19 April, 2009
In my teenage years, my stepfather used to buy Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post; I bought Newsweek and occasionally TIME, and those magazines formed, for a little while, my window into the modern world.
I was never as credulous as my contemporaries, and my faith in TIME and Newsweek began to fray with their reporting of the clash between Peron and La Prensa in Argentina. It disappeared almost entirely the first time I read a report in those magazines allegedly about Jamaica. These doubts came flooding back half a century later when I tried to find an address in Managua, Nicaragua. It went something like this: Third house on the left on the second road on the right next to the Esso gas station on the road by the zoo.
Having read TIME I was expecting a city more advanced than Kingston. Instead I found a ramshackle Spanish Town Road-like mess in which hundreds of thousands of miserable people had contributed to the grandeur alleged in stories in the North American media. In 1964, promised an interview with Papa Doc, I flew into Haiti, seeing the environmental divide between brown Haiti and green Santo Domingo, a line discovered anew by every foreign journalist since and attributed to Haitian poverty and desperation instead of to the rightful authors, the Americans who strip-mined Haiti’s economy flat in search of riches in the 20 years after 1915. It was smash-and-grab colonialism.
It bequeathed to Haiti the barebacked mountains, dried riverbeds, broken streets, pitiful water supply, grinding poverty and misery caused by a century of economic blackmail by France and the US, but even now blamed on Aristide – who was actually born into these conditions and determined to change them.
It is almost guaranteed that most contemporary reports on Haiti range from seriously inaccurate to biased to outright lies. This is especially so when they speak of the ‘radical slum priest’ turned president, and who “fled amid a popular revolt”. These keywords tell you that you are reading propaganda intended to continue to enhance a 200-year-old programme of defamation officially begun as a counter-attack by the nascent American Republic on the idea of universal human rights promulgated by the brand-new black republic of Haiti. That sentence does sound bizarre, doesn’t it?
It appears to contradict everything you’ve learned about the Enlightenment, the Rights of Man and the American and French Revolutions. It was that great democrat, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence who, in the preamble to his original draft of the Declaration wrote: “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable .”
And it was he also who wrote about slavery, “We have the wolf by the ears; and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” And finally, it was Jefferson who, seeing whites and blacks as two distinct nations whose natural relationship was one of war, believed that if slavery was abolished the blacks would rebel due to the long years of intense and cruel oppression. He anticipated racial war if free blacks and whites were not segregated into disparate countries.
So, while Haiti supplied many, if not most of the so-called French soldiers to beat back the British in the American war of Independence, when those blacks defeated Napoleon in their own country, ceasing to be French and becoming “Ayisien” – Haitian – they took on a new colour and a new menace. If they could beat the French twice and the British and the Spaniards – a Royal Flush of 19th century imperial power – what wickedness were they not capable of?
Henri Christophe who fought for the Americans at Savannah and Yorktown, became labelled, two decades later, with a demoniac personality, a blood-sipping cannibal to be reincarnated two centuries later both as Duvalier and as the anti-Duvalier and as the Catholic Priest Aristide. It was a bonus that Jean-Bedel Bokassa, dictator of the Central African Republic (CAR), was also libellously accused of cannibalism. It may have been these propaganda coincidences that persuaded the CIA, as innocent as ever, to arrange the ‘extraordinary rendition’ of President and Mme Aristide to the CAR, hoping no doubt, that there just might be a real cannibal in Bangui who could accept the Aristides as a ‘bonne bouche’ from their friends in Washington.
The new American republic felt itself threatened by Haiti, which offered freedom to anyone fleeing from slavery and oppression, and armed and provisioned Bolivar to liberate Spanish America and free the slaves. That alone provoked the idea of an embargo against the Haitians. They needed to sell their sugar to new markets, since France refused to trade with its former colony. The Americans said they would recognise Haitian independence whenever France did, giving France the opportunity for the biggest and most evil act of extortion in human history.
The enormity of the blackmail was breathtaking. France demanded that Haiti pay an indemnity of 150 million French francs – equivalent to nearly US$22 billion in 2004. The ransom was equivalent to France’s entire annual budget or 10 times the annual GDP of Haiti at its productive best. The French not only extracted a pound of flesh, they took an enormous volume of blood with it.
The first instalment – arranged by the French – was for a French bank to lend Haiti the money. The bank deducted management fees and interest up front, so that when the instalment was paid to the French it was still six million francs short.
The injustice of the arrangement may be further judged by the fact that France’s Western design, frustrated by the loss of Haiti, meant that all the French territory below Canada became surplus to requirements. This area, known as Louisiana, was 74 times the area of Haiti, larger than the then United States itself and was bought by President Jefferson for less than half the French demanded from Haiti in Blood Money.
The major effect was the permanent economic and social distortion and stunting of Haitian life and freedom, largely due to the imposition of draconian measures to repay the debt. The main measure was the so-called “Rural Code”. J Damu, writing on the issue reported: [According to] “Haitian First Lady Mildred Aristide’s account in her book, Child Domestic Service in Haiti and its Historical Underpinnings, the Rural Code laid the basis for the legal apartheid between rural and urban society in Haiti. With the Rural Code, the economically dominant class of merchants, government officials and military officers who lived in the cities legally established themselves as Haiti’s ruling class. “Under the Rural Code agricultural workers were chained to the land and allowed little or no opportunity to move from place to place. Socializing was made illegal after midnight, and the Haitian farmer who did not own property was obligated to sign a three-, six- or nine-year labor contract with a large property owner. The code also banned small-scale commerce, so that agricultural workers would produce crops strictly for export.
The Haitian Rural Code was all embracing, governing the lives not only of farmers but of children as well.
The Rural Code was specifically designed to regulate rural life in order to more efficiently produce export crops with which to pay the indemnity. The taxes levied on production were also used predominantly to pay the indemnity and not to build schools nor to provide other social services to the generators of this great wealth, the peasants.”
The debt was finally paid off in 1947, 122 years after its imposition. Between independence in 1804 and Jean Bertrand Aristide’s accession to office in 1990 a grand total of 32 high schools were built in Haiti. Under Aristide more than 200 were built, mostly in the countryside. When the Americans kidnapped and deported Aristide in 2004 they found quarters for the Marines by capturing Haiti’s new medical school, built by Aristide and run with the help of the Cubans.
The Marines’ allies, who until a few weeks before rejoiced in the name “the Cannibal Army”, destroyed all signs of cultural progress, burning down the new museum of Haitian culture and shutting down the children’s television. The Canadian representative to the OAS rather gave the game away for Canada when he accompanied the American Quisling – La Tortue – on an American marine helicopter flight to the north where La Tortue and his murderous lieutenants hailed the former Cannibal Army as Freedom Fighters.
Their only role had been their usual banditry, attacking unarmed police stations in the countryside, robbing peasants and chopping up the innocent cops – giving the American, Canadian British and French newspapers the right to write that the radical slum-priest (and probable witch-doctor) had ” led amid a popular uprising”.
This week, Canada’s most popular newspaper, the Toronto Star, could say, in guilelesss innocence: “Few countries have been hit harder than Haiti by the global economic slump, and by the sheer force of nature. Last year’s hurricanes did $1 billion in damage. Remittances from Haitians working in the United States, Canada and France may drop by $250 million or more this year. And now foreign aid is in danger of drying up. This adds up to a colossal challenge for President René Préval’s government, which was democratically elected in 2006 after years of instability. Despite initial hopes, Haiti’s 9 million people are struggling. Eight in 10 live on less than $2 a day. Now they face even worse hardship. The most desperate will turn to argile – patties made from clay, salt and margarine – to stave off hunger pangs. And that raises fears of food riots, soaring crime and instability.”
There is not the slightest hint of Canada’s leading and bloody role in promoting and creating those “years of instability”. Shortly after Aristide’s overwhelming victory in Haiti’s first democratic presidential election in 1990, the relics of the Jim Crow Marine occupation managed to convince the Americans, first John McCain’s International Republican Institute and then elements of Bill Clinton’s government and various Canadian politico and officials that Haiti under Aristide was a threat to civilisation as they knew it. Denis Paradis, a Canadian minister, convened a coven of like-minded fascists, as I am wont to describe them, to develop a doctrine giving civilised states the right to intervene in ‘failed states’ – the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. Paradis’ coven then decided that Aristide must go, and the Canadians, through the Canadian Association for Development Assistance among others, the US Agency for International Development and the International Republican Institute financed a whole panoply of Haitian francs tireurs, pimps and wannabe presidents to support the programme of the elites which was simply to extract from the Haitian people, the universal human rights promulgated 200 years earlier for the first time on Earth by Jean Jacques Dessalines and the other illustrious fathers and mothers of the Haitian Revolution. Sometimes innocence is not merely a sin but a bloody crime. More next week. Walk Good.
Source: Jamaica Observer