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17509: U.S. foreign policy toward Haiti

From: Jim Uttley <jim.editor@indianlife.org>

When it comes to Iraq---

Remember Haiti

by Jim Uttley, Jr.

With each passing day, any news of progress in Iraq is smothered by reports
of violence, increased instability, and critics’ calls for withdrawal of our
troops from the conflict of rebuilding Iraq.

The vicious killing of two more U.S. soldiers in Mosul last weekend by a
band of brutal Iraqi teenagers, brought renewed calls for reconsidering our
commitment to Iraq.

Less than twenty-four hours after this horrendous attack on our honorable
troops, Senator Joseph Liebermann, potential Democratic presidential
nominee, suggested to the waiting media that the United States consider
“cutting and running....”

There’s not much new about this. Even before the start of the Iraq war,
critics raised doubts of whether or not Iraq would become another Vietnam.

Forget Vietnam. In fact, forget Somalia. Iraq is neither. The war is over.
What we’re talking about now is nation building.

Vietnam was a misguided military action that took fifteen years, over 50,000
U.S. military deaths and four U.S. presidents to rein in and bring to an
end. Somalia, on the other hand, was a military adventure which employed
“cut and run” tactics and turned out to be more like America’s Bay of Pigs.

If we are going to succeed at nation building in Iraq or anywhere else, we
are going to have to learn some lessons from another nation building
colossal failure--Haiti. And we need to look at the Americans' two
occupations of this island republic.

Part One--

In July 1915, the United States landed in Port-au-Prince to protect American
interests in the wake of a coup d'etat which resulted in the overthrow and
death of Haiti’s President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who was hacked to death by

According to James Weldon Johnson, writing in THE NATION, August 28, 1920,
“Most Americans have the opinion -- if they have any opinion at all on the
subject -- that the United States was forced, on purely humane grounds, to
intervene in the black republic.”

For nineteen years, the U.S. government felt “compelled to keep a military
force in Haiti to pacify the country and maintain order.” During this time
of “nation building” the U.S. Marine Corps was responsible for building
roads, hospitals and for helping to restructure the government and justice
system in this island republic.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, writing in THE NATION, had this assessment of Haiti’s

"In Haiti a worse situation faced us. That Republic was in chronic trouble,
and it as it is close to Cuba the bad influence was felt across the water.
Presidents were murdered, governments fled, several time a year. [sic: he
really said that!] ...Here again we cleaned house, restored order, built
public works and put governmental operation on a sound and honest basis. We
are still there. It is true, however, that ...especially in Haiti we seem to
have paid too little attention to making the citizens of these states more
capable of reassuming the control of their own governments.”

The American occupation failed to instill confidence in the Haitian people
to build democracy “in their image” and according to their needs. Rather, we
forced them into a form of slavery which turned a large number into rebels
who carried out violent attacks on U.S. soldiers.

During the first U.S. occupation, the American military was responsible for
the death of some three thousand Haitian men, women, and children killed by
American rifles and machine guns.

Part Two--

In more recent memory, the U.S. government, under the leadership of former
president Bill Clinton, and approved by a United Nations resolution,
restored “democracy” to Haiti by removing military leader Raoul Cedras.
Twenty thousand troops returned exiled president Jean Bertrand Aristide to
power in 1994.

After six months of occupation, Mr. Clinton, calling his Haiti mission a
“remarkable success,” turned the reconstruction over to U.N. peacekeepers.
They stayed on for three more years then “cut and ran.”

“It’s been downhill ever since,” stated the Wall Street Journal (April 9,
2003). And the source of Haiti’s problems can be traced to none other than
President Aristide himself.

What the Haitian people, and some U.S. politicians, are discovering is that
Aristide is not really much different than his predecessors, most notably
legendary dictators Papa and Baby Duvalier.

Where was the United Nations in all this? Having given their approval, they
stood by and watched all these events transpire. Aristide stole the
parliamentary elections in May 2000, giving him a foothold for return to
power in late 2000.

The UN closed its Haiti mission in January 2001 and Haiti once again fell
into anarchy Many opposition leaders have since fled the country. More than
a dozen or more prominent journalists have either fled, been imprisoned or
killed. Economically, Haiti is once again a basket case.

As the Republic of Haiti approaches her 200th anniversary of independence,
the Haitian people are no more free than they were when freedom fighter
Boukman drank a pig’s blood, pledging the nation’s future to the Prince of
Darkness and his loas.

Any politician who feels that now is the time to “cut and run” from Iraq,
needs to crack open his or her history books and read what happened when
America chose to turn its back on Haiti after investing billions and
thousands of soldiers, only to give up on her commitment to rescue a nation
from totalitarianism.

-Jim Uttley, Jr., lived in Haiti for 21 years, beginning in 1952. He has
written extensively on Haiti. He now makes his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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