This article originally appeared in the Jamaica
So Kofi Annan has at last discovered that 3 A's (Anglo-American-Australian)
attack on Iraq was illegal and
against the basic premises of the United Nations. Some of us knew it then,
and said so. Some of us wondered why Annan withdrew his UN inspectors from
Iraq, giving the US carte-blanche to launch its bombers against an innocent
But courage was in short supply those days, as it is now, and cowards abound
and proliferate. If the war on Iraq was a crime against humanity, what description
do we use for the decapitation of the Haitian democracy? The world Press,
those brave gladiators for justice and truth, speak about "hapless Haiti" and
the "hapless Haitians"; they hide their prejudice and deceit behind
euphemisms, behind circumlocution, obfuscations and outright lies to conceal
foul crimes. They say President Aristide fled “amid a popular revolt” – of
about 500 bandits in a population of eight million.
But the Haitians are "hapless." Our
leaders, like the leaders of the United States, France and Canada,
the triad behind
the criminal enterprise in Haiti, are all full of hap: hatred,
arrogance and prejudice.
While we, the hap-filled, are cleaning up and burying the few
unfortunates killed by Category Five hurricanes, hapless Haiti
is burying, in mass graves, thousands of the hapless killed by
extremely heavy rain from a storm whose winds affected Haiti only
minimally. It is the second time in less than a year that thousands
of hapless Haitians are dying because of rain.
History in Haiti has a habit of repeating itself. And history,
in Haiti, consists largely of the United States and its assaults
on Haitian freedom, all well meant, of course, and obviously intended
to reduce Haiti's Haplessness index to manageable levels.
Who do they think they are?
Haiti's history of haplessness began more than
200 years ago when a Jamaican runaway slave called Bouckman lit
the spark that fired
the Haitian revolution. Bouckman, despite being a giant of a man,
a born leader and probably a Muslim (think terrorist) did not survive
to see the fruits of the revolution. He was betrayed, captured
and his head stuck on a pike to discourage the others – perhaps
a primitive attempt at exorcising demonic ideas of freedom and
liberty from the revolutionaries.
It didn't work. The Haitians went on to defeat the French colonial
forces, then defeated a British expeditionary force and then defeated
a French expeditionary army under Napoleon's brother-in-law, killing
some 60,000 Frenchmen in the process.
Before that, the Haitians had fought alongside the American revolutionaries
to help them throw the British out of the American colonies. Haitian
help was crucial in at least two battles in which British power
was broken - at Savannah, Georgia and at Yorktown.
In addition to all that, the Haitian revolution made another massive
contribution to the new American nation: in defeating France, the
Haitians exhausted the French treasury to the point where Napoleon
had to sell Louisiana to the US or risk losing it to the British.
The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the US.
So, if the Haitians contributed so much to American independence
and development, why is it that in their extremity of grief and
suffering, the United States treats the Haitians so meanly?
Originally, when the scale of the current disaster became known,
the United States, the richest country in the world, offered about
US $60,000 for Haitian relief. Venezuela offered $1 million, Trinidad
and Tobago earmarked US$5 million while the European Union pledged
US$1.8 million. Somewhat abashed, the US raised its pledge to US$2
million. In the US itself, where the damage has been far less severe,
the federal government alone is contributing more than $6 billion
in hurricane relief.
Charity, of course, begins at home or perhaps, it is simply another
case of Haitian haplessness. But it must be said, however discreetly,
that the United States has had a great deal to do with the current
Haitian propensity to catastrophe, by destroying Haitian governments,
Haitian infrastructure economic and social, and by policies which
have reduced Haiti almost to a desert.
The United States and Britain refused to recognize Haiti after
it declared independence. The US made recognition conditional on
the former colonial power, France, recognizing Haiti's autonomy.
At that time, of course, the United States was busy titrating the
humanity of blacks and came to the conclusion that a black was
60% human and therefore not entitled to all the rights of Man.
And Liberty was as dangerous then as socialism was in the twentieth
Oddly, the French, the Americans and the Haitians had all been
inspired by the Enlightenment and Tom Paine's codification of the
Rights of man. But only the Haitian revolution recognized all those
rights. In the US, blacks and women, for instance, had to wait
more than a century to reach the status guaranteed to Haitians.
France and the US maintained slavery more than 50 years after Haiti
With the British and the US playing hardball
on the recognition question, France felt able to demand that
the Haitians should pay
cash for their freedom. In Jamaica and other British colonies,
the state paid the slaveowners compensation. In Haiti the former
slaves paid twice, in blood and in treasure. When they had trouble
paying back the French the kindly American bankers came to Haiti's
rescue. We will lend you the money to pay off your debt, they said,
and Haiti achieved another first, becoming the first Third World
debtor nation. That debt was eventually paid off more than a century
later – the last payment was in 1947. In the meantime it had caused
Haiti the most extreme distress, wrecked her infrastructure and
destroyed her independence. What the metropolitan countries could
not achieve by conquest, they achieved by compound interest.
Early in the last century, the Americans became
a little dissatisfied with Haitian repayment of their debt, and
that led to an immediate
increase in Haitian haplessness. The US invaded, changed their
constitution, took away their land, chopped down their trees to
plant sisal, logwood, coffee and pineapple and destroyed the agricultural
base of the country. After they left officially in 1935, however,
the Americans bequeathed Haiti an armed force which was corrupt,
cruel, ungovernable and in thrall to the US. It guaranteed that
any Haitian President either obeyed Washington or went into exile.
In 1947, Dumarsais Estimé, said to be a socialist, was deposed
after a couple of years. That began a period of dictatorship distinguished
chiefly by American support for the ruthless Francois Duvalier
and his inane son, Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier.
During the US occupation (1915 to 1935), the
Haitians tried to throw the occupiers out, only to be bombed
and strafed in a eerie
foretaste of the fascist bombing of Guernica during the Spanish
civil war. Nobody made much of the Haitian version, because, after
all, what were they but a bunch of "Niggers
speaking French" as they were described by William Jennings
Bryan, one of Colin Powell's predecessors as US Secretary of State.
The Haitian resistance leader, Charlemagne Peralte, was like Bouckman,
betrayed, murdered and his head exhibited to discourage the others.
History repeats itself in Haiti, but never as farce.
Today, we watch as the United States leads
its partners France and Canada, in an adventure in Haiti which
already resembles King
Leopold's so-called "humanitarian" incursion into the
Congo over a century ago. That enterprise, described by the King
of the Belgians as rather like "a Red Cross scheme" left
between ten million and twenty million Congolese dead or with their
hands and feet chopped off for misbehavior. Four of them went to
The American adventure in Haiti has not so
far been identified by anyone as an illegal enterprise. It would
seem to be, on the
face of it, an illegal trespass into the affairs of another country,
an illegal complicity in the illegal removal of a duly elected
head of state and an illegal interference in the sovereign rights
of Haitians – for a start.
Mr Annan, who has now condemned the American adventure in Iraq,
may yet find time to condemn the one in Haiti, but probably not
before the US elections. He is the chief guardian, it is alleged,
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the meantime, however, it is clear that the intervention has
had some catastrophic consequences. The bandits let loose and sanctioned
by the Americans, French and Canadians, have destroyed the health,
educational and democratic systems of Haiti - such as they were.
More important for the latest disaster, they destroyed the Civil
Defense structure, the network which would have warned Haitians
of impending disaster and which would have at least attempted to
rescue those worst affected. It is likely that had this organization
been in existence instead of in hiding from the interim government's
murderous heroes, so many would not have died.
But it is also clear that the Americans, Canadians and French
do not believe that the Haitians are entitled to the same rights
as other human beings. Perhaps, using their renowned scientific
expertise and prowess, they have once again figured out what precise
degree of humanity is possessed by each Haitian, and perhaps by
each Jamaican and Trinidadian also.
That, of course, would explain why it is not
necessary for anyone to discover what really happened on February
29, when President
Aristide was posted to the Central African Republic as "cargo" in
a CIA plane which just happened to be on hand when the US Ambassador,
Mr Foley, decided to pay a call on the President before dawn one
Perhaps it may explain why various Caribbean
leaders are content to watch the Haitians die without being able
to organize to help
themselves, because of course, the Haitians are "hapless" and
not 100% human.
It may not have occurred to our leaders that
in condemning the Haitians to "haplessness", they are
in fact, recognizing that the United States has the right to
legalize a new class of
human being, one without rights - like the thousands locked away
in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and a host of secret dungeons around
It may not have occurred to our leaders that in acquiescing to
this foul doctrine they are not only condemning Haitians to death
but they are condemning themselves and us. It may not have occurred
to them that in their acquiescence they are occupying the same
moral ground once inhabited by such as Pierre Laval, Vidkun Quisling,
Pol Pot and the Africans who sold their brothers into slavery .
But, as the West Indies cricket team has proved, in some cases,
leaders are expendable. When the Laras, the Pattersons and the
Owen Arthurs fail us, there may be others on whom we can depend
to defend the hapless and the wretched of the earth.
John Maxwell of the University of the West
Indies (UWI) is a veteran Jamaican journalist and author of How
to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalists and Journalists. Mr.
Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]
Copyright©2004 John Maxwell