25 April 2004

Blood-Soaked Bureaucrats

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Nowhere is it more true that the pen is mightier than the sword than in an efficient bureaucracy. Millions more were killed by Adolf Eichmann, the dispatcher, than by the armies of Rommel or Timoshenko.

But the machete wielders and the pistoleros are not to be despised as they do the work of the often faceless placemen who sign the orders, or like Henry II, simply express the wish to be rid of turbulent priests, journalists or human rights agitators.

The Guatemalan government has just admitted its responsibility for the 1991 slaughter of an American anthropologist. She had angered the then government by reporting that the government was massacring civilians, indigenous Mayas, in what it called a counter-insurgency campaign backed and financed by the United States.

In Haiti, on January 24, 1991, the family of 24 year-old youth leader, Yvon Desanges, found his body just outside their gate. They knew him by the clothes he was wearing, his face too badly mutilated to be recognised. There was a rope around his neck. His hands were tied. His eyes had been gouged out. His tongue had been cut out. He had been stabbed so many times it was impossible to count the wounds. He had been shot several times. His abdomen had been slit so that his guts spilled out onto the street.

Ten years later, youths like Yvon Desanges are still being slaughtered for the same reason, sometimes by the same people. Their mothers, sisters and girlfriends are being raped, their houses burnt.

On Thursday, one of Haiti's most notorious terrorists, Louis Jodel Chamblain was escorted to the Justice Ministry in Port-au-Prince by the justice minister himself, one Bernard Gousse, so Chamblain could surrender on camera, to officials of the Ministry of Justice.

Chamblain's stately surrender came against the glittering background of an international donors' conference from which Haiti expects lots of aid from such as the United States, France, the IMF and the World Bank, all of whom refused to help the lawfully and overwhelmingly elected President Aristide when he was in office.

The assassin's surrender was heralded as a "noble gesture" by Mr Gousse. Mr Gousse is not to be confused with Mr Latortue (Turtle), the prime minister, who a few weeks ago saluted Chamblain's gangsters as "Freedom Fighters".

In the weeks since, Mr Chamblain has been holding court (literally) in the rural areas of Haiti, where, according to reports, people accused of various offences against the new "Freedom" are summarily shot or beaten or otherwise abused.

"I am ready to give myself up as a prisoner - to give Haiti a chance so we can build this democracy I have been fighting for," Chamblain announced. The former army sergeant ran death squads for dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and was a leader of the Front for the Advancement of Progress of the Haitian People - a paramilitary terrorist group which killed some 3,000 civilians in the 1990s. He fled to the Dominican Republic in 1994, was tried in absentia for several murders and found guilty as charged. Under Haitian law, people tried in absentia are entitled to a new trial if they return to the country. They can also be pardoned.

An American lawyer who visited Haiti earlier this month said he'd been told: "Right now anyone can get on the radio stations and accuse anyone else of a crime or with being associated with violent Lavalas gangs. It means that without proof they can say this about you and immediately you have to go into hiding, and immediately you have to be concerned with your own welfare; and immediately the death threats begin."

Neither principle nor honour

The assistant secretary-general of the OAS, one Luigi Einaudi, made a revealing comment to a number of people gathered at the Hotel Oloffson on New Year's Eve last, as Haiti was about to begin the celebration of its bicentennial years as an independent republic.

"The real problem with Haiti is that the international community is so screwed up that they're actually letting Haitians run the place," Einaudi said, as reported by Margaret Laurent, a leading Haitian lawyer who was one of those within earshot. Laurent was here last week to give thanks on behalf of the Haitian people to the Government and people of Jamaica for hosting President Aristide and the refugees who have fled Haiti to avoid the tender mercies of Mr Chamblain's Freedom Fighters.

It may be less unpleasant to deal with the ruthless Freedom Fighters than with a diplomatic Canadian named David Lee, special representative of the OAS secretary-general and head of the OAS Special Mission to Haiti. He was on the platform at Gonaives when Mr Latortue hailed the gangsters as "Freedom Fighters".

Mr Lee, in an address to the OAS, said: "Events on the day were confused. It was clear that the crowds were large and enthusiastic. But from our location within the security bubble it was not evident who was present. Nor could we hear what was being said on the podium at the large public meeting in the main square. The various speakers did not have prepared texts and were in the presence of an exuberant crowd. The OAS, and I personally, certainly did not "approve" (as a press article claimed yesterday) of what was reported in the press to have been said and done on that occasion. I left immediately thereafter for meetings here in Washington." Or, as the News of the World used to say when investigating prostitutes: "We made our excuses and left."

According to The Associated Press, the crowd was between 2,000 and 3,000 - small by any standards.

"Rebel leaders who still run Haiti's fourth-largest city sat on a platform alongside Latortue, Organisation of American States representative David Lee, recently installed interim Cabinet ministers Bernard Gousse and retired General Herard Abraham, and new Haitian Police Chief Leon Charles."

Mr Lee obviously, had no idea where he was, no idea who was next to him on the platform and, in fact, was probably not even aware that President Aristide had been overthrown or that Mr Latortue was pretending to be prime minister. I wonder what he was smoking? But perhaps, like so many others in Haiti, he had simply been kidnapped.

Security in Port-au-Prince

According to the Haitian Press Agency, Port-au-Prince is in a state of paralysis at the moment, trembling in insecurity. Well-known businessman and leading free-zone operator, Michel Handal (who has Jamaican connections), was abducted on Saturday a week ago, in the central business district. Several other business people have been abducted but the families prefer to deal privately with the kidnappers, with whom, no doubt, they are on familiar terms.

Meanwhile, prices for staple foods have almost doubled. A bag of rice which cost about J$1,700 less than two months ago, now costs nearly J$2,500. Outside of Port-au-Prince the prices are even higher, and the security situation worse.

People in the capital told a visiting American lawyers' group two weeks ago that they are now afraid not only of the Duvalierist criminals like Chamblain's men, but also of the American Marines. According to some witnesses, the international forces led by the US Marines undertook targeted killings of Aristide supporters in the poorest areas in and around Port-au-Prince.

Anthony Fenton reports: ". we were . told that the US Marines had recently slaughtered, in one night, 78 people in the Belair neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. Reportedly, the US [and "other foreign occupiers"] had brought ambulances with them in anticipation of a bloodbath. All but two of the people murdered were carried away in these ambulances. Now no one will know the identities of those killed. We were told that the interim government, led by the US, has the "intent to destroy popular organisations."

'Popular organisations', of course, means Aristide's Lavalas Family.

Meanwhile, the world's official Samaritan, the UN's Kofi Annan, has continued his expert dithering. Having passed by Haiti in January - like the Levite on the Jericho Road - he is now speaking grandly of a UN force of 6,700 soldiers and 1,600 policemen to "turn Haiti into a functioning democracy".

The transfer from the US to the UN force is to take place by June 1 and will no doubt proceed with the process of "nation building", as patented by George W Bush and employed so effectively in Iraq. I am personally offended by the idea of 'nation building" because I believe the term was invented in Jamaica by Norman Manley and his people at Jamaica Welfare, and that it properly means that the people of the country are the ones who consciously mould themselves into a nation. It is not a political brain transplant nor a transfer of technology.

Nor Grace nor Shame

A nation was being built in Haiti, but not according to American neo-liberal specifications. It encompassed things like literacy and 150 new high schools, more built in 10 years than in the previous two centuries; it encompassed improved health care, with a little help from Haiti's friends, such as Cuba and Dr Paul Farmer, a Harvard professor, who almost single-handedly at first, pulled Haiti back from the brink of surrender to rampaging HIV/AIDS. Farmer believes treatment for HIV/AIDS is a human right, which puts him beyond the pale for the bureaucrats. He deserves to be known and recognised across the world as a true poor people's hero.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Professor Farmer reports simply and eloquently, the savage disruption the putsch has had on the health of poor Haitians. He speaks of the advances made over the past 10 years, noting inter alia, that Haiti's government had US$300 million for all the public services it provided, and contrasted that with the revenues of just one of Harvard's 17 hospitals with revenues of US$1.3 billion. There was general disregard for the neutrality and immunity of health institutions during conflict; several hospitals were the targets of violence, including Farmer's own hospital in the Central Plateau where two patients were murdered. The university hospital is at a standstill for lack of personnel; vehicles belonging to Dr Farmer's clinic were stolen, halting the movement of patients and medicines, and, in early March Haiti's newest medical school - Tabarre - for the training of poor people's children to be doctors, was taken over by the US Army as a military base.

Dr Farmer asks: "What will become of its faculty, composed in large part of Cuban public health specialists, but also including Haitian, US and European teachers? More to the point, what will become of its 247 medical students? .what will happen to the only medical school in Haiti whose top priority is the development of a cadre of physicians to serve the nation's poorest and most vulnerable people?
Perhaps we should ask these questions of Kofi Annan, Colin Powell and P J Patterson, all of whom come from the same sort of background that most Ghanaians, Jamaicans and Haitians share. Part of that background, of course, is the struggle for liberty led 200 years ago by Haitian and Jamaican slaves dying so their children could be free.

11 April 2004

The Circular World of Colin Powell

Common Sense
John Maxwell

On a chatboard to which I subscribe, one subscriber recently excoriated Mr Butch Stewart for allowing people like me to criticise the new Haitian regime. Another subscriber came to Butch Stewart's defence: Mr Stewart, she said, was a publisher who does not interfere in the editorial direction of his newspapers, preferring to let democracy take its course. "That Mr. Stewart allows his editors to publish articles that seem not in line with the business interests of his social strata speaks positively for him".

That is a fact for which I am personally grateful and proud because the trend has been, as A.J. Liebling said half a century ago, "Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one."

In our world, our fundamental rights and freedoms are becoming more and more, part of international commerce, they are being globalised, and the rights no longer belong to the people but to corporate entities, who have bought media properties and in practice, the rights which belong to human beings.

'No-news' is Good News!'

The public interest is now for sale to the highest bidder. Human rights are privatised and traded and a collection of corporate interests are increasingly becoming the 'civil society' which run things - a monstrous incarnation of faceless entities imposing their fundamentalist and authoritarian prejudices on the rest of us.

Morris Cargill in 1962 stopped writing for the Gleaner for several years, because the then editor, Theodore Sealy, refused to allow Cargill to defend me (and the freedom of the press) in his column. Cargill actually disagreed with what I had said but was fiercely defending my right to say it.

"No-news" has become "good "news. The US media have successfully obscured for nearly two years, the lies and obfuscations which led that country into war with an Iraq already divided by no-fly zones, bled white by a decade of strategic bombing, sanctions, malnutrition , depleted uranium and cancer. Today, they are fighting in Fallujah.

It was John Stuart Mill who said more than a century ago, that the time for uncomfortable questions, the occasion for the most serious dissent, was on those occasions when, like the Gadarene swine, humanity took it upon itself to stampede over cliffs of ignorance and incomprehension in almost unanimous hysteria.

And Tom Paine, the man in whose memory this column is named once said "You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine." -Age of Reason: Tom Paine, 1776

Freedom of speech is as essential to human life as air and water. But, as US Supreme Court Justice Holmes said nearly a century ago, "Freedom of Speech does not include the right to shout 'Fire' in a crowded theatre."

My rights are bounded and butted by yours. And the world since 1945, has agreed to recognise that human rights belong to all human beings, and that no person or nation has rights that are superior to those of any other.

Aristide and Lumumba

Mr Colin Powell, despite the evaporation of his celebrated argument for the Bush invasion of Iraq, is still one of the most trusted people on the planet and certainly one of the most highly regarded in his native land. His native land, by an accident of history happens to be the USA and not Jamaica, where his parents were born. Everybody in Jamaica owes his or her freedom in part, to the Haitian revolution, and every black American owes a similar debt. The United States itself owes nearly half its territory to the Haitian revolution.

Ethnic minorities advance their development in many ways, one of which is by helping each other. In their separate diaspora the Jews, the Irish, the Italians, the Jamaicans and everybody else you can think of does it. In hostile territory you stay close to your compatriots - all for one and one for all - as Alexandre Dumas, (a Caribbean black born two years before Haitian independence) wrote in a somewhat different context.

It is Mr Powell's perceived failure to take up his black man's burden which so enraged Harry Belafonte, another Jamaican-American, that he denounced Mr Powell as a 'house-slave'.

But Mr Powell did get help on his way to eminence. He was mentored by another immigrant, a second generation Italian named Frank Carlucci. Carlucci was Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration and is now chairman of the Carlyle Group, a giant investment firm in which the Bush family has interests. Forty years ago, Carlucci was second secretary in the US Embassy in the Congo, at the time when the US was convinced that the Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, was taking the Congo - perhaps all of Africa - into the Communist fold. Lumumba, a film made by a Haitian, Raoul Peck, identifies Frank Carlucci as the embassy official who transmitted President Eisenhower's approval of the Embassy's plan to remove or kill Lumumba, thus decapitating the Congo's hope of democratic development and instituting the 36 year kleptocratic tyranny of Mobutu Sese Seko. The filmmaker, Raoul Peck, had fled Haiti to the Congo, to escape the murderous attentions of Papa Doc Duvalier who reigned in Haiti contemporaneously with Mobuto in Zaire. (Based on: Carlucci can't hide his role in 'Lumumba': Lucy Komisar, Pacific News Service, Feb 14, 2002.)

And it is now Carlucci's protege, Colin Powell, who bears the responsibility for the decapitation of Haitian democracy.

Sometimes the world is not an oblate spheroid; sometimes it is perfectly circular.

Caricom and Mr Powell

On Monday last, Colin Powell celebrated his 67th birthday in Port au Prince. Mr Powell was there, he said, to "demonstrate [US] support for Haiti" and "to help the leadership of Haiti make a new beginning and to build a future of hope for the Haitian people."

Mr Powell was last in Haiti in 1994 to negotiate a soft landing for American troops At that time Mr Powell was sure of the integrity of an agreement he had made with General Raoul Cedras the tyrant then in charge. Powell said he trusted the 'soldier's honour' of Cedras. As it proved, Cedras' soldier's honour was purely a figure of speech. One hopes that Mr Powell will have better luck this time with La Tortue and his 'ninja tortues', some of whom are convicted torturers and mass-murderers.

Mr Powell says he and Mr La Tortue spoke about a 'truth and reconciliation' commission and Mr La Tortue even invoked the names of Tutu and Mandela, but gave no further indication that he was serious about this proposal. If he is, a substantial component of his support will probably be forced to seek asylum in Miami.

Mr Powell reported: "I also said to the prime minister that I will be working hard to reintegrate Haiti into the CARICOM community in the months ahead. I assured the prime minister that all the issues that he has mentioned to you today, the United States will be providing him full support." Obviously, the full support of the United States will trump any puerile cavilling by the Caricom group who want an inquiry intothe circumstances of Aristide's departure.

"I don't think any purpose would be served by such an inquiry, but the facts are very well known. On that evening, the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the country, especially in Port-au-Prince. We were on the verge of a bloodbath, and President Aristide found himself in great danger. He got in touch with our ambassador, and arrangements were made at his request for him to depart the country É and now I think it is important for all of us to focus on what the Haitian people need now."

In an interview on Haiti's Radio Metropole (conducted by Rothchild François, Jr., a Haitian stringer for the Voice of America) Mr Powell said: "I think we succeeded in preventing a great loss of life by President Aristide's resignation and by the introduction of multinational forces" If Mr Powell's "We" means what it seems to, it would appear that President Aristide was not involved in the transfer of power on February 28.

Character Assassination

In relation to CARICOM, here is an exchange from Mr Powell's interview:

MR. FRANÇOIS: Secretary Powell, politically, this government is facing a problem with CARICOM; you know CARICOM doesn't want to recognize this government, so what do you think about that and how will the US help this government to obtain recognition from CARICOM?

SECRETARY POWELL: I will be working with CARICOM and with the individual nations of CARICOM to let them come to the realization that this government now here is legitimate and represents the desire of the Haitian people. And I hope that over the next couple of months that CARICOM will change its position and welcome Haiti fully into the CARICOM consensus.

Caricom's wish to discover the truth of Aristide's removal is dismissed. Let's move on - they will get over it. So too no doubt, will the Haitian people who have stubbornly persist in electing Jean Bertrand Aristide, despite all American warnings

And perhaps we will get over it too, since in the arbitrament of realpolitik what really counts is that Jamaica's debt repayments are consuming 76% of our revenues. That statistic destroys courage, resolve and principle.

We need to get over our legalistic, moralistic, humanistic perhaps even socialistic preoccupation with principle, honour, declarations, treaties, conventions and solemn undertakings.

Murderers, torturers, rapists and other depraved hooligans now walk the streets of Haiti free, dispensing "justice' to their enemies-;according to the news agencies. They are, says Mr La Tortue, not criminals, but 'freedom fighters'. There will be impunity for the murderers, but for the former President, character assassination is what he deserves and at the hands of Colin Powell.

At the joint press conference with La Tortue, Mr Powell answered a question about a rumoured 'investigation' by suspiciously anonymous 'prosecutors' in Miami.

"There are inquiries being made by our judicial authorities in the United States to see if there is any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. I will have to wait until our legal authorities and our investigators are finished before offering any comment on whether he might be charged with anything or what action the Haitian government might take. My principal focus and the principal focus of the United States government are on the future, not on the past."

Two things are being said here:

One: Aristide is a very bad man and we don't like him; and

Two: While there is absolutely no evidence that Aristide is a bad man we still don't like him.

Case closed.

We need to move on! The turtles are getting hungry!