[permaculture] Fwd: Z Mag March 2010: Gupta on Haiti, Occupation & Relief

Permaculture Cooperative permaculturecoop at gmail.com
Tue Mar 2 19:33:11 EST 2010

* *
*Haiti: A New U.S. Occupation Disguised as Disaster Relief?*

*By Arun Gupta from the forthcoming March issue of **Z

Official denials aside, the United States has embarked on a new military
occupation of Haiti thinly cloaked as disaster relief. But what is the
purpose of an occupation, the fourth in the past 100 years? The official
response, from the Pentagon to the United Nations, was that more U.S. and UN
troops were needed to provide "security and stability" to bring in aid.
Leaving aside what is really meant by security and stability, the rapid
military response was actually a major reason why aid was delayed. One week
after the January 12 earthquake, Doctors Without Borders said 5 of its cargo
flights carrying 85 tons of medical and relief supplies had been turned away
from the Port-au-Prince airport, which was under U.S. military control.

Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the World Food Program (WFP)
Haiti said there were 200 flights going in and out of Haiti every day, "But
most of those flights are for the United States military." The aid
organization said its own flights carrying food, medicine, and water were
delayed for up to two days "so that the United States could land troops and
equipment and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety."

While flights carrying food and water supplies were being prioritized by
January 19, the order to do so was "issued by the U.S. embassy on behalf of
the Haitian government," according to the *Wall Street Journal*. Despite
that order, aid deliveries were still chaotic weeks later. By January 31,
only 639,200 out of an estimated 2 million Haitians in need had received "a
meal" from the WFP. Additionally, Haitian authorities said they had received
only 4,000 of the 200,000 tents requested, only 500,000 people were
receiving potable water, and a scant 20,000 latrines had been provided.
Incredibly, around the same time, "Basic medical supplies such as
antibiotics and painkillers [were] running dangerously low at some hospitals
and clinics in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and in the countryside,"
according to the Associated Press. According to Free Spe ech Radio News
Reporter Dolores Bernal, U.S. and UN forces had set up just four sites for
distributing food and water in the capital and 16 others around the country.

*Not About Aid or Oil*
* *
Traveling with an armored UN convoy on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Al
Jazeera's Sebastian Walker reported on January 17 that, "Most Haitians here
have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and
lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets. UN soldiers
aren't here to help pull people out of the rubble. They're here, they say,
to enforce the law.… At the entrance to the city's airport where most of the
aid is coming in, there is anger and frustration. Much-needed supplies of
water and food are inside and Haitians are locked out." One Haitian told
Walker, "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."

It's not that U.S. forces were totally lead-footed. Within 48 hours, the
U.S. Air Force was able to redeploy to Haiti one of its "high-end RQ-4
Global Hawk" spy drones that had been tasked for Afghanistan. The Air Force
was also quick to send skyward its EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft, dubbed "a
radio station in the sky," which broadcast daily a recording from the
Haitian ambassador to the United States warning people not to try to flee by
boat because, "If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will
be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you
right on the water and send you back home where you came from." Within 24
hours, the U.S. Navy dispatched multiple warships, including an aircraft
carrier, while 5,700 U.S. soldiers and Marines were ordered deployed. By the
end of January, 6,500 U.S. soldiers were i n Haiti and the Coast Guard
committed nine separate cutters to the campaign (as compared to the 2004
coup, when the Coast Guard mustered three cutters).

Clearly, the military response was not about providing aid. But neither was
it about oil, the idea of the moment. Based on a Bloomberg News report,
conspiracy theorists speculated feverishly that the U.S. was occupying Haiti
for its hydrocarbon wealth. It sounds vaguely plausible because wars, coups,
and destabilization campaigns often target energy-rich countries such as
Iraq, Venezuela, and Iran. However, these operations are hardly secret. They
may be masked in rhetoric about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,
but the maneuvering is done openly. Second, concluding the U.S. invasion was
about oil assumes Haiti has no interest in developing oil reserves or, if it
did, concessions would not go to Western oil companies, and there is no
evidence for either position. Third, and most important, Haiti's energy
reserves are meager at best. The Bloomberg article, based on a U.S.
Geological Survey report from 2000, estimated that, "The Greater Antilles,
which includes Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and their
offshore waters, probably hold at least 142 million barrels of oil and 159
billion cubic feet of gas…. Undiscovered amounts may be as high as 941
million barrels of oil and 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas." In comparison,
Iraq's reserves are more than 100 times greater.

*Keeping Haiti in the West Atlantic System*
* *
If occupying Haiti is not about oil or aid, what is the motivation? The
overarching goal is to keep Haiti within the "West Atlantic system," that
is, part of the American empire. With "rollback" guiding U.S. foreign policy
in the region—support for the coup in Honduras, seven new military bases in
Colombia, stepped-up hostility toward Bolivia and Venezuela—an occupation of
Haiti fits into the overall scheme. Related to that, the United States aims
to ensure that Haiti does not pose the "threat of a good example" by
pursuing an independent path, as it tried to under President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide—which is why he was toppled twice, in 1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed
coups. Instead, Haiti must adhere to extreme neoliberalism and serve as an
ultra-low-wage processing zone close to the United States.

Take a 2001 report from Oxfam, which noted: "Haiti now has one of the most
liberal trade regimes in the world." Add to that the sweatshop model of
development being promoted by UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton.
Speaking at an October 2009 investors' conference in Port-au-Prince that
attracted do-gooders like Gap, Levi Strauss, and Citibank, 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
President Rene Preval refused to authorize the bill, effectiv ely killing
it. The refusal to increase the minimum wage sparked numerous student
protests starting last June, which were reportedly repressed by Haitian
police and the Brazilian-led UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

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." 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 both instances the abstention rate was said to be about 90 percent.

One casualty of the earthquake and the response has been the Haitian
civilian government. As the official organ of the elite mindset, the *New
York Times* stated: "Haiti Faces Leadership Void" and it described a scene
in which U.S. ambassador Louis Lucke and Lt. Gen. Keen were "seated at
center stage" addressing the media in Port-au-Prince about recovery efforts,
while Haitian President Preval stood in the back and eventually "wandered
away without a word." While Preval was elected president in 2006, after
being backed by Fanmi Lavalas, he has buckled under to neoliberal policies
of low wages and export-processing zones. The *Washington Post* describes
Preval as "a technocrat largely free of the sharp political ideologies that
have divided Haiti for decades.") The *Times* article talked about
"familiar…rumblings o f chaos and coups," an indication that Washington is
pondering a regime change. The real powers in Haiti right now are Keen,
Lucke, Bill Clinton (who has been tapped by UN 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. We're
planning basically to see this job through to the end."

It is the OPs, while devastated and destitute, who are filling the void and
remain the strongest voice against economic colonization. Even after the
earthquake, the OPs took the lead. Veteran Haiti reporter Kim Ives explained
to "Democracy Now!": "Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the
population 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 perimete r. 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 didn't need the

Thus, while much of the corporate media fixated on "looters," virtually
every independent observer in Haiti after the earthquake—David Wilson, Bill
Quigley, Amy Goodman, Kim Ives, Dolores Bernal—noted the lack of violence.
Even the commander of U.S. forces in Haiti, Lt. Gen. Keen, described the
security situation as "relatively calm." With no functioning government,
calm prevailing, and people self-organizing, "security" (to the U.S.) does
not mean safeguarding the population; it means securing the country against
the population. "Stability" is for capital, of course. It means low wages,
no unions, no environmental laws, and the ability to repatriate profits

* *
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. And the *Garde*, like the
army it was to sire, has indeed never fought anyone *but* Haitians" (italics
in original). It's this brutal legacy, along with the slaughter of thousands
of activists affiliated with Fanmi Lavalas after the 1991 coup, that led
Aristide to disband the army in 1995.

According to Peter Hallward, author of *Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide
and the Politics of Containment, *even prior to that decision, in the wake
of a 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.

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. FRAPH
leader Emmanual Constant told Nairn that the U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA) wanted to use his outfit to "balance the Aristide movement" and
conduct "intelligence" against it. Meanwhile, with FRAPH violence
intensifying in 1994, Clinton administration officials 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. Constant claimed that after the
invasion, the DIA was using FRAPH to counter "subversive activities." The
United States also ensured that coup leaders were pardoned and blocked
efforts to prosecute their crimes. Meanwhile, the State Department and the
CIA stacked 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." In 1996, a Haitian official told Nairn,
"The CIA is present within the police. It is present in all parts. But what
their plan is—I don't have it."

During the early 1990s, a separate group of Haitian soldiers, including Guy
Philippe who led the 2004 coup against Aristide, were spirited away to an
Ecuadoran military academy where they "reportedly trained with U.S. Special
Forces," according to Hallward. The second coup began in 2001 as a "contra
war" based in the Dominican Republic with Philippe and former FRAPH
commander Jodel Chamblain as leaders. Hallward argues that the Dominican
Republic, being a "very policed society," was certainly aware of Philippe
and his band, which numbered 50 to 100 by 2003. A "Democracy Now!" report
from April 7, 2004 claimed that the U.S.-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 are a training these so-called rebels."

A key component of the campaign was economic de-stabilization. Once Aristide
returned to power in 2001, the U.S. cut off all the aid it controlled—from
the World Bank, IMF, and Inter-American Development Bank—slashing the
government's budget in half. Despite this, Aristide's two administrations
were able to make advances in lowering infant mortality, illiteracy, and HIV
infection rates, while increasing school enrollment and access to medical
care, especially with the help of Cuba (whose medical brigade in Haiti
reports having treated more than 50,000 victims of the earthquake in barely
three weeks). It certainly didn't help Aristide's position that he was
demanding France repay $21 billion it had taken out of Haiti in 1825 for the
former slave colony to buy its freedom or that he was working with
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba to create alternatives to U.S. economic co
ntrol of the region.

When Aristide was finally ousted in February 2004, another round of
slaughter began. A 2006 study by the British medical journal *Lancet *found
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 were
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.)

*The Interim Cooperation Framework*
* *
Less than four months after the 2004 coup, reporter Jane Regan revealed that
a draft economic plan, the Interim Cooperation Framework, "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." She added, "Almost no one from the
country's large and experienced national non-governmental organization
community, the local and national peasant associations, unions, women's
groups or the hundreds of producers' cooperatives or numerous other
associations was invited to participate."

By 2009 this plan was being implemented under Preval and 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," a
"luxury hotel complex" in the upper-crust neighborhood of Petionville, and a
$55 million investment by Royal Caribbean International in its private
beach, surrounded by an iron fence and 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.") In March 2009, Ban Ki-Moon outlined
his development plan for Haiti in the *New York Times*, pushing for lowering
port fees, "dra matically expanding the country's export zones," and
emphasizing "the garment industry and agriculture." At least
*Times*columnist Nicholas Kristoff admits, in promoting the same exact
plan drafted by economist Paul Collier, that those garment factories are

Haiti, of course, has been here before when it was dubbed 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. The self-contained
export-processing zones, often funded by USAID and the World Bank, also
added little to the national economy, importing tax free virtually all the
materials used. The agricultural practices, including the U.S.-promoted
decimation of the widespread and valuable Creole pig (because of fears of an
outbreak of African swine fever), led to displacement of the peasantry into
urban areas, such as Port-au-Prince. Because of the tax-free import scheme,
and large-scale tax evasions of luxury goods that accompanied it, the
government responded by taxing consumption-based items more heavily, while
the promise of urban jobs led to even more rural migration. It's hard not to
conclude that these development schemes played a major role in the
horrendous 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. Other measures
were outlined by James Dobbins, former special envoy to Haiti under
President Bill Clinton. He wrote 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."

The need for a new U.S. invasion of Haiti starts to become clear. The OPs
and Fanmi Lavalas had been able to show their strength of late through two
election boycotts last year. Even with the government and its repressive
security forces now in shambles, neoliberal reconstruction will still happen
at the barrel of the gun. And at the same time, reconstruction means
rebuilding Haiti's repressive apparatus.

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 summed it up best in a 2006 interview, "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
** newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American empire for
Haymarket Books.*

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