Join 3,523 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Haiti
February 27, 2004 4:52 PM   Subscribe

inside Haiti a photo journalist blogs on the conditions in Haiti. No photos yet.
The place is awash with drug money, probably on both sides - Philippe is the former police chief of a town where i've heard reports of people walking down the streets with suitcases full of money, probably not sourced from shaking down shoe cleaners. The chimeres that searched us on the way down from Saint Marc a few days ago were clearly high on some upper, i'd guess coke, amphetamines or both, or maybe crack.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht (26 comments total)

 
I'm leaving miami on the 11:20 plane to port au prince.

Preliminary reports indicate that the place is, mildly put, a fucking mess.

posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 4:55 PM on February 27, 2004


inside Haiti a photo journalist blogs on the conditions in Haiti. No photos yet.

I've written the Great American Novel. No words yet.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on February 27, 2004


jon - the focus of the post was the text in the blog. He was just incidentally a photojournalist.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2004


sorry for the misleading wording.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:09 PM on February 27, 2004


i was in port - au - prince in 1996 . it was a fucking mess then too .
posted by mishaco at 5:30 PM on February 27, 2004


jon - the focus of the post was the text in the blog. He was just incidentally a photojournalist.

I figured as much. The sentence was just too odd to resist goofing on.

As far as Haiti goes, it's always been chaotic, and I imagine it always will be. Best thing we could do is just leave it the hell alone and avoid getting sucked into the insanity.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on February 27, 2004


'Best thing we could do is just leave it the hell alone'
I tend to agree. Im not trying to incite activism or anything of the sort.. i just found the insight fascinating.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 6:35 PM on February 27, 2004


i doubt we'll get involved unless they start marryin' up fags.
posted by quonsar at 11:22 PM on February 27, 2004


Best thing we could do is just leave it the hell alone and avoid getting sucked into the insanity.

Besides the total lack of compassion which that policy would entail, it should be noted that the Monroe Doctrine has not been rescinded by any president. Any humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere is ultimately our responsibility.

In 1994, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake said of the crisis in Rwanda:

"When I wake up every morning and look at the headlines and the stories and the images on television of these conflicts, I want to work to end every conflict. I want to work to save every child out there. And I know the president does, and I know the American people do. But neither we nor the international community have the resources nor the mandate to do so. So we have to make distinctions. We have to ask the hard questions about where and when we can intervene. And the reality is that we cannot often solve other people's problems; we can never build their nations for them ..."

In Rwanda, 800,000 people died of a total population of 7 million. Haiti's population is also 7 million.

As much as I despise George Bush, he has the ability, on this issue, to redeem a shread of the compassion he claims he has. And he can avoid what I consider to be the biggest single moral failure of the Clinton presidency.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:57 AM on February 28, 2004


I wish he'd kept blogging Iraq. What a let down to read his fascinating I'm-about-to-go-in posts and then jump a year to Haiti.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:10 AM on February 28, 2004


key dates in Haiti's history

To hit some of the high points of U.S. involvement in Haitian politics :

"....Using Haiti’s constant political instability as an alibi, the U.S. invaded in 1915 and maintained a brutal military occupation for 19 years. In terms eerily similar to those used today about the U.S. military’s control over Iraq, the occupation of Haiti was justified as an exercise in nation building......[ later in the century ] "Duvalier proved himself a useful Cold War ally to U.S. imperialism, championing corporations and serving as an "anti-communist" counterweight to Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Similarly, his son and successor Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier carried out Corporate America’s agenda of "neoliberalism," opening up the economy and offering up Haiti’s poor as a cheap, heavily repressed labor force for foreign corporations.
Throughout the Duvaliers’ reign, the U.S. government refused to recognize Haitians fleeing state violence as political refugees and maintained a policy of forced repatriation--which meant certain torture and death.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
YET DESPITE poverty and repression, Haiti’s peasants and workers again rose up to fight for justice and liberty. In the 1980s, a mass movement known as "Lavalas"--meaning a cleansing wave or flood in Haitian Creole--toppled the hated Duvalier regime and embarked on a process of "dechoukaj" (uprooting) of the entrenched power structure.
In 1986, Baby Doc was forced to flee the country. In a telling departure from its usual policy towards genuine refugees, the U.S. government sent a military plane to collect their favorite dictator and take him--along with the money he stole from Haitians--to a safe refuge in France.
In a democratic election in 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide--a priest influenced by liberation theology--was elected president by a massive majority on promises of social reform. But just months later, a military coup--funded by the nation’s richest families and sponsored by the CIA--took down the democratically elected government and signaled a new reign of terror.
Mass arrests, assassinations, torture, beatings, rape and other atrocities became the reality for Haitians for the next three years. In 1991, 38,000 Haitians sought refuge in the U.S. But U.S. policy--under both George Bush Sr. and then Bill Clinton, who reversed his campaign promise on this as so much else--still refused to recognize Haitians as political refugees.
Less than 5 percent received asylum. The rest were repatriated, with hundreds being incarcerated at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, which now houses victims of the U.S.-led "war on terror." U.S. officials even gave names and addresses of returned refugees to the coup authorities, guaranteeing arrest, torture and execution for unknown numbers. "


_______________________________________________

I agree with PrinceValium : as per the above (long) quote, the U.S. has had a major hand in creating the conditions which have led to this anarchy : and with a fair amount of blood on it's hands, moral conscience would urge a redress, that the U.S. now take some responsibility for this mayhem

But it's transparently clear that an intervention in Haiti would serve no purpose in George W. Bush's re-election strategy, even if the U.S. had troops to spare ( which is not currently the case ).

Nation building in Iraq was foreseen, by the Bush Neocons, to fulfill a wide range of objectives. Oil, military bases for the U.S., the new "Democratic Domino Theory" ( the creation of democracy in Iraq would create a momentum that would sweep through the region, bringing liberal representative democracy to the oppressed Muslim masses ), GW's personal animus against Saddam.....yada yada ( I could go on, but it would be pointless )

By contrast, there is no percentage for the U.S. for intervention in Haiti - to put it quite brutally. If the U.S. hadn't invaded Iraq and if the chaos there had broken out later, say in October - well, then - I could have envisioned a U.S. intervention of convenience to juice GW Bush's re-election.

But as things stand, there is no profit for the U.S. in Haiti.

And - of course - is the distinct possibility that the U.S. has played a role in fomenting this uprising against Aristide - who has long been a target of U.S. right wing animosity for his Liberation Theology political populism which is seen as a major threat to U.S. interests throughout all of Latin America.

Once, when it was less internationally and domestically contentious, the U.S. had little reservation about sending in the marines to "rectify" regimes or governments in Central and Latin America which did not toe the U.S. line. Now, America has learned (in the "Backyard", the Caribbean, Central, and Latin America) considerable subtlety in cloaking it's hand.

______________________________________________

In the background of all this is both Haiti's extreme economic underdevelopment and extreme inequality in wealth distribution and also, underlying that - extreme environmental deterioration. The Haitian countryside is denuded of natural riches, close to desert, it's original forests long gone, it's hillsides scarred by erosion.

In this, the tragedy of Haiti bears much resemblance to that of Easter Island :

"In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?"
posted by troutfishing at 7:03 AM on February 28, 2004


Ron has just left to the holiday inn. Dworzack and Anderson are down there.
Ron Haviv, Thomas Dworzack and Chris Anderson. All great photojournalists.

So why wouldn't Junior want to support Aristide more strongly, since he is democratically elected and all. Or is that not really the principle he says it is. You know like in Iraq.
posted by chrismc at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2004


In this, the tragedy of Haiti bears much resemblance to that of Easter Island

Maybe in that factor alone, but Easter Island's remote location could be used to justify lack of knowledge or aid in that debacle.

But Haiti is fairly close off the coast of Florida, and considering the small amount of troops it would require to quash the uprising currently going on, I find it questionable that our administration feels this not worth acting on, simply because supporting this democracy would mean supporting a person they don't like (a risk of democracy in practice).
posted by Busithoth at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2004


Easter Island?


trout do you spout just about anything so that you can tout the party line. I have made easy work of your sloopy thinking and it seems to not stop, i'm am to conclude you are smart though not very wise, nor do you care to research alot of your "facts" which, for the most are opinion generated to elicit praise from the cheerleaders.

the U.S. has had a major hand in creating the conditions which have led to this anarchy : and with a fair amount of blood on it's hands, moral conscience would urge a redress, that the U.S. now take some responsibility for this mayhem

Sorry, wrong. The U.S. washed it's hands of haiti when Clinton did his little dance.


Little if anything has changed.

1838

France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.

1862

The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.

1983

Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declares publicly that, "Things must change here."

1986

Widespread protests against "Baby Doc" lead the U.S. to arrange for Duvalier and his family to be exiled to France. Army leader General Henri Namphy heads a new National Governing Council.

1990

Avril declares a state of siege in January. Rising protests and urging from the American Ambassador convince Avril to resign. A Council of State forms out of negotiations among democratic sectors, charged with running a Provisional Government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot.


U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle visits Haiti and tells Army leaders, "No more coups." Assistance is sought from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) to help organize general elections in December.

But it's transparently clear that an intervention in Haiti would serve no purpose in George W. Bush's re-election strategy, even if the U.S. had troops to spare ( which is not currently the case )


No only a few thousand troops would be needed, besides the french have this covered....what? you have not noticed that we have been taking frances led on this?
posted by clavdivs at 9:40 AM on February 28, 2004


clavdivs - You're in a mood, eh ? My observation was an orthodox one, though I probably assumed to much of my audience. I should have been more explicit : environmental degradation, when sufficiently severe (as with Haiti), will exert a strong enough economic impact to create social disorder.

This is actually a well accepted historical point. See : the impact of climatic disruption and environmental degradation in fall of nations, cultures, and empires.

Also - I was being a bit unfair : Haiti, as such, was co-created by many parties. Haitians, French, the US......I just don't think the US should wash it's hands of the situation.

But I have noticed France's lead. On your "only a few thousand troops" point, I thought exactly the same. So : more's the tragedy if the US does not take significant action.
posted by troutfishing at 10:07 AM on February 28, 2004


There was an article in the times today about the current sad state of affairs. Of course, Aristide had his problems. Nobody is perfect, least of all in Haiti, where it appears that power inevitably corrupts. But consider the human rights records of the rebels... they're a bunch of thugs. Aristide was the democratically elected leader, and I think it's important that the institution of democracy be supported. Everyone suspects that these rebel leaders are being supported by the USA, and that's my main point of outrage. Whether this is my liberal fantasy or not remains to be seen, but the Times piece points out that many of the opposition leaders were originally on US dirty deeds payroll. In my ongoing study of about a dozen Brooklyn Haitian cab drivers, I've learned that Aristide is still very popular among the cab drivers of Brooklyn, and his opposition is perceived as being propped up by "la grande puissance"--that 2% of the population that controls half the country's wealth. Aristide's controversial reforms have included mandating that children go to school instead of providing cheap labor for local and international business interests. So what do I suggest we do now? I dont know. It's a sad situation.
posted by mert at 10:33 AM on February 28, 2004


Yes, we should let a country not too far from Florida go to hell in a handbasket. No big deal. Jesus.

Our haitian refugee policy has been horrible (Cuban? Come on in! Haitian? Well, you guys are a little too dark for our tastes...) and I know the idiots are still running the White House but it would be nice to demonstrate some honest to goodness leadership for a change.
posted by owillis at 10:43 AM on February 28, 2004


no owillis, i do not think it is a matter of color but a matter of ingenuity. Cubans convert cars into boats to come here. Haitians just wave a gun and commandeer a ship.
(kidding)

Trout, (im harsh but i care policy is wearing thin...sorry;)
neutrality is taking a position. Call me a weirdo, but this rebel commander seems pretty keen. No doubt the capital will fall, but who will be in charge?
Let France run with this.

sure, easter island is viable comparison, though odd, as as far as i know, not alot was known about easter island.
posted by clavdivs at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2004


I know the idiots are still running the White House
228 years and counting!
posted by thirteen at 2:49 PM on February 28, 2004


A friend of mine got back from Port-au-Prince, visiting his family, just a few weeks ago.

He told me that the rebels were financed by the US to overthrow Aristide, because the US had previously asked him permission to set up a military base in Haiti and Aristide said that a condition for that was to allow Haitians to visit the USA without restrictions.

I dont remember reading about this in the media... or hearing about it anywhere else, so this might just reflect some of the rumours going around in Haiti's capital...
posted by titboy at 8:41 PM on February 28, 2004


Interestingly enough, Canada's already sent troops, albeit (thus far) only to protect Canadian citizens in Haiti.

I seriously hope the rumours regarding America's backing the rebels are untrue. I thought the US had gotten over playing that sort of dirty pool at the end of the Cold War...
posted by arto at 9:51 PM on February 28, 2004


gotten over playing that sort of dirty pool at the end of the Cold War
PLEASE. That idiot game will continue until the cows come home. I'm not saying it's at play in Haiti, but we've got our ink in several hundred wells.
posted by owillis at 10:56 PM on February 28, 2004


http://www.madre.org/country_haiti_crisis.html

From what I've heard from folks in Jacmel (the Roots Without End Society, a vodou congregation), it's pretty much business as usual. In fact, they were surprised to know the media in the US is making such a big deal of it all of a sudden. Can you say "election year?"
posted by Foosnark at 9:15 PM on February 29, 2004


Jeffrey Sachs on Haiti.
posted by homunculus at 12:18 PM on March 1, 2004


clavdivs - An unusual comparison, certainly. But a lot has been discovered recently about Easter Island - basically, humans showed up and ate and chopped that island's flora and fauna to the ground....then the population crashed.

Haiti is approaching that point when humans - as they get desperate enough - begin to fight for survival. Nothin' special 'bout that.
posted by troutfishing at 8:12 PM on March 1, 2004


Anyway - A Bush Adm. coup notwithstanding, I think the current Haitian crisis is not a simple manichean struggle. Human Rights Watch - an organization I greatly respect - has some harsh words for Aristide's recent reign.
posted by troutfishing at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2004


« Older ultimate flash sonic...  |  The art of abstraction: 'the i... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments