless collection as the work of the devil.

The sell-out

I should have known better. Last week I congratulated Patterson and Caricom for their principled stand on Haiti, which seemed to redeem much of their earlier stupidity. I spoke too soon.

As the Most Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica announced on Thursday in not so many words, Aristide and the people of Haiti have been samfied, mugged and sold-out.

It doesn't matter that the US Government and the French have several different stories about the kidnapping of Aristide, it doesn't matter that the Lima and Santiago Declarations and Caricom itself proclaimed that we will not recognise usurpers, people who overthrow democratic governments. Of course, this "new" Haitian Government can claim that it is not a usurper; it was installed by the Bush Administration, itself installed by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. How much more legitimacy do you need?

If Patterson speaks about the "new president" and the "new prime minister" and says the new prime minister is to visit him before the next Caricom meeting, it means that Patterson and Caricom have decided to de-legitimise Aristide. And that they have told President Aristide so.

Patterson said: "I want to emphasise that Mr Aristide is not seeking political asylum in Jamaica. His stay in Jamaica is not expected to be in excess of eight to 10 weeks. He is engaged in finalising arrangements for permanent residence outside of the region."

Clearly the powers that be have made Aristide an offer he can't refuse. I suspect that unless Aristide accepted that offer, whatever it was, he would find himself a man without friends, at least without anyone to stand up for him except, of course, Cuba. And, if he accepted any Cuban offer of asylum and help that would, of course, give Mr Bush even more propaganda to use to discredit him. "See! He's a Communist!! Just like I told you!!!" And that would be that.

Of course, Cuba was the only country to offer Haiti any assistance when the Americans, the Canadians, the Europeans and the multilateral institutions were starving Haiti in order to smoke out Aristide.

Be careful what you wish for

I can imagine the arguments that persuaded Patterson. Perhaps it was a telephone call from Colin Powell -
P J, my old mate, the president and I need your help. Haiti is a disaster about to happen. The international community needs to get in there fast and heavy to avoid a real catastrophe [not to mention an immigration and electoral disaster in Florida]. We can't allow this to happen. Unless we straighten out this Aristide thing we're going to have hundreds of thousands of deaths on our hands. And it will be all because of Aristide's non-co-operation, and your supporting him. France, Canada and ourselves are prepared to pump in shiploads of supplies, food, medicine, water purification kits, you name it. But we can't do that if you guys don't co-operate.

And you know what? We'll need your guys to do the administration - we'll need all sorts of people, security, nurses, teachers, the works, and you can supply them. I understand you have a bunch of unemployed skilled people in Jamaica. This will ramp up your remittances and everybody will come out smelling like roses. And you won't have any problem with a fifth term!!!

And - if you don't support Aristide in the UN, nobody else will. So that solves THAT problem. Trust me; we've worked out all the angles; you can't lose!

Okay compadre? By the way, I'm thinking of spending a little time in Treasure Beach this year. that sounds good? Alma and I would love to see you. Ciao.

07 March 2004

Washington's Tar Baby

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Those of us old enough to remember children's stories before Dr Seuss and J K Rowling, may remember Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories. One of them, the only one I remember, is about Brer Fox and the Tar Baby.

Brer Fox had been trying to catch Brer Rabbit for a long time and was ever being outfoxed (or perhaps out-rabbited) by the hip hopster. One day, Brer Fox had an idea. He made a doll out of tar and dressed it up like a girl, seating her by the roadside where Brer Rabbit was sure to pass.

Since Brer Rabbit could not mind his own business, Brer Fox was hopeful. He just sat and waited.
Along came Brer Rabbit. He saluted the lady by the roadside. She did not answer, nor did she answer when he continued his blandishments, and, like most bullies, he decided to teach her a lesson.

"I'm going to teach you how to talk to respectable folks," he said. If she didn't take off her hat and say howdy, he would bust her one.
She didn't take off the hat.
So, he busted her one.
And his fist stuck fast in the tar.
Brer Fox watched and waited.

"If you don't let me loose, I'll knock you again!"
And so said, so done.
So his other fist was now stuck in the tar.
Incandescent with rage, Brer Rabbit began to shout and scream imprecations and threats, and finally, exasperated, he butted the tar baby.
So his head was now stuck! Brer Rabbit was immobilised, securely trapped and helpless for Brer Fox - or some other predator - to come and make a leisurely meal of him. The story ends before the gory.

The Truth is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The laws of probability tell me that for sure, one of these days, the Bush White House will be detected speaking the absolute truth about something important. Few of us are holding our breaths for that day.

Since any criticism of US policy is now considered anti-Americanism, let me get two zingers off right away, so that the God squad can go consult with its enforcers without having to read the rest of the column.

Zinger #1: Almost nobody understands that today's chaos was made in Washington - deliberately, cynically and steadfastly. History will bear this out. In the meantime, political, social, and economic chaos will deepen, and Haiti's impoverished people will suffer.

Zinger #2: The US State Department, which is seeking to foster the lie that the president and his aides have clean hands, claims that Aristide asked to be taken to safety. Aristide says he was forced to go, by US operatives on the ground in Haiti. Considering the fact that the State Department's point man has a long history of defending Haitian dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, while attacking proponents of democracy and economic justice such as Aristide, reasonable people will be disinclined to believe the State Department.

If that isn't enough, here is Zinger #3: There are several tragedies in this surrealistic episode. The first is the apparent incapacity of the US Government to speak honestly about such matters as toppling governments. Instead, it brushes aside crucial questions: Did the US summarily deny military protection to Aristide.? Did the US supply weapons to the rebels.? Why did the US cynically abandon the call of European and Caribbean leaders for a political compromise, a compromise that Aristide had already accepted? Most importantly, did the US in fact bankroll a coup in Haiti, a scenario that seems likely based on present evidence?

The US Ambassador to Jamaica, Mrs Cobb, is disturbed by the tone of statements made by Caricom and its chair, P J Patterson. She thought that certain statements and innuendoes were unnecessary.

What on earth will she say about the three statements above? The first and the third are by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, a card-carrying capitalist; the second is from the editor of the Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin in the heartland of America.

American efforts to wash off some of the sludge through which they walked have ranged from the simply incredible to the preposterous. President Bush, February 29: "President Aristide has resigned. He has left his country. The Constitution of Haiti is working. This Government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history."

The Tar Baby

Aristide is not the first Haitian leader to have been kidnapped by the US. In 1915, they arrested and exiled (to Jamaica) Dr Rosalvo Bobo, who was not only a noted physician but also the leader of the Haitian majority party, and was scheduled to be formally elected as president by the Haitian Parliament.

This was in 1915, when the Americans decided to take over Haiti in order to teach its hapless Negroes some discipline. People speak of this intervention as if it were the first US interference in Haiti's internal affairs.

As Mary Renda points out in her book, Taking Haiti (2001; University of North Carolina Press), before 1900, the US had already intervened nearly a dozen times, each time to cure some defect in the Haitian democracy and create an advantage for the United States.

For the first part of the 19th century, the slave-based society to the north wanted nothing to do with the free blacks to the south, until it became clear that Haiti would be a serious market for American goods. Later, when Haiti was in financial distress because it insisted on paying off the evil French levy of 25 million gold francs - reparations to the slave owners - US banks stepped in to 'help out' the Haitians and ended up taking over the joint, in the interest of fiduciary responsibility and all those other virtues so lacking in black, independent peoples. Shades of the IMF.

We won't even consider the atrocities committed by the marines, but we need to remember a few sociological facts. One is that in treating the 'high-yaller' Creoles as 'niggers' (their word) they drove a wedge between the Creoles and the Blacks which plagues Haiti to this day.

As we in the Anglophone Caribbean have seen, our masters have sedulously cultivated ethnic preferment as a means of social control. When Jagan rose to power in Guiana in 1948, one of the first things that Hindu did was to destroy the Hindu apparatus of separateness in order to politically integrate the subject populations. When the British took over five years later, their first move was to raise up the Blacks against the Indians, creating division and hatreds which have lasted to this day - 50 years later.

Similarly in Haiti, the US discrimination effectively split off the 'elite' forever from the Blacks, creating two Haitian communities, each claiming to represent Haiti. And last week, the US showed which side it preferred.

The Americans ruled for 15 years, for 14 of those by martial law. They instituted censorship, hitherto unknown, and intellectuals went to prison or into exile for criticising their masters. The Haitian Army was a microcosm of the US Marines - in blackface, an engine of the privilege for the domination of the ordinary people. And US commitment to that army continues to this day, although the army, as an army, no longer exists.

When the Americans drove the peasants from the land, they not only made sure that Haiti would have to import its food, they removed the one social class which could have become the basis for a real middle class, non-racial and entirely Haitian. They also ensured that long before Kingston and Port of Spain metastasised, Port-au-Prince was filled with unemployed dependent and increasingly unemployable people who had to be ruled by bribery, force or starvation.

The Americans changed the Haitian Constitution to allow foreigners to own land in Haiti. This resulted in what I call the economic strip-mining of Haiti, with stolen land planted in every imaginable tropical export crop organised into plantations - a system the Haitians had abolished a century before. The poverty of the landless urbanised peasants helped accelerate the destruction of those forests which were not being exported to make expensive coffins, speedboats and wall panelling for the houses of rich Americans.
When the trees came down, the land was washed away, the weather changed, floods devastated the land and the people got even poorer and hungrier.

Haiti is the world's most explicit example of what globalisation really means. It was the unwitting test bed for the current lunacies.

An Offer He Could Not Refuse

It's been a long time since I had any reason to be proud of my prime minister. He, and his Caricom colleagues began their Haitian adventure disastrously, but they have almost made up for their failure. I am really proud of them. So are lots of others in many places round the world.

Caricom failed to arrange a peaceful resolution in Haiti because it refused to understand that the real political dynamic was not with Blacks in Haiti, but with fundamentalists and honorary 'elites' in Washington. Mr Bush's record on things like the death penalty and affirmative action are widely known. Not so well known is the effect his tax cuts for the rich are having on the education of poor children, mostly black, and on the health and mortality of these poor people. I am not surprised that with his domestic record, Bush thought it was OK to starve Haiti into submission, hoping to provoke a revolt against Aristide.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs reports that after visiting Aristide in 2001 he was impressed by the man and by the support he had from his people.

"When I returned to Washington, I spoke to senior officials in the IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and Organisation of American States. I expected to hear that these international organisations would be rushing to help Haiti.

"Instead, I was shocked to learn that they would all be suspending aid, under vague "instructions" from the US. Washington, it seemed, was unwilling to release aid to Haiti because of irregularities in the 2000 legislative elections, and was insisting that Aristide make peace with the political Opposition before releasing any aid.

"The US position was a travesty. Aristide had been elected president in an indisputable landslide. He was, without doubt, the popularly-elected leader of the country - a claim that President George W Bush cannot make about himself."

And when the starvation did not work, they brought back the Tonton Macoute and FRAPH. And when those couldn't take Port-au-Prince, the Marines took Aristide.

And then, they talk about a war on Terrorism! And the US press genuflects.