is determined that Aristide leave the scene, either by helicopter
to a waiting
American warship, or at the receiving end of a bullet. There
can be no reconciliation with the Bush men’s proxies – that’s
Powell’s game of calibration. If the Haitian people are to
have any chance of sovereignty, 200 years after throwing off
slavery and French rule, then they must fight for it under
their own, chosen leaders. Three thousand police cannot save
Haiti, but it is still possible that the people’s militias
can halt the process that the U.S. has set in motion. There
is little time left for President Aristide to make his decision.
Stan Goff spent his
former life with the U.S. Special Forces, including a stint
in Haiti. Now a political activist and author, Goff wrote the
following piece for the February 14 issue of Counterpunch.
A (Counter) Revolutionary Bicentennial
by Stan Goff
I write this there is an attempt to start a civil war in Haiti,
engineered in the United States of America and supported by
its lapdogs in Caricom and the Organization of American States.
Former Haitian military men who have received "some form" of
training and logistical support while hiding out in the neighboring
US semi-colony, the Dominican Republic, are systematically
attacking the Haitian National Police at primary strategic
points along the entire route from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican
Border near Ouanaminthe. Only Cap Haitien has not fallen so
far as St. Marc, Gonaives, and Trou du Nord a town at a key
bridge between the border and Cap Haitien has been ransacked
by right-wing paramilitaries, who are the armed wing of a US-funded "opposition" that
cloaks itself in the name Convergence Democratique, and now
falsely claims no connection with this activity.
main road between Port-au-Prince to St. Marc to Gonaives
to Cap Haitien to Trou
du Nord to Ouanaminthe is often the only passable route cross
country, and these seizures have effectively cut off the western
coastal towns from the capital and isolated Cap Haitien, the
second largest city in Haiti. At last word, these former Haitian
military units – some of the same ones who worked for the notorious
Duvaliers and for the savage Cedras-Francois junta – have abandoned
ridiculous names like Gonaives Resistance Front that these
have assigned themselves are already being echoed in the capitalist
press, which also refers to them, idiotically, as "rebels," and
to their activities as the activities of "crowds." A
contact I spoke with hours ago who returned from Port-au-Prince
today told me that the real crowds are those who are fleeing
these fascist coup operations in the North and the massive
PRO-Aristide demonstrations in the capital. This contact said
the situation here is very similar in many respects to the
US-supported attempt to overthrow another democratically elected
government, that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
paramilitaries have opened ships and stores for looting,
capitalizing on the
desperate poverty and hunger of Haitians to direct the energy
of masses into looting, in order to neutralize them politically.
But it has only worked locally. My contact said that contrary
to what's going on here, the Haitian masses are "crystal
clear" that this is a US-supported coup attempt.
the legitimately elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide
fails to take
aggressive action to recapture these cities, there may be a
successful coup within weeks. While the tactical target of
this paramilitary action is the Aristide government, the political
target is – as it always has been – the popular sovereignty
of the Haitian masses. It is a tragic irony that this situation
has developed this far on the bicentennial of the heroic Haitian
Revolution, and that it is being led by an imperial power that
wants to annihilate popular sovereignty wherever it raises
To help the reader
understand what is going on there, I am inserting my journal
from the last Aristide inauguration, and I will make some comments
Fear and Loathing
A journal of Aristide's
by Stan Goff
Port-au-Prince I spend three days, January 16-18, at Hotel
Ife. If I believed
in zombies – that favored American obsession about Haiti – I
will have found them here in the doddering, light-skinned matriarch
and her stunned-looking, slow-motion staff. Like every place
in the Caribbean, but especially here, there seems to be a
perpetual stalemate in the battle with decay. Water damage
stains the ceilings. The wiring is precariously exposed.
A little spider has
found a haven in the corner of the windowsill, where no dust-rag,
no broom ever quite reaches. Electricity is rationed, available
only from 5:30 PM to 4:00 AM. Street noises invade throughout
the night. Motorcycles, evangelists with loudspeakers, little
brass bands, roosters even here in the comparative affluence
of Petionville. My walls are painted a nauseating green.
street is my refuge. The inept pretensions of Haiti's third-string
here in the streets at least, are diffused, swallowed up by
the frenetic culture of survival that animates these byways,
the chaos of the pure market, of truly primitive accumulation.
Here is a cornucopia of commodities, fruits, breads, soaps,
cigarettes, plastic shoes, cheap watches, steaming food, sold
right on the sidewalk out of bowls and baskets. Here are trash,
skiddish animals foraging in filth, and a wild-west intermixing
of foot and vehicle traffic. Pure utility without the sophisticated
facade we associate with the chimera of "development."
set prices anywhere. Every exchange alternates between belligerence,
pain at an insult – an appearance of extreme interpersonal
tension to the blan (white or foreign), but this is a game
that animates the entire culture, this ribbing and debating,
these loud voices with the plosive cadences. A rough culture
with a lot of ritual combat.
The streets of Petionville,
the most affluent section of the capital, are named after heroes
of the Revolution for Independence. But the names are selective;
Chavannes, Petion, Rigaud, Oge. Mulattos all. The only exception
is L'Overture, the ex-slave general who led the first stage
of the Revolution, when slavery was abolished. Toussaint L'Overture
was black. But like Aristide today, he was a conciliator. So
the color-obsessed capital elite rehabilitated him into the
The mulattos of the
Revolution never wanted to throw off the French, the blan.
They wanted to replace them and grow rich on the sweat of the
Indeed, many themselves
owned slaves before the Revolution. To this day they contemptuously
call the black peasant the gwo zoteey, the big toes.
the names unlisted among the Petionville streets is Dessalines.
After the French duped L'Overture and sent him to die in a
putrid cell, Dessalines led the bloody march to independence.
Class memory is long
in Haiti, and Dessalines was feared by the privileged mulattos.
He had the personal power to mobilize the masses. In one engagement,
at Crete Pierrot in 1802, he rallied 900 ex-slave soldiers
and civilians to reject surrender and break out of an encirclement
of 16,000 French soldiers, a feat of arms astounding by any
measure in any war in history.
After Napolean's legions
were vanquished, the mulattos claimed the land based on the
property deeds of their white fathers. Dessalines asked them
what the former slaves who led the Revolution would get. The
mulattos were champing at the bit to begin a vigorous and lucrative
trade with France and the rest of Europe.
Dessalines, who had
seen French perfidy and brutality reassert itself at every
opportunity, shed his shirt to show them the mass of lash scars
covering his coal-black back, and told them with no equivocation,
he was done with the whites.
The mulattos foresaw
their anticipated fortunes dwindle to naught.
The United States,
only just independent itself, fattening on the plunder of indigenous
land and the labor of slaves, was alarmed as well. These rebel
slaves to the south had just smashed the myth of white supremacy
by outwitting and out-generaling three European nations, awakening
the American slave-holder's latent terror of black insurrection.
Dessalines massacred the French in Cap Haitien, winning infamy
among white historians,
the mulattos plotted. They assassinated Dessalines in 1806
and forbade his name to be spoken for 40 years. Their subsequent
repression of the mass of former rebels was ferocious. This
ferocity was motivated by the one true constant of almost 200
years of Haitian ruling class history – dread of the masses.
Dessalines had to go because he could mobilize the masses.
It would be a mistake,
however, to generalize from Dessalines' confrontation with
the mulattos to a description of Haiti's current social antagonisms
as a color problem. The black grandons of the north are as
avaricious and cynical as the whitest compradeur, and just
as terrified of popular rebellion. The color line has blurred,
but the class lines are still razor sharp.
Haiti's struggle is
a class struggle, pure if not simple. Color is just part of
the context, the psychology. Look at the Bush cabinet, if you
think reactionaries are afraid of melanin.
In my walks down these
streets named after Dessalines' nemeses, I find an internet
cafe of all things. Here is a place I can check email, surf
a bit on the web, stay connected with my family who I have
deserted yet again.
19, 2001. A fellow Haiti-phile has forwarded me an article
by email about
the confirmation hearings of Colin Powell. The hearings are,
of course, a love-fest. Powell wears white denial as his personal
armor – the almost-Black Knight. No one dares speak the forbidden – My
Lai, Panama, Iraq. No one can acknowledge – on pain of political
suicide – that this man is a brilliant hack, a well-groomed
ticket puncher who will order the annihilation of thousands
of innocents, but whose real talent is hiding the bodies. The
obsequious, lily-white Senators ask him about Haiti, this almost-a-negro
and a West Indian to boot, and he doesn't hesitate. He puts
Haiti firmly in its place.
The reactionary wing
of the Republican Party will settle for nothing less than Aristide's
political neutralization. Aristide needs to look at the history
of the war on Iraq, at the Rambouillet Agreement. The demands
will escalate until they are simply impossible to meet. They
will ask for the keys, for the surrender of sovereignty.
Administration of George W. Bush, Powell explains, will tentatively
the grotesque capitulation of a wavering Aristide to reschedule
the legitimate elections of several of his own party members
in response to a US/OAS campaign of demagogy to discredit those
elections. It is a breathtaking betrayal by Aristide. Powell
calls this acquiescent, nay, submissive posture "an appropriate
road map to get started," but adds that the Administration
can not rule out additional demands. No careful Clintonesque
camouflage from this administration. The colonial relation
will be naked and unashamed. U.S. policy, the Secretary of
State-designee explains, always has been and always will be
to keep Haitians from coming to the United States, and on their
knees at home.
My companion for this
trip and a friend for the last four years, Harry Numa, Secretary
of the Pati Popile Nasyonal (PPN), the National Popular Party,
is very focused on the upcoming Haitian presidential inauguration
of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I have copied the post about Colin
Powell and shared it with him and other members.
"Is Colin Powell
an Uncle Tom," one asks me. He and his comrades have just
exploded in a babble of outrage at the imperial arrogance of
he a token?"
"Uncle Tom was
a phrase of contempt that Malcolm X used to differentiate the
house slave from the field slave," I say. "Powell
has transcended that. He is no longer just the house slave.
He is now one of the masters. He is a brilliant bureaucrat.
Hardly a token.
people regard an Uncle Tom to be someone who is witless,
a fool who
sells out his own people. Clarence Thomas is an Uncle Tom who
is not terribly intelligent. Powell is no fool. He is ruthless
and very, very smart. Powell is more than an Uncle Tom. Powell
Heads nod. This is
a distinction easily grasped in Haiti, where foolishness and
villainy have shared a lot of spotlights.
making a terrible mistake," one explains. "He has
this tremendous power, and he refuses to use it, even when
people threaten him with violence."
believe Aristide is straying. Fanmi Lavalas, the party of
this ex-priest, is
organized more like the church than a political formation.
He remains, however, in many ways, a political naif. He's never
understood the dominant class' terror of the people – now his
own inescapable sin.
are referring to Aristide's tolerance and capitulation before
provocation of something now referred to as "the opposition." So
I need to understand clearly why the PPN, this growing, highly
conscious left political formation, organizing relentlessly
among the gwo zoteey, is defending Aristide. And they are.
Critically, but doggedly.
an American, steeped in the narrow rhetorical strategies
of a politics of personality – Gore,
Bush, Buchanan, Nader – I am unaccustomed to people looking
beyond the talking heads and the so-called platforms to the
social forces that underwrite them.
as we are inaugurating our own de facto regime – the idiot prince, Dubya, and the
court of his father, the imanence grise – the Haitian "opposition" is
swearing Aristide will never sit. February 7th is his inauguration,
and they have not only denounced it as "illegal and illegitimate," they
have formed their own "parallel" government. Some
have claimed that "extra-Constitutional means" will
be employed if necessary.
is the "opposition," whose
latest handle is Convergence Democratique? It's always French.
class speaks French," Harry says. "But all Haitians
speak Kreyol. When the dominant class doesn't want the people
to know what it's doing, it speaks in French."
is the latest in a line of "opposition" coalitions. During
their failed attempt to buy the last election, fueled by American
dollars from the National Endowment for Democracy, the dominant
formation was called Espace de Concertacion. The name changed,
but many of the people are the same. All believe that in the
shadows, behind the curtain of these "oppositions," are
macoutes and the U.S. Embassy's Political Section, aka the
is eclectic. Pasteur Luc Mesadieu, a Protestant fundamentalist,
Charles, ex-communist turned chief bourgeois ideologue, Serge
Gilles, long-time representative for French political interests
in Haiti, Evans Paul, former mayor of Port-au-Prince whose
party the FNCD Aristide cut out of his cabinet in 1991, Victor
Benoit, an ex radio personality and perennial political lightweight
with no clear positions, but who "shows up" at every
new "initiative," Hubert de Roncerey, Baby Doc's
Minister of Social Affairs who in that capacity acted as slave-trader
for the Dominican cane plantations, and fellow Duvalierist,
Reynold George, a man widely believed here to have been involved
in drug trafficking.
is to whom the "free" press
of the United States refers when they cite the Haitian "opposition." Convergence
plays them like a perch on light tackle. The Haitian press,
emulating the master, gives this 15- mini-party coalition's
machinations plenty of air time and directly assists their
Every faction of the
Haitian dominant class, factions who are generally at war with
one another, is represented in Convergence. Their one point
of agreement? They are all opposed to Aristide.
There have been no
smoking guns, but when they threatened violence, the level
of violence escalated. When they threatened bombs, there were
bombs. Two alleged coup-plotting cells have already fled this
year to avoid arrest, one to the Dominican Republic, the other
to Ecuador. In no case has the United States political establishment
or the obedient corporate press called for investigations or
expressed an iota of outrage.
on January 9th, a small affiliate of Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas
party, the Ti
Komunite Leglis (TKL) had one chapter that made a veiled threat
in response to the announcement of Convergence that it would
launch its "parallel government," They produced a
list of "collaborators," some of whose names were
patently ridiculous. Fanmi Lavalas is largely, and regrettably,
unstructured. Loose cannons appear with some frequency. But
it was a threat, not terribly specific, with no action taken.
It was a hotheaded and inappropriate reaction to a very real
campaign to reverse the popular will. Still, the shit storm
followed from up North.
Congressmen Benjamin Gillman (NY) and Peter Goss (FL) made
their joint denouncement. "In speaking at the church of
St. Jean Bosco, the men issuing these threats clearly suggested
to Haitians that they were speaking for Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide...
...Instead of keeping his promises to President Clinton [to
reschedule elections of previously elected Senators, and other
capitulations], Mr. Aristide is condoning by his silence thuggish
acts of violence in his name." Of course, there were no "acts." But
facts have never been obstacles to Republicans. And there was
deafening silence from Gillman, Goss, and all the rest, when
weeks earlier Evans Paul called for Haitian drivers to run
down Fanmi Lavalas in the streets.
attacks on Aristide from Convergence and the reactionaries
will continue regardless of what concessions Aristide makes.
It is not Aristide they hate, but his connection to the masses
that they fear. He was elected with 92 percent of the vote.
is a terrible power as they see it."
There it is again.
The one true constant.
Harry and many others
wish Aristide would use his immense power to respond decisively
to the attacks, but they fear the worst. Aristide could very
well be another Peron. He began as a nationalist and a populist,
but under incessant pressure and with more than a little personal
ambition, he is being co-opted through his own desire to be
a conciliator. He may inevitably shift to the right. Indeed,
Aristide is already offering an olive branch to Marc Bazin,
former World Bank representative, the U.S. supported candidate
against Aristide in 1991, a member of the subsequent coup regime's
cabinet, and the darling of the U.S. neoliberal establishment.
"Who cares how
the Bush Administration will react if he mobilizes the population
against Convergence?" asks Numa. "Convergence and
the U.S. want him out, whether he does or not... because he
can. We have a saying in Haiti. If you don't say 'Good morning'
to the devil, he will eat you. If you do say 'Good morning'
to the devil... he will eat you."
Lavalas itself is
horizontal, lacking structure. The handful of American petit
bourgeois radicals who know anything about Haiti at all see
this as somehow democratic, opposing hierarchy to democracy,
an absurd polarity. Aristide is alone, floating atop this sea
of cliques, each with its little head, and each of them competing
for the favor of the President. The whole organization is shot
through with fractions and opportunism.
sharp criticisms of Aristide aside, they defend him not because
of some personal
quality and not based on his program, but because he was chosen
by Haiti's majority, unlike Dubya, who seized power through
a judicial coup d'etat. "The population selected him,
and if he betrays them, the population can reject him. We are
not defending just Aristide. We are defending the people's
right to select their own leaders. And we are defending our
Dupuy, former Ambassador-at-Large for Aristide during the
1991-4 coup period,
says, "He will make mistakes. He has made mistakes. But
the people have the right to be wrong."
They were incensed
at the demagogic attacks on the Haitian elections by the U.S.,
and our own tragi-comic electoral conundrum only reinforced
PPN people I talk to admit that this fight among politicos – focused for the
time being against Aristide – is really a family feud, a tussle
among the bourgeoisie, the land-bourgeoisie (macoutes), the
trade-bourgeoisie (compradors), the lumpen-bourgeoisie (drug
traffickers) – that has been temporarily set aside to close
ranks against this man who has captured the imagination of
the ominous many. Aristide is conciliating with them on every
front, but he can never escape their terminal fear of his rapport
with the great potentiality.
And the mighty Northern
metropole is involved. It's to the hegemon these plotters always
turn in a pinch. So this is not just an internal matter, not
just Haiti inventing itself. With the Bush regime in, the old
CIA covert operations branch will be strengthened. The macoute
sector that they conspired with to construct the FRAPH, the
right-wing terrorists of the Cedras-Francois era, will be strengthened
with them. After all, organizing is based on existing relationships.
options are not pretty for Convergence, but the threats are
out there. They
have said they will not tolerate this "illegal" government
of Aristide. "They feel they can not afford to look like
it's all a bluff," Harry says. Haiti is a backward society,
and machismo matters. Reputations and rumors can have the power
of bombs and bullets.
are a lot of variables. The Police Nacionale d'Haiti (PNH)
are not cohesive
in their political loyalties. If they took sides at all in
a fight, they would be fragmented, and many would side with
Aristide. Others, aggressively recruited during the U.S. occupation
by the CIA, might move against. But it's a wild card. So a
coup might have to be privatized. A group of re-armed Fraphists
perhaps, with the tacit approval of their old CIA handlers.
Of course this kind of putsch is a very risky option. Alleged
conspirators are already on the international lam. [Now in
2004 it appears we will see exactly what has been agreed upon. – SG]
Assassination of Aristide
is also very risky. Aristide's assassination would ignite a
conflagration. The only way this might work is if they could
convince the Dominicans to intervene. Post-assassination turbulence
creates the fear that this instability will spill across the
Dominican border, so the Dominicans have their pretext to invade.
We have this discussion in the last week of January, and this
particular speculation will prove prescient.
Ah, the dilemmas of
National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, a fellow oil-person
who shares the
Bush thirst for Southwest Asian petroleum, and who has promised
a Kissinger-like realpolitik, says this administration will
only intervene with direct military force when there is a clear
and compelling interest for the U.S. ruling class. She advocates
having our allies shoulder more of the load in the periphery – a
question of economy of force. Allies like the Dominicans.
This is also consistent
with the Powell Doctrine for the U.S. military. Begin with
a measurable objective. Apply overwhelming high-tech force
and limit American casualties to an absolute minimum. Gain
control over the press, and give complacent America its morality
American invasion is surely no recipe for Haiti. They can
bomb the existing infrastructure
into an ash heap and it will leave 75 percent of the country
yawning. Infrastructure? What's that? The international press
can enter Haiti through its porous borders with near impunity.
And the last occupation, beginning in 1994, in which I participated,
is an indication of what the next would be... indeterminate,
intimidating no one for more than a moment, and a risk that
our own soldiers – especially black soldiers – will see more
than they ought of our own government's motives and methods.
Haiti is slippery.
It's hard to get hold of. Sometimes it bites.
"If the Dominicans
invade, and Aristide is dead," says Numa, "then the
OAS can be invited in to relieve them. The U.S. can then play
a role of post-crisis benevolence as it restructures Haiti
to suit itself." This is mass paranoia if it is paranoia
at all. This strategy is one the U.S. has employed again and
again. Americans even wrote Haiti's Constitution once.
pretexts for intervention are not for Haitian consumption.
The average illiterate peasant knows bullshit when she or he
sees it, literally and figuratively. Their experience with
both is vast. These pretexts are for us, the blan, the Americans.
We are the real market for political snake oil, for rationalization,
for Manichean simplicity, for denial.
January 27, 2001.
Convergence has its conference, one they have projected would
draw 20,000 supporters. Three hundred would be much closer
to the mark.
They changed the location,
because the giant Rex Theater at Champ de Mars feared popular
outrage against them. It is a stroke of luck, in a sense. The
Rex would have dwarfed them with the low turnout. They end
up having it at OPL headquarters.
The government, anxious
to avoid all criticism, dispatches a phalanx of PNH to provide
security for Convergence. Threats have been called in. Indeed,
arrests are made when two men are caught with anti-Convergence
leaflets and bag loads of throwing stones. Oddly, it's Convergence
who appeals for their release. Both men are identified as members
of a Convergence affiliate.
Had this charade not
been unmasked, the State Department and the New York Times
would doubtless have been decrying, a la Gillman and Goss,
Aristide-inspired acts of violence.
31, 2001. The Dominicans have mobilized all available armed
the Haitian border, ostensibly to interdict "drug traffic." Overnight,
whatever drugs may or may not cross from Haiti to the Dominican
Republic have become "a threat to Dominican sovereignty."
mediated meeting between Aristide and Convergence, to be
facilitated by the
Papal Nuncio, scheduled for the 31st, didn't take place. No
one is sure why. Convergence has announced a new deadline to
name the "parallel government." February 6th. The
day before Aristide's nomination. Convergence has been emboldened
by Aristide's display of weakness, his legitimizing of Convergence
by offering to "negotiate."
"If you give
the thief your finger," says Numa. "He will take
off your hand."
The PPN believes that
Convergence, cockier now with Dubya coronated, may be planning
some kind of destabilization on the 6th. If the inauguration
doesn't take place on schedule, the Constitution requires the
government to be dissolved, which triggers new elections. They
might try to engineer a Constitutional crisis. If this fails,
Aristide might be in great danger.
February 1, 2001.
On the news this morning, we hear that a Chilean general has
threatened trouble if Pinochet is imprisoned. The successful
coup of George W. Bush is rousing reaction from its sleep across
the world. There's a whiff of blood in the air. The fascists
are flashing their teeth.
There were a few demonstrations
after the Bush judicial coup, but America tossed a bit then
fell back to sleep. The vast majority of us watched the theft
of our own elections, wrung our hands for a day, and went shopping.
Blan will eat anything.
one says the Haitians can't also be distracted, bamboozled,
manipulated. A fair number
of people here still believe in werewolves and witches (instead
and CNN, I suppose). But their exploitation at the hands of
the dominant classes is brutally direct, unadorned, and unabashed.
It doesn't take a PhD. And the Haitian collective memory about
the foreign policy establishments of the United States is crisp
I leave the little
hotel I'm in, La Jolla, perched between affluence on the right
along the seawalk and the survival grind on the left where
shacks along a potted road climb unsteadily over the deforested
hill. I'm hungry.
Even my modest hotel
wants more than I can afford right now for food. It's French.
first restaurant I drop in on, where they ran out of butter
yesterday, is closed
until five for cleaning. I try the Brise de Mer. Very nice.
Very expensive. Up the hill I walk, until I see the sign for
Mont Joli Hotel – a hangout for macoutes, partisans of the
semi-feudals who dominate the north.
I just survived a bout with untreated water over the last
two days, so I need "safe" food
to give my frangible blan gut a little cover.
There is spaghetti
bolognaise on the menu for only $20 Haitian, that's $4 US since
the gourd had a dip last week (Every cent of inflation is disastrous
news for Haiti.).
I am seated in a paradise,
next to the pool, nice breeze, the great bay visible only beginning
past the coffee colored ribbon of excreta along the littoral.
The architecture is exquisite. The landscaping is lush, diverse,
brilliant, perfectly cared for. The breeze animates the palms.
Silent waves flash against the distant reef, surrounded by
delicious blues below and above the horizon.
The rich do truly
understand beauty. That's undeniable right here, right now.
And it comes cheap right here, right now.
Every tile, every
arrangement of chairs, every careful touch in the gardens,
every attentive gesture in this restaurant is applied by people
who will make less money today than I am paying for this plate
The French have arrived
for lunch. Four of them sit at a table near mine, with their
briefcases, their open collars, their ledgers, their calculators.
They are in very good spirits. It's a marvelous day, they're
making money, and they have good appetites.
They are pilot fish,
I find myself thinking. The Big Blan is still Uncle Sam.
I know. I've studied
the history, and I've done the math. Most here have no need
of the data, the dates, the tortured analyses.
Haitians are so confident of U.S. official pronouncements
that they use
them like a compass. When the U.S. Embassy expresses it aims,
it's like a north-seeking arrow – which they use to travel
directly to the south. Experience.
The French speaking
radio stations give a daily platform to something calling itself
Societe Civil, a component of Convergence led by Rosny DeRoche,
the president of Baby Doc's alma mater, College Bird. Societe
Civil is composed of a professional elite; bishops, professors,
economists and their ilk. They are perceived as a kind of ultimate
legitimizing force, having mastered the smooth Orwellian mush
of their northern mentors.
Minister Jacques Eduoard Alexis seems the only soul in the
public eye who isn't
speaking in riddles and innuendos. He has almost daily denounced
this whole Convergence charade. It's refreshing in a sea of
mountebanks to hear this resounding cry of "Bullshit!"
5, 2000. Convergence had presented a "proposal" to Aristide's
people. They will accept a three-person "co-presidency" with
Aristide and two of their people. They also want the Prime
Minister's position. This is, in Haiti, where most executive
power resides, and by the Haitian Constitution, the Prime Minister
is appointed by the President from the majority party in Parliament – which
is Fanmi Lavalas. It is a demand so absurd on its face that
my comrades, who compulsively chase news across the radio dial,
hear it and fall out with laughter.
I think of Rambouillet,
and wonder when Powell will do the yeoman's job that Madeline
Fanmi Lavalas says
they will prepare a counter-proposal. The clock is ticking.
Petit Goave, a group of young thugs claiming the grandiose
title of Jeunes
Revolucionaires – yet another affiliate of Convergence – attempt
a dechoukage against the Lavalas mayor. An uprooting. The attack
is met by a massive demonstration and withdraws. Convergence
grows desperate. Representatives of the international community
are declaring they will attend Aristide's inauguration. No
one from the de facto regime of the United States will attend.
February 6. Gerard
Gourges, former Justice Minister under the regime of macoute
General Henri Namphy, circa 1986, is declared the Provisional
President of Haiti by Convergence. Popular outrage erupts in
response to the attack in Petit Goave, in Gonaives, historically
a hotbed of popular militancy. Pasteur Silvio Diendonne of
Movement Chretien por une Nouvelle Haiti (MOCHRENAH), a local
spokesperson for Convergence, is met by a large street demonstration
led by Organizasyon Popile d' Gonaives, a Lavalas affiliate.
The streets across
Haiti fill. Paper flags and paint, blue and red, the colors
of the Haitian flag, since Dessalines' independence fighters
ripped the white out of the French tricolor, begins to decorate
every tree and stone. Aristide's power makes itself felt.
February 7, 2001.
7 AM. Inauguration day. I am underslept. Drunken revelry and
music dominated the street last night, and I have been sleeping
on the roof. My room stays hot at night and fills with mosquitoes.
I have watched the moon fill out over the last seven nights.
We have just heard
on the radio that Dominican soldiers are occupying the Hotel
El Rancho in Port-au-Prince for three days. How many we don't
know. Anpil. A lot. They are ostensibly there to give President
Mejia of the Dominican Republic security, but Mejia has now
canceled. He has his army to think about, holding him in check,
making him a partial president. And the Dominican Armed Forces
work for the United States Department of Defense.
The first word to
pop into my fuzzy, sleepless head is reconnaissance. I may
be getting paranoid.
are that the capital was quickened throughout the night with
parties and demonstrations. The U.S. State Department is warning
Americans not to travel to Haiti. They are claiming extreme
danger. I've seen this pre-conditioning before. The warning
is not to protect, but to leave an impression – part of the
set-up. Every U.S. Embassy has its Political Section. That's
double-talk for CIA. The combination of macoute and CIA here
is known as labwatwa, the laboratory. The whole place reeks
of the laboratory's concoctions today. I can't help remembering
that it waited eight months to poison the last Aristide presidency,
but there is an urgency crackling in the air around the centers
of reaction here.
gives his inauguration speech in four languages. It's a masterful
Aristide reiterates his commitment to kowtow to the eight-point
plan, and as much as swears fealty to neoliberalism. Joe Kennedy
is the sole U.S. representative, so he quotes JFK. "Ask
not what your country can do for you..." In an orgy of
obsequiousness, he calls for brotherhood with the Dominicans.
He promises dialogue with his "opposition." He promises
countless kilometers of roads, new schools, hospitals, bread.
He is setting up his own fall with that remarkable religious
Over a hundred thousand
people clamor in the street for him. They are energized by
their deathless hope. Convergence decided, wisely, to withdraw
its plan for counter-demonstration. Their last demonstration
netted fewer than 200 people.
Denis of Convergence resorts to archaic demagogy: "We refuse to see a totalitarian
hegemonic regime installed, founded on violence and constructed
on anarchy, assassinations, crime, and generalized, daily,
constant violence." This from a man who consorts now with
Duvalierists. When the last coup happened, Aristide took refuge
in his home, and 8,000 people surrounded his house, putting
themselves between him and the military's guns. The mighty
latency of this people has carried him through yet another
crisis and checked his enemies. Even as he sets them up for
a fall. The people have a right to be wrong.
to lick their wounds and confer with blan. The Dominicans check
out of the hotel. On the border they begin to stand down.
Here in Cap Haitien,
where I now sit, one can see the mountains folded, layer upon
receding layer along the northern coast. No people understand
the principle of protracted struggle better than Haitians.
Deye mon, gen mon. Beyond every mountain, is a mountain. Their
rebellion has been punished, from home and abroad, for 197
years. When these resilient masses finally see through the
fog of these internecine battles for privilege, position, and
power, there will be hell to pay.
Another day: Two peasants
lead us now on a foot tour of the region around Marmelade.
My age catches up with me, and I beg for the mercy of a halt.
If this country were flattened out, it would be the size of
Texas, I think. The word Haiti is Arawak for mountain. And
some 5 or 6 million wills are daily forged on these breathless
the conciliator, may go the way of Toussaint L'Overture,
or perhaps he will
find the spirit of Dessalines. Plenty of people here still
name their children Dessalines. Dessalines' own DNA has by
now been broadcast throughout his nation. New Year's Day, 2004,
is the Revolutionary Bicentennial, and it's in people's heads – the
work left undone.
There is a new saying
on the street here. Why should we be afraid of one Bush, when
we are 8 million bouches? Bring it on. We can take anything.
and gentlemen, the revolution will not be televised..."
Back to 2004:
All warnings that
the finger would give way to the hand are coming to pass. Hopefully
the Aristide government will take all action necessary to secure
the nation, and if they do they will be vilified by the US
press. That's why we need to get this story out there now,
so there is at least some perspective to help the left avoid
heading down the wrong path. Aristide needs to wage a ruthless
fight to retake each of those towns in turn, to acknowledge
that the macouto-bourgeoisie is waging a civil war, and to
state that this is war, openly, in order to do what is necessary.
If not, then the right-wing paramilitaries will maintain the
initiative, they will operate within the logic of war, and
they will topple Aristide's government and clamp down yet again
on popular sovereignty, with assistance from the hegemon to
I have no doubt that
by-and-by the heroic people of Haiti will fight back if it
becomes necessary, but for now their fight is to root out this
The question has been
called in Haiti. Sovereignty or subjugation. This is the stark
choice, and the time for conciliation is past. Now it is time
To stay abreast of
developments in Haiti without relying on the capitalist press,
go to the English section of www.haiti-progres.com.
highly recommend Stan Goff’s latest book, “Full
Spectrum Disorder: The military in the New American Century (Soft
Skull Press, 2003). Goff is also author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion
of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000). He
is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee,
a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and the father
of an active duty soldier. Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is [email protected].
Goff can be reached at: [email protected].