21 November 2004

Blood on Their Hands

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Sometimes I have the strange sensation that I can smell the blood of Haiti from here.

The Duvalierists, financed by the elite, protected by the United Nations 'peacekeeping" mission, are methodically murdering men, women and children thought to be supporters of President Aristide, butchering them in the streets and leaving the bodies, maimed and horrific, in the streets as an example to 'les autres'.

The others are the overwhelming multitude of Haitians who have somehow got it into their minds that Jean-Bertrand Aristide is their leader.

They want him back in Haiti; to lead them out of the mire of their despair, out of their slough of despond, out of the bottomless pit of nonentity into which they have been consigned by the civilised leaders of the world, the United States, France, Canada and the European Union. For a change the British and the Australians are not overtly involved.

But other pretenders to world class are there - the Brazilians, for instance, whose history, like Haiti's, has been blighted by US interference, dictatorship and abuse.

According to Kevin Pina (http://flashpoints.net) an American reporter living in Haiti:
After Bush's election the other night, fireworks went off in some of the wealthy areas of Petionville up in the hills.

The very next day, of course, the United Nations and the Haitian police were back at it again in slums like Bel Air and Cité Soleil, in Grand Ravine and Martissant. It's been almost daily now that they enter those communities;

I understand that in Bel Air now the majority of the population don't even dare venture from their homes, they're so afraid that they or one of their loved ones will be caught up in one of these sweeps, because most of them are Lavalas supporters and the police know that, so the sweeps are indiscriminate.

Anyone in the street can get picked up and caught up in these dragnets and put face first on the ground, and never knowing whether its going to be as it was last.

Tuesday, October 26th, when 13 young men were put face down on the ground and each one had a bullet pumped into the back of the head. if you saw any of these photos, you would see that one of those young men in Bel Air last Thursday, his head was completely blown off because they fired at him with a large automatic weapon at close range, and they left the bodies in the street for the community to see.

That kind of activity is clearly meant to terrorise people, it's clearly left as a calling card and a message. It's not just murders being done here, this is murder with the intent to terrorise.
According to Pina and other Haitian resistance sources, the Haitian elite, led by two implacable enemies of Aristide - Andy Apaid and Reginald Boulos - have been buying support in the slums, financing gang terror against Lavalas supporters. The result of this programme, says Pina, appears in stories in the North American press saying the violence is the result of inter-gang warfare in the slums.

In a letter from his jail cell, Father Gerard Jean Juste exhorts sympathisers around the world not to be intimidated by "Hooded men, intimidation, masked gunmen, massacre, masked men attacking the churches, forced entries in our rectories, arbitrary arrests, defamation, character assassination, prison, threats of death".

Meanwhile the world turns, imperturbably on, there are rumours of international consultations, investigations and other bureaucratic devices, designed, sometime next year, next decade or next millennium, to stanch the flow of Haitian blood. If there is any remaining.

Of course, it's all the fault of the Haitians. It is clear - and has been for 200 years, that these one-time slaves have too high an opinion of themselves and must be put in their places.

Having defeated the French, British and Spanish armies to achieve their freedom, they found themselves defeated by trade embargoes, diplomatic isolation, financial blackmail, the US Marines and their black surrogates the Haitian Army, by the Duvaliers - father and son - the Tonton Macoute and the CIA-sponsored FRAPH, not to mention the white death of the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank and USAID.

The prime minister of Canada put it succinctly the other day. On a one-day visit to Haiti two Sundays ago, Mr Paul Martin "warned the island's feuding factions to stop the violence, disarm and make peace, or risk being written off by the rest of the world".

Most Haitians thought they had already been written off by The Countries That Count (TCTC) - France, Canada the United States and the European Union. Who are these "feuding factions"?

Almost to a man, experienced observers of the Haitian scene have said that whatever faults they have ascribed to Aristide, he still commands the overwhelming support of the Haitian people. So, are they feuding among themselves? It would not seem so.

It would seem that the present conflict was instigated by gangsters armed and supported by the United States via the Dominican Republic, whose so-called uprising faltered before they could enter Port-au-Prince, having murdered Haitian policemen and burned police stations to intimidate the countryside. But they couldn't enter Port-au-Prince, it appears, until they were escorted in by units of the US Marines.

These Marines, led by the US Ambassador Mr Foley, forced Aristide to sign what the ambassador thought was a letter of resignation. The Americans then spirited the president off (as "air cargo") to another continent whence he was not expected to be able to communicate with his people nor return to his country, or perhaps, not to return at all, except in a coffin.

The recent US elections have given the world a lesson in how adept the media is in covering up unpleasant facts, so most people are totally unaware of the roles of President George Bush, the French, the Canadians, the international financial institutions and the Haitian elite in the coup against Aristide.

Most people do not know about the financial blackmail by the Inter-American Development Bank, the IDB, which promised Haiti loans to reconstruct its health infrastructure and then refused to hand out the loans until Aristide's Government repaid earlier loans made to the dictators while Aristide was begging the US not to aid them in dismembering Haiti.

Aristide paid the usurious demand, but the IDB money never came. It was blocked by the American friends of the elite and their friends in the IDB, World Bank and IMF.

Then, they said, Aristide could not govern. He was unable to restore the health system or keep any of the promises he had made, forgetting, of course, that the fulfilment of these promises depended on the funding that Haiti had been promised. Aristide, slandered as a thief and tyrant, now lives on the charity of South Africa, working at a university there.

The Canadians, the Americans and the European Union promised to help Aristide rebuild the justice system and develop a new, trustworthy police force. They, too, reneged on their pledges, and said, triumphantly, that Aristide was unable to keep order.

They blamed him for the gangs which, as in Jamaica, develop when the forces of law and order disappear. A few days ago, the French president, Jacques Chirac, chided the United States for believing that it could Americanise the world by invading and occupying countries.

How convenient that he has forgotten France's initiative in orchestrating the charade which led to the ouster of Aristide in February. How convenient that he has forgotten how offended France is by Aristide's demand that France should repay the money it extorted from Haiti for over a century, in a blackmailer's deal which bled Haiti into destitution Professor Peter Hallward writes (New Left Review 27, May 2004)
France only re-established the trade and diplomatic relations essential to the new country's survival after Haiti agreed, in 1825, to pay its old colonial master a 'compensation' of some 150 million francs for the loss of its slaves - an amount roughly equal to the French annual budget at the time, or around 10 years' worth of total revenue in Haiti - and to grant punishing commercial discounts.

With its economy still shattered by the colonial wars, Haiti could only begin paying this debt by borrowing, at extortionate rates of interest, 24 million francs from private French banks. by the end of the 19th century Haiti's payments to France consumed around 80 per cent of the national budget; France received the last instalment in 1947.

Haitians have thus had to pay their original oppressors three times over - through the slaves' initial labour, through compensation for the French loss of this labour, and then in interest on the payment of this compensation.

No other single factor played so important a role in establishing Haiti as a systematically indebted country, the condition which in turn 'justified' a long and debilitating series of appropriations-by-gunboat.
Hallward discreetly doesn't mention the payment in blood. The French, always so civilised, decided earlier this year to intervene, as part compensation for their disobedience over Iraq. Hallward remarks that the French initiative guaranteed the US safe entry into, and painless withdrawal from this "Liberia at their gates" as the French investigatory commission put it, allowing the US a measure of protection from the rage of its black constituents. It has all been very civilised; everything is deniable.

It makes one wonder why the smell of blood is so strong. Strange, especially from a place Le Monde describes as "The country that doesn't quite exist..." It must be the obverse of the Cheshire Cat. The country disappears, only the sizzle of the branding iron remains, lingering in the air.

American scandal

More evidence is being uncovered of irregularities in the vote counting in the presidential elections in the US. In Ohio, the Ohio Election Protection Commission's hearings has revealed, among other things, a widespread and concerted effort to deny the opportunity of voting to black voters and young voters. The hearings have also called into question the validity of the vote counting process.

In Florida, some of the evidence is literally stinking, having been retrieved from garbage cans disposed at county elections offices. Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.org collected discarded "poll tapes" - the printouts of optical scan machines used to count votes. The whole affair is reported in the Daytona Beach News and commondreams.org. More disclosures are certain to follow.

CORRECTION: In my column on "A Lobotomy for Democracy" I made some errors which a reader in Texas wrote me to point out. I managed to lose his e-mail and since I wish to correct any mistakes I may make. I would ask him please, to resend his e-mail.


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