Issue 81 - March 11, 2004
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The Bush men have the Madness Touch. Their very presence warps conventional notions of reality.
Thus, the new “prime minister” of Haiti appears as surprised as the rest of his countrymen when conveyed the title by an “eminent” rump of persons chosen by the occupying power. The man picked for the job on Tuesday, business consultant Gérard Latortue, doesn’t even arrive in Haiti from his home in Boca Raton, Florida, until Wednesday. U.S. Marines believe they have killed Haitian gunmen in battle, but seem unconcerned as to their identities. Half a world away, the constitutional head of state, elected with overwhelming popular support in a process deemed free and fair by the entire international community, is held captive by an African military dictator after being kidnapped by the world’s superpower in cahoots with the former colonial master of his country.
The world searches for terminology to describe the high crimes of the Bush regime in Haiti and the Central African Republic, and of course, Iraq – even as endless additional criminal contingencies take shape in the planning rooms of the Pentagon. The Bush men seem determined to methodically teach the planet that Washington is a threat to the very concept of international order – that they are Pirates.
Evidence that George Bush is leader of a rogue, pirate state accumulates daily, for the world to examine in the raw. Yet the racist cabal (and its Black operatives) seem not to understand that Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide cannot be demonized like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The nightmare image is seared into the global retina: the frail ex-priest and his wife, kidnapped from their home and delivered to the tender mercies of coup-making African generals.
If the Bush men are on an international consciousness raising mission, they are succeeding. Whatever perverse logic guides their actions – and we have seen such logic at work in the world, before, when small groups of men tested their “will” against the survival instincts of the planet – they are in fact summoning a future “tribunal” whose mandate must expand to match the crimes of the American perpetrators. There will be a response to this avalanche of atrocities that “are so harmful to international interests that states are entitled – and even obliged – to bring proceedings against the perpetrator, regardless of the location of the crime or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim," to borrow the words of Mary Robinson, former United Nations high commissioner for human rights.
Crime in full view
The Bush men repeatedly overreach in their quest for world hegemony, perceiving that the domestic price for dealing death and humiliation to darker peoples is cheap. A poll shows that only one-third of Floridians are opposed to U.S. actions in Haiti. The terrifying odyssey to which Mildred Aristide – a Black First Lady and American citizen! – has been subjected does not resonate in a society that, nonetheless, agonizes over the prospect of Martha Stewart doing a short stretch in prison. Yet outside the white American bubble, the Aristides’ ordeal is seen as the toying of a mouse by a cat: brutish, cruel and – because Bush is not a cat, but a man – evil. Black America is reminded of the nature of the all too familiar beast.
“If you tell Charlie Rangel that my wife and children are gonna die unless I go with you, that is a kidnapping,” said the Harlem Congressman at a taping of the local television program, Like It Is. Rangel framed the issue as a no-brainer at congressional hearings on the Haiti coup:
When the victim is a head of state, and his country is the booty, the crime is piracy on a superpower scale.
Piracy is not strictly a crime of maritime or aviation hijacking. International law began as a collective response to piracy. Legal scholar Louis Sohn wrote that “the first breakthrough” in punishing international crime “occurred when international law accepted the concepts that pirates are “enemies of mankind” and that piracy is “an offense against the law of nations.” Mexican General Santa Anna routinely referred to the slave-holding Texans as “land pirates.” The Bush regime flouts “the law of nations” as a matter of policy – an all but self-proclaimed pirate state.
Betrayed and utterly disrespected, the Caribbean community of nations refused to take part in the U.S.-led occupation of Haiti. Caricom is “extremely disappointed'' at the involvement of “Western partners'' in the removal of Aristide, said Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. Having invaded Grenada in the lesser Antilles in 1983, the U.S. now shows an appetite for the greater Antilles, as well. The Pirates have returned to Caribbean waters with a vengeance. “The situation calls for an investigation of what transpired and we believe that it should be done under the auspices of some independent body such as the United Nations,'' said Patterson, speaking for 14 Caricom countries. (Haiti is also a member.)
Pirates are no respecters of national sovereignty, by definition. “I imagine that [Caribbean heads of state] are very much aware that if it can happen to Aristide, it can also happen to them or any other small country,” said veteran Jamaican journalist and educator John Maxwell. This is doubtless the message that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his boss intended to transmit – a threat to once again violate “the law of nations.”
The 53-nation African Union, whose member states are regularly hectored by France, Britain and the United States to respect the rule of law, this week joined Caricom in calling for a UN investigation of Aristide’s ouster, which “set a dangerous precedent for duly elected persons.”
“The African Union has decided to undertake immediate consultation with both CARICOM and eventually the United Nations in order to discuss the conditions for a quick return to constitutional democracy” in Haiti, said the AU.
A matching set of conspirators
Buoyed by the continental support, Aristide’s lawyers began preparing a broad legal counter-assault, based on the assumption that, although the Bush Administration rejects the rule of law, most the rest of the world does not. In recognition of the American-French imperial partnership, Aristide teams drew up a list of defendants in both countries. According to Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper, chief Aristide lawyer Ira Kurzban charges “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega and Luis Moreno, the deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy, were behind Aristide's February 29 removal and forced him and his wife into exile in the Central African Republic.”
In Paris, Aristide counsel Gilbert Collard charged four luminaries with “complicity in abduction'': Thierry Burkard, France's ambassador to Haiti; Yves Gaudel, the former ambassador; envoy Regis Debray; and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's sister, Veronique. She and Debray visited Aristide in December to demand his resignation, said attorney Collard, indicating the French end of the conspiracy was in full swing prior to Haiti’s bicentennial celebrations.
To cover all the legal bases, Ira Kurzban also sent U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft a formal request for an investigation of the Presidential couple’s abduction, noting that Mildred Aristide is a U.S. citizen.
Captors claim to speak for Aristide
The rush of activity came on the heals of bizarre events in Bangui on Sunday and Monday, as the Central African Republic’s military government attempted to simultaneously act as French client, prison warden, and gracious host – an impossible task for a gaggle of coupsters.
Reporters were told to expect a Sunday press conference featuring President and Mrs. Aristide. Instead, heavily armed soldiers burst into the conference room demanding the cameras and recorders be turned off. Then Mrs. Aristide was brought in and made to sit in a corner in silence, looking “very distressed,” according to a CNN reporter on the scene. President Aristide never appeared. “A Government spokesman read a statement, supposedly from President Aristide, in which he thanked the CAR for their kindness. Mme. Aristide was then taken away," said the CNN guy, who filed only one report describing the madness before his network sanitized the whole affair.
On Monday morning President Aristide was allowed to hold a press conference at the Central African Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which he gave details of the “political kidnapping” by the United States and declared, “I am the democratically elected president and I remain so. I plead for the restoration of democracy'' in Haiti.
“Aristide spoke with reporters despite a pointed, public request by Foreign Minister Charles Wenezoui that he avoid talking about Haitian politics or unidentified “friendly countries,” the Associated Press reported. “Aristide said he had been ‘well looked after’ by his Central African hosts, backtracking on his lawyers' statements that he was ‘a prisoner’ in Bangui.”
But a prisoner he clearly was. In a 30-minute interview with Pacifica’s Democracy Now! program, Aristide said the U.S. “preferred the Haitian people to move from coup d'etat, to coup d'etat.” Nevertheless, “I pay tribute to the government of Central Africa for the way they welcomed us. It was gracious, human, good, and until now, this is the kind of relationship which we are developing together. I thank them for that once again.” Then he was told to get off the phone. “Now, time is gone. Unfortunately I need to stop because they just asked me to leave.”
The real news emerged after Aristide met with a delegation of supporters that had been turned away the day before. The group included representatives of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center, the Haiti Support Network, Aristide lawyer Brian Concannon, and Kim Ives, a Creole-speaker with the publication Haiti-Progress. Ives offered this extraordinary account of the March 8 conversation:
So, did the Bush men lie so badly in the aftermath of the coup because they were forced to plot in haste? Or is it that they don’t really give a damn about public opinion? New York Rep. Charles Rangel tends to think the latter: “Regardless of the question their response will be, ‘What difference does it make? We got rid of Aristide.’”
The traveling President of Haiti
The confusion regarding South Africa’s willingness to grant asylum to Aristide stems from disinformation straight from the lips of Colin Powell – the best liar in the administration, given the material he has to work with. In the days after the abduction, Powell and his subordinates attempted to depict South Africa as reluctant to accept Aristide, as if he were an international albatross. The Haitian President, of course, had had no intention of leaving Haiti and, therefore, never thought to ask any nation for asylum before being bundled away to Bangui.
Danny Schecter, the respected News Dissector of the web site of the same name, reported that it was Colin Powell who tried to book Aristide to South Africa.
On Wednesday, March 9, the African Union as a body embraced Aristide. The Associated Press filed this curious report, which we will explicate, momentarily:
In addition to the ridiculous reference to the “U.S.-provided jet” – as if the Americans had arranged an aerial chauffer service for Aristide! – the AP reports that “South Africa was the country most often mentioned as his destination, a U.S. official said.” In fact, Powell and the other Bush men were the only people claiming, falsely, that Aristide had been seeking refuge in South Africa.
There is nothing strange going on whatsoever between Aristide and his close allies in the South African government. It is the U.S. that wants to “park” Aristide somewhere, to create the impression of a permanent fait accompli in Haiti. Aristide has purposely made his plans vague because he insists that he is still President of his country, and in all likelihood he will avoid the appearance of having come to rest by traveling the globe in pursuit of a just outcome. Every junior diplomat understands the way this game is played – certainly, Colin Powell does, which is why he worked the phones so hard attempting to arrange a permanent-looking exile for Aristide. And this is why South Africa speaks very carefully on the subject, understanding that the Americans are waiting to exploit any slip in language.
The African National Congress government of South Africa has no reason to fear domestic fallout from association with Aristide, who is at present Black Enemy Number One of the racist superpower. That’s a badge of honor among the ANC’s base. Only Americans believe American nonsense.
Black Congresspersons Barbara Lee (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI) on Monday introduced the TRUTH Act, an acronym for The Responsibility to Uncover the Truth about Haiti. “The Bush administration's efforts in the overthrow of a democratically elected government must be investigated,” said Lee. “All of the evidence brought forward thus far suggests that the administration has, in essence, carried out a form of regime change, a different variation than it took in Iraq, but still regime change.” The bill calls for a bipartisan (five each from both parties) TRUTH Commission modeled on California Rep. Henry Waxman’s Weapons of Mass Destruction panel. “The American people and the international community deserve to know the truth,” Rep. Lee explained, “and this bill will offer the opportunity to investigate the long-term origins of the overthrow of the Haitian government and the impact of our failure to protect democracy." Lee and Conyers want to know:
The TRUTH Act is supported by 23 other members of Congress. It closely resembles a seven-point line of questioning compiled by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark (see “The Coup Must Not Stand,” English translation, Hait-Progres, March 3). The similarities are not surprising, since the broad outlines of the crime are visible to the entire world. “The U.S. Congress must investigate,” said Clark, “if the Bush administration policy of unilateral wars of aggression, violations of international law and the U.S. Constitution and regime change is to be stopped before the U.S. loses its last friend and creates a wave of terrorism that will engulf the planet for years.”
Jesse Jackson saw the same “U.S.-engineered coup against Aristide” observed by everyone else on Earth – with the exception of those hopelessly damaged by cognition-crippling racism. Most of the facts are clear and agreed upon by “both sides,” said the civil rights leader. “Nothing more is needed to establish that the Bush administration was directly implicated in a coup of the elected government of Haiti. The only disagreement is in the details:
Kerry and Kucinich views
Senator John Kerry is making some of the right noises on the Haiti issue, and calls for investigations into Aristide’s overthrow. According to last Sunday’s (maliciously biased) New York Times:
Kerry knows all about the Bush regime’s Latin America and Caribbean team. A number of the current coup-makers were deeply involved in Reagan- and Bush Sr.-era arming of Nicaraguan contras, fattening military dictators and protecting cocaine dealing by both, back when Kerry chaired the Senate Committee on Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, in the Eighties. For a time it seemed as if the Kerry Commission might vigorously pursue the CIA-crack cocaine scandal, but he eventually lost interest.
Dennis Kucinich, as we have come to expect, runs a much better line on Haiti, but he will not become president. Kucinich also calls for an investigation into Aristide’s removal.
The truth is that whether George Bush or John Kerry is “in control,” American foreign policy structures are designed to undermine popular movements and governments at every point of contact. George Bush did not create the Haitian (or Venezuelan, or Argentinian, or Bolivian) miseries – he simply added a more demonic layer of horror. These U.S. foreign policy “structures of subversion” are institutionally connected to the Democratic Party and organized labor, and must be dismantled, root and branch.
Trojan Horse endowment
The National Endowment for the Democracy is a slick, 1983 Reagan administration invention, a “reform” purportedly designed to make U.S. foreign policy more transparent in the wake of Seventies revelations of massive CIA subversion of foreign governments and political movements. As William Blum put it in his 2000 book, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” “the idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities…. It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations and of cynicism.”
“Trojan Horse” is an apt description of the NED which, rather than curtail CIA activities, created (yet another) institutional link between the political subversion arm of the U.S. government and the Republican and Democratic parties, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-affiliated Center for International Private Enterprise, and the AFL-CIO, which divide among themselves most of the NED’s budget. Although $35 million is an unimpressive portion of the federal budget (George Bush proposes to double the amount this year), the NED has proven a highly effective mechanism for hands-on American manipulation of the politics of targeted nations. In Venezuela and Haiti, it has empowered and emboldened murderous, fascist-minded elites. Blum explains how it works:
The NED took American intervention in the domestic affairs of foreign nations out of the shadows and made it respectable – a brilliant political coup. Most sinisterly, the Trojan Horse NED subverts the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party, acting as a “point of contact” between these institutions and covert U.S. operatives (although unionists and Democrats will deny this, and some may actually be oblivious to the company they keep) and with corporate agents bent on further exploitation of foreign lands. In Haiti and Venezuela, this American public-private-labor project became inseparable from coup-making.
As relentlessly coercive, bipartisan (Clinton Democrats – Bush Republicans) U.S. “free trade” policies strangle the internal economies of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the NED buttresses or, if need be, invents local political groupings that facilitate the American corporate assault on national institutions and sovereignty – a true Trojan Horse.
In the case of Haiti, the International Republican Institute component of the NED, under the slogan “party building,” almost single-handedly constructed the “civil society” political “opposition” that now advises the U.S. occupiers in Port-au-Prince (and nurtured the armed elements in their Dominican Republic sanctuaries, as well). But it was Bill Clinton who put Jean Bertrand Aristide in a structural straightjacket on his return from exile in 1994, as Noam Chomsky explains in this week’s Zmag, by forcing the leader of the poor to “adopt the program of the defeated US candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who had received 14% of the vote.
It is clear that the Clinton Administration/World Bank/International Republican Institute position was that the poor – the vast bulk of the population – were so profoundly marginalized economically as to count for nothing. Aristide represented, from this point of view, no one. “Civil society” became a euphemism for the tiny elite – a number of them fantastically wealthy – who despite their riches were pampered, coddled and guided through the NED-financed “party building” enterprise, better described as a nation-destroying project. Haiti is a ruin.
During recent years the AFL-CIO wing of the NED public-private-labor partnership in Haiti appears essentially inactive. The only project posted on its Solidarity Center site is publication of a report that “describes and analyzes the shameful state of worker rights in Haiti.” This is probably for the best, given the AFL-CIO’s record in Venezuela, where NED money funded a labor alliance with filthy rich fascists bent on establishing a rightwing dictatorship.
In his March 2 Znet article, “What Is the AFL-CIO doing in Venezuela?” Alberto Ruiz points to continued AFL-CIO funding of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV), whose leadership sided with the oligarchy in the 2002 attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez. “The embarrassment suffered by the AFL-CIO over its pre-coup assistance to the CTV has not deterred it from continuing to aid the CTV subsequent to the coup. In response to a FOIA request by the Venezuela Solidarity Committee, documents have surfaced which demonstrate the AFL-CIO has continued to support the CTV up through the year 2003 – again with NED monies.”
The NED was poison when first concocted in 1983. It is a morally and politically corrupting abomination that subverts not only foreign governments and movements, but also the AFL-CIO, the Democratic Party, and the American body politic.
Point number six of Congresspersons Lee and Conyers TRUTH Act asks the question: “Was U.S. bilateral assistance channeled through nongovernmental organizations that were directly or indirectly associated with political groups actively involved in fomenting hostilities or violence toward the government of President Aristide?”
The answer is: Yes, funds from the National Endowment for Democracy financed hostility and violence against Aristide’s government, and are funding coup-plotters in Venezuela.
We cannot even begin to make Haiti or anywhere else in the world safe for human development if we fail to confront U.S. government structures that subvert national independence. The National Endowment for Democracy sucks American civil society into its vortex of global subversion. It must be dismantled, root and branch.