Saturday, March 27, 2004
Should Bush be impeached?
. . . or giving up. Because that's what's so frustrating, is when you encounter remarkably intelligent people who clearly purport to be free-thinkers unhampered by ideology, yet who show such remarkable gullibility and ignorance.
How about, oh, gee, I don't know . . . the war[s]?
How about the 2000 election?
Ever heard of Enron?
How about Halliburton?
And, perhaps even more importantly, ever heard of the Carlyle Group?
Long-time Bush connections with the Saudi Royal family and the Bin Laden family not scandalous enough for you? How about the fact that Bush's Saudi friends were allowed to fly back to their country on 9-11?
Then there's the fact that Bush persistently opposed the formation of the 9-11 commission, then persistently impeded its work, then refused to declassify neccessary documents for it, then refused to testify before it . . .
Does anyone remember what the administration was saying right after 9-11? Are we all amnesiacs? They pretended the attacks were completely out of the blue and had never been dreamed of, and therefore of course they were unable to do anything beforehand to prevent them. Or to do anything during them. We're supposed to believe that everyone was so stunned with shock that almost 2 hours after the first plane crashed into the first tower, they still had no idea that the hijackers might fly one of the planes into the White House or the Pentagon. Hmmm . . .
Lots of questions remain unanswered about 9-11 to this day. More than enough to make for a "scandal."
There's also the fact that, according to the FBI, they were forced to back off from investigating terror cases (involving Saudi Arabia).
And then there's the usual scandal stuff, like Bush's daddy giving him a baseball team; the huge and undeserved profit he made on Harkin Oil; and parading around in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier for one of the most expensive photo ops ever created (all at tax-payers' expense, by the way) despite having been AWOL during Vietnam--which is perhaps even less significant than is the fact that he got to be a pilot in the first place. And the fact that he only got into Harvard because of preferential treatment may not be surprising, but it certainly is scandalous in my book.
I was talking to my brother about the "liberal" media, and he summed it up well: "There's just so much horrible stuff about the administration to report that if they actually report it all it looks like they're biased against Bush."
Let's just recap a partial list of arguably impeachable stuff:
1. Withdrawing from the few important international treaties we'd signed.
2. Essentially disavowing the U.N. and announcing that the U.S. has the right to do what the Nazi's did if we so choose.
3. Repeatedly and deliberately lying to the American people (and probably to Congress, though we're not privy to the relevant hearings) about Iraq's connection with Al Qaeda and, by implication, of course, to 9-11, in order to garner support for an illegal and unnecessary war that was well understood in advance to be more likely to increase the threat of terrorism.
4. Planting spies in the U.N. in a further effort to launch an aggressive war.
5. Further lying to the American people and to the world by claiming that the war was about disarming Iraq and that the inspections were not working.
6. More importantly, lying to the American people and to the world by claiming that we were seeking cooperation with Iraq and the U.N. when in fact the Iraq war had already been launched (in August of 2002).
7. Repeated lies about WOMD, both before and after the invasion, including several claims afterward that they had been found.
8. Use of napalms and cluster bombs in the war, in violation of the Geneva conventions.
9. Refusing to give any sort of estimate (again, either to the American people or to Congress) regarding the costs of the war.
10. Demanding, in spite of this, another $87 Billion in tax-payers' money to fund the war.
11. Omitting from the federal budget the immense costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
12. Focusing almost exclusively on Iraq rather than focusing on preventing terrorist attacks.
13. Strongly opposing a commission to investigate 9-11.
14. After reluctantly agreeing to such a commission, co-opting it by self-appointing its heads and refusing (along with Condoleeza Rice) to testify before it; and consistently obstructing its progress, refusing to cooperate with it or to release important relevant documents.
15. Claiming, after 9-11, that there had been no threats or known warnings beforehand and that the attack was completely unexpected.
16. Failing to do anything to protect us while the hijackings were taking place.
17. Increasing anti-Americanism and the threat of terrorism by calling this a war between "Good and Evil" and labeling the "War on Terror" a "Crusade."
18. Using 9-11 as a pretext to do just about anything he wants and calling the victims of the attack "heroes" in the "War on Terror."
19. Essentially labeling anyone and everyone who fails to support him wholeheartedly "terrorists" by announcing "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."
20. Backing coups in Venezuela and Haiti and possibly (???) kidnapping Aristide, the only democratically-elected president Haiti has ever had.
21. Repeatedly claiming that the U.S. only seeks "democracy" even while pressuring every country on the globe to support the Iraq war over the opposition of the vast majorities of their populations.
22. Increasing anti-Americanism and the threat of terrorism by associating the Palestinians with Al Qaeda, making almost no demands on Israel, and thwarting any possibility of the "Road Map" to Middle East peace actually succeeding.
23. Accusing the Spanish people of giving in to terrorism by electing who they wanted to elect.
I don't care how much of a religious-right fanatic you are, or how puritanical in sexual matters; we should all be surprised that Bush hasn't deliberately gotten himself into a sex scandal to distract from . . . well, everything.
I guess Card probably means (what I can only assume he means) is that he hasn't heard of any scandals; which is to say the media has not really reported them.
Mr. Card and I clearly differ on our views of the media. We both agree, I guess, that it's deeply flawed--but for different reasons. To me, it's pretty hard not to see that, when there's this much stuff about Bush and it's seldom reported, the mainstream media in the U.S. is hardly "liberal" or politically biased to the left. And some of it is coming out now, but where were these bloody people before the invasion when the information really mattered??
Impeachment might not be the best idea in the world--especially two impeachments in a row, that just seems somehow absurd and repugnant. But I will say this: anyone who thinks Clinton should have been impeached for lying about sex must support--very strongly--the impeachment of Bush. I just can't see any logically consistent way around that conclusion.
At any rate, if anyone's interested, ImpeachCentral.com is trying to set the process in motion . . .
Also look for Bushwarcrimes.org in the very near future . . .
John Dean--advisor and White House lawyer to Nixon--has a new book out called "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush," in which he apparently makes a very strong case for the impeachment of "Dub'ya." (Buy it here.)
(I also very strongly recommend "Secrets And Lies" by Dilip Hiro . (It's actually not nearly as polemical as it sounds, but it does reveal many important facts about "Operation Iraqi Freedom--perhaps the most crucial of which is that the war had already begun in the fall of 2002, and that Cluster Bombs and Napalm were used rather extensively.)
Here's an article by Dean addressing some of the relevant issues:
Missing Weapons Of Mass Destruction:
Is Lying About The Reason For War An Impeachable Offense?
By JOHN W. DEAN
Friday, Jun. 06, 2003
President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake - acts of war against another nation.
Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away - unless, perhaps, they start another war.
That seems unlikely. Until the questions surrounding the Iraqi war are answered, Congress and the public may strongly resist more of President Bush's warmaking.
Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson's distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from reelection. President Richard Nixon's false statements about Watergate forced his resignation.
Frankly, I hope the WMDs are found, for it will end the matter. Clearly, the story of the missing WMDs is far from over. And it is too early, of course, to draw conclusions. But it is not too early to explore the relevant issues.
President Bush's Statements On Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction
Readers may not recall exactly what President Bush said about weapons of mass destruction; I certainly didn't. Thus, I have compiled these statements below. In reviewing them, I saw that he had, indeed, been as explicit and declarative as I had recalled.
Bush's statements, in chronological order, were:
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
United Nations Address
September 12, 2002
"Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons."
"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
October 5, 2002
"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."
"We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."
"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States."
"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" - his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech
October 7, 2002
"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
State of the Union Address
January 28, 2003
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
Address to the Nation
March 17, 2003
Should The President Get The Benefit Of The Doubt?
When these statements were made, Bush's let-me-mince-no-words posture was convincing to many Americans. Yet much of the rest of the world, and many other Americans, doubted them.
As Bush's veracity was being debated at the United Nations, it was also being debated on campuses - including those where I happened to be lecturing at the time.
On several occasions, students asked me the following question: Should they believe the President of the United States? My answer was that they should give the President the benefit of the doubt, for several reasons deriving from the usual procedures that have operated in every modern White House and that, I assumed, had to be operating in the Bush White House, too.
First, I assured the students that these statements had all been carefully considered and crafted. Presidential statements are the result of a process, not a moment's thought. White House speechwriters process raw information, and their statements are passed on to senior aides who have both substantive knowledge and political insights. And this all occurs before the statement ever reaches the President for his own review and possible revision.
Second, I explained that - at least in every White House and administration with which I was familiar, from Truman to Clinton - statements with national security implications were the most carefully considered of all. The White House is aware that, in making these statements, the President is speaking not only to the nation, but also to the world.
Third, I pointed out to the students, these statements are typically corrected rapidly if they are later found to be false. And in this case, far from backpedaling from the President's more extreme claims, Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer had actually, at times, been even more emphatic than the President had. For example, on January 9, 2003, Fleischer stated, during his press briefing, "We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
In addition, others in the Administration were similarly quick to back the President up, in some cases with even more unequivocal statements. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly claimed that Saddam had WMDs - and even went so far as to claim he knew "where they are; they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
Finally, I explained to the students that the political risk was so great that, to me, it was inconceivable that Bush would make these statements if he didn't have damn solid intelligence to back him up. Presidents do not stick their necks out only to have them chopped off by political opponents on an issue as important as this, and if there was any doubt, I suggested, Bush's political advisers would be telling him to hedge. Rather than stating a matter as fact, he would be say: "I have been advised," or "Our intelligence reports strongly suggest," or some such similar hedge. But Bush had not done so.
So what are we now to conclude if Bush's statements are found, indeed, to be as grossly inaccurate as they currently appear to have been?
After all, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and given Bush's statements, they should not have been very hard to find - for they existed in large quantities, "thousands of tons" of chemical weapons alone. Moreover, according to the statements, telltale facilities, groups of scientists who could testify, and production equipment also existed.
So where is all that? And how can we reconcile the White House's unequivocal statements with the fact that they may not exist?
There are two main possibilities. One that something is seriously wrong within the Bush White House's national security operations. That seems difficult to believe. The other is that the President has deliberately misled the nation, and the world.
A Desperate Search For WMDs Has So Far Yielded Little, If Any, Fruit
Even before formally declaring war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the President had dispatched American military special forces into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, which he knew would provide the primary justification for Operation Freedom. None were found.
Throughout Operation Freedom's penetration of Iraq and drive toward Baghdad, the search for WMDs continued. None were found.
As the coalition forces gained control of Iraqi cities and countryside, special search teams were dispatched to look for WMDs. None were found.
During the past two and a half months, according to reliable news reports, military patrols have visited over 300 suspected WMD sites throughout Iraq. None of the prohibited weapons were found there.
British and American Press Reaction to the Missing WMDs
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also under serious attack in England, which he dragged into the war unwillingly, based on the missing WMDs. In Britain, the missing WMDs are being treated as scandalous; so far, the reaction in the U.S. has been milder.
New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, has taken Bush sharply to task, asserting that it is "long past time for this administration to be held accountable." "The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat," Krugman argued. "If that claim was fraudulent," he continued, "the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history - worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra." But most media outlets have reserved judgment as the search for WMDs in Iraq continues.
Still, signs do not look good. Last week, the Pentagon announced it was shifting its search from looking for WMD sites, to looking for people who can provide leads as to where the missing WMDs might be.
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, while offering no new evidence, assured Congress that WMDs will indeed be found. And he advised that a new unit called the Iraq Survey Group, composed of some 1400 experts and technicians from around the world, is being deployed to assist in the searching.
But, as Time magazine reported, the leads are running out. According to Time, the Marine general in charge explained that "[w]e've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad," and remarked flatly, "They're simply not there."
Perhaps most troubling, the President has failed to provide any explanation of how he could have made his very specific statements, yet now be unable to back them up with supporting evidence. Was there an Iraqi informant thought to be reliable, who turned out not to be? Were satellite photos innocently, if negligently misinterpreted? Or was his evidence not as solid as he led the world to believe?
The absence of any explanation for the gap between the statements and reality only increases the sense that the President's misstatements may actually have been intentional lies.
Investigating The Iraqi War Intelligence Reports
Even now, while the jury is still out as to whether intentional misconduct occurred, the President has a serious credibility problem. Newsweek magazine posed the key questions: "If America has entered a new age of pre-emption --when it must strike first because it cannot afford to find out later if terrorists possess nuclear or biological weapons--exact intelligence is critical. How will the United States take out a mad despot or a nuclear bomb hidden in a cave if the CIA can't say for sure where they are? And how will Bush be able to maintain support at home and abroad?"
In an apparent attempt to bolster the President's credibility, and his own, Secretary Rumsfeld himself has now called for a Defense Department investigation into what went wrong with the pre-war intelligence. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd finds this effort about on par with O. J.'s looking for his wife's killer. But there may be a difference: Unless the members of Administration can find someone else to blame - informants, surveillance technology, lower-level personnel, you name it - they may not escape fault themselves.
Congressional committees are also looking into the pre-war intelligence collection and evaluation. Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee would jointly investigate the situation. And the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence plans an investigation.
These investigations are certainly appropriate, for there is potent evidence of either a colossal intelligence failure or misconduct - and either would be a serious problem. When the best case scenario seems to be mere incompetence, investigations certainly need to be made.
Senator Bob Graham - a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee - told CNN's Aaron Brown, that while he still hopes they find WMDs or at least evidence thereof, he has also contemplated three other possible alternative scenarios:
One is that [the WMDs] were spirited out of Iraq, which maybe is the worst of all possibilities, because now the very thing that we were trying to avoid, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, could be in the hands of dozens of groups. Second, that we had bad intelligence. Or third, that the intelligence was satisfactory but that it was manipulated, so as just to present to the American people and to the world those things that made the case for the necessity of war against Iraq.
Senator Graham seems to believe there is a serious chance that it is the final scenario that reflects reality. Indeed, Graham told CNN "there's been a pattern of manipulation by this administration."
Graham has good reason to complain. According to the New York Times, he was one of the few members of the Senate who saw the national intelligence estimate that was the basis for Bush's decisions. After reviewing it, Senator Graham requested that the Bush Administration declassify the information before the Senate voted on the Administration's resolution requesting use of the military in Iraq.
But rather than do so, CIA Director Tenet merely sent Graham a letter discussing the findings. Graham then complained that Tenet's letter only addressed "findings that supported the administration's position on Iraq," and ignored information that raised questions about intelligence. In short, Graham suggested that the Administration, by cherrypicking only evidence to its own liking, had manipulated the information to support its conclusion.
Recent statements by one of the high-level officials privy to the decisionmaking process that lead to the Iraqi war also strongly suggests manipulation, if not misuse of the intelligence agencies. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, during an interview with Sam Tannenhaus of Vanity Fair magazine, said: "The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason." More recently, Wolfowitz added what most have believed all along, that the reason we went after Iraq is that "[t]he country swims on a sea of oil."
Worse than Watergate? A Potential Huge Scandal If WMDs Are Still Missing
Krugman is right to suggest a possible comparison to Watergate. In the three decades since Watergate, this is the first potential scandal I have seen that could make Watergate pale by comparison. If the Bush Administration intentionally manipulated or misrepresented intelligence to get Congress to authorize, and the public to support, military action to take control of Iraq, then that would be a monstrous misdeed.
As I remarked in an earlier column, this Administration may be due for a scandal. While Bush narrowly escaped being dragged into Enron, it was not, in any event, his doing. But the war in Iraq is all Bush's doing, and it is appropriate that he be held accountable.
To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."
It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.
Nixon claimed that his misuses of the federal agencies for his political purposes were in the interest of national security. The same kind of thinking might lead a President to manipulate and misuse national security agencies or their intelligence to create a phony reason to lead the nation into a politically desirable war. Let us hope that is not the case.
THE CADAVER POLITIK Home Page
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Is The U.S. Backing The Coup In Haiti? It Wouldn't Be Surprising . . .
A little background on Haiti from Noam Chomsky . . .
HAITI 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest? (excerpted from the book Killing Hope by William Blum)
Mainstream Media Fails Itself
By Peter Phillips
On February 29, Richard Boucher from the U.S. Department of State released a press release claiming that Jean Bertrand Aristide had resigned as president of Haiti and that the United State facilitated his safe departure. Within hours the major broadcast news stations in the United States including CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, and NPR were reporting that Aristide had fled Haiti. An Associated Press release that evening said "Aristide resigns, flees into exile." The next day headlines in the major newspapers across the country, including the Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, and Atlanta Journal Constitution, all announced "Aristide Flees Haiti." The Baltimore sun reported, "Haiti's first democratically-elected president was forced to flee his country yesterday like despots before him."
However on Sunday afternoon February 29, Pacific News network with reporters live in Port-au-Prince Haiti were claiming that Aristide was forced to resign by the US and taken out of the Presidential Palace by armed US marines. On Monday morning Amy Goodman with Democracy Now! news show interviewed Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Waters said she had received a phone call from Aristide at 9:00 AM EST March 1 in which Aristide emphatically denied that he had resigned and said that he had been kidnapped by US and French forces. Aristide made calls to others including TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, who verified congresswomen Waters' report.
Mainstream corporate media was faced with a dilemma. Confirmed contradictions to headlines reports were being openly revealed to hundreds of thousands of Pacifica listeners nationwide. By Monday afternoon mainstream corporate media began to respond to the charges. Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, 6:30 PM voiced, "Haiti in crisis. Armed rebels sweep into the capital as Aristide claims US troops kidnapped him; forced him out. The US calls that nonsense." Fox News Network with Brit Hume reported Colin Powell's comments, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on to the airplane. He went on to the airplane willingly, and that's the truth. Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call added, "Aristide, Šwas a thug and a leader of thugs and ran his country into the ground." The New York Times in a story buried on page 10 reported that "President Jean-Bertrand Aristide asserted Monday that he had been driven from power in Haiti by the United States in "a coup," an allegation dismissed by the White House as "complete nonsense."
Mainstream media had a credibility problem. Their original story was openly contradicted. The kidnap story could be ignored or back-paged as was done by many newspapers in the US. Or it can be framed within the context of a US denial and dismissed. Unfortunately, the corporate media seems not at all interested in conducting an investigation into the charges, seeking witnesses, or verifying contradictions. Nor is the mainstream media asking or answering the question of why they fully accept the State Department's version of the coup in the first place. Corporate media certainly had enough pre-warning to determine that Aristide was not going to willingly leave the country. Aristide had been saying exactly that for the past month during the armed attacks in the north of Haiti. Aristide was interviewed on CNN February 26. He explained that the terrorists, and criminal drug dealers were former members of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), which had led the coup in 1991 killing 5,000 people. Aristide believed that they would kill more people if a coup was allowed to happen. It was also well known in media circles that the US Undersecretary of State Roger Noriega for Latin America was a senior aide to former Senator Jesse Helms, who as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee was a longtime backer of Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier and an opponent of Aristide. These facts alone should have been a red flag regarding the State Department's version.
As a former priest and liberation theologist, Jean Bertrand Aristide stood for grassroots democracy, alleviation of poverty, and God's love for all human beings. He challenged the neo-liberal globalization efforts of the Haitian upper class and their US partners. For this he was targeted by the Bush administration. That the US waited until the day after Aristide was gone to send in troops to stabilize the country proves intent to remove him from office.
Mainstream media had every reason to question the State Department's version of the coup in Haiti, but choose instead to report a highly doubtful cover story. We deserve more from our media than their being stenographers for the government. Weapons of mass destruction aside, we need a media that looks for the truth and exposes the contradictions in the fabrications of the powerful.
Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research organization.
Peter Phillips Ph.D.
Sociology Department/Project Censored
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Ave.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Bush Hides White House's Complicity in Haiti
President Bush and his Administration this week "denied [they] encouraged rebel Haitian forces and helped push President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power." However, while Bush said we need a "renewed commitment to democracy and freedom in this hemisphere," a careful look at the White House's behavior shows that the Administration actively took the side of an armed band of "death-squad veterans and convicted murderers" against a government that had been democratically elected three times.
While Secretary of State Colin Powell initially rebuked the rebels and rejected "a proposition that says the elected president [of Haiti] must be forced out of office by thugs," the Administration soon said a solution in Haiti "could indeed involve changes in Aristide's position." Then the White House issued a "harsh statement that placed much of the blame on the Haitian president for the deadly crisis" and refused to help defend the presidential palace, effectively forcing Aristide out.
Militarily, the Administration's complicity in the coup was even more obvious. As armed gangs surrounded the Haitian capital, Powell made clear that "there is frankly no enthusiasm" for "sending in military or police forces to put down the violence" - a signal to the rebels to continue their insurgency. This alone might not have been proof of complicity considering it was a reiteration of the president's clear position that intervention in Haiti was not a "worthwhile" mission because it was "a nation-building mission" that "cost us billions." But then, at almost the moment Aristide was deposed, the President reversed his hands-off Haiti policy and ordered 2,000 U.S. Marines to secure the island.
Now, with exiled Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc'' Duvalier planning a return to the island, the Administration is facing questions about why it supported the overthrow of a government that even Vice President Cheney admitted yesterday was "democratically elected." Though Aristide certainly had a problematic record, the Administration's policies could result in the restoration of an exiled dictator "accused of human rights violations, mass killings and stealing at least $120 million from Haiti's national treasury."
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HELL IN HAITI
While some Americans reveled in the democracy, Haitians watched the thugs and leaders of the discredited Haitian Army move into power. There have been reports of shootings of Aristide supporters. Free Speech Radio carried an interview with a one of many prisoners who were on the verge of being shot. There is blood in the streets -- with US and other soldiers doing little if anything to protect the people. So far, no concerns about human rights have been expressed in Washington or at the UN. Nothing is being done to stop retaliations there, although the US government has appealed to (ordered?) the self-styled rebels to lay down their arms. The victorious members of the former Haitian army say they will hunt down former Aristide supporters who they say are armed.
And what of the deposed Jean Bertrand Aristide? We don't really know. His home in Haiti was trashed. "His" Presidential Palace is being occupied by US Marines. Ira Kurzban, the lawyer who represents Aristide says he had just learned that the Central African Republic (CAR) has shut off President Aristide's phone service. He said that armed members of the French and CAR military are guarding President Aristide and he is not free to leave. There had been reports that he was planning to go to South Africa but that the South African government had closed its door on him. Not true, according to South Africa's UN Ambassador as Democracy Now reports:
"South African ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo, says President Aristide did not request asylum or exile in South Africa, nor did the South African government deny him asylum or exile as alleged by the US State Department and the New York Times."
NEEDED BUT UNLIKELY: A FULL INVESTIGATION
While there are many conflicting reports and rumors dribbling out of Haiti and the Central African Republic, a full investigation is clearly needed and, according to the Washington Times, John Kerry is calling for one:
James G. Lakely and Tom Carter report:
"Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry yesterday called for an investigation into statements by former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that he was kidnapped at gunpoint and removed from power by US Troops over the weekend.
"'I think there ought to be some investigation of it,'the Democratic senator from Massachusetts said yesterday on NBC's Today Show. 'I have a very close friend in Massachusetts who talked directly to people who have made that allegation. I don't know the truth of it. I really don't. But I think it needs to be explored, and we need to know the truth of what happened.'
"White House spokesman Scott McClellan suggested that Mr. Kerry's call for an inquiry was politically motivated and said it was irresponsible to give credence to the word of Mr. Aristide.
"'I think the absurd accusations that some have chosen to repeat do nothing to help the Haitian people, and they do nothing to help move forward during this difficult period," Mr. McClellan said, adding, "I understand that [Mr. Kerry] is a political candidate running for office.'"
JESSE'S MAN IN THE SADDLE
Yesterday, I critiqued a one-sided largely unchallenging TV interview with Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega on ABC's Nightline. I was critical of what he said but I didn't know who he was. I do now. Nightline, by the way, did not really explain Noriega's importance:
Ron Howell Reports in Newsday:
"The departure of Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a victory for a Bush administration hard-liner who has been long dedicated to Aristide's ouster, US Foreign policy analysts say. That official is Roger Noriega, assistant US Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, whose influence over US policy toward Haiti has increased during the past decade as he climbed the diplomatic ladder in Washington. "Roger Noriega has been dedicated to ousting Aristide for many, many years, and now he's in a singularly powerful position to accomplish it," Robert White, a former US ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, said last week. White, now president of the Center for International Policy, a think tank in Washington, said Noriega's ascent largely has been attributed to his ties to North Carolina Republican Jesse Helms, an arch-conservative foe of Aristide who had behind-the-scenes influence over policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean before retiring from the Senate two years ago. "Helms didn't just dislike Aristide, Helms loathed Aristide because he saw in Aristide another Castro," said Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which has been strongly critical of the Bush administration's policy on Haiti.
"Working hand in hand with Noriega on Haiti has been National Security Council envoy Otto Reich, who, like Noriega, is ardently opposed to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, say analysts such as Birns. Washington diplomats have seen Aristide as a leftist who is often fierce in his denunciations of the business class and slow to make recommended changes such as privatizing state-run industries. "On a day-to-day basis, Roger Noriega [has been] making policy, but with a very strong role played by Otto Reich," Birns said."
How is this story playing overseas? The Progressive Review carried a number of international reports with information not reported in the US, i.e.:
"Mr Aristide's resignation statement was faxed to the Haitian Embassy in Washington and its New York consulate by, er, the US State Department. 'It's a funny thing,' says the diplomat."
Writing in the Guardian, the academic Peter Hallward offers a complex version of Haiti's recent past:
"With the enthusiastic backing of Haiti's former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and pro-American business leaders."
Hallward's story goes into another unexamined angle in the US media: The role of the French. Aristide had been demanding that France compensate Haiti for wealth stolen when the country was first colonized. That did not play well in Paris.
"It's obvious that Aristide's expulsion offered Jacques Chirac a long-awaited chance to restore relations with an American administration he dared to oppose over the attack on Iraq. It's even more obvious that the characterization of Aristide as yet another crazed idealist corrupted by absolute power sits perfectly with the political vision championed by George Bush, and that the Haitian leader's downfall should open the door to a yet more ruthless exploitation of Latin American labor."
The Independent, on the looting of Mr Aristide's villa:
"It's our own system," it quotes a young looter saying. "As soon as a leader falls, we loot his palace." (http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=496981)
"White American, white military. They came at night. ... There were too many. I couldn't count them,"
said Aristide. (http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=2597051)