-– Editorial, Jamaica Observer
Colin Powell is “the most powerful and damaging black to rise to influence in the world in my lifetime.”
-– TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson
''All the people that supported [Aristide] will be dead in three months.''
-– Haiti government attorney Ira Kurzban
The new order congeals like blood on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s dance of death begins anew, a convergence of low-life assassins, high-living compradors, preening French imperialists and global American pirates – an unspeakable bacchanal.
“I am the chief,” declares Guy Philippe, the 36-year-old, Green Beret-trained, three-time coup-meister and sometime police chief. “The country is in my hands.”
Not really. Haiti is in the same American and French hands that snatched President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the Central African Republic – an involuntary destination on its face, where a French-approved military dictator sits in a palace that he seized from an elected President precisely one year ago. Pleased with the finesse of the "perfect coordination" between Paris and Washington, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin no doubt savors the grotesque, near-symmetric poetry of this joint venture in international piracy, in which Aristide is transported from the site of one coup to another.
“The niceties of democracy were thrown out the window, and the matters of principle so vigorously defended by President Chirac and Foreign Minister de Villepin over Iraq were quickly shunted aside,” said the Jamaica Observer in a March 1 editorial. “And new Canadians went with the flow.” The Caribbean Community must understand, “if they thought otherwise,” that “democratically-elected leaders are easily expendable if they, at a particular time, do not fit the profile in favor with those who are strong and powerful.”
In the shadow of death
Mini-megalomaniac Guy Philippe’s assignment is to liquidate Aristide’s grassroots supporters. In that sense, he is “the chief.” Even so, Philippe overreached on Tuesday when his troops were prevented by U.S. Marines from arresting Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Earlier that day, BC Associate Editor Kevin Pina and Andrea Nicastro of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, interviewed Neptune in his office. With Philippe’s troops massed nearby, Pina and Nicastro worked in haste to elicit the following responses from the Prime Minister:
1. "Even though I am the legal Prime Minister I am a prisoner in my office. That's a fact."
2. "The President called me a few hours before he was taken out of the country and told me, 'Where I am now, I am like a prisoner.'
3. "Whoever has allowed those armed bandits in the opposition to get into Haiti and to sow violence and death, they should be in the position to control them." Asked whether he was referring to the Bush administration the Prime Minister answered: "Statements were made asking the Haitian government to meet certain requirements so that the armed gangs would not be allowed to come into the capital. That statement was made. They wanted us to quiet the demonstrators asking for President Aristide to finish his term. They wanted us to force the to stand down and stop demanding new elections. They wanted that vast majority to remain quiet. They wanted us to tell them to sit down quietly and allow the coup machine to crush them."
4. "Some in the international community don't want Haiti to become a democracy where the majority of the poor have a voice."
5. "The coup machine is in motion because the opposition knows they cannot win elections with President Aristide in the country."
6. "The resignation of the president is not constitutional because he did that under duress and threat."
7. "The chief of the Supreme Court [Boniface Alexander] was brought here into my office by representatives of the international community. I was not invited or present when he was sworn in [as President]."
Notes from Haiti's Killing Fields
The corporate media are in no danger from Guy Philippe, having acted as international public relations agents for the “opposition” during the entire coup-building process. But such immunities do not apply to Kevin Pina – a people’s reporter – who filed this dispatch, Wednesday.
Every night I get frantic calls from friends and contacts I have met and interviewed in the past. In the background I hear the thunder of heavy automatic weapons and the screams of terror as they describe to me the carnage being met upon them. The calls come from places like Bel Air, Cite Soleil, La Saline and Martissaint. The poorest of the poor who supported President Aristide and democracy are being slaughtered by the former military and FRAPH. There is a 6 p.m. curfew imposed by the international forces but it does not seem to apply to these killers.
Naturally, the Haitian
press remains silent along with their buddies in the corporate media who
are more enamored of the romantic notion of the former killers returning
than of the killing itself. I can't blame them though, as the groundwork
had already been laid by the Haitian and Washington elites. Haiti’s poor
had already been dehumanized in the eyes of the international audience.
They are just "chimeres" or violent gangs allied with the president, so
we can ignore when they are killed en mass. They deserve it, after all,
as payback for having thought they had a place in Haiti's political
life. They are only good for two things now, to make money off of or to
kill – and who will really know the difference?
Philippe’s men chased former Aristide officials to the airport on Wednesday, but were blocked from entering the terminal by U.S. Marines who say their orders now include protecting Haitians from “reprisal” attacks. However, these are the lucky notables with money for a ticket out. The Marines will not protect “Bel Air, Cite Soleil, La Saline and Martissaint.”
The mad dogs unleashed by (the even madder) George Bush and Colin Powell have methodically burned buildings erected to serve the poor. Kevin Pina is a supporter of a school for poor children in Petionville, a relatively rich Port-au-Prince neighborhood – but the poor are everywhere in Haiti. On March 1 Pina wrote:
“I have just received word that the SOPUDEP school, which provides a free education and hot lunch program for over 400 of the poorest children in the community, is being threatened. Opposition thugs and former military have spread word through the neighborhood that they are planning to attack and burn the school very soon. The administration and staff take this threat very seriously and many of them have already gone into hiding until the situation changes. My own ability to help protect the school is very limited given the current situation.”
The SOPUDEP school was organized under Aristide’s National Literacy Project, one of hundreds erected since Aristide’s return from exile in 1994. Like the Haitian folk art gleefully cast into bonfires by Philippe’s men, every vestige of popular initiative and grassroots political expression is marked for destruction. Every man and woman who stands up will be cut down. "Pinochet made Chile what it is,'' Philippe “gushed” when asked his favorite historical figure. “Number 2 on Philippe's list is former US President Ronald Reagan,” the Miami Herald reported.
The executioners plotted for ten years at their U.S.-furnished bases in the Dominican Republic in anticipation of the day when the Haitian nation would be wiped clean of Aristide and his Lavalas movement. History will be rewritten, they vowed; the Gangster-in-Chief will make it so. And he did.
"It's the beginning of a new chapter in” in Haiti’s history, said Bush, as Aristide sat on the plane to Bangui.
French Foreign Minister de Villepin once again exhibited "perfect coordination" with his imperial partner: "Everyone sees quite well that a new page must be opened in Haiti's history."
Powell: Hands-on gangster
African Americans in particular must now face squarely the horrific nature of the current regime in Washington. For reasons of race, proximity, culture and common history, the Haiti atrocity wounds Black America directly. African American leadership has been grievously and cavalierly insulted at every stage of the rolling conspiracy against Haitian democracy.
The administration has given its finger and simultaneously showed its ass to the Black nations of the Caribbean, whom the Bush men hold in no higher regard than bellhops. Colin Powell pretended to embrace a Caricom plan that envisioned President Aristide remaining in power until the end of his constitutional term in 2006; replacement of the prime minister, to be selected by the Haitian government, opposition and the international community; new elections for parliament, whose members’ mandates have expired. Nothing remains of this plan, because it was a monstrous scam from the beginning – Colin Powell’s personal deceit.
Aristide’s response was unequivocal: "I accept the plan, publicly and entirely... In one word, yes." It was the right answer; but Powell wasn’t asking an honest question. He is a professional prevaricator – please, let us no longer call him a diplomat.
Unlike Donald Rumsfeld’s closely held Iraq operation, the rape of Haiti was Powell’s hands-on criminal enterprise. On Monday, February 23, Powell caused his spokesman to assure concerned Black lawmakers and world opinion that the Secretary was standing firm against opposition demands for Aristide’s physical removal; that the U.S. supported the Caricom agreement. "We went back at them,” said Gonzalo Gallegos. Powell “emphasized how good this was. He made clear to them that this was the best thing they had going." What is now perfectly clear is that there was never any U.S. intention for Aristide to remain on Haitian soil. Powell assured the Haitian elite of this fact, and prepped them to reject the Caricom plan, thus presenting the planet with the farce that a gaggle of Third World businessmen were thwarting the will of the United States.
Bush and his confederates lied in the faces of massed Black congressional representatives in the days leading up to Aristide’s departure (see “US House Members to Bush, Powell: Don’t Usurp Aristide’s Power,” February 26), with assurances from the President that, "We still hope to be able to achieve a political settlement between the current government and the rebels." We now know that the Bush men and France were even then seeking "perfect coordination" in removing Aristide. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice sat like bookmarks at Bush’s side as he lied to nineteen Black members of Congress.
Are these two conspirators fit to speak at any Black gathering, ever again in life? Who in the Black community will debase their organizations with the presence of such “role models?” An invitation to Powell or Rice should be viewed as proof of a moral deficit on the part of the inviter.
"Nonsense" and "conspiracy theories"
"The constitution is the guarantee for life and peace. The constitution should not sink in the blood of the Haitian people. That's why, if tonight my resignation is the decision that can avoid a bloodbath, I consent to leave with hope there will be life, not death."
-– President Aristide’s purported letter of resignation, alleged to have been written sometime Saturday night, February 28.
The multi-racial Bush lie-machine and its agents in mass media had only just begun to heap vicious calumnies on Black leadership. The world’s most famous liars – the fantasists of phantom Weapons of Mass Destruction – would call into question the veracity of Black America’s most outspoken and respected voices. Dutifully, the corporate media took their cues from the liars and embellished on these signals, in a brazen effort to make it appear that African Americans had gone crazy.
On the Monday morning following Aristide’s purported voluntary exile, Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters called Democracy Now! to report that the Haitian leader had not resigned, but had been kidnapped. “He is in the Central Republic of Africa at a place called the Palace of the Renaissance, and he’s not sure if that’s a house or a hotel or what it is and he is surrounded by military,” Waters told host Amy Goodman.
“It’s like in jail, he said. He said that he was kidnapped; he said that he was forced to leave Haiti. He said that the American embassy sent the diplomats; he referred to them as, to his home where they was lead by Mr. Moreno. And I believe that Mr. Moreno is a deputy chief of staff at the embassy in Haiti and other diplomats, and they ordered him to leave. They said you must go NOW….
“You have no choice, you must go and if you don’t you will be killed and many Haitians will be killed. We are planning with Mr. De filliped to come into Puerto Rico. He will not be alone he will come with American military and you will not survive, you will be killed. You’ve got to go now!”
TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, now living on St. Kitts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a familiar voice to the Aristide household. Robinson spoke with the Aristides as often as ten times a day as the U.S.-backed bands tightened their noose on the capital. However, Robinson was unable to reach the President or his wife, Mildred, on Saturday evening and night. Something was amiss, he thought. Then Robinson got the call from Bangui. “He did not resign. He did not resign,” Robinson told Amy Goodman, confirming Rep. Water’s earlier account.
"He was kidnapped and all of the circumstances seem to support his assertion. Had he resigned, we wouldn't need blacked out windows and blocked communications and military taking him away at gunpoint. Had he resigned, he would have been happy to leave the country. He was not."
Robinson reported that he had worked the phones to find out the State Department’s story and been told that South Africa had refused Aristide asylum. Robinson spoke with South Africa’s foreign minister, who said that Aristide had not asked for asylum. (Of course he hadn’t – he had not planned to be leaving the country!)
“So, you see the State Department is telling an interested public, including members of the congress, that South Africa refused asylum. The State Department knows better. They know that President Aristide was not allowed to request asylum from South Africa or anybody else because he was not allowed to make any phone calls before they left Haiti, during the flight, and beyond.”
Colin Powell’s Big Lie was unraveling – and now it emerged that the Secretary of State had taken upon himself the role of Godfather. Ron Dellums, the distinguished former Congressman from the San Francisco Bay area who worked as a lobbyist for Aristide’s government, got a call from the Head-Negro-In-Charge on Saturday, warning in no uncertain terms that gunmen were coming to kill Aristide on Sunday morning. The U.S., said Powell, would not lift a finger to stop them. When the Americans come to call, Aristide must leave with them.
It is a mind-boggling measure of the Bush Pirates’ ferocious lawlessness that Powell would personally initiate the overt, criminally culpable act in the kidnapping of a head of state. This aspect of the crime alone should send him to The Hague.
The news had a disorienting effect on corporate newsrooms. How could they bury such accusations, now circling the globe via the Internet? Just as Maxine Waters was telling CNN of another call from the Central African Republic, this time from the Haitian First Lady, Donald Rumsfeld stepped to the microphone at the Pentagon. The Defense Secretary feigned surprise, actually chuckling at the very idea of a presidential kidnapping. "I don't believe that's true that he is claiming that. I just don't know that that's the case. I'd be absolutely amazed if that were the case."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan derided Waters and Robinson: "That's nonsense. Conspiracy theories do nothing to help the Haitian people move forward to a better, more free and more prosperous future."
That’s all the corporate newsreaders and wisecrackers needed to hear. A CNN anchor speculated that Aristide was “fabricating revisionist history on the fly,” with the transparent inference that Rep. Waters was a dupe or liar, herself. “Do you think we would make that up?” the Congresswoman asked, shocked and offended.
The same trained corporate seal then presented clumsily leading questions to one of the usual “security experts” that bounce around branded newsrooms spouting nonsense all day. Waters’ tale of diplomats accompanying U.S. troops to take Aristide away was – ludicrous on its face. “You wouldn’t have diplomats side by side with the military, right?” said the faux newsperson. It couldn’t have happened that way, the “expert” assured her.
Once the White House and Rumsfeld had spoken, the conversations with Aristide became “alleged phone calls,” and remained so until Aristide confirmed the events in his own voice. Aristide had asked Waters and Robinson to “tell the world it was a coup!” Corporate media tried their best to discredit the messengers and the victim.
Agents of corporate consensus
The Bush men’s incessant rampages against reality are bringing their corporate media partners into disrepute right along with them. As we wrote in BC’s January 29 Cover Story, “The Awesome Destructive Power of the Corporate Media”:
In the past year we have seen consciousness-shaking evidence of the corporate media’s implacable hostility to any manifestation of resistance to the current order. Media rushed to embed themselves in the US war machine’s Iraq invasion, and collaborated to actively suppress public awareness of a full-blown movement against the war. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were made to disappear in plain sight. Corporate media conspired – which is what businessmen in boardrooms do as a matter of daily routine – not only to shield the public from dissenting opinions (their usual assignment), but to drastically diminish, distort and even erase huge gatherings that were profoundly newsworthy by any rational standard.
In the case of Aristide’s kidnapping – and that is the objective name of the crime, since he left in the coercive custody of the U.S. under threat of death from none other than the Secretary of State – the media collaborated with the perpetrators to justify the “disappearing” of a head of state. What shall we call such media? “Lackey” and “stooge” don’t work. The terms connote subservient status, and a kind of haplessness. But there is nothing hapless or subservient about Big Media, who are, through their interlocking ownerships and financial and directorship ties “full members of the presiding corporate pantheon.”
“Agents” is the most accurate term we can think of, although we invite other suggestions. The corporate media act as agents for the corporate consensus on the way the world should work. Far from being “stooges” or “lackeys,” corporate media frame reality in ways that leave the people few options but to accept the corporate consensus. Like an army, they dominate and overwhelm the national conversation. In addition, as a social force – possibly the most important social force in the American cultural “bubble” – corporate media are profoundly racist, upholding collective white privilege as well as corporate dominance.
It is useful to compare Big Media’s framing of contemporary Haitian realities with their journalistic forbearer’s treatment of a previous U.S. occupation, 1914 – 1934. In “The Tragedy of Haiti” chapter of Noam Chomsky’s 1993 book, The Year 501, the scholar draws upon the work of renowned historian John Blassingame, editor of the Papers of Frederick Douglass.
Through the bloodiest years of the occupation, the media were silent or supportive. The New York Times index has no entries for Haiti for 1917-1918. In a press survey, John Blassingame found "widespread editorial support" for the repeated interventions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic from 1904 to 1919, until major atrocity stories surfaced in 1920, setting off congressional inquiry. Haitians and Dominicans were described as "coons," "mongrels," "unwholesome," "a horde of naked niggers," the Haitians even more "retrograde" than the Dominicans. They needed "energetic Anglo-Saxon influence." "We are simply going in there...to help our black brother put his disorderly house in order," one journal wrote. Furthermore, The US had a right to intervene to protect "our peace and safety" (New York Times).
Times editors lauded the "unselfish and helpful" attitude that the US had always shown, now once again as it responded "in a fatherly way" as Haiti "sought help here." Our "unselfish intervention has been moved almost exclusively by a desire to give the benefits of peace to people tormented by repeated revolutions," with no thought of "preferential advantages, commercial or otherwise," for ourselves. "The people of the island should realize that [the US government] is their best friend." The US sought only to ensure that "the people were cured of the habit of insurrection and taught how to work and live"; they "would have to be reformed, guided and educated," and this "duty was undertaken by the United States." There is a further benefit for our "black brother": "To wean these peoples away from their shot-gun habit of government is to safeguard them against our own exasperation," which might lead to further intervention. "The good-will and unselfish purposes of our own government" are demonstrated by the consequences, the editors wrote in 1922, when they were all too apparent and the Marine atrocities had already aroused a storm of protest.
It is estimated that 15,000 Haitians were slaughtered during the 19-year occupation. The New York Times and its fellows blamed the carnage on the innate barbarity of the Haitians. Today, the corporate media blather about “cycles of violence” in Haiti – as if the victims were both cause and effect of the phenomenon. Not a single member of the corporate media questions the “unselfish purposes of our own government,” which could not possibly be guilty of crimes against humanity and world order.
The corporate media employ a very simple yet devastatingly effective trick when “fabricating” their own “revisionist history on the fly” – they “forget” every previously reported fact and occurrence that does not jibe with the official line. Thus, most of what we know about disbanded Haitian army and secret police activities in the Dominican Republic during the post-1994 decade is derived from the corporate media, themselves – yet these same outlets uniformly excised these facts from the record once the contra invasion began in early February.
For nearly a year there had been a steady stream of U.S. press reports of frenetic activity among exiled Haitian killers in the Dominican Republic. These reports appeared in the most influential American newspapers. For example, on May 15, 2003, soon after BC began its collaboration with Haiti-based reporter Kevin Pina, an AP story served as the bases for the following item in our Issues section titled, “US Plots Regime Change in Haiti.”
A May 10 Associated Press report tends to confirm that Haiti's armed opposition operates with near-impunity in the Dominican Republic. Under pressure from the Haitian government, authorities on the Dominican side of the border arrested and then released five men in connection with the attack on the hydroelectric plant:
The man Haitian authorities have accused of plotting to overthrow Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government says he supports a coup but isn't planning one.
On the day Philippe was detained on the Dominican side of the border, police raided the house of Port-au-Prince mayoral candidate Judith Roy of the Convergence opposition. They claimed to have "found assault weapons, ammunitions, and plans to attack the National Palace and Aristide's suburban residence," said the Associated Press. Haitian authorities say Roy is close to Philippe, the former police chief of Cap Haitian.
The pace of the Haitian contra buildup escalated as the year progressed, as did the very public meetings between the International Republican Institute, Bush administration officials and Haitian ex-military in the Dominican Republic. “Chief” Guy Philippe and his cohorts’ invasion preparations were common knowledge, and certainly well-known to the American press on both sides of the island of Hispaniola.
When armed attacks began against police stations in the north of Haiti, the U.S. press noted that the fighters were a mix of gang members and former soldiers that had relocated to the Dominican Republic after President Aristide returned in 1994. On February 15, newspapers across the U.S. carried Associated Press reports that “reinforcements” had arrived to bolster the “rebels” in Gonaives. In fact, the new guys included elements of the exile army’s high command:
The “former police chief” is Guy Philippe.
So the origins of the “rebel” army were no secret to the corporate media. Yet on Sunday, as Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s flying prison made its way across the Atlantic Ocean, the major media all ran political obituaries, “fact” pages and timelines that made no mention whatever of the Dominican roots of the month-long fighting. It was as if the “insurgency” sprang from the soil, or was a natural expression of the fratricidal proclivities of the Haitian people.
The purpose of the sudden, universal corporate media amnesia is simple: to exclude from public debate facts that would implicate the United States and its Dominican allies in the overthrow of Aristide. Reality was “disappeared.” The Americans were once again on a reluctant “rescue mission.” There was to be no questioning of the “unselfish purposes of our own government.”
The corporate media will doubtless “forget” that they acted as agents for a discredited CIA disinformation campaign against Aristide during the deposed President’s U.S. exile, 1991 – 94. Leila McDowell-Head’s Washington, D.C. public relations firm represented Aristide during that period. “They clearly launched a campaign to paint him as psychologically unbalanced,” she told BC. “An investigation showed the charges were specious and baseless, but not before the corporate media had a field day with it. But I think we’ll see a reprise of this disinformation campaign.”
It’s already begun. The toad-like Deputy Secretary of State, Roger Noriega, this week appeared on Ted Kopple’s ABC Nightline to slander Aristide as an “erratic and unreliable” personality who made up the kidnapping story. “He’s demonstrated within the last few hours that he’s not a responsible person,” said Jesse Helms’ former chief of staff. Having somehow failed to kill Aristide, they will assassinate his sanity.
Noreiga and Condoleezza Rice have been saying the same things for years about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, another president whose constituency is based among the poor. Anti-government demonstrators have begun carrying signs reading, “Bye bye Aristide, Chavez you're next.” Unlike the former priest, Chavez answers his critics in kind. Commenting on the advisors that urged Bush to instigate the 2002 coup attempt against his government, Chavez told a roaring crowd: “He was an asshole to believe them.”
Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are the editors of The Black Commentator, where this article first appeared.
Related Link: The Haiti File -- Dissident Voice's Coverage of Haiti
Other Articles by Glen Ford and Peter Gamble