[ Error Correction – The following story contains the statement: “What is not so well remembered is that John Negroponte was the US Ambassador to the UN in 1972.” The US Ambassador to the UN in 1972 was George HW Bush. Negroponte was a member of the Career Foreign Service, working with Henry Kissinger. – Our apologies, FTW ]
[In this two-part analysis, Stan Goff exposes the underlying forces driving the current crisis in Haiti. The recent coup d’etat is only the latest in two centuries of violent transfers of power in that country – but today the regional balance of forces is refreshingly new. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has foiled a series of desperate CIA attempts to gain control of that oil-producing nation. While the Bush administration arrogantly plays the same the old game in the same old way, using the same old felons and convicted murderers, new rules are being written by an awakening transnational solidarity in the hemisphere. Markets, privatization of natural resources, drug routes, cheap labor – all are at stake in the US elite’s scramble for Haiti. But Goff shows how an even more important motivation is stinging the Bush junta into frenzied action: when white supremacy is symbolically wounded, others have to bleed.
Haiti was founded in 1804 after a roundly successful slave revolution. Aristide is Haiti’s first democratically elected President. Just before his kidnapping at gunpoint, he had moved to double the Haitian minimum wage. And the prospect of a dignified, self-governing Haiti free from the depredations of U.S. economic warfare and CIA intervention is intolerable to the heroes of American exceptionalism. Neoconservative ideologues, Jesse Helms-style Southern racists, Miami exilios and organized crime players, intelligence men embarrassed by even a whisper of successful populism – these are the planners of the coup and the cover-up. Many learned their trade in the Iran-Contra period, or have mentors who did; the pattern hasn’t changed. Just as Nicaraguan self-determination seemed to threatened the whole universe during the Reagan administration, from the perspective of Washington and Langley a strong Haiti – under an electorally legitimate Black president with a mandate and regional allies – would surely bring the Earth crashing into the Sun. – FTW]
Stan Goff, Master Sergeant, U.S. Army Special Forces (Retired) is author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2000), and Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century Soft Skull Press, (February 9, 2004).
March 23, 2004 1800 PST (FTW) — In 1994, when my last Special Forces team, Operational Detachment Alpha 354, entered the Haitian city of Gonaives, I along with three members of that detachment waded through a huge and agitated crowd to encounter four soldiers and two plainclothes death squad members about to fire into that crowd with M-1 Garands. They were surprised to see us, and we took advantage of that surprise to compel them to lay their weapons down and submit to arrest. One of the plainclothes gents hesitated to relinquish his weapon, and I came very near shooting him. I’m only being honest – knowing this will put some people off – when I say that I now wish I had gone ahead and pulled the trigger. Instead, I protected him from a very angry crowd, one member of which lambasted him across the head with a heavy stick when he finally laid his weapon down, obliging my own team’s medics to suture his gaping scalp laceration.
The whole tale is in Hideous Dream – A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press, 2000). http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-887128-63-8
The man in question, Jean Pierre Baptiste, goes by the alias Jean Tatoune. Only six months before, he had participated in a massacre in the nearby slum called Raboteau. One participant in that massacre, Carl Dorélien, was given refuge in the United States, where he – somehow – won the Florida lottery in 1997.  Last year Jean Tatoune was busted out of jail, and now he is acting as the paramilitary chief of Gonaives as part of the latest successful, US-sponsored coup d’etat in Haiti.  The leader of the massacre at Raboteau was the Gonaives Haitian Armed Forces (FAdH) commander, Captain Senafis Castra, with whom we were ordered to cooperate by the Task Force commanders during the 1994 invasion. My team’s arrest of Jean Tatoune was a deviation from the script.
Many people continue to believe that the US supported Aristide’s return to the Haitian presidency in 1994 because the Clinton administration supported democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The intelligence summaries we received during his reinstallation were violently anti-Aristide, and the policies pursued from Day One were designed to ensure Aristide’s neutralization as the leader of Haiti. He spent three years in talks with the United States trying to gain support for his return, and during that time the United States placed increasing pressure on him – especially by allowing the body count of the Cedras-Francois coup government to increase at the expense of Aristide activists from the Lavalas movement he founded. It is unlikely that the G.H.W. Bush administration would have ever put Aristide back into office.
This became part of the backdrop of the 1992 US presidential election, leading to the 1994 US military invasion that brought Aristide back after the first US-supported coup against him. A nd the question of Haiti has been intimately connected to US partisan and race politics ever since. This partisanship and race politics has involved both American political parties, a cast of nefarious Iran-Contra characters, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The administration’s international factotum for the latest coup is Roger Noriega, and he’s a good starting point for any deconstruction of race, empire, and Haiti.
Roger Noriega is the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Before that, he was the United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS). But his career got its running start when he became an aide in the Bureau for Inter-American Affairs of the US State Department. Like the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, this was an instrument of the Reagan administration’s campaign to destroy the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Dubbed “Iran-Contra” by the press, that campaign was being run by a coterie of felons including Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, John Poindexter, and Otto Reich.  The Vice President during this episode was George Herbert Walker Bush, former Director of Central Intelligence. 
Reagan’s Office of Public Diplomacy was run by Otto Reich, who zealously planted scads of bogus stories in the press – for instance, that MiGs were being shipped to Nicaragua, that Sandinistas were persecuting Miskito Indians – all untrue, but never recanted by the US press.  Dubya tried installing Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs during a legislative recess, but the returning Senate refused to renew Reich’s appointment.  In August 2001, the job went to Mr. Noriega; but like so many of the Iran-Contra werewolves, Reich is back in the government. He’s now reporting directly to Condoleezza Rice from a special post (apparently created just for him) called “Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives.” He’s the kind of person they have to keep moving around: toward the middle of the second Reagan administration when the huge cocaine element of Iran-Contra broke into view, Reich’s deep involvement with CIA assassin Felix Rodriguez and terrorist Luis Posada Carriles became too obvious for the administration’s comfort, and off he went. From 1986 to 1989 Reich was US Ambassador to Venezuela, where he tried very hard to secure the release of the Miami-mafia airline bomber Orlando Bosch. That downing of a civilian passenger airline from Cuba was an act of terrorism in which Posada Carriles had also been implicated. 
That’s all been forgotten somehow, and Otto is back on the government payroll. His first task for Bush II, which he performed with admirable enthusiasm and success, was another disinformation campaign against the democratically elected Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.
One of the high-level players in Iran-Contra was John Poindexter, a retired Navy admiral who specialized in illegal covert operations and spying on American citizens. With Oliver North, he engineered and oversaw the massive plot by the Reagan administration to sell weapons to Iran (despite the public show of bitter hostility between the US and Khomeini’s Iran), ship huge quantities of cocaine into the United States via Central America, and use the cash to buy illegal weapons and materiel for Nicaraguan terrorists. Congress had cut off the funding for aid to the right-wing “Contras,” so Poindexter, North and the others simply moved their operation outside the government by funding it with cocaine.
Eventually convicted of several felonies, the good Admiral Poindexter managed to get them all thrown out in an immunity deal. He got caught trying to destroy over 5,000 White House emails, and was also the originator of yet another disinformation campaign, this one directed at Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi. For his sins, John Poindexter – now the Vice President of Syntek Technologies, a surveillance technology outfit with juicy federal contracts – was appointed by Bush II to head up the sinister Information Awareness Office (IAO), a subset of the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, a favorite of Donald Rumsfeld). IAO’s main task is to vastly expand the Pentagon’s capacity to spy on A merican citizens. But from the moment Poindexter’s appointment went public, the internet began to hum with popular outrage about the IAO’s domestic spying program and Poindexter was canned.
John Negroponte is now the United States’ Ambassador to the UN. He’s another Cocaine-Contra figure with a great resume for disinformation. In 1981, USA mbassador to Honduras, Jack Binns, made the error of reporting that the Honduran military was engaged in death-squad activity. This did not sit well with the Reagan administration, who never met a right-wing Latin A merican killer they didn’t like. Binns was fired and his job went to Negroponte. Between 1981-1985, during Negroponte’s diplomatic tenure, there was a direct correlation between the level of military violence – especially that of the specially US-trained “intelligence” unit called Battalion 3-16 – and the level of military assistance provided to Honduras by the US taxpayer: an increase from $4 million to $77.4 million. This was when Honduras was being used as a launch platform for the Nicaraguan Contras, as I can attest: when I was in Ojo de Agua, Honduras, in 1991, the locals informed us that the same base at which we were working was used by the Contras.
When the Senate later questioned Negroponte in the course of the Iran-Contra investigation, Negroponte said he had no knowledge of Battalion 3-16 or its activities, indicating that he was either dead drunk for four years or not actually staying in Honduras where he was the ambassador(or, of course, that he was lying through his teeth).
Through this whole sordid period of death squads, the murders of nuns and Catholic clerics, arms-and-cocaine swaps, and felony-as-executive-branch-policy, the regional boss was Elliot Abrams, described by friend and foe alike as a snarling macho asshole. Convicted for his role in Iran-Contra as Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, Abrams was soon pardoned by George H. W. Bush. And in what must be a sick joke, Bush the Younger named Abrams Senior Director of the National Security Council’s “Office for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations.”
Last December, Peter Kornbluh of the National Archives told a Newsday reporter:”The resurfacing of the Iran-Contra culprits has been nothing short of Orwellian in this administration. These are not 21st-century appointments. They are retrograde appointments, a throwback to an era of interventionism when the U.S. was the big bully on the block.” There is much speculation that these appointments – most intimates of the Miami-Cuban right-wing and mafia – are a form of reciprocation for gusano assistance with the Florida-based judicial coup that put George W. Bush into the Oval Office.
While Roger Noriega has been coordinating the details of President Aristide’s forcible removal from office, Otto Reich has run the disinformation campaign in the Organization of American States(OAS).
Another institution for building coups developed during the Reagan administration. The CIA’s covert operators had proven perfectly capable of engineering the development of paramilitaries and death squads, but they had proven unequal to the task of developing political opposition to seated governments. So the National Endowment for Democracy was established. From Third World Traveler:
The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The latter was a remarkable period; spurred by Watergate-the Church committee of the Senate, the Pike committee of the House, and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating the CIA.
Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment. Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not.
What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name-The National Endowment for Democracy.
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.
The NED has four affiliates in the United States: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO. The NED counterparts to these three entities are the International Republican Institute, the Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. There is strong and growing opposition within the AFL-CIO to ACILS, which is a throwback to the bad-old-days of Cold War business-unionism.
The job of the NED is to funnel funds, training, and support to reactionary political groups in other countries in order to ensure political outcomes that are favorable to the US elite. Their most tried and true method has been to build, train, finance, and control political alliances as “oppositions” to popular governments considered too “left” for the US.
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991:”A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In effect, the CIA has been laundering money through NED. (Ibid.)
The National Endowment for Democracy was invented by the Reagan administration as a specialized outgrowth of the CIA’s covert operations apparatus. In emulation of the CIA’s now-famous string of murderous successes from Guatemala to Chile, Indonesia to Iran, NED’s mission is to engineer “desirable” political/electoral outcomes in other countries.
US policy right now is in the hands of the ideologues. You cannot overestimate the relevance of these people in shaping US policy. In a sense the Helms school of Haitian strategy is at work here.
– Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Roger Noriega’s public antipathy for Aristide began while Aristide was in office the first time, when Noriega was working as a senior advisor to the OAS. This public opposition to Aristide – and Noriega’s connections with Miami’s organized crime reactionaries – led to an appointment to the staff of the arch-racist Senator from my very own North Carolina, Jesse Helms.
Helms was a personal friend to and open supporter of Salvadoran death-squad commandante Roberto D’ Aubuisson, believed to have planned the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, one of the many outrages that occurred in Latin America on the Reagan watch.
Active opposition to Aristide by Helms and Roger Noriega began at the very moment of A ristide’s surprise election victory in 1990, when he overwhelmingly defeated the US-backed Haitian presidential candidate, Marc Bazin, a World Bank executive. This election made Aristide the first democratically elected president of in Haitian history.
Helms’ antipathy to Aristide is double-edged: Helms regards any form of independence, any populism, any policy that makes inroads against the power of the rich, to be “communist.” Helms frequently referred to Aristide as a “Haitian Castro.” And Jesse Helms just plain doesn’t like Black people. Foreign, Black, Catholic, and populist – the only thing missing for the pure embodiment of evil according to Helms would be if Aristide were gay; Helms is also a notorious homophobe. In the South, where political hegemony has been exercised ever since the Nixon presidency, there is a long standing belief that unions, race-mixing, and communism are identical, and this remains Helms’ view today. One of the Ku Klux Klan’s principal appeals forty years ago(when Hoover’s FBI was very much at home with the good ole boys) was that they were a bulwark against communism – which they opposed because communists promoted racial “mongrelization.” Maybe Roger Noriega shares Mr. Helms’ special political pathology. But it’s more likely that our new Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs is driven by his self-perception as a guardian of the empire in Latin America, and shaped by his origins in that particular region of the South that is Miami.
The former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, was among those fired by Reagan for speaking out on human rights violations. Just days before the present coup d’etat culminated with the Aristide’s removal and detention by the U.S. Marines, White commented: “ Roger Noriega has been dedicated to ousting Aristide for many, many years, and now he’s in a singularly powerful position to accomplish it.”
Recalling the Helms-Noriega efforts to prevent Aristide’s return to Haiti in 1994, Dr. Heather Williams wrote in Haiti as Target Practice: How the US Press Missed the Story:
As senior staff member for the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate, and advisor to Senator Jesse Helms and John Burton, he [Roger Noriega] was party to a three-year campaign to defame Aristide and prevent his return to power; all the while CIA-backed thugs left carnage in the streets daily in Port Au Prince. In his capacity in the State Department since 2003, and for two years before that as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS, he has aggressively advertised his intention to oust Aristide a second time. For example, in April of last year, speaking at the Council of the Americas conference in Washington, he linked U.S. policies in Haiti to those in Venezuela and Cuba … He added that”President Chavez and President Aristide have contributed willfully to a polarized and confrontational environment. It is my fervent hope,” he added ominously,”that the good people of Cuba are studying [this].”
While there is no doubt that the Reagan administration was a shaker and mover in Latin America and the Caribbean, to really get at the roots of covert operations, coups d’etat, and the connections to race-politics in the United States, we have to go back just a bit further.
In 1948, the CIA inaugurated its “Office of Policy Coordination,”(OPC) headed up by Frank Wisner, a Wall Street lawyer (the deep-political connection between Wall Street and the CIA has been the subject of several books, and should be the subject of several more). The OPC’s responsibilities included, in its own words,”propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation procedures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.”  In the 1960’s one of the targets of these operations was a new Haitian leader named Francois Duvalier. This is a not-well-known fact on the right or the left in the United States, who only seem to remember when Papa Doc(Duvalier’s infamous nickname) and the CIA were working together. But if we don’t understand this, we cannot understand Haitian- American relations, so I will return to this subject further down.
In the wake of the economic crisis caused by Vietnam, the US colonial playground called Latin America took on a new significance. The story of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s involvement in the 1973 CIA-supported coup d’etat against democratically elected President Salvador Allende in Chile is well known. What is not so well remembered is that John Negroponte was the US Ambassador to the UN in 1972, as was George Bush the Elder in 1973. Bush took over the CIA in 1975. At that time, DCI Bush launched Plan Condor, designed to wipe out political opposition to US-supported regimes in Latin America. As part of Condor, the green light was given to the then-fascist government of Argentina to slaughter 30,000 political opponents between 1976 and 1983.
Who were some of the shakers and movers for Plan Condor? Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, the future gusano bombers of a civilian passenger airliner.
These are some of the bloodiest personnel behind the many right-wing seizures of power in Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, the Argentinean military helped train Negroponte’s unacknowledged Honduran Battalion 3-16. The US was assisted liberally in its training of repressive forces in the region by the Israelis, who seemed weirdly indifferent to the fact that the Argentinean military tortured Jewish prisoners under portraits of Hitler to enhance the intimidation effect. But then the Israelis were staunch supporters of racist South Africa then as well. Israel actually set up a Galil assault rifle factory in Guatemala, and when I was there for the last coup in 1983, the Galil was the most popular weapon in the country. The strong relation between Israel and the modern-day Zionist neocons – whatever their various religious and ethnic identities, be it noted – is not new. The centrality of the Saudis is not new either.
This consortium of forces (Saudis, Israelis, CIA, Contras, and local reactionaries in Latin American and the Caribbean) was laundering money through the phony Bank of Commerce and Credit International(BCCI), which had links – too numerous and complex to recount here – with the bin Ladens and the Bush family; that money was being used to finance covert operations. BCCI collapsed after revelations about its connections to the Medellin cartel of Colombia brought down the whole house of cards.  These would become the key players in the Iran-Contra-Cocaine affair because, as we say among activists, organizing is based on relationships.
There are those critics out there who will, at this juncture, say this is conspiracy theorizing, and that conspiracy theory is somehow the antithesis of class analysis. At the risk of seeming rude, let me say that this is idiotic. It is a false dichotomy. To pretend dominant classes exist as some kind of autonomous abstraction without any personal agency inside a deterministic system ignores that members of any social class are people. To assume that these people do not scheme to protect their class interests – or that we should not concern ourselves with how those schemes work – strikes me as a recipe for inaction.
There is a very good reason why the CIA continually works with drug traffickers. The money is untraceable. They don’t take the drugs. My experience is that they work out of embassies and are addicted to embassy fare – Scotch and martinis. And they don’t sell the drugs. They facilitate and skim. George W. Bush, however… well, never mind.
Since the late 19 th Century, when Reconstruction was dismantled, the Democratic Party had openly and proudly claimed to be “the Party of White Supremacy,” and Republicans – still identified with Lincoln, and therefore with Blacks – were incapable of getting elected in the South. Kennedy and Johnson were seen as the great betrayers, and the Republican Party sensed an opening.
In 1968, the Nixon campaign fell upon an electoral strategy that would create a tectonic political shift, the “Southern Strategy.” Southern white racists perceived the end of Jim Crow(the legal system of Southern US apartheid) as a catastrophic threat to their privileged status. Outbreaks of their bitter resentment were called “white backlash” in the press. Barry Goldwater, the reactionary Senator from Arizona who was trounced by Lyndon Johnson in 1964 was rabidly opposed to the Civil Rights Act. In spite of his poor showing nationwide, he showed his greatest strength in the South, as did independent segregationist George Wallace.
The barely coded appeal used by Goldwater, who didn’t feel empowered to call as openly as Wallace for a return to legal apartheid, was “states’ rights,” understood by every white Southerner as the battle cry in defense of slavery and its legacy. Out of Goldwater’s wreckage, Nixon built the Republican strategy that has won overwhelming support from Southern white voters since LBJ went back to the ranch. African American political critic Lee Hubbard writes:
“Substantial Negro support is not necessary to national Republican victory,” said Kevin Phillips, the mastermind behind Nixon’s Southern Strategy, at the time.”The GOP can build a winning coalition without Negro Votes. Indeed, Negro-Democratic mutual identification was a major source of Democratic loss, and Republican Party or(George Wallace’s) American Independent Party profit, in many sections of the country.”
Since then, some Republicans have played to these fears to gather white votes. Their game has ranged from the kickoff of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign when he declared he”believed in states rights,” in Philadelphia, Mississippi — the site of the deaths of civil rights martyrs Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman — to Vice President’s Bush’s 1988 Willie Horton ad campaign, which basically depicted all blacks as being criminals. Some of the GOP’s race-baiting has been, perhaps, unintentional, and at other times it has been blatant, but it has happened, and black people are familiar with this list of racial baggage.
Richard Nixon’s campaign effected the decisive transfer of the potent political mantle of white supremacy from the Democratic Party to the Republicans. It is important to understand that foreign policy is not solely determined by foreign priorities, either economic or strategic. It is also significantly influenced by its impact on popular domestic political bases.
This is particularly relevant to Haiti. The Haitian Revolution that culminated in the first Black Republic on January 1, 1804, was fought against three imperial powers, including Napoleon’s armed forces, by rebel slaves. These slaves out-generaled, out-administered, and out-fought the European giants, smashing the myth of white supremacy. This struck terror into the American South, where the fear of Black rebellion was a constant obsession. Turmoil in Haiti is always portrayed by the American mainstream press in a way that explains as little as possible, so as to reinforce the impression of amorphous chaos – read: Black deviance and incapacity for self-governance. That tactic has distracted the television-drugged US public from yet another coup attempt afoot, the second in less than two years, in Venezuela. I h av e read do zen s of articles over the last few days on both Haiti and Venezuela, and none of them mentions race or racism as a factor in these coup attempts. This is an elephant in the living room. Unfortunately, most Americans in the living room h av e been blindfolded.
In 1994, just before the United States launched the invasion of Haiti that became my last deployment, Paul Farmer published an excellent book called The Uses of Haiti. He described America’s horrifically successful Haitian policy of blaming the victim while continuing to strangle him. For instance, it’s often pointed out that Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince is overpopulated, jerrybuilt, and afflicted by almost irremediable drainage and waste-disposal problems. Huge numbers of peasants continually leave the countryside in search of work in the city, forming overcrowded, sprawling bidonvilles (shantytowns) with little or no potable water or electricity. But mainstream American papers rarely go on to explain what drives this process: as foreign agribusiness disrupted the Haitian sharecropping system, land enclosure and mechanization(as well as terrible soil erosion) forced more and more people off the land and into the cities to seek work that was not available except to a very few(accounting for the criminally low wages paid in Port-au-Prince by foreign manufacturers). Paradoxically, the Artibonnite valley which grows enough rice to feed Haiti ships most of its product abroad to get export dollars, and the US ships(taxpayer subsidized) rice into Haiti at prices most Haitians can ill afford.
So Haiti is strangled by the Washington economic consensus(neoliberalism), then blamed for not getting its act together, because most Americans haven’t a clue what these international trade policies are or how they work.
And that’s just the economic assault. The biggest fear of the right wing and its para-political gangs is a strong effort by the Haitian state to establish the rule of law within its sovereign territory. This becomes incredibly difficult when weapons and equipment for the police are embargoed, and the 75% urban unemployment rate forces large numbers of people into various criminal enterprises to survive.
In the wake of the latest coup, Haiti is an utter legal shambles.[Aside: Though this is often overstated inside Haiti, the country has become one of many regional stepping stones for drug-running operations in this hemisphere. This will now get considerably worse, since many of the FRAPH hoodlums were deeply involved in drug trafficking. Just as South-Central Los Angeles was chosen as the CIA’s ideal market for its Contra-funding crack-cocaine bakesale, we can reasonably expect that Haiti will now be prized by those same forces for the same reasons. It’s now a stateless milieu whose legal infrastructure has been so degraded that it offers political criminals a path of least resistance.]
This process has served as an important ideological pillar for white supremacy in the United States. From slavery to Jim Crow, to the de facto segregation that easily survived the Civil Rights Movement, white America has profited from racist ideology and the economic crimes it was invented to legitimize. Haiti’s successful slave revolution at the dawn of the 19th Century shook that ideology, and prompted economic and political attacks by both France and the United States.
As Paul Farmer and other critics have shown, the message of the American press remains essentially racist and colonial; Haiti is subtly but unmistakably represented as inscrutably mad, animalistic, diseased, and deviant.
Ever since Nixon managed the Republican Party’s displacement of the Democrats as the party of white supremacy, Republicans have taken a special responsibility for putting Haiti in its place. Just after Aristide’s ouster, Florida Republican Mark Foley, in a CNN exchange with the priceless Maxine Waters, said the US will help Haitians learn how to run a government and “how to grow crops.” A white f–king rich man from Florida, whom the website Democratic Underground named Number Two on its Top Ten Conservative Idiots list, is talking about teaching Haitians how to grow crops!
Note that the US-selected heir apparent in this coup is a white Haitian, Andre A, paid a Duvalierist sweatshop tycoon who has an American passport. The last US appointee after the last coup d’etat was light-skinned Raoul Cedras. This is a reflection of the still complicated class-race interfusion in Haiti, but also of a comfort threshold among American patrons – which would include craven opportunists like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Race serves class: Duvalier came to power using a nationalistic appeal to black consciousness(“ noirisme ”), and ruled in behalf of the nationalistic big landowners in Haiti, whose way of life was threatened by US-sponsored capitalist agriculture(as opposed to the semi-feudal sharecropping system that enriched these grandons (big landowners). That mechanized capitalist agriculture was introduced to Haiti under the rule of the US Marine occupation from 1915-1934, as was the brutal Haitian National Guard, whom Duvalier distrusted and many of whom participated in a failed coup attempt against Duvalier(supported by the CIA). It was in response to the political unreliability of the Haitian armed forces that Duvalier developed the Gestapo-like Tonton Macoute militia to impose by terror a political discipline not only on the population but on the armed forces until he could redevelop its leaders and members into a force more consistently loyal to him.
It was the Tonton Macoute that gave Duvalier his fierce reputation, and which Duvalier would eventually use on behalf of US interests, when he and the US later mended their fences in exchange for his massacre of leftists in Haiti and his regional support of US “anti-communist” efforts.
Duvalier’s authoritarian brutality then served him to control the Haitian population, as well as serving US interests in the region. It also had the added benefit in the US, unintended by the noiriste despot, of providing ideological support to white supremacy by reinforcing notions of Black brutishness.
White privilege and white supremacy are still embraced at some level by the majority of the white US population. This embrace is not always the same as it was – unconcealed and unabashed – under Jim Crow or in South Africa during Apartheid. More often it is coded, socially inscribed through the erasure of history, ideologically inscribed as erasure of the social construction of individual agency(personal responsibility, etc.), and psychologically inscribed with Negrophobia – the personal internalization of racial stereotypes that regards Black male bodies as predatory, Black female bodies as hypersensual, and Black intellect as inferior. This is one of the foundation stones of Republican Party success.
I know some on the left will take me to task for emphasizing race by insisting that class is the deeper issue, but I don’t buy it. When we can extricate the two in any but a theoretical way, I’ll give this class-over-race argument another listen. White supremacy has been and remains a pillar of Euro- American power, and not in some merely discursive way that “divides and conquers” workers, though that’s certainly part of it. And imperialism is the issue, too, rationalized through notions of the “white man’s burden.”
During the 1992 election, Bill Clinton excoriated George W. Bush for his incarceration of Haitian refugees in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Playing to his Black audience, whom Clinton would betray in his later policies at every turn, Clinton also pointed quite justifiably to the hypocrisy of allowing white Cubans automatic entry into the US, while indefinitely detaining black Haitians.
The coup of a year earlier was proceeding apace with its slaughter of Aristide loyalists and grassroots organizers, and CIA complicity in the coup was becoming gradually more visible with a leak here and a whisper there.
Then the economy tanked after George H. W. Bush had made his famed “read my lips” remark, and Bill Clinton was elected.
Faced with the reality of Haiti’s desperation and the volume of refugees fleeing the Cedras-Francois regime, and faced with the reality of Florida politics and the possibility of 100,000 or more penniless people crashing onto its shores, Bill Clinton’s first foreign policy embarrassment was being forced by his circumstances to treat the Haitians even more harshly than the Bush regime had.
My own unit in 1993 was preparing for an invasion of Haiti to re-install a reined-in Aristide, but the debacle in Somalia put the whole plan on hold for a year. While Haitians had originally elected Aristide because of his opposition to predatory neoliberal policies, Clinton now convinced Aristide to support those same policies in order to stop the killing. Clinton knew very well that a US invasion would not be accepted by the people of Haiti without Aristide – their first democratically elected President, whom they now saw as a symbol of their aspiration for genuine independence.
Aristide was to be re-installed on October 30, 1993, according to an agreement between Cedras and Clinton called the Governor’s Island accords (please see: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/briefing/dossec/1993/9310/931011dossec.html). The USS Harlan County, carrying the military and State Department facilitators, arrived in Port-au-Prince on October 11 th. But the officials who were designated to meet the craft had been replaced by a handful of FRAPH thugs(some of them drunk) waving pistols and threatening to fire on anyone who disembarked. So the USS Harlan County, an American warship, was turned about and sent home by a band of intoxicated bullies with Colt.45s. This was a tremendous foreign policy embarrassment for President Bill Clinton, who was at a loss to explain the situation to the public.
This bizarre incident was rendered even more fantastic by the nonchalant presence of the American John Kambourian on the docks, unafraid and unthreatened by the ostensible anti-American gang. Kambourian was leaning on his vehicle with a kind of Delphic smirk throughout this whole weird interlude. Documentary film maker Katherine Kean was on hand and secretly videotaped him.
Kambourian was the CIA’s man on station. He had been sitting in the car with UN representative Vickie Huddleston, and the FRAPHists made a kind of show of banging on the hood and shouting, “Kill whites!” for the cameras. Neither Huddleston nor Kambourian seemed alarmed, nor did Huddleston attempt to leave. It was only later, when they didn’t realize Kean had a running camera, that Kambourian exited the car to catch some air and suppress a smile at the little performance. The FRAPH, after all, were Kambourian’s boys. In dissecting the current coup, we will see that the FRAPH is back in Haiti, and that this year they provided the paramilitary terrorism that precipitated the forcible removal of Aristide… again.
Present during the 1993 USS Harlan County fiasco was the chief of the FRAPH, Emmanuel “Toto” Constant. Only later would the public learn that Constant was on the CIA payroll before, during, and after the 1991 coup d’etat. Little wonder Kambourian was so comfortable relaxing outside during the Harlan County “riot.” Constant was taken in by the United States and now lives in Queens, NY collecting Happy Meal toys and(by many accounts) spending happy hours with his local cocaine dealers. His threats to expose his CIA relations pressured the US into protecting him from extradition.
Note that in this episode the CIA was subverting its own Director. There is no indication that R. James Woolsey, the newly appointed DCI was complicit in Kambourian’s fake riot; in fact, it would be surprising if he were. He was a Clinton appointee, and like the next Clinton DCI, John Deutch, he served on the Boards of Directors of various big Defense contractors. The transparently orchestrated sabotage of Clinton’s Haiti policy was probably the work of the field agents within the CIA who move up to become station chiefs. By and large, their politics are racist and reactionary, if my own association with them is any indication. I never once met an exception. They are certainly nothing like the Tom Clancy caricatures we see in the movies. I invite readers to read my own accounts in Full Spectrum Disorder – The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Press, 2004) http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-932360-12-3. This Republican bias, which included a Jesse Helms-like aversion to both Haiti and Aristide, was prevalent among white officers in the military during the 1994 invasion, and among white Special Operations personnel.
Bush the Elder – former Director of Central Intelligence – had his vengeance on Bill Clinton with the Harlan County incident. Clinton was likely reluctant to call anyone’s bluff on issues related to the CIA, because he himself was vulnerable on his own complicity in another CIA operation, which we have mentioned earlier: Iran-Contra. His was not a central role, but given the cocaine politics of the Agency in its efforts to destroy the Sandinistas, it was more than a little discomfiting.
Bill Clinton comes from my Mom’s home town, Hot Springs, Arkansas. In his campaigns, he said he was from Hope, Arkansas, where his own mother lived for a while, partly because Hope sounds so cool in a political campaign, and partly because Hope is only famous for its very excellent watermelons. Hot Springs was for years a Southern gambling mecca, teeming with every kind of hustle one might imagine, and a favorite getaway for organized crime figures. All the gambling except Oaklawn Racetrack has disappeared now, and the town is trying with only partial success to reinvent itself in the midst of a statewide economic crisis. Drug-addicts, fishermen, Wiccans, criminals, hillbillies, artists, doddering retirees, and militia-types still co-exist there in a kind of slow-motion cultural free-for-all. This may account for Clinton’s chameleon-like capacity to protectively color himself.
Back in 1985, when I was working in El Salvador, Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas. In that capacity, he consented to let a little airport at Mena(an hour and a half west of Hot Springs, near the Oklahoma border) be used by CIA contract-pilots who were… shipping cocaine north and guns south. The exact nature and level of his role remains in question, partly because of a river of disinformation from right-wing ideologues. The result has been the almost complete disappearance of the Mena story from public discourse; liberals associate it with right-wing lies, so they won’t touch it. But like Waco, another fascist cause celebre, there really was something that was terribly wrong done there, and there is probably plenty to cover up. Certainly it would disincline Clinton to go after the CIA.
Instead, in 1994, he invaded Haiti, and on October 15 th of that year, Aristide returned. Members of both parties have desired Aristide’s ouster since he won the 2000 election, and while the Democrats lean toward the comprador-technocrats of the Haitian elite, the Republicans prefer the FRAPH-macoutes.
It would be Bush and the FRAPH that would help the phony Haitian “opposition” to finish its four-year coup. It would also be Bush, with Otto Reich on point, who would attempt to support the failed coup in Venezuela, and who is trying now to set up another. The interests of the Republicans diverge from those of the Democrats based on their constituencies. Both parties are run by elites who want to see the removal of Aristide and others who have the capacity to mobilize their population. But where Democrats would prefer something that looks like a success story – along with managed elections and other trappings of “progress” – Republicans, as the party that still employs its latter-day version of the Southern Strategy, want to see Haiti in chaos. They will put on the mask of paternalistic sympathy while they continue to impose dysfunction, but they need Haiti to continue to serve as an example of Black incapacity for self-governance – which reinforces their white supremacist appeal to the Helms wing of the party. There is, in my opinion, a kind of imperfect comparison that can be made between Haiti and the American South that sheds further light on American-Haitian ruling class relationships.
Endnotes: www.cja.org/cases/dorelien.shtml  news.amnesty.org/mav/index/ENGAMR360062004  For Roger Noriega’s official bio page, see: www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/4708.htm  For notes on Roger Noriega’s nomination to his current job, see: www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0305/S00064.htm  www.geocities.com/iran_contra_christic_institute  For a rich trove of original documents from Reich’s appalling career in the Reagan years, see: www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB40/  Blocking Reich’s nomination wasn’t easy: www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3354.htm  www.trinicenter.com/world/venez/lessons.shtml  www.hereinreality.com/bigbrother.html  www.geocities.com/ravencrazy/Negroponte.html  www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0403/S00047.htm  www.thirdworldtraveler.com/CIA/National%20EndowmentDemo.html  www.indystar.com/articles/0/125879-8940-P.html  www.fair.org/press-releases/helms.html ; www.icomm.ca/carecen/page70.html  www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/haiti/2004/0302typical.htm  www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A10822-2001Aug28?language=printer  www.epwijnants-lectures.com/ct_ku_klux_klan.html  www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1117  www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Plan_Condor  www.counterpunch.org/goff02142004.html  vancouver.indymedia.org/news/2003/01/26515.php  One of the major branches of the recent revolution in computer programming is called Network theory. It was the basis of PROMIS software and it now constitutes a vast research discipline of its own, whose primary organization is the International Network for Social Network Analysis: www.sfu.ca/~insna/. Applications include Namebase software(www.namebase.org/), terrorist tracking(www.sfu.ca/~insna/INSNA/Hot/terrorist.htm), and the mapping of complex webs of economic and political influence – “social capital” – through informal ties(www.sfu.ca/~insna/INSNA/Hot/soc_cap.htm).  www.sonic.net/~doretk/Issues/96-06%20JUNE/terrorismhypeparenti.html  Comer Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford University Press; 3rd Revision edition September 1989; latest edition 2001.
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0195146905/qid=1079842032/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-4006561-4479011?v=glance&s=books  www.counterpunch.org/vest1220.html  speakout.com/activism/opinions/5670-1.html  www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Caribbean/Uses_Abuses_Haiti.html  www.democraticunderground.com/top10/02/84.html  www.workers.org/ww/2004/haiti0304.php  www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/history/course/unitone/short.htm  www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/books/collectiveliberation/beyond.html  www.straybulletins.com/LMB/weblog/archive/000758.html  www.thirdworltraveler.com/Chomsky/ChomskyOdonian_Haiti.html  www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/06/grann.htm  www.hotsprings.org/things_to_do/historic_hotsprings/  www.consortiumnews.com/archive/edit14.html  observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,688071,00.html