[News] Haiti: Investigating the new imperialism

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Thu Jan 20 08:50:21 EST 2005

Feature Story
15 January 2005
by William Bowles

"I only saw three murdered (homeless) children between 1995 and the
beginning of 2004," says one missionary who works with homeless children
and asked that her name not be used. "Since Feb. 29, I have seen or heard
of over 150 murders of street children and have personally witnessed the
attacks on more than a dozen occasions." -- "Too Tired to Cry" by Lyn Duff,
January 12, 2005

Whilst the world rushed to the aid of the victims of the Tsunami and the
leaders of the "free world" pontificated on how humanitarian they are,
children, in all likelihood, hundreds of children are being exterminated by
death squads, aided and abetted by US/UN occupation forces in Haiti. But if
you wanted to find out about this outrage in the corporate or state-run
media, you'll look in vain as it's yet another example of how the media
fails to report events that will disturb the carefully constructed illusion
that surrounds the armed overthrow of the first and only democratically
elected leader, Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti has ever had.

As I have reported here in the past, the history of Haiti is an object
lesson in the history of imperialism but as far as the present is concerned
it is more clearly an object lesson in how the media misrepresents and
distorts reportage of events as even the most cursory analysis of press
coverage of the overthrow and subsequent destruction of everything the
Aristide government achieved shows (in spite of every obstacle thrown in
its path by the US and the international "community").

Starting with the murder of Haiti's street kids, the latest obscenity which
is but one of the legacies of US-imposed "democracy", a search of the BBC,
the Independent and the Guardian, all allegedly objective and comprehensive
reporters of the "news" revealed not one single story or even a reference
to the one published here yesterday and quoted from above, which contains
eye-witness accounts of the cold-blooded murder and torture of children as
young as eight years old and numbering in the hundreds, by members of the
former military/paramilitaries now back in power with US/UN backing.

Can you imagine the headlines and hang-wringing by our media whores were
the children murdered by Aristide, Saddam Hussein or some other demonised
individual? But the distortions go much deeper and are far more insidious
than merely ignoring such events, the distortions by the news media are to
be found by implication in the way events are selectively covered. Take for
example these two examples, both from BBC news stories

Armed gangs, known as chimeres, loyal to the ousted President Jean Bertrand
Aristide are thought to be responsible for many of the killings.


"Titide" is the affectionate nickname given to Jean-Bertrand Aristide by
his largely poor supporters.

A charismatic former priest, Mr Aristide is now in exile in South Africa,
pushed from power in February after an armed uprising by former soldiers
and members of the political opposition. -- "Riot-hit Haitians fear for

In the first extract, supposedly objective reporting we read that the
"chimeres" are thought to be largely responsible for many of the killings,
but we are not told who thinks so or whether there is any substance to the
allegation. In the second example, the fact that Aristide's supporters are
largely poor ignores the fact that fully ninety per cent of Haiti's
population are poor. The subtext therefore is that it's only the poor as if
they are some kind of small section of the population. The extract also
talks of Aristide being "pushed from power" but doesn't mention the well
documented fact that the former military were armed and supported by the US
and that this was the second coup supported by the US, the first one being
in 1990. Nor is there any reference to the decades-long support by the US
of the Duvalier dictatorship. The real history is erased and we are left
only with "chimeres", allegedly Aristide's armed "gangs" and a motley crew
of "rebels" whose only objective is "power" as if power exists in a vacuum.

To compound the gross distortions in the same article (written by BBC
journalist Daniel Lak) we read

The interim Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, a former UN official and
Florida resident, has no doubt who [is] to blame for the trouble.

But Lak fails to mention who Latortue really is and who is his associates
are in the "interim government". Casual reading of Lak's article would lead
one to believe that he is a responsible person when the complete opposite
is true

These opposition groups, funded, trained and supplied by U.S. forces, are
waging a contra style war against Haiti. The new government, led by Interim
Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, is made up of human rights criminals, drug
dealers, and thugs involved in the 1990 and 2004 insurrections. A
consistent and systematic campaign of terror and violence is being carried
out by the likes of Guy Philippe, Louis Jodel Chamblain, and Jean Tatoune.
Philippe, a drug dealer and former police chief, plucked from the Haitian
army to be specially trained by U.S. forces in Ecuador, organized the
Haitian opposition from the Dominican Republic where he was required to
check in with the CIA two to three times a month. Chamblain, former number
two man in FRAPH, sentenced twice for murder, convicted in the 1994
Raboteau massacre and in the 1993 assasination of democracy-activist
Antoine Izmery, joins Philippe to lead seminars on "democratic" opposition
with machine guns slung over their shoulders. Tatoune, another FRAPH leader
also convicted of massacre in Raboteau and identified by victims as having
shot several civilians, arrived in an U.S. helicopter to stand next to the
de facto prime minister as a "freedom fighter." -- "The Destabilisation of
Haiti" 28/11/04

Lak's article fails to mention any of this past at all and in fact,
checking through dozens of articles on the BBC's website on Haiti, we find
only three references to convicted murderer and CIA hitman, Louis Jodel
Chamblain, who was acquitted in November 2004 in Haiti of murder in a trial
that Amnesty International called a "mockery of justice". The BBC story
mentions this but fails to mention Chamblain's association with the CIA or
US involvement in the 1990 coup that Chamblain was a part of.

In one of the other three BBC stories Chamblain is described as being

Trained in the United States and Ecuador, he was a senior security official
under President Rene Preval, a civilian elected in 1995.

But not that he was in the employ of the CIA. Later, in the same piece we
read (with astonishment) the following

BBC Americas regional analyst, James Painter, says it is hard to see any
political ideology behind the rebels, only a desire to seize power. --
"Analysis: Haiti's Diverse Rebels"

Hard to see because Painter isn't looking and doesn't want us to look
either. By misrepresenting these hired assassins of the US merely as
"rebels" (but note, not "insurgents") who just want power, the US
involvement is removed completely as well as perpetuating the myth of the
"failed state". Painter fails to refer to the history of these assassins
and their long association with the US, without which they would be
nothing. Painter's (hidden) ideology obscures the history of the real
motives behind the coup, a history that's not difficult to discover (as
long as you don't rely on the BBC or other mass media outlets).

Under the Preval government, the US-imposed Structural Adjustment Programme
(SAP) led directly to the situation inherited by Aristide. The real cause
of the problems of Haiti are as they are with all the post/neo-colonial
states, their grossly unequal relationship with capitalism. Aristide's
first 1990 government, overthrown in 1991 sought to bring economic as well
political justice to the nation's poor. When the US talks of bringing
"democracy" to Haiti what it really means is bringing unrestrained
capitalist exploitation. In 1995, after the US overthrew the military coup,
it ensured that Aristide would not be returned to power. Instead it backed
the Lavalas government of Preval, a government committed to SAP

... one of the most radical programs being implemented anywhere in the
world. The SAP has already led to the complete elimination, in some cases,
of export duties and the sharp reduction of most import tariffs. That means
trouble for most of Haiti's population, which lives in the countryside.
Foreign goods are already flooding into the country, threatening the
ability of farmers to sell their produce. To be sure, peasants growing
corn, Haiti's largest crop, with only a hoe and a machete cannot hope to
compete with the massive combine harvesters of Bob Dole's Kansas.

... At the same time, the SAP aims to steal Haiti's nine most valuable
state-owned industries, including the flour mill and cement factories,
which have both received bids. The real prizes, though, are the telephone
and electric companies. The telephone company generates huge profits and
largely sustained President Aristide's government in exile for three years.
With a planned expansion from the existing 66,000 lines to a reported
750,000 lines, the profits will be enormous, given all the international
phone calls to and from the Haitian diaspora.

The electric company, EDH, also can generate substantial profits. But its
main importance, from Washington's perspective, lies in powering Haiti's
assembly industries. Presently, most factories have their own costly power
generation systems. But if Haiti is to "take advantage" of its exceedingly
low wages, other production costs also must be "competitive" so that
investors can profit even more enormously. That necessitates a relatively
low cost and reliable supply of electricity. Ironically, most of the
Haitian and foreign capitalists who today would like to buy EDH each owe
the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in electric bills dating back
for years. "This Week in Haiti", December 27, 1995 -- January 2, 1996 Vol.
13, No. 40. (See also "The Dictatorship of Debt; The World Bank and Haiti"
By Yves Engler for a current analysis and Wealthy Nations Give Haiti Under
Dictatorship Aid Denied Democracy)

This is the real context that underpins the overthrow of the Aristide
government, Haiti as an offshore assembly and manufacturing location for
the likes of Levis and as a market for US-subsidised agricultural products.
In all of the stories carried by the BBC, the Independent and the Guardian,
there is not a single mention of this reality in the context of the current
situation in Haiti. By decoupling the economic and political reality from
the appearance of events, the public gets an entirely fictitious picture of
the causes of the current situation. Thus a distorted picture is fed to the
public who are denied access to the real reasons that lie behind events.

There is moreover, an overriding ideological component to the media's
distorted coverage that is an intrinsic component of the corporate
disinformation campaign; at no point must a country, but especially a poor
country demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to capitalism. All
such attempts must be shown to be intrinsically failures, even if
"well-meaning" failures. Hence at every step of the way, every conceivable
obstacle will be placed in the path of any country that foolishly chooses
to defy the imperium. The media in turn, participates in the process
through the way it covers events, either through omission, distortion or
the more subtle process of decoupling our current reality from history, of
how things came to be the way they are.

Events, according to the BBC and other mouthpieces of the state and
corporate interests, are decided by individuals, not institutions. There
are, according to the BBC, no vested interests other than personal greed or
the desire for power. The West is presented (as ever) as the disinterested
onlooker, with only the best interests of the Haitian people in mind, to
suggest otherwise is to view events as a) a conspiracy or b) the deluded
ravings of an outmoded leftist ideology. The journalists and "experts" who
write the drivel I've quoted above are fully 'embedded' in this corporatist
worldview, whether they subscribe to it or not. That they are "witnesses"
means nothing other than to give a gloss to the fiction of reality.
Interviews with witnesess without history or context also mean nothing,
they are at best, opinions that are dependent on the overall "logic" of the
reportage, something the unfortunate interviewees have no control over.

In order to unpack events, it is firstly necessary to be fully informed and
secondly, to be able to apply some critical ability which implies an
understanding of why things happen, who stands to gain (or lose). The
never-ending onslaught on our senses and sensibilities by the media,
whether fully or semi-literate attempts to make sure that we accept things
as they are; that we take things at face value and question the status quo
as little as possible. The poor of the planet are always victims of one
force or another, something they unfortunately share with us, the
"consumers" of the media's take on things, at least that's how the
corporate and state-run press would like us to see things.

In the case of Haiti, the media focused exclusively on the "failings" of
Aristide's government and his "armed thugs" and there is no doubt that in
line with the US strategy of making sure that Aristide failed, mistakes
were made; but in order to project the US-inspired agenda, it was necessary
to play down the fact that it was a democratic government, indeed drown the
fact that it was a democratic government in a deluge of stories that
focused almost exclusively on the "chaos" and corruption, thus relegating
the "holy grail" of Western democracy to those "fit" to enjoy it, thus
demonstrating that "democracy", far from being an absolute, is merely yet
another weapon of the West's war on the poor of the planet.

Copyright © 2005 William Bowles


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