News and opinions on situation in Haiti
03/03/04 Aristide – Not Kidnapped?

DISSIDENT VOICE March 2-3, 2004

** Editor's Note: I think folks should be cautious in accepting deposed Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide's claim that he was kidnapped by US forces, who spirited him away to the Central African Republic against his will. There is no doubt that what transpired in Haiti was a US backed coup, but I'm skeptical that Aristide was kidnapped. How was he able to call Randall Robinson and Congresspersons Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel to inform them of his abduction? Do kidnappers usually allow their victims to keep and use their cell phones? Aristide would have presumably been watched like a hawk by his American captors. As a friend put it, "If Aristide was abducted by US forces and then allowed to clarion his plight to the world, than these kidnappers are the most inept bunch since the guys who kidnapped the Lindburgh baby."

Waters and Rangel are strong supporters of Aristide, Robinson is a personal friend. It's possible that the NY Times, which has a long history of gross distortions and lies about Haiti * . . . and just about everything else for that matter, got the story right that Aristide sought advice from US Ambassador James Foley as to what his next move should be as the US armed and financed wolf came upon his door. The Times reports (3/1): "By Saturday evening, the White House hardened its position, insisting in its statement that Haiti's crisis ' is largely of Mr. Aristide's making.' That same evening, between 8 and 9, Mr. Aristide contacted the American ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley, through an intermediary, the official said. The ambassador, who had been working the phones throughout the three-week crisis, heard something new, by this account. Mr. Aristide wanted to know three things from Mr. Foley: what did he think was the best way to avoid bloodshed, what new security arrangements could be put in place or Haiti, and what were the choices of places that Mr. Aristide could go to in exile, the official said. Mr. Foley was taken aback by the questions, which the official, who has no affection for Mr. Aristide, nevertheless found 'poignant.' Mr. Foley said he would call back with an answer, and he notified Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other superiors of the progress. The ambassador later called back and spoke to President Aristide, who was soft-spoken and polite as usual. The American reply was: ' Pik your destination; it's up to you.' Mr. Aristide asked for time to confer with his wife, Mildred Trouillot, a Haitian American. After an hour, he called Mr. Foley back. Shortly after midnight, Secretary Powell got the call, 'He's ready to move tonight.'"

After making spirited verbal comments about how he would stay and fight the rebels to the end, Aristide, now safely in the CAR, had to put forth some face saving story for his supporters about his departure, while taking the opportunity to make a claim that would embarrass the Bush regime and possibly lead to international pressure for his reinstatement. So he contacts his most ardent supporters in the US, and now the Bushites are on the defensive.

Whatever the real story, the important issue is, as Jeff St. Clair at CounterPunch put it to me, "the kidnapping angle is a distraction. The choice that was left to Aristide was: die or come with us. It wasn't much of a choice." The impoverished Haitian masses were threatened with death if Aristide remained, and now they're threatened with death squad deja vu, as a vile assortment of essentially Duvalierist thugs and murderers descend upon Haiti to once again demolish the popular movements, insure the wealthy elite can continue to plunder the country, and insure their American masters can continue to make bank on Haitian blood as the bastards have for over a century.

On a related note, I was active on Haiti in the early 1990s opposing US support for the coup government that toppled Aristide in 1991. My concern is for the popular movements of Haiti and the region. That said, Aristide, who I've always thought to be an obtuse character, bears much responsibility for his having been overthrown, and the Left would do well to face that honestly. All the good things he did for Haiti as a radical liberation theology priest were alas eclipsed by his many defects as President since 2000. That in no way justifies his appalling ouster. Still, how else can one explain the fact that, despite their American backing, only a few hundred armed men took over the entire country if not because few wanted to defend a government that disillusioned much of its base? Progressives should align themselves with popular movements and not fixate too much on leaders. Maybe it's just a knee-jerk anarchist antipathy for leaders on my part.

* See Paul Farmer's "The Uses of Haiti" (Common Courage 1994)


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