A Basket to Carry Water
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.