26 February 2006

A Basket to Carry Water

Common Sense
John Maxwell

In a well-ordered world, Gerard Latortue whould now be sitting quietly in a jail in The Hague, preparing to defend himself against charges of treason, terrorism, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and, possibly, genocide.

Instead, on Wednesday last week, he was sitting, immaculately tailored, as always, in a conference room at United Nations headquarters, as the secretary-general of the Organisation of American States (OAS) vainly attempted to give a decent burial to US government policies in Haiti. It was a farce.

Officiating at the obsequies was the Guyanese-born assistant secretary-general of the OAS, chosen, one imagines, because his clean hands distinguished him from a motley gang of bloodstained bureaucrats who have for two years connived at one of the most blatant and infamous rapes of human rights in modern history.

The occasion was a meeting of the so-called Haitian Core Group of the UN, nations which over the past two years have been involved in the murderous suppression of Haitian democracy and the denial of the Rights of Man to the first people ever to have implemented those Rights.Mr Ramdin said the exercise was "closing a difficult chapter which emanated in part from the dispute surrounding the year 2000 legislative elections".

What Ramdin was unable to say was that this dispute was an artificial and unnecessary quarrel, fomented by a small, selfish cabal of rich Haitians, fostered and amplified by a witless and gutless American Press encouraged by a cynical and amoral US Administration. Like a bunch of juvenile delinquents, the elite sulked and threatened until they got their way.

On the day following the memorial service, the president of the United States performed what must have been, even for him, the supreme test of hypocrisy, telephoning Rene Preval, the president of Haiti, to convey his congratulations, good wishes and hopes for co-operation in the war on drugs and pledging "a continuing interest in the democratic and economic success of Haiti".

For a man whose previous encounters with democracy have left that institution bruised and unstable, Mr Bush had a nerve. Two years ago, his soldiers and diplomats had armed and provisioned a criminal aggregation of rapists, mass murderers and putschists to go into Haiti to finish what all the American NGOs and enhancers of Democracy had not been able to do: to subvert the lawfully and overwhelmingly elected president of Haiti.

When the mercenaries proved unable to do that job, the US itself stepped in with its ambassador and its Marines, making a pre-dawn call on the president to inform him that if he didn't leave the country his life was worthless. They put him on a cargo plane and rendered him to Africa.

It was not only Aristide and his family who were taken for a ride. The world was conned by official propaganda and journalistc pimps, which managed to paint a picture of the mild-mannered slum priest as a violent, corrupt demonic oppressor of his people. The US secretary of state was reported to have warned Ron Dellums, a former US congressman, a friend of Aristide's, to tell the president that he was going to die and that the US would do nothing to save him.

President Bush Feb 29, 2004: "President Aristide has resigned. He has left his country. The Constitution of Haiti is working. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history." What a chapter it has been!

The new harbingers of democracy looted the Presidential Palace, burned museums, shut down radio and television stations and terrorised the country, murdering anyone who they considered to be a loyalist of the ancien régime. A chimere. The OAS's man in Haiti, a Canadian, travelled to celebrate with the imposed prime minister, Mr Latortue, as he declared the sanguine gang of murderers and rapists to be 'freedom fighters'.

Caricom, whose representatives had completely surrendered to US propaganda and tried to get Aristide to surrender to his elite tormentors, were left up the creek, without a paddle, trying to figure out what day it was and which way the wind was blowing.

The then OAS assistant secretary-general, one Luigi Einaudi, an American, had been heard to say at Haiti's bicentennial celebrations two months earlier that Haiti's only problem was that it was being run by Haitians.

The elite, with the help of the gangsters and murderers, soon changed that. In concert with the United Nations, the Americans, the Canadians the French, and latterly the Brazilians, no Haitian chimere would be allowed to bark unpunished and thousands died, thousands of them murdered, plus 3,000 suffocated by malign incompetence and floods.

The next two years are a chronicle of murderous mismanagement, cruelty, repression and incompetence.

But the Americans, scattering democracy like manure across the Middle East, had to be seen to be doing something useful in this hemisphere. Elections were all important. Mr Roger Noriega said so, (his mentor Jesse Helms must have told him that), Mr Einaudi said so, and to top it all, Dr Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state said so.

Unfortunately for the newly arranged democracy-to-be, Haiti's poverty and lack of electricity make it impossible for voting machines to be used, and the recent elections had to be carried out the old way, un-hackable except by machete. There were neither computers nor machetes, just lots and lots and lots of 'dirt poor' Haitians smart enough to figure out how to get their democracy and their leaders back.

Despite all the plots and stratagems their will was made manifest and the electoral authority and the US government have been forced to admit that the people of Haiti have elected in one go, the president they can get if they can't get the one they want.

But this is just the start of another black farce, unless Jamaica's next prime minister and her Caricom colleagues intervene decisively with the support of the South Africans and the Brazilians and any others who respect Haiti.
Preval has been given a basket to carry water.

His country is still run by criminals, the leaders of the people are still in exile or in prison and thousands of crimes need to be prosecuted and criminals brought to justice. And then the job of development will need to be tackled.

To do any of this, Haiti requires money and help. Some of the help will come from the millions of Haitians driven out of Haiti in the past. At this point it may be useful to remember some of the argument before the coup in 2004.

Just before the coup I wrote in this column: "The 20th century story of Haiti is one of economic and social strip-mining, of rapacious exploitation on a scale that is almost incomprehensible. As one of my correspondents says, Haiti is an international crime scene. For decades the Haitian people have been driven abroad to seek some sort of dignity, livelihood and an end to suffering. The brightest people, including journalists, have been murdered or are in voluntary or involuntary exile.

"Haiti needs help, not interference. The people of goodwill, in Haiti or outside, must be brought into a dialogue of respect for each other, to devise solutions, made by Haitians for Haitians. But they need help, simply to build the basic infrastructure for dialogue, for communication, for education and for health. Haiti is a war zone, where the rich have scorched the earth so thoroughly that the emotional landscape seems to have been sown with salt."

I then reported on a fact which has obviously long been forgotten: "This week, Haitians in the United States were asked for their opinions on what should happen in Haiti. A poll among Haitians across the United States was done by the New California Media Coalition, an association of ethnic media companies.

"Surprise! More than half (52%) of those polled said they believed President Aristide should stay in office in the interest of democracy. Just over one-third (35%) believed he should resign. More than half - 55% - felt the Haitian Opposition was fighting for 'power'; only 22% believed [they were] fighting for 'democracy'."

"Given these figures and the facts reported elsewhere, it would seem a little crazy for Caricom/OAS to be putting pressure on Aristide to dismantle his government to give power to an Opposition which refuses even to discuss its differences with Aristide."

I repeat these statements because very little has changed in the Haitian reality since then. Aristide's support has probably risen. But the power elite are still there, elected by no one, responsible to no one but their bankers and clearly, totally contemptuous of the people upon whom they feed.

The prime minister is still in jail. The Americans, in a demonstration of remarkable stupidity, are still demonising Aristide and purporting to be able to direct Haitians in the solutions of their problems. What has been clear for 200 years is that Haiti's main problems have been, and are, in order, the United States of America and France, joined now by Canada.

The recent apparent suicide of the Brazilian general commanding the United Nations Mission in Haiti - MINUSTAH - occurred shortly after he had met with the two most prominent members of the elite. One wonders what they could have said to him and what drove him to take his own life, if indeed he did.

If he did take his own life, one imagines that confronted by the intransigent stupidity, greed and racism of the elite he was so depressed that he could see no way out. But we are faced with a holocaust which must be ended. We can no longer connive at the slow motion genocide of the Haitians. If you believe that my use of the word genocide is overblown, please consider the meaning of it.

Article III of the convention against genocide says:
"genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

ARTICLE IV: "Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in ARTICLE III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."
As my correspondent said two years ago, Haiti is an international crime scene, and the crime is genocide.

Certainly, what has happened in Haiti is genocide as described in the first three sub-clauses of Article III.
Haiti's eight million people may be luckier than the six million Jews, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals and other 'untermenschen' killed by the Nazis; they are, at least, still alive.

But life in Haiti is clearly not life as most people anywhere else understand it, with the exception of Darfur. The major actors in this crime may make amends to some extent, by paying reparations to Haiti for their misdeeds over nearly two centuries. But what they can do which would have the most beneficial effect is to extricate themselves from the affairs of Haiti.

Nation states are generally formed by groups of people wanting to preserve their common culture.The Haitians, with the exception of the Elite, transcended that when they abolished slavery and declared independence in 1804.

Their shared culture was the desire for freedom, for which they had fought so long and hard. Rising out of the most cruel and barbarous slavery, they extended the hand of friendship to everyone, black and white alike. They financed Simon Bolivar and sent him off to liberate South America.

If only for this reason, we, the world, owe them the most profound respect.

The best way of paying that respect is that we should respect and guarantee their freedom, their human rights and celebrate their unquenchable dignity under the most appalling oppression.

19 February 2006

No More Lavalas, the Fire Next Time?

Common Sense
John Maxwell

The Associated Press headline says it all: 'Haiti poll marred by ballot fraud protests'. The poll was marred not by fraud, but by the people's protests against the fraud.

It is important that we understand the difference, because for the next few years what will be important in any international discussion about Haiti is not whether René Preval won the majority of the votes cast, but that it took a peaceful uprising of the people to establish that Mr Preval did win more than half the votes cast.

It has taken nearly two weeks for the interim government of Haiti to declare what every Haitian and many outside Haiti suspected, that the masses of Haiti, mainly poor, had stood patiently for hours in hot, uncomfortable conditions, to tell the world that they wanted their democracy back.

Brian Concannon is an American lawyer who spent several years in Haiti helping the governments of Aristide and Preval identify, document, track down and prosecute some of the most gross human rights abusers of the era of the dictatorships of Duvalier and Cedras. On Friday, on the site of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, he gives a clear and dispassionate analysis of the recent elections (http://www.ijdh.org/) which explains in much greater detail than I can here, what really happened in Haiti over the last 12 days.

"On February 7, Haitian voters went to the polls to elect a president for the fourth time since 1990. Through great patience and determination they overcame official disorganisation, incompetence and discrimination, and for the fourth time since 1990 handed their chosen candidate a landslide victory.

And for the fourth time Haitian elites, with support from the international community, started immediately to undercut the victory, seeking at the negotiation table what they could not win at the voting booth."

Concannon points out that there is very little doubt that Preval was the overwhelming choice of the Haitian people, and that they made this choice despite two years of brutal intimidation, despite the fact that many of their leaders have been murdered or are in jail unjustly, despite the fact that it was made extraordinarily difficult for them to register to be able to vote, despite the fact that their candidate was prevented from staging an effective campaign, despite the fact that the number of voting places was inhumanly deficient, despite the fact their enemies did not want this election.

The electoral council, using a legal technicality, stuffed the total ballot count with blank ballots, thus inflating the number of votes needed to win an absolute majority. Somewhere in the system too, thousands of ballots were dumped and burned, and other mischief done to prevent it becoming known that Preval had triumphed and did not need a second round of voting, a run-off, to seal his victory.

As Concannon points out, the Electoral Council was shamed into making the right decision, but for the wrong reasons: "Although the negotiated agreement reaches the same result as a correct tabulation would have reached, it does so by changing the rules instead of correcting the violations of the rules."

As it was in the past, so it will be in the future. Concannon says:
"The deal provides leverage for those seeking to delegitimise Preval's presidency and block the progressive social and economic policies that he was elected to implement.

The election's also-rans are already crying foul, and they will be joined by more voices from Haiti's elite and the international community. Soon enough, invoking "the contested elections of February 2006" will suffice to justify an array of economic and political coercion against Haiti's elected government".
This is precisely what the sweatshop bosses, the American fundamentalist Republicans and the other criminal conspirators used against Aristide and Preval in the past. As I pointed out last week, one of them, a candidate for president named Charles Henry Baker, was, before the votes were halfway counted, preparing to try to annul the results of the election because of what he said were irregularities favouring Preval.

It was typical of these characters, who routinely accuse their opponents of doing what they themselves intend to do. We've seen it in Jamaica and we've more recently seen it in the last two US presidential elections.

The Resource Curse

In certain circles, among sophisticated journalists and coiffured statesmen and development 'experts', there is talk about a "Resource Curse", which is said to afflict Third World nations rich in natural resources.

This curse prevents these nations from developing as logic would suggest is possible. Instead, they are afflicted with corruption, huge income inequalities and persistent poverty. Their leaders frequently have large holdings in offshore banks and similar institutions, and the people are miserable, rebellious and usually unaware that they live in failed or about to be failed states.

Some people from states afflicted by the Resource Curse have other ideas; speaking in the early 1970s, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), declared 'Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It's the devil's excrement. We are drowning in the devil's excrement.'

He was speaking of course, pre-Hugo Chavez, who seems to have exorcised the Resource Curse and turned the oil wealth of Venezuela into an engine for the development of Venezuela, educating and feeding the poor, bringing them drinkable water and affordable health services instead of enriching only the distant elites of colder climes.

Chavez' performance seems to suggest that the Resource Curse consists largely of intransigent elites and their foreign sponsors who refuse to believe that all human beings should have the right to sustainable development - development within their environments for the benefit of their communities and their nations.

In countries without a national elite the West will attempt to invent one - with the worthy and pure intention of improving governance and enhancing democracy as in Angola and the Congo. Political eugenics demand the removal or neutralisation of 'Populists" - highly dangerous vectors of virulent epidemics like liberation theology and socialism.

The diamond mines of Tanzania and South Africa, the gold mines of Angola, the uranium mines of the Congo and Niger, the forests of Liberia and Brazil and the enormous deposits of Western oil underlying such failed or failing states as Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Nigeria all witness to the potency of the Resource Curse. Haiti's sole resources, as far as we know now, are its people and its strategic position halfway between the United States and Venezuela and conveniently next to Cuba.

The Cubans are believed to have found promising undersea structures within their exclusive economic zone, which borders on Hispaniola and is part of the same geological formation.

In Jamaica, environmentally disastrous seismic exploration has been licensed by the government in the hope of finding enough oil to make the Doomsday Highway viable. Perhaps, as I suggested nearly two years ago, there may be oil in Haiti. Whatever the truth of those speculations, Haiti's new president will begin with enormous problems.

The most dangerous problem is the Haitian elite, whose hatred and disrespect for the 'slum priest' Aristide and his barefoot followers know no bounds. Any leader of the poor is a gangster or 'chimere' in their words. Any attempt to say, raise the minimum wage is cause for immediate 'withdrawal of confidence", which is a time-tested way to get rid of unwanted and dangerous reformers.

The leader of the Haitian 'elites' is an American citizen of Lebanese origin called Andy Apaid, who owns what are politely called garment factories - sweatshops producing T-shirts for a Canadian company Gildan - for the Canadian and American markets. Charles Henry Baker, one of the presidential candidates swept aside by the Preval flood, is Apaid's brother-in-law.

The elite power structure is close knit and apparently absolutely agreed on one thing - to squeeze Haiti until the pips squeak. They have put nothing back into Haiti. The depredations of people like them have drained Haiti dry. When people are starving they have no money to save. Capital investments in Haiti consist simply of large prefab buildings with hundreds of sewing machines, ready to be transported at a moment's notice to the next failing state.

Apaid pays his workers 1,500 Haitian gourdes per fortnight or about US$3 per day or less than one-fifth of the Jamaican minimum wage.

No wonder that Gildan's CEO Glen Chamandy boasted "Gildan's labour costs in countries such as Haiti and Honduras are actually cheaper than those in China...the bulk of T-shirts heading to the US market are from the Caribbean" (Toronto Globe & Mail April 11, 2005, quoted by ZNet).

A report by a fact-finding mission from the University of Miami Law School in November 2004 quoted Apaid himself as admitting that he had ties to a notorious gangster named Thomas 'Labaniye' Robinson. The report said "During the investigation, investigators repeatedly heard reports from police and slum residents that Apaid pays a Cité Soleil gang leader to kill Lavalas supporters".

What Haiti Needs

So-called friends of Haiti like Roger Noriega, Luigi Einaudi and US Ambassador Timothy carney, all exponents of the State Department's policies toward us lesser breeds without the law, are full of advice for Preval.

The problem is that their advice is largely about the need for him to keep his distance from President Aristide and Lavalas. Einaudi, two years ago, said the only thing wrong with Aristide's Haiti was that it was run by Haitians. Defying logic and the evidence of their senses, they say Aristide is a man of the past.

Aristide had a pretty clear-eyed view of what Haiti actually needs. He was resolved to build "Utopia upon a dung heap" as he said, to build some kind of viable national community upon the detritus of the past.

To do this he needed money to educate and train his people, money for water supplies, for health services, for building and repairing roads and basically, for inventing a viable state on the ruins created by Haiti's friends from Thomas Jefferson and Colin Powell to Pierre Pettigrew and Dominique de Villepin, to say nothing of Kofi Annan.

Most of all, Haiti needs friends, people like Jamaicans who can lend support in agricultural extension and other basic skills which have been driven out of Haiti. And, most of all, Haiti needs to reclaim its real elite, the far-flung exiles driven from home by rapacious greed, mindless cruelty and the total disrespect for life and dignity which defines the Cuckoo Elite now roosting in Haiti.

The problem is that the Cuckoo Elite cannot help themselves. They are like the scorpion in the old fable, who seeks a ride across the river. He convinces a frog to ferry him across, promising upon his honour that he will not sting the frog.

The frog is doubtful, but agrees. As they begin to cross the river he again cautions the scorpion: "Remember," he tells his passenger, "If you sting me, we both die!"

Those were his last words.

12 February 2006

The 'Pottery Barn' Rules

Common Sense
John Maxwell

Haitian presidential candidate Rene Preval gestures as he walks in his hometown in Marmelade, Haiti on Thursday.

If you really want to know what's wrong with Haiti consider this: On Thursday night, when it was clear that Rene Preval was getting something over 60 per cent of the votes in the UN-organised Haitian election, one of his opponents, the man coming second with about 12 per cent of the votes, was a former stand-in president, Leslie Manigat.

Manigat, recognising reality, said that the trend suggested that Preval had swept the board and that there might be no need for a run-off.

The candidate running third, a millionaire sweatshop owner named Charles Henri Baker, had a different opinion. Mr Baker, with about six per cent of the vote, one-tenth of Preval's and half as many as Manigat's, was promising to launch an election petition, charging fraud, hoping to overturn the results.

I cannot imagine anything which more clearly illustrates the mind-set of Haiti's so-called ruling class, the elite, whose rapacious greed, arrogant intransigence and bone-headed stupidity have provided the main roadblock in Haiti's 200-year-long struggle to establish a free and civilised society.

I don't think it is possible for anyone, anywhere else in the world, to believe that Mr Baker's initiative makes any sense whatever. I don't believe that even in the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince or in the State Department itself that there is anyone who could believe that there is any way, short of assassination, to deny the people of Haiti their basic human rights after last week's demonstration of resolution and will.

For the last 10 years Charles Henri Baker and an assortment of freebooters like himself, notably fellow sweatshop owners Reginald Boulos and Andy Apaid, have been able to convince the United States that 'populists' like Preval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide do not represent the Haitian people.

The elite's stiff-necked refusal to co-operate, negotiate or participate in the democratic process recruited support from the most backward and primitive forces in US politics and effectively brought the operations of Haitian government to a standstill.

Enhancing democracy

They also managed to recruit the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, whose Jamaican heritage should have informed him that he and the rest of the world were being samfied (conned) by the Haitian elite and their co-conspirators against democracy - the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Haiti Democracy Project, among others. Under the guise of "enhancing democracy" these apparatchiks sabotaged the hopes of the Haitian people for a new birth of freedom after generations of savage dictatorship initiated by the American invasion of 1915.

The American intervention was explicitly and essentially racist and was perhaps best exemplified by the notorious remark of the American secretary of state at the time, William Jennings Bryan. Upon discovering the ethnic character of Haiti he was appalled: "Imagine!" he expostulated, "Niggers speaking French!" encapsulating for a century white American incomprehension of the humanity of people who don't look like them. This incomprehension extended to the first black American secretary of state, Colin Powell, and even more strongly to his successor, another "brilliant African-American" Dr Condoleezza Rice.

Powell bought the elite nonsense so thoroughly that he was able to say, with a perfectly straight face, that President Aristide's "failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarisation and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today... His own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people of Haiti."

And he suggested that President Aristide was corrupt and that the US with its high-tech and pervasive reach, would very soon charge Aristide with high crimes and misdemeanours. That was two years ago.

According to the North American pundits, the best interests of Haiti meant selling off the few national productive assets and accepting the wise guidance of people like Apaid, Boulos and Baker, all of them suspect as collaborators with the dictatorships under which they had amassed immeasurable wealth and power.

Aristide was also supposed to accept the dictates of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), the World Bank, the IMF, et al, to mortgage his poverty-stricken country to foreign usurers to build super-highways and other hard infrastructure when what Haiti wanted was the development of its people first so they could handle the work of re-inventing and rebuilding their country.

One of the poorest countries in the World

It wasn't that the US, the World Bank and the IFIs didn't know what was needed. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. Its per capita income - US$250 - is considerably less than one-tenth the Latin American average.

About 80 per cent of the rural Haitian population live in poverty. Moreover, far from improving, the poverty situation in Haiti has been deteriorating over the past decade, concomitant with a rate of decline in per capita GNP of 5.2 per cent a year over the 1985-95 period.
"The staggering level of poverty in Haiti is associated with a profile of social indicators that is also shocking. Life expectancy is only 57 years compared to the Latin American average of 69. Less than half of the population is literate. Only about one child in five of secondary-school age actually attends secondary school.

Health conditions are similarly poor; vaccination coverage for children, for example, is only about 25 per cent. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population are living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty."
The World Bank - Challenges of Poverty Reduction
And they all pledged to support Haiti get back on her feet. But the elite, citing Aristide's supposedly divisive populism and dictatorial tendencies, convinced anyone who could help to put their investments somewhere else. The elite despised 'the ghetto priest' - as poor and black as his parishioners. Aristide nevertheless went ahead. Haiti wanted doctors; with the help of the Cubans he established a medical school for the children of the poor.

Haiti wanted teachers; Aristide built more schools in his short time than had been built in Haiti in 200 years. Yet, to the foreign NGOs, busy building 'civil society', the man was a menace. They could not and would not work with him. They 'knew' that in a fair fight they would not defeat him, so they refused to contest elections, because they would be stolen.

This time round the ground was better prepared. Dozens of convicted rapists, torturers and murderers were let loose when the Marines took over. The Marines drove out the students and took the medical school for their barracks; their accomplices in 'civil society' burned the new Museum of Haitian Folkloric history. They shut down the children's television station. It was clearly subversive of good government and capitalism.

Press freedom became a memory with journalists tortured and murdered. Leaders of the Lavalas popular movement were sometimes murdered, sometimes simply imprisoned without charge.

The prime minister was jailed, as was the country's leading folklorist, a 69-year-old woman named Anne August who was arrested at midnight on Mother's Day 2004 by Marines using stun grenades to shatter her front door. They shot her dog and carried away her young grandchildren in handcuffs. She is still in prison.

Convicted terrorists were freed by a compromised judicial system and one of the most notorious and dangerous even ran for the presidency. The work of years in bringing the torturers and murders to justice was undone overnight. The US-installed 'Prime Minister' acclaimed the murderers as "Freedom Fighters".

He was in good company. The Canadian representative of the OAS was on his bandwagon as he hailed the criminal resurgence. And Condoleezza Rice, with more doctorates than common sense, was ecstatic about the prospects of an election. After all, Lavalas had been silenced, the chimeres (Lavalas 'terrorists') had been murdered, the people were leaderless.

When a leader stepped forward in the person of Father Gerard Jean Juste, a Roman Catholic priest like Aristide, he too was thrown into jail, prevented from becoming a candidate for president and only released two weeks before the election because he had been examined in prison by the internationally known Professor Paul Farmer and found to be suffering from leukemia. Not even the State Department could challenge that diagnosis.

Spreading 'democracy'

All was set fair for democracy to sprout. In a country of eight million people with four million voters spread over 28,000 sq km (about the size of the US state of Maryland and nearly three times the size of Jamaica), there were 800 designated polling stations, about as many as would serve in the city of Kingston, Jamaica.

There were three polling stations outside of the main slum cities adjacent to Port-au-Prince - to serve nearly 300,000 voters. There were none inside.

Condoleezza Rice had a message for the Haitian people. In an interview last September, before the election was postponed three times, her "message for the Haitian people is don't miss this chance to go out and vote and to decide your own future. There is nothing more important to a human being than to control his own future and the vote is the way to begin to control your own future".

"Nou lèd, Men Nou La!"

The election was expected to be a shambles in which anything could happen to frustrate the popular will: widespread violence, too few polling stations, too many voters convinced that the rich would get many chances to vote while they waited, shoeless and voteless, in mile-long lines under the hot Haitian sun.

Yet, suspecting the worst, the Haitians were disciplined and resolute. There was one violent incident in the whole country.

People fainted as they waited for hours to vote, were revived, waited again and no doubt fainted again. All were hungry, I am sure. But they were hungrier for their rights than for food. Despite all the odds, they made the election work. Despite the intimidation, the confusion, the bad faith and the UN peacekeeping forces, they made the election work.

If ever there were a people deserving autonomy, it is the Haitians. They proved it 200 years ago when the Enlightenment made a soft landing in Haiti, when in advance of France and the United States and the world, the Haitians abolished slavery and promulgated the inalienable Rights of Man.

They proved it again on Tuesday when they cocked a snook at their 'benefactors' "Nou lèd, Men Nou La!" as they say in Haiti - "We may be ugly, but we are here!' or as we say in Jamaica "You a-go tired fi see mi face"!!

Preval won even in upscale Petionville.

Colin Powell was fond of speaking about what he said were "the Pottery Barn rules": You break it, you've bought it.

The United States, Canada and France broke Haiti on behalf of a thoroughly toxic elite. The French already owed Haiti $25 billion in blood money extracted by blackmail in the 19th century and the Americans, who financed that extortion at usurious rates, owe them even more, having destroyed Haitian governance, killed and exiled their leaders and depraved their landscape as well as their politics. Will they do the honourable thing and pay for their depredations? Stay tuned.

Poetic Justice

They say revenge is a dish that men of taste prefer cold. In his position as foreign minister of Canada Mr Pierre Pettigrew was one of the leading conspirators and mobilisers against President Aristide and Haitian democracy.

So, it is with some satisfaction that I record that Mr Pettigrew, a rising star in the Liberal party, lost his seat in the Canadian Parliament in the recent elections. Pettigrew was defending a seat which had been safe for the Liberals for nearly 80 years - since 1917. He was defeated handsomely by - WAIT FOR IT...


... A Haitian woman.

I am sure that you too will feel that somehow, somewhere, there is, occasionally, some justice.

05 February 2006

Unpalatable Democracy

Common Sense
John Maxwell

When foraging bees find a new source of food, they return to the hive and perform a little dance in front of the hive. This dance is full of significance. Depending on how the bee moves, up and down and side to side, and how it waggles its body, it tells its fellow workers where the new food source is, what sort of food is there and whether there is much of it or just a little.

This enables the hive to decide whether to send more workers to gather the food and how many of them to send. That's how a beeline begins.

Bees are social animals, that is, they live in communities, and like all other social creatures, bees communicate with each other just like whales, parrots, dogs and human beings.

Journalists are the human equivalent of the forager bees and of the sentry bees. In another analogy, journalists may be described as the social equivalent of the immune system (sentries and guards) and of the animal senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

We have taken on one of the hardest tasks in human society, to deliver the news, the information without which the community would be blind, deaf and open to attack by all sorts of predators from other large animals to the most minute and lethal viruses like HIV/AIDS.

Which is why, next to oxygen, water and food, the freedom to communicate, freedom of expression, is the most basic of human rights. Democracy cannot exist without freedom of expression because democracy is the child of freedom of expression. Without the freedom to express ourselves, we are slaves, no more, no less.

I had believed in the veracity and honour of American news magazines until the time, as a schoolboy, when I read a report in Time about something that had happened in Jamaica. That salutary confrontation shattered forever my illusions about the Press; working as a journalist obliterated whatever was left in the detritus of my naivete.

On Tuesday, for instance, I was flabbergasted by the fact that Mr Bush was not attacked on all fronts by the Press of the world for repeating an old, long discredited canard: "On September 11, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction."

A few minutes earlier Mr Bush had said: "To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of goodwill and respect for one another, and I will do my part."

I cannot understand how anyone could, in 2006, utter those two sentences in the same speech and not be conscious of the fundamental contradictions between the two sets of words. And, if the president meant what he said about respect, he should have enough respect for his audience and his own reputation to be able to pronounce the word 'nuclear' properly.

For me, that failure indicates not only a lack of good manners but a callous disregard for the opinions of anyone but himself. He clearly believes that not only can he get away with anything, but that it is his right to be able to get away with whatever he chooses to do. Psychiatrists have a word for people like that.

The world's Press is not much different, nor are many of the world's governments. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, as might be expected, was quick off the mark on January 26: "President Bush called for democracy, but he may have cause to regret it following a landslide victory by the militant Islamic group Hamas, which in the past has sent out waves of suicide bombers in Israel."

Blitzer's intro to the story was an exhortation to prejudice. Had he tried even to achieve minimal balance, he could have said that Hamas has faithfully observed a ceasefire with Israel for the past two years and had declared that it was prepared to continue that ceasefire. But Blitzer, like many other famous Western journalists, is not too concerned with the truth in the sense that the truth is a statement of all the relevant facts.

Among these relevant facts is that Hamas has rigorously observed a ceasefire with Israel for the last two years. In November 2004, Sheik Hassan Yousef, then recently released from an Israeli prison after serving a 28-month sentence, was a top leader of Hamas on the West Bank. He said then that Hamas would consider a formal ceasefire, if Israel reciprocated, if Israel was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners, withdraw from occupied land and stop targeted killings of militants.

"The truce should have a price," he said. "There is no truce from one side. The truce should be two-way. But a truce with continued Israeli aggression is not acceptable to us."

Most westerners who read such words don't understand what Sheik Yousef meant by Israeli aggression.

According to Al Jazeera, Israel is terrorising Palestinians by sending fighter jets to break the sound barrier over Gaza. "Low-flying F-16 fighter jets break the sound barrier above populated areas, creating thunderous shock waves which shake buildings, break windows, blow off doors, and cause widespread panic, fear, and hysteria."

Initially, the attacks came as a response to a barrage of rockets fired by resistance groups into Israel. Eventually, the rockets stopped, but the booms continued. Recently, Islamic Jihad fired rockets into Israel in reprisal for the Israelis' 'targeted assassination' of two of its leaders. This brought back the sonic terror, collective punishment, proscribed under the laws of war.

Eyad Sarraj, a Palestinian psychiatrist, says the attacks poroduce an array of psychosomatic effects ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety attacks, seizures and nausea to nosebleeds and miscarriages.

"Although it is not lethal, it can lead to death indirectly, of unborn children, it can lead to highly traumatising effects on children particularly, and adults too," he says. "I have seen children who have changed completely after being subjected to sonic booms, from sociable to clingy and anxious, crying all the time.

"Some of them do not eat or sleep as they used to. Older children have difficulty concentrating, while others became violent."

Seems like a very good way to create more terrorists.

Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli military historian, told Aljazeera.net: "You haven't seen anything yet; I would argue the Israeli army so far has been nice and has not done anything serious."

And what do you make of the Israeli practice of destroying the livelihoods of Palestinians by demolishing their farms and olive groves and stealing the olive trees?

According to Al Jazeera: The Israeli army has been destroying, uprooting and in some cases stealing Palestinian olive trees in several parts of the West Bank. Ayed Hureibat, a Palestinian owner of one property, said: "They uprooted the huge olive trees with the jackhammers, trimmed the bigger branches with large electric saws and then lifted the trees aboard awaiting trucks apparently in order to replant them elsewhere in Israel. It is theft in broad daylight."

Hureibat said soldiers threatened to shoot and kill villagers who sought to protest the Israeli action. "I told one of the soldiers to allow me to speak to the officer in charge of the operation. He told me go speak with Allah."

Then there is the destruction of homes: Between 1967 and 1987, hundreds of houses were destroyed. According to UNRWA (The UN Relief and Works Agency in Palestine), between October 2000 and January 2004, 3,062 homes were completely or partially demolished and 2,524 homes needed repair in the Gaza Strip following attacks by the Israeli military.

"Since the beginning of the second Intifada (Al Aqsa), Israel has killed 749 children, 22 per cent of the overall death toll. Of the Palestinians injured, 42 per cent are children."

The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, which provided the above quotation, also says:
"Palestinian children suffer from the Israeli policies of assassinations, injuries, home demolitions, imprisonment, and bereavement.

This is all in addition to the harsh living conditions of poverty, over-crowdedness, malnutrition, and inability to access necessary educational and health facilities resulted from checkpoints and closures. It is needless to say that children's basic rights, guaranteed by different international conventions, are systematically violated by the Israeli government."

"Children have the right of protection against violence and physical and psychological torture. Three hundred and ten Palestinian children, among them 12 females, are still imprisoned in Israeli jails. One hundred per cent of these children have been exposed to different physical and psychological torture. Seventy-eight of these children are suffering from serious physical problems."
Four years ago, writing from Amsterdam, I reported in my column ('Those Without Sin', March 2002) "Israel, under Ariel Sharon, has been targeting not only journalists, but ambulances, doctors and nurses, women and children as well as Palestinian policemen and even Yasser Arafat himself."

The International Red Cross, not known for taking sides, last week condemned Israel's attacking Red Cross and Red Crescent vehicles and workers. "It is absolutely contrary to all the rules of international humanitarian law that these symbols, these emblems and the people wearing them be targeted."

These abuses are a small part of the barbaric treatment meted out to the Palestinian people by Israel and particularly by Sharon. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that Israelis are united behind such policies.

Hundreds of Israelis have gone to jail for refusing to fight in this unjust war against the Palestinians and others - men and women - are constantly engaged in the process of making peace with the Palestinians and helping them in various ways, including by filing lawsuits against the army and the government to stop some of the worst abuses.

I would guess that most Israelis, if they were able to get out from under the official miasma of fear and hate spread by the right wing, would opt for a just peace with the Palestinians and that the Palestinians would opt for a just peace with the Israelis.

The problem is that there are powerful interests in Israel and in the western world who don't want peace and are prepared to do anything to prevent it. The opportunity at this moment is not to decide where the balance of terror lies, but to face facts and work for peace.

Former US President Jimmy Carter said a few days ago: "Obviously, if you sponsor an election or promote democracy and freedom around the world, then when people make their own decision about their leaders I think that all the governments should recognise that administration and let them form the government as decided by the people themselves."

He went on to say Israeli security confirmed "to me, [that] Hamas leadership in August of 2004 pledged themselves to apply a ceasefire and they haven't committed any actions of violence in the last 18 months. This indicates what they might do in the future, but it also indicates another thing I think is quite interesting. That is that Hamas is a highly-disciplined organisation and if they say 'We will not have any violence from our people', I think they can enforce what they say."

That American savant, Henry Ford, once said that his customers "can have a Ford in any colour they want, as long as it's black". Our modern Henry Fords, the Bush/Rumsfeld/Rice axis, also believe that you can have a democracy in any style you want, as long as it is controlled by the US.

Fifty years ago, the United Nations was controlled by the United States, Western Europe and an obedient bloc of Latin American satellites. Today, democracy is breaking out all over. And the Bush/Rumsfeld/Rice cabal don't like it one little bit.

They much prefer what I call the Haitian solution, in which the voice of the people is stifled, and their freedom of expression is suspended until the world runs out of oil.

The Americans supported what they called Haitian democracy, until they discovered that President Aristide was convinced that he was president not only of Haiti, but of the Haitian people. Their response was to try to starve the Haitians into submission, and when that failed, to depose the president, kidnap him and transport him - as the French did Toussaint - to the other side of the Atlantic.

Last week a coalition of lawyers in Haiti and outside launched a petition in the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission, (IACHR) the Supreme Court of the Americas, accusing the United States of responsibility for the coup which deposed President Aristide and unleashed upon the Haitian people, a barbaric and murderous regime, stifling their human rights, including their most fundamental, the right to be who they choose and to govern themselves in their own way.

When the United States was hauled before the World Court by Nicaragua, the US insisted that it did not recognise the competence of the court and refused to pay the damages awarded to Nicaragua. Since the IACHR was partly created by the US, that excuse won't work this time.

Mr Bush should be told the story of the English King Canute, whose courtiers convinced him that he commanded so much power that he could command the tides of the ocean to moderate themselves. When he essayed to prove that thesis, all he got was wet feet and probably pneumonia.