(OPE-L) Re: Jeff Sachs on Haiti

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Mar 05 2004 - 10:16:17 EST

Paul Z: here's a follow-up article by Sachs./In solidarity, Jerry

Published on Thursday, March 4, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide
 by Jeffrey D. Sachs

 If the circumstances were not so calamitous, the American-
orchestrated removal of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from
 Haiti would be farcical.
 According to Aristide, American officials in Port-au-Prince told him
 that rebels were on the way to the presidential residence and that he
 and his family were unlikely to survive unless they immediately
 boarded an American-chartered plane standing by to take them to
 exile. The United States made it clear, he said, that it would
 provide no protection for him at the official residence, despite the
 ease with which this could have been arranged.

 Indeed, according to Aristide's lawyer, the U.S. blocked
 reinforcement of Aristide's own security detail. At the airport,
 Aristide said, U.S. officials refused him entry to the airplane until
 he handed over a signed letter of resignation.

 After being hustled aboard, Aristide was denied access to a phone for
 nearly 24 hours, and he knew nothing of his destination until he and
 his family were summarily deposited in the Central African Republic.
 He has since been kept hidden from view. Yet this Keystone Kops coup
 has apparently not worked entirely according to plan: Aristide has
 used a cellphone to notify the world that he was forcibly removed
 from Haiti at risk of death and to describe the way his resignation
 was staged by American forces.

 The U.S. government dismisses Aristide's charges as ridiculous.
 Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has offered an official version of
 the events, a blanket denial based on the government's word alone. In
 essence, Washington is telling us not to look back, only forward. The
 U.S. government's stonewalling brings to mind Groucho Marx's old
 line, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

 There are several tragedies in this surrealistic episode. The first
 is the apparent incapacity of the U.S. government to speak honestly
 about such matters as toppling governments. Instead, it brushes aside
 crucial questions: Did the U.S. summarily deny military protection to
 Aristide, and if so, why and when? Did the U.S. supply weapons to the
 rebels, who showed up in Haiti last month with sophisticated
 equipment that last year reportedly had been taken by the U.S.
 military to the Dominican Republic, next door to Haiti? Why did the
 U.S. cynically abandon the call of European and Caribbean leaders for
 a political compromise, a compromise that Aristide had already
 accepted? Most important, did the U.S. in fact bankroll a coup in
 Haiti, a scenario that seems likely based on present evidence?

 Only someone ignorant of U.S. history and of the administrations of
 George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush would dismiss these questions.
 The United States has repeatedly sponsored coups and uprisings in
 Haiti and in neighboring Caribbean countries.

 Ominously, before this week, the most recent such episode in Haiti
 came in 1991, during the first Bush administration, when thugs on the
 CIA payroll were among the leaders of paramilitary groups that
 toppled Aristide after his 1990 election.

 Some of the players in this round are familiar from the previous Bush
 administration, including of course Powell and Vice President Dick
 Cheney. Also key is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega -
 a longtime aide to Jesse Helms and a notorious Aristide-hater -
 widely thought to have been central to the departure of Aristide. He
 is going to find it much harder to engineer the departure of gun-
toting rebels who entered Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

 Rarely has an episode so brilliantly exposed Santayana's famous
 aphorism that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to
 repeat it."

 In 1991, when Congressional Black Caucus members demanded an
 investigation into the U.S. role in Aristide's overthrow, the first
 Bush administration laughed them off, just as this administration is
 doing today in facing new queries from Congressional Black Caucus

 Indeed, those who are questioning the administration about Haiti are
 being smeared as naive and unpatriotic. Aristide himself is being
 smeared with ludicrous propaganda and, most cynically of all, is
 being accused of dereliction in the failure to lift his country out
 of poverty.

 In point of fact, this U.S. administration froze all multilateral
 development assistance to Haiti from the day that George W. Bush came
 into office, squeezing Haiti's economy dry and causing untold
 suffering for its citizens. U.S. officials surely knew that the aid
 embargo would mean a balance-of-payments crisis, a rise in inflation
 and a collapse of living standards, all of which fed the rebellion.

 Another tragedy in this episode is the silence of the media when it
 comes to asking all the questions that need answers. Just as in the
 war on Iraq's phony WMD, wherein the mainstream media initially
 failed to ask questions about the administration's claims, major news
 organizations have refused to go to the mat over the administration's
 accounts on Haiti. The media haven't had the gumption to find
 Aristide and, in failing to do so, to point out that he is being held
 away from such contact.

 With a violence-prone U.S. government operating with impunity in many
 parts of the world, only the public's perseverance in getting at the
 truth can save us, and others, from our own worst behavior.

 Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia
 University, is a former economic advisor to governments in Latin
 America and around the world.

 Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times


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