Thursday, February 25, 2010

Haiti: Pretense ofRelief, U.S. Running Military Occupation,_u.s._running_a_military_occupation_?page=entire

More Pain for Devastated Haiti: Under the Pretense of Disaster Relief, U.S.
Running a Military Occupation

By Arun Gupta,
AlterNet: February 12, 2010

The rapid mobilization of U.S troops in Haiti was not primarily done for
humanitarian reasons; we're likely to see a neoliberal economic plan
imposed, at gunpoint if necessary.

Official denials aside, the United States has embarked on a new military
occupation of Haiti thinly cloaked as disaster relief. While both the
Pentagon and the United Nations claimed more troops were needed to provide
"security and stability" to bring in aid, according to nearly all
independent observers in the field, violence was never an issue.

Instead, there appears to be cruder motives for the military response. With
Haiti's government "all but invisible" and its repressive security forces
collapsed, popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the
Western powers rushing in envision sweatshops and tourism as the foundation
of a rebuilt Haiti. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw
their strength from Haiti's overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a
neoliberal plan is going to be imposed on a devastated Haiti it will be done
at gunpoint.

The rapid mobilization of thousands of U.S troops was not for humanitarian
reasons; in fact it crowded out much of the arriving aid into the
Port-au-Prince airport, forcing lengthy delays. Doctors Without Borders said
five of its cargo flights carrying 85 tons of medical and relief supplies
were turned away during the first week while flights from the World Food
Program were delayed up to two days. One WFP official said of the 200
flights going in and out of Haiti daily "most . are for the U.S. military."
Nineteen days into the crisis, only 32 percent of Haitians in need had
received any food (even if just a single meal), three-quarters were without
clean water, the government had received only two percent of the tents it
had requested and hospitals in the capital reported they were running
"dangerously low" on basic medical supplies like antibiotics and
painkillers. On Feb. 9, the Washington Post reported that food aid was
little more than rice, and "Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a
grueling quest to find food, any food. A nutritious diet is out of the

At the same time, the United States had assumed control of Haiti's airspace,
landed 6,500 soldiers on the ground, with another 15,000 troops offshore at
one point, dispatched an armada of naval vessels and nine coast guard
cutters to patrol the waters, and the U.S. embassy was issuing orders on
behalf of the Haitian government. In a telling account, the New York Times
described a press conference in Haiti at which "the American ambassador and
the American general in charge of the United States troops deployed here"
were "seated at center stage," while Haitian President René Préval stood in
the back "half-listening" and eventually "wandered away without a word."

In the first week, the U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the presence
of the Haitian police was "limited" because they had been "devastated" by
the earthquake. The real powers in Haiti right now are Keen, U.S. ambassador
Louis Lucke, Bill Clinton (who has been tapped by U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon to lead recovery efforts) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When asked at the press conference how long U.S. forces were planning to
stay, Keen said, "I'm not going to put a time frame on it" while Lucke
added, "We're not really planning in terms of weeks or months or years.
planning basically to see this job through to the end."

While much of the corporate media fixated on "looters," virtually every
independent observer in Haiti after the earthquake noted the lack of
violence. Even Lt. Gen. Keen described the security situation as "relatively
calm." One aid worker in Haiti, Leisa Faulkner, said, "There is no security
threat from the Haitian people. Aid workers do not need to fear them. I
would really like for the guys with the rifles to put them down and pick up
shovels to help find people still buried in the rubble of collapsed
buildings and homes. It just makes me furious to see multiple truckloads of
fellows with automatic rifles."

Veteran Haiti reporter Kim Ives concurred, explaining to "Democracy Now!":
"Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population
themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to
pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their
security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is
self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for all these years."

In one instance, Ives continued, a truckload of food showed up in a
neighborhood in the middle of the night unannounced. "It could have been a
melee. The local popular organization.was contacted. They immediately
mobilized their members. They came out. They set up a perimeter. They set up
a cordon. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer
field behind the house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the
food in an orderly, equitable fashion.. They didn't need Marines. They
need the UN."

Traveling with an armored UN convoy on the streets of the capital, Al
Jazeera reported that the soldiers "aren't here to help pull people out of
the rubble. They're here, they say, to enforce the law." One Haitian told
the news outlet, "These weapons they bring, they are instruments of death.
We don't want them. We don't need them. We are a traumatized people. What we
want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words."

A New Invasion

That help, however, is coming in the form of neoliberal shock. With the
collapse of the Haitian government, popular organizations of the poor,
precisely the ones that propelled Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency
twice on a platform of social and economic justice, know that the detailed
U.S. and UN plans in the works for "recovery" - sweatshops, land grabs and
privatization - are part of the same system of economic slavery they've been
fighting against for more than 200 years.

A new occupation of Haiti -- the third in the last 16 years -- fits within
the U.S. doctrine of rollback in Latin America: support for the coup in
Honduras, seven new military bases in Colombia, hostility toward Bolivia and
Venezuela. Related to that, the United States wants to ensure that Haiti not
pose the "threat of a good example" by pursuing an independent path, as it
tried to under President Aristide -- which is why he was toppled twice, in
1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed coups.

With the government and its repressive security forces now in shambles,
neoliberal reconstruction will happen at the barrel of the gun. In this
light, the impetus of a new occupation may be to reconstitute the Haitian
Army (or similar entity) as a force "to fight the people."

This is the crux of the situation. Despite all the terror inflicted on Haiti
by the United States, particularly in the last 20 years -- two coups
followed each time by the slaughter of thousands of activists and innocents
by U.S.-armed death squads -- the strongest social and political force in
Haiti today is probably the organisations populaires (OPs) that are the
backbone of the Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Twice last year, after legislative elections were scheduled that
banned Fanmi Lavalas, boycotts were organized by the party. In the April and
June polls the abstention rate each time was reported to be at least 89

It is the OPs, while devastated and destitute, that are filling the void and
remain the strongest voice against economic colonization. Thus, all the
concern about "security and stability." With no functioning government, calm
prevailing, and people self-organizing, "security" does not mean
safeguarding the population; it means securing the country against the
population. "Stability" does not mean social harmony; it means stability for
capital: low wages, no unions, no environmental laws, and the ability to
repatriate profits easily.

Sweatshop Solution

In a March 2009 New York Times op-ed, Ban Ki-moon outlined his development
plan for Haiti, involving lower port fees, "dramatically expanding the
country's export zones," and emphasizing "the garment industry and
agriculture." Ban's neoliberal plan was drawn up Oxford University economist
Paul Collier. (Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff admitted, in promoting
Collier's plan, that those garment factories are "sweatshops.")

Collier is blunt, writing (PDF), "Due to its poverty and relatively
unregulated labor market, Haiti has labor costs that are fully competitive
with China." His scheme calls for agricultural exports, such as mangoes,
that involve pushing farmers off the land so they can be employed in garment
manufacturing in export processing zones. To facilitate these zones Collier
calls on Haiti and donors to provide them with private ports and
electricity, "clear and rapid rights to land," outsourced customs, "roads,
water and sewage," and the involvement of the Clinton Global Initiative to
bring in garment manufacturers.

Revealing the connection between neoliberalism and military occupation in
Haiti, Collier credits the Brazilian-led United Nations Stabilization
Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with establishing "credible security," but
laments that its remaining mandate is "too short for investor confidence."

In fact, MINUSTAH has been involved in numerous massacres in Port-au-Prince
slums that are strongholds for Lavalas and Aristide. But that is probably
what Collier means by "credible security." He also notes MINUSTAH will cost
some $5 billion overall; compare that to the $379 million the U.S.
government has designated for spending on Haiti in response to the
earthquake. It's worth noting that one-third of the U.S. funding is for
"military aid" and another 42 percent is for disaster assistance, such as
$23.5 million for "search and rescue" operations that prioritized combing
through luxury hotels for survivors.

As for the "U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti," speaking at an October 2009
investors' conference in Port-au-Prince that attracted do-gooders like Gap,
Levi Strauss and Citibank, Bill Clinton claimed a revitalized garment
industry could create 100,000 jobs. The reason some 200 companies, half of
them garment manufacturers, attended the conference was because "Haiti's
extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh, make it so
appealing," the New York Times reported. Those costs are often less than the
official daily minimum wage of $1.75. (The Haitian Parliament approved an
increase last May 4 to about $5 an hour, but it was opposed by the business
elite and President René Préval refused to sign the bill, effectively
killing it. The refusal to increase the minimum wage sparked numerous
student protests starting last June, which were repressed by Haitian police

Roots of Repression

Some historical perspective is in order. In his work Haiti State Against
Nation: The Origins & Legacy of Duvalierism, Michel-Rolph Trouillot writes,
"Haiti's first army saw itself as the offspring of the struggle against
slavery and colonialism." That changed during the U.S. occupation of Haiti
from 1915 to 1934. Under the tutelage of the U.S. Marines, "the Haitian
Garde was specifically created to fight against other Haitians. It received
its baptism of fire in combat against its countrymen." Its brutal legacy led
Aristide to disband the army in 1995.

Yet prior to the army's disbandment, in the wake of the U.S. invasion that
returned a politically handcuffed Aristide to the presidency in 1994, "CIA
agents accompanying U.S. troops began a new recruitment drive for the
agency" that included leaders of the death squad known as FRAPH, according
to Peter Hallward, author of Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the
Politics of Containment.

It's worth recalling how the Clinton administration played a double game
under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Investigative reporter Allan
Nairn revealed that in 1993 "five to ten thousand" small arms were shipped
from Florida, past the U.S. naval blockade, to the coup leaders. These
weapons enabled FRAPH to multiply and terrorize the popular movements. Then,
pointing to intensifying FRAPH violence in 1994, the Clinton administration
pressured Aristide into acquiescing to a U.S. invasion because FRAPH was
becoming "the only game in town."

After 20,000 U.S. troops landed in Haiti, they set about protecting FRAPH
members, freeing them from jail, and refusing to disarm them or seize their
weapons caches. FRAPH leader Emmanual Constant told Nairn that after the
invasion the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was using FRAPH to
counter "subversive activities." Meanwhile, the State Department and CIA
went about stacking the Haitian National Police with former army soldiers,
many of whom were on the U.S. payroll. By 1996, according to one report,
Haitian Army and "FRAPH forces remain armed and present in virtually every
community across the country," and paramilitaries were "inciting street
violence in an effort to undermine social order."

During the early 1990s, a separate group of Haitian soldiers, including Guy
Philippe who led the 2004 coup against Aristide, were spirited away to
Ecuador where they allegedly trained at a "U.S. military facility." Hallward
describes the second coup as beginning in 2001 as a "Contra war" in the
Dominican Republic with Philippe and former FRAPH commander Jodel Chamblain
as leaders. A "Democracy Now!" report from April 7, 2004 claimed that the
U.S.-government funded International Republican Institute provided arms and
technical training to the anti-Aristide force in the Dominican Republic,
while "200 members of the special forces of the United States were there in
the area training these so-called rebels."

A key component of the campaign against Aristide after he was inaugurated in
2001 was economic destabilization that cut off much of the funding for "road
construction, AIDs programs, water works and health care." A likely factor
in the coup was Aristide's highly public campaign demanding that France
repay the money it extorted from Haiti in 1825 for the former slave colony
to buy its freedom, estimated in 2003 at $21 billion, or that Aristide was
working with Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba to create alternatives to U.S.
economic domination of the region.

When Aristide was finally ousted in February 2004, another round of
slaughter ensued, with 800 bodies dumped in just one week in March. A 2006
study by the British medical journal Lancet (PDF) determined that 8,000
people were murdered in the capital region during the first 22 months of the
U.S.-backed coup government and 35,000 women and girls raped or sexually
assaulted. The OPs and Lavalas militants were decimated, in part by a UN war
against the main Lavalas strongholds in Port-au-Prince's neighborhoods of
Bel Air and Cite Soleil, the latter a densely packed slum of some 300,000.
(Hallward claims U.S. Marines were involved in a number of massacres in
areas such as Bel Air in 2004.)

'More Free Trade'

Less than four months after the 2004 coup, reporter Jane Regan described a
draft economic plan, the "Interim Cooperation Framework," that "calls for
more free trade zones (FTZs), stresses tourism and export agriculture, and
hints at the eventual privatization of the country's state enterprises."
Regan wrote that the plan was "drawn up by people nobody elected," mainly
"foreign technicians" and "institutions like the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) and the World Bank."

Much of this plan was implemented under Préval, who announced in 2007 plans
to privatize the public telephone company, Téléco, and is being promoted by
Bill Clinton and Ban Ki-moon as Haiti's path out of poverty. The Wall Street
Journal touted such achievements as "10,000 new garment industry jobs," in
2009 a "luxury hotel complex" in the upper-crust neighborhood of
Pétionville, and a $55 million investment by Royal Caribbean International
at its "private Haitian beach paradise," surrounded by "a ten-foot-high iron
wall, watched by armed guards," just north of the capital. (That
"investment," according to the cruise line operator, included "a new
800-foot pier, a Barefoot Beach Club with private cabanas, an alpine roller
coaster with individual controls for each car, new dining facilities and a
new, larger Artisan's Market.")

Haiti, of course, has been here before when the U.S. Agency for
International Development spoke of turning it into the "Taiwan of the
Caribbean." In the 1980s, under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, it shifted
one third of cultivated land to export crops while "there were some 240
multinational corporations, employing between 40,000 and 60,000
predominantly female workers," sewing garments, baseballs for Major League
Baseball and Disney merchandise, according to scholar Yasmine Shamsie. Those
jobs, paying as little as 11 cents an hour, coincided with a decline in per
capita income and living standards. (Ban Ki-moon wants Haiti to emulate
Bangladesh, where sweatshops pay as little as 6 cents an hour.) At such low
pay, workers had little left after purchasing food and transportation to and
from the factories. These self-contained export-processing zones, often
funded by USAID and the World Bank, also add little to the national economy,
importing tax free virtually all the materials used. The elite use the
tax-free import structure to smuggle in luxury goods. In response, the
government taxed consumption-based items more, hitting the poor the hardest.

U.S.-promoted agricultural policies, such as forcing Haitian rice farmers to
compete against U.S.-subsidized agribusiness, cost an estimated 830,000
rural jobs according to Oxfam, while exacerbating malnourishment. This and
the decimation of the invaluable Creole pig (because of fears of an outbreak
of African swine fever), led to displacement of the peasantry into urban
areas, along with the promise of urban jobs, fueled rural migration into
flimsy shantytowns. It's hard not to conclude that these development schemes
played a major role in the horrific death toll in Port-au-Prince.

The latest scheme, on hold for now because of the earthquake, is a $50
million "industrial park that would house roughly 40 manufacturing
facilities and warehouses," bankrolled by the Soros Economic Development
Fund (yes, that Soros). The planned location is Cite Soleil. James Dobbins,
former special envoy to Haiti under President Bill Clinton, outlined other
measures in a New York Times op-ed: "This disaster is an opportunity to
accelerate oft-delayed reforms" including "breaking up or at least
reorganizing the government-controlled telephone monopoly. The same goes
with the Education Ministry, the electric company, the Health Ministry and
the courts."

It's clear that the Shock Doctrine is alive and well in Haiti. But given the
strength of the organisations populaires and weakness of the government, it
will have to be imposed through force.

For those who wonder why the United States is so obsessed with controlling a
country so impoverished, devastated and seemingly inconsequential as Haiti,
Noam Chomsky sums it up best. "Why was the U.S. so intent on destroying
northern Laos, so poor that peasants hardly even knew they were in Laos? Or
Indochina? Or Guatemala? Or Maurice Bishop in Grenada, the nutmeg capital of
the world? The reasons are about the same, and are explained in the internal
record. These are 'viruses' that might 'infect others' with the dangerous
idea of pursuing similar paths to independent development. The smaller and
weaker they are, the more dangerous they tend to be. If they can do it, why
can't we? Does the Godfather allow a small storekeeper to get away with not
paying protection money?"

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing
a book on the politics of food for Haymarket Books.

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