January 19, 2010
Imagine a huge earthquake strikes Washington, D.C. The Capitol collapses. Now imagine Mexican troops land in helicopters outside the ruin. They tell the media they are on a humanitarian mission but have strict rules of engagement. In other words, if things get out of hand — if the suddenly destitute residents of the District of Columbia riot because they have no food or water — the Mexican troops are under orders to shoot them.
|People take cover as as U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne land with Sea Hawk helicopters at the garden of the damaged Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince January 19, 2010.|
Outrageous. No American would stand for this. They would demand the Mexicans leave and respect the sovereignty of the United States.
This is exactly what the United States military is doing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“US troops swooped down in helicopters to take control of Haiti’s ruined presidential palace today as the earthquake relief operation gathered pace,” reports the Times Online. “Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne division arrived in at least four Black Hawk helicopters to secure the executive mansion, a once elegant white building that collapsed in last week’s quake and is now surrounded by a vast refugee camp.”
“We are here to provide security to the hospital. We work with the government of Haiti. We have rules of engagement, but we are on a humanitarian mission,” explained Sergeant Bill Smith.
“I haven’t seen the Americans in the streets giving out water and food, but now they come to the palace,” said Wilson Guillaume, as some of the homeless living rough in the Champ de Mars square before the palace shouted abuse at the Americans.
“It’s an occupation. The palace is our power, our face, our pride,” added Feodor Desanges, another bystander.
The first occupation of Haiti by the United States began on July 28, 1915 and ended in mid-August, 1934. It was launched at the behest of the National City Bank of New York. Bankers and corporations (including the Haitian American Sugar Company) didn’t appreciate the people of Haiti overthrowing their puppet dictator, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who was known for torturing and executing political prisoners.
Woodrow Wilson sent 330 U.S. Marines to Port-au-Prince. Secretary of the Navy, Admiral William Deville Bundy, was instructed to “protect American and foreign” interests, that is to say the interests of the National City Bank of New York and the Haitian American Sugar Company. Wilson’s government and the media deemed the invasion a mission to “re-establish peace and order.”
Historians note that Wilson’s version of what we now now call a “humanitarian mission” resulted in wanton murder, destruction, and the re-institution or virtual slavery in Haiti. According to Wilson Secretary of State Robert Lansing, “the African races are devoid of any capacity for political organization” and possess “an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature.”
The U.S. installed Senator Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave as the head of state. “When the National Assembly met, the Marines stood in the aisles with their bayonets until the man selected by the American Minister was made President,” Smedley Butler later wrote. Butler would administer Haiti’s local police force.
“My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military,” Butler noted.
The United States leaned on Haiti to sign a treaty legitimizing the occupation and putting Haitian finances and government under the control of the U.S. for the next 20 years. The act also disbanded the Haitian army, creating in its place a single US-led, 3,000-man police force known as the Gendarmerie d’Haiti which answered to the US Secretary of State.
The Gendarmerie oversaw the implementation of a sadistic U.S. law reviving the practice of conscripted labor — that is to say, slavery — which required Haitian peasants to work on roads for three days a year. Many workers, however, were forced to work bound with ropes for weeks and even months at a time. The practice reminded Haitians of their slavery under the French and it inspired a rebellion by 40,000 Haitians in 1918. The Marines killed 2,000 of them.
Wilson appointed General John H. Russell as high commissioner of Haiti. The installed president, Louis Borno, was an admirer of Mussolini. Borno was appointed after the previous Haitian president, Sudre Dartiguenave, refused to sign an agreement to repay debts to the National City Bank (later to be named Citibank) which controlled Haiti’s National Bank and railroad system. Taxes were levied on the poor people of Haiti and paid directly to the banksters in New York.
Official colonial occupation ended in 1934 but the United States made sure to install a series of brutal dictators to protect the interests of the banks and corporations. “Papa Doc” and his successor “Baby Doc” Duvalier (who liked to command death squads) were the most notorious of these dictators. The Duvaliers relied on the “Tonton Macoute” death squad to make sure the people of Haiti didn’t get any funny ideas about democracy.
Under the neoliberal model now operating around the world with the assistance of the World Bank and the IMF, Haitians were forced to export their food and were systematically stripped of their ability to feed themselves and to fund basic government services.
In 1986, IMF loan sharks gave Haiti a $24.6 million loan under its Structural Adjustment Facility program. As a condition, Haiti was expected to cut public spending, close “inefficient public enterprises”, and “liberalize” its trade policy. A few years later, thanks to the banksters, Haiti was obliged to lower tariffs on rice and put an end to support for domestic rice farmers. This had the effect of putting much of Haiti’s rice farmers out of business.
“Haitian rice growers were crushed by government-subsidized U.S. farm exports,” writes Paul Street. “The nation’s predominantly female and captive labor force was funneled into slave-like conditions in mainly U.S.-owned export-oriented assembly plants and sweatshops. Millions of Haitians were consigned to permanent structural unemployment, the drug trade, scavenging, and other hallmark activities of the informal proletariat of the world system’s sprawling shantytown periphery.”
“The hyper-concentration of poor Haitians in seismically hyper-vulnerable subs-standard housing in and around Port au-Prince, it is worth noting, is a direct outcome of U.S. trade policies that undermined Haitian small farmers, sending rural residents into and around the capital city,” Street explains.
The corporate media in the United States likes to go on and on about Haiti being a “failed state.” It is failed because bankers and their multinational corporations made it that way by design. The bankers and their corporate minions don’t want a strong government supported by the people in Haiti. The last time a popular leader ruled in Haiti the United States military and the CIA, under instructions issued by the bankers, kidnapped Jan Baptiste Aristide and whisked him off to Africa. Aristide was a bit too critical of the corporate-neoliberal NAFTA agenda.
“Aristide was on record, by word and deed, repeatedly, as not being a great lover of globalization or capitalism. This was not the kind of man the imperial mafia wanted in charge of the assembly plant of the Western Hemisphere,” writes William Blum.
Is it any wonder the Haitians do not trust the United States and resent Sea Hawks landing on the lawn of their presidential palace with orders to shoot to kill? There are many Haitians alive who remember the U.S. occupation and especially the brutality of the Duvaliers and their death squads.
“The unspoken mission of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Miami and US military installations throughout Latin America is to ensure the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal policy agenda. While US military personnel will at the outset be actively involved in emergency and disaster relief, this renewed US military presence in Haiti will be used to establish a foothold in the country as well pursue America’s strategic and geopolitical objectives in the Caribbean basin, which are largely directed against Cuba and Venezuela,” writes Michel Chossudovsky. “The objective is not to work towards the rehabilitation of the national government, the presidency, the parliament, all of which has been decimated by the earthquake. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, America’s design has been to gradually dismantle the Haitian State, restore colonial patterns and obstruct the functioning of a democratic government.”
In other words, more of the same.
If the people of Haiti can recover from the earthquake some theorize was inflicted on them by HAARP technology, they may eventually engage in yet another slave rebellion.