[News] Haiti - Boojum Hunting in the Caribbean

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 25 15:12:49 EST 2010


January 25, 2010

Baron Samedi Walks Again!

Boojum Hunting in the Caribbean


When Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic from 
Africa to the Caribbean nearly 40 years ago, he 
was shocked by -- of all things -- a garbage dump in the middle of the ocean.

In the area known as the Doldrums (wonderful 
word), Heyerdahl's papyrus raft Ra II was 
surrounded for days by a wilderness of plastic 
rubbish from all over the world. The Age of 
Plastic has bequeathed countless conveniences to 
humanity as well as new forms of cancer and 
enormous collections of litter on land, at sea and even in space.

Since Heyerdahl's observations, we now know that 
every ocean in the world has its own garbage 
dump. The largest by far is the so-called North 
Pacific Garbage Patch, an area covering most of 
the North Pacific from Alaska to Japan -- twice 
the size of the continental United States and 
discovered only in 1997. The gyres are not easily 
discerned, because most of the plastic rubbish 
has been macerated by marine forces and is 
composed of small particles that float just below 
the surface, killing fish that mistake it for food.

The Atlantic gyre, like all others, has formed at 
the confluence of various ocean currents, an area 
of slackwater circulating majestically, slowly 
and almost imperceptibly until you pick up -- on 
a Jamaican or Haitian beach -- soft drink 
containers thrown into the Congo or the Niger.

There is another less well-known gyre in the 
North Caribbean which has quite different effects 
from the other garbage patches.

This area of existential discombobulation is much 
more dangerous than its kin. It is, first of all, 
not composed of material fragments but of 
abstractions, strange apparitions that do not 
poison fish or litter beaches, but poison minds 
and litter brave new policies with the toxic 
detritus of ancient ignorance, hysteria and unreasonable beliefs.

It is a place where ancient racist libels still 
hang around, driving US politicians to 
distraction and the Bible. It is the place where 
apparitions like Pat Robertson, Roger Noriega, 
Otto Reich and Luigi Einaudi flourish and have 
their being, sustained by vicious fables invented 
500 years ago to justify human slavery, revised 
and updated periodically to deal with black 
rebellion against slavery, colonialism and used 
today to frighten and confuse US soldiers and journalists.

Baron Samedi walks again

When I was about 12 years old, I borrowed a book 
from the Institute of Jamaica's Junior Centre 
library. It was part of a donation by the 
Carnegie Foundation and was almost brand new.

I cannot remember the name or author, but the 
book was obviously written to sell millions by 
frightening the wits out of its American readers.

I had, up to that time, heard nothing about Haiti 
or their religious system, Vodun. The novel was 
populated by zombies -- the living dead -- as 
well as other evil spirits presided over by the 
sulphurous presence of Baron Samedi who seemed to 
be in charge of everything in Haiti, from cooking 
to current affairs. If my memory is reliable 
there were incredible scenes of 'demoniac 
possession' mostly among the epically 
bloodthirsty natives but not sparing the fairest 
flowers of Nordic pulchritude and chastity.

Since the book was written in the first half of 
the twentieth century, indecencies were suggested 
rather than made plain, and even bloodshed was a 
lot less indiscriminate than, say, the latest 
dancehall invocation against homosexuals. What 
was clear was that the narrative was intended to 
make your skin creep; in my case it certainly succeeded.

The novel was not unusual for American colonial 
narratives of the time. Non-Europeans could be 
trusted as far as the front gate, being consumed 
by lust and crazed by the need to spill blood.

And the 'black magic' was integral to cultures 
that were brutish, repellent and totally merciless.

The Devil in the Flesh

A few years ago TIME magazine, quite seriously, 
printed what it said was 
recipe for creating zombies. The process was not 
difficult, if one was not squeamish. It involved, 
among other things, the flowers of the Datura bush.

So, I was not surprised by the most recent 
eructations of Pat (Napoleon III) Robertson, a 
semi-literate quack who seems to have a hotline 
to Satan himself and is always willing to explain 
the latest demonic manifestations. Nor was I 
really surprised to learn that the US Army was so 
terrified of unarmed, starving and wounded 
Haitians that it needed about 10 soldiers to protect one aid person.

Others were not so intimidated by the Haitians.

Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO led by 
Paul Farmer, was running several field hospitals 
from its headquarters in Cange, in Haiti's 
Central Plateau. Tiny Iceland (facing bankruptcy) 
had search-and-rescue teams on the ground in 
Port-au-Prince within 48 hours of the earthquake. 
Andri Magnason, a friend in Iceland, sent me the following:

"There is an Icelandic team of 20 rescue workers 
in Port-au-Prince and Leogane. They have saved a 
few lives with their special equipment. They have 
not seen the violence that has been in the news; 
on the contrary, they see only gratitude and 
goodwill and cooperation -- no hostility -- and 
they have even seen some hope. Strange how the 
world media wants to paint things black, while 
they could pick up many stories of human dignity from the ruins."

And, of course, the Cubans ("We Never Closed") 
had more than 400 medical professionals on the 
ground before the earthquake and doubled that 
number with their graduating class of 400 Haitian 
doctors. Doctors Without Borders complained that 
the US military was preventing medical assistance 
reaching those who needed it most.

The real problem, as I see it, is that the US has 
scared itself silly with the policy garbage 
bequeathed by Thomas Jefferson and refined by the 
like of William Jennings Bryan, Reich, Noriega, 
Einaudi and their sainted mentors, Joe McCarthy, 
Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms.

If the US Army had thought to drop water, nothing 
more, they could have saved many lives. Some 
people drank their own urine. Others, less 
knowledgeable, may have died of thirst.

The late Hedi Annabi -- the UN's man in Haiti -- 
died in the earthquake. He was clearly another 
who thought Haitians were all terrorists and his 
way of preparing for democracy involved the UN 
mission -- MINUSTAH -- making periodic forays 
into the slums to slaughter members of Fanmi Lavalas.

The UN secretary general is even more clueless, 
tolerating René Préval's de-legitimising Fanmi 
Lavalas and appointing Bill Clinton as his 
representative in Haiti. Clinton was the man who 
restored Aristide in 1994 to stem the flood of 
refugees into Miami Beach and then broke every 
promise he made and pressured and blackmailed the 
Haitians by shutting down essential foreign aid.

So, I must confess that my blood ran cold when 
Barack Obama proved even more clueless than Ban 
Ki-Moon by appointing Haiti's worst enemy, George 
Bush, to join Clinton to raise funds for Haitian 
relief. If there is anyone who believes in 
Haitian zombies and bogeymen, it is Bush. As far 
as Ban Ki-Moon, Clinton and Bush are concerned, 
the Haitians are only good for mindless 'jobs' in foreign-owned sweatshops.

What is so tragic about the loss of life since 
the earthquake is that, were it not for the 
boojums, zombies and Baron Samedi, so much more could have been done.

If you don't believe me, read the following:

"However, away from the glare of the 
international media, a team of Cuban doctors has 
been working among the quake-affected. The Cuban 
government offered its medical expertise to the 
governments of Pakistan and India immediately 
after the magnitude of the destruction caused by 
the quake was known. The Indian government did 
not even acknowledge the offer. Pakistan, where 
the scale of disaster was humongous, was quick to 
accept the offer. The first Cuban medical team 
was in Pakistan on October 14, six days after the 
earthquake." (Frontline Vol:22 Iss:26 URL: 

In short order, the Cubans had established 19 
field hospitals staffed by more than 700 doctors 
-- half of them women -- working 12-hour shifts.

This was in Pakistan in 2005.

Pakistan is 14,000 miles from Cuba and the Cubans 
were working in foreign conditions, in fierce 
cold, in a country with whom Cuba had no diplomatic relations.

There are now more than 25,000 Cuban doctors 
working outside their country and an almost equal number of teachers.

If you think that boojums are a figment of my 
imagination, consider this: Three weeks ago the 
US government identified Cuba as one of the countries exporting terrorism.

John Maxwell writes for the 
Observer, where this article originally appeared.

Copyright © 2010 John Maxwell

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