Can freedom wear jackboots?


ELIE WEISEL, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, said eloquently: "In those times those who were in the death camps felt not only tortured and murdered by the enemy, but also tortured and murdered by what they considered to be the world's silence and indifference."

Now, 60 years later, at the United Nations commemmoration of the Holocaust, the world at least was trying to listen and to remember.

"Those who committed the crimes were not vulgar, underworld thugs, but men with high positions in government, academia, industry and medicine."

The world is remembering Auschwitz and the Holocaust. It is not paying any notice to the 200 year Holocaust still underway in Haiti. There too, the people in hazard must feel tortured and murdered by the indifference of a world conned into believing that the high-minded leaders of the United States, France, Canada and Brazil have the interest of the Haitian people at heart when their agents torture, murder, maim and rape Haitians for no better reason than that they support their democratically elected and unconstitutionally removed President, Jean Bertrand Aristide.

At the UN Holocaust commemoration, Archbishop Cilistino Migliore, the Pope's representative welcomed the Holocaust commemoration "so that humanity would not forget the terror of which man was capable, the evils of arrogant political extremism and social engineering, and the need to build a safer, saner world for every man, woman and child." He beseeched all men and women of good will to seize that solemn occasion to say "never again" to such crimes, no matter their political inspiration, so that all nations, as well as the United Nations, might truly respect the life, liberty and dignity of every human being. The life, liberty and dignity of the Haitian people does not seem to matter to anyone in the ruling circles of the world. On their way to forced exile in the Central African Republic, eleven months ago, the President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide and his family, aboard an American aeroplane, were described by their kidnappers to the Antiguan government as "Cargo."

"Men without conscience..."


At the Holocaust memorial, the Vice President of the United States of America declared

"...these great evils of history were perpetuated not in some remote, uncivilised part of the world, but in the very heart of the civilised world. ... Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine. Therefore we must teach every generation the values of tolerance and decency and moral courage. And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace."

In his reference to remote, uncivilised corners of the world Mr Cheney was obviously referring to the image conjured up by President Bush in his 2002 speech to the West Point graduating class: "Our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world." And, referring to Iraq -- "...if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States army."

Mr Bush did not need the full might of the US army to strike against Haiti; a platoon of Marines was enough to blackmail the President to leave. They thought they had persuaded him to resign, a mistake which has cost them dearly in legitimacy.

But this legitimacy does not matter to the keepers of the flame of civilisation. Their agents are busy instructing the agents of death and destruction whom to arrest and shoot in Haiti -- as if those depraved killers needed any guidance.

Shortly after the thugs took power, a Canadian diplomat attached to the OAS was a member of the party of official gangsters who were flown to Gonaives in American helicopters to congratulate and celebrate the "Cannibal Army" who they credited with overthrowing President Aristide. This sinister association caused no concern to either the Canadians or the OAS until I commented on it in my column some time later. He was then removed. He is gone, but other Canadians have taken his place.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a self-confessed agent of the CIA and known terrorist, one "Toto" Constant, enjoyed apparent immunity from prosecution for the crimes he had committed in an earlier overthrow of Aristide. A group of Haitian women has now charged him with rape. Within Haiti his fellow gangster, Louis Jodel Chamblain was freed of multiple convictions for serious crimes against humanity -- in a judicial charade intended to legitimise him.

Despite the attentions of international and Haitian human rights groups, the world has turned a deaf ear to Haitian suffering. But some new developments may make it less easy to ignore the systematic brutalisation of the Haitian people at the hands of multinational troops and the homebred Haitian gangsters. A report by an American lawyer attached to the University of Miami law school is one of those developments. Two others are the murder of a Haitian journalist and the threat against another from the so-called Prime Minister of Haiti, Latortue.

Latortue himself, the Haitian Minister of Justice, Bernard Gousse and the UN military mission have all been formally accused of murder in relation to the deaths of three men -- Lavalas activist Jimmy Charles, Ederson Joseph a student and Abdias Jean, a journalist. Jimmy Charles was taken into custody by MINUSTAH, (the UN force) turned over to the Haitian "police" and later found shot to death. Abdias Jean happened to witness the police killing of three children who the police accused of hiding terrorists.

Caribbeannet senior news correspondent, Gus Thomas, has written to Latortue condemning the murder of Abdias Jean -- who happened to be Thomas' friend -- and called on him to safeguard the rights of journalists. Thomas also complained about assaults and death threats against other journalists and about police seizure of journalists' tapes, photographs and other working material. He is also complaining to the emergency meeting of the Inter American Press Association on Monday [January 24] in Port au Prince.

A third and perhaps even more dangerous threat to Latortue was his recent outburst against the president of the Haitian Journalists Association and Reuters correspondent in Haiti, Guy Delva. Delva was accused in an official statement by the PM's office for providing "disinformation" about Haiti and of preaching to his own political clique. Latortue has made the terminal mistake of many dictators: he has attacked the press; you can kill any number of civilians but don't touch the press.

Delva's crime was to report that Latortue was thinking of sending a delegate to South Africa to talk to President Aristide. According to Latortue, Delva's report was based on a "hypothetical" interview the PM was supposed to have given Delva.

More dangerous to Latortue than all of these however, is a 61 page report by Thomas M Griffin, an American lawyer, who led a team to Haiti in November. The report is published on the web-site of the University of Miami Law School.

Streets abandoned to cadavers

The report begins:

"After ten months under an interim government backed by the United States, Canada, and France and buttressed by a United Nations force, Haiti's people churn inside a hurricane of violence. Gunfire crackles, once bustling streets are abandoned to cadavers, and whole neighborhoods are cut off from the outside world. Nightmarish fear now accompanies Haiti's poorest in their struggle to survive in destitution. Gangs, police, irregular soldiers, and even UN peacekeepers bring fear. There has been no investment in dialogue to end the violence."

"Haiti's security and justice institutions fuel the cycle of violence. Summary executions are a police tactic, and even well-meaning officers treat poor neighborhoods seeking a democratic voice as enemy territory where they must kill or be killed."

"As voices for non-violent change are silenced by arrest, assassination, or fear, violent defense becomes a credible option. Mounting evidence suggests that members of Haiti's elite, including political powerbroker Andy Apaid, pay gangs to kill Lavalas supporters and finance the illegal army."

Among the factors working for the overthrow of Aristide were a number of US funded non-governmental organisations, including a consultancy called the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) funded by USAID. The report details how this group organised opposition to Aristide, systematically subverted the Haitian bureaucracy and eventually succeeded in precipitating the putsch against him. Bernard Gousse, the so-called Minister of Justice, was among those on their payroll. The IFES administrators told the Griffin team "[that the ouster] of Aristide was not the objective of the IFES program, but it was the result." They further stated that IFES/USAID workers in Haiti wanted to take credit for the ouster of Aristide, but cannot "out of respect for the wishes of the US Government."

IFES is part of a group whose head is a close friend of Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Griffin team also spoke to Haitian sweatshop millionaire Andy Apaid, the main civil society leader of the coup. Apaid, the leader of the Group of 184 admitted to the investigators that he has directed the Haitian police not to arrest one particular gang leader -- Thomas Robinson aka "Labanye" -- but to work with him.

The Haitian slum-dwellers have a slightly different story. According to them Labanye is the leader of a well-armed, well-financed group which continually attacks people in Cite Soleil, the slum city. Many witnesses told the investigators that Labanye received financial aid, firearms and political support from Andy Apaid.

On Thursday [January 27], at the swearing in of Condoleezza Rice at the State Department in Washington, President G W Bush said "Freedom is on the march, and the world is better for it." No nation, he asserted, can build a safer and better world alone, although he made it clear in his inaugural speech that he was not about to turn back from his doctrine of pre-emptive action. "The survival of liberty in our Land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

In Haiti, where the whole business of universal human rights began, they will no doubt be pleased to hear that, and also Mr Bush quoting Abraham Lincoln:

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves; and, under the rule of a just God cannot long retain it."

If I may paraphrase Shylock, a victim of anti-semitism:

Hath an Haitian not eyes?

Hath not a Haitian hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?

"If you prick us, do we not bleed ... and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge??"

*Source: Jamaican Observer, 30 January 2005


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