{ An Autopsy of Democracy }

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Is The U.S. Backing The Coup In Haiti? It Wouldn't Be Surprising . . .

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."

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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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."


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.'"



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)

The Scotsman:

"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)


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