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17757: radtimes: The Haitian Example (fwd)
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
The Haitian Example
By Le Monde
Friday 02 January 2004
The first black republic born of a slave revolt two centuries ago,
Haiti celebrates this anniversary under the sign of chaos and a president,
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who, after symbolizing democratic hope, has cruelly
disappointed his adherents at home and abroad. The international community,
all of whose attention is legitimately focused on Iraq, would not lose
anything by lingering for a moment over the Haitian experience of the last
ten years. The lessons revealed by this experience furnish, in effect, the
perfect counter-example to what must not be done in Iraq.
September 19, 1994, twenty thousand American soldiers landed in
Port-au-Prince, under orders from President Bill Clinton. Up to the last
moment, the putschist junta, which was in power after driving out Mr.
Aristide, had refused to believe in U.S. intervention, in spite of the
injunctions of an earlier mediation mission which included a certain Colin
Powell, and didn't decide to flee until U.S. Air Force planes were on the way.
Aristide, whom the Americans mistrusted, but who had been elected,
returned to power on the heels of the invasion. It was a matter of
assistance or reinforcement of democratic institutions, the creation of a
professional police force and army, in short, of "nation building", of
support for the construction of a viable state. To achieve that and to
reestablish a climate of security, the maintenance of the international
force which had reestablished Aristide was essential. But in Washington,
Bill Clinton came up against Republican opposition, which had become a
Congressional majority in November 1994- the same who occupy the White
House today. The Republicans had only one concern: to bring the troops
home. The American contingent went down to 15,000, then to 6,000. Then the
Clinton administration asked the U.N. to take over.
In New York, laborious negotiations were engaged. China and Russia
were against. France wanted to send gendarmes, but the United States had no
desire to see the French landing in their "backyard", already francophone
enough. The U.N. didn't want to send the blue helmets except into a "stable
and secure" context- which is to say never to Haiti. The dispatch of 6,000
soldiers was finally decided, which became 3,000, then 1,200. July 31,
1997, the last blue helmets packed their bags. Security, of course, had not
been reestablished. The new police, who had replaced the army Aristide
dissolved, proved to be impotent. Demobilized soldiers began to agitate.
Above all, neither the American GIs, nor the blue helmets, wanted to take
the risk of disarming the militias.
A little Caribbean republic, Haiti hasn't Iraq's strategic
importance. However, the symbol the history of its creation represents
deserved that the international community commit itself there with more
firmness while democracy still could have had a chance. The same mistakes-
a solitary United States' game, U.N. pusillanimity- should not be repeated
in Iraq. Haiti's example demonstrates what that costs.
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.