Sunday, January 17, 2010

Seven Questions About Haiti

Revolution #189, January 17, 2010

In this image made available by the American Red Cross in London, Wednesday Jan. 13, 2010, a young earthquake survivor is given first aid in a shanty town on the outskirts of Port au Prince, following a major earthquake in Haiti, Tuesday Jan. 12, 2010. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after the strongest earthquake to hit the poor Caribbean nation in more than 200 years crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters. Untold numbers were still trapped.
(AP Photo/Matt Marek/American Red Cross, ho)

Seven Questions About Haiti

by Toby O’Ryan

First, six questions for the politicians, generals, commentators and columnists who now profess such deep sympathy for Haiti:

ONE: If you are so concerned about the catastrophe in Haiti, and feel so sympathetic to the terrible plight of the Haitian people, then why has President Obama promised a mere $100 million in aid, which is barely 1/10 of 1% of what this country spends on its military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq each year? Why has it taken so long for the most powerful country on earth, a mere few hundred miles from Haiti, to deliver the badly needed teams and technology which can remove people from rubble, the fresh water which people so desperately need, the food and medicine and medical personnel so urgently required? And why does the U.S. Coast Guard still insist on turning back any Haitian attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.?

Are you really so concerned? Or are you in fact giving just enough so that America cannot be criticized for its callousness as it was after the tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina? And are you giving this aid in such small amounts and so slowly because you are more concerned to maintain the repressive government authority in Haiti than you are about meeting the urgent and immediate needs of the Haitian people by getting the aid directly to the people and allowing them to collectively organize to distribute it in a time of crisis, when the ordinary authorities are not totally in control? Are you thereby, despite your professions of sympathy and urgency, sacrificing lives to the maintenance of the repressive social order you back in Haiti?

TWO: If you are so concerned about Haitian “political culture,” if you are so desirous of “helping Haitian democracy...” – then tell us WHY you supported a collection of gangsters, military men and proven torturers in their overthrow of the popularly elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004? Why did the U.S. armed forces kidnap Aristide, flying him into exile in Africa, against his will? Why did the U.S. support the ban on the political organization led by Aristide – Lavalas – and why does the U.S. still insist on banning this organization and preventing Aristide from returning to Haiti to mobilize this group to help deal with the suffering now going on?

Are you really concerned to "spread democracy"? Or is it really the case that your system is NOT about “spreading democracy,” but creating structures and instruments for capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination?

THREE: If your army is now the main vehicle you are using to deliver aid, then please inform us as to how this army will be different than the one you used to invade, occupy and dominate Haiti from 1915 to 1934? How will it act differently than that army did, when it militarily suppressed the Caco uprising of peasants, an uprising which demanded an end to the occupation and, in some cases, more equitable agricultural relations in Haiti’s countryside? How will it act differently than the army which enslaved Haitian people to work on its projects and bases, and which then forced a constitution, and a new ruling elite, down Haiti’s throat during that occupation? And how will it be different than the one which gave assistance and training to the military of the hated tyrants Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier? Indeed, how will it be different than the army that now rages through Afghanistan and Iraq, kicking down doors and killing from the air, and imprisoning and torturing people without charges by the thousand in prisons like Bagram?

Will your army really be used only for aid and assistance? Or is it really the case that the army that defends and fights for your system will, in the guise of delivering aid, actually suppress the will and efforts of the Haitian people to deal with this crisis and their overall situation, and will carry out this suppression with maximum brutality and no mercy whatsoever, in order to further dominate them?

FOUR: If you are so sympathetic about how Haiti has been deforested and turned into an ecological disaster area, how its agriculture has been ruined, how it now has half of its population in a city where in some sections unemployment runs as high as 90% (!), then how did it come to be that it was the U.S. itself which insisted that the Haitian peasantry do away with its huge and valuable pig population back in the 1980s, due to some supposed threat to the U.S. pig population...and how did it happen that U.S. agribusiness during that same period dumped surplus rice into Haiti at below cost, and thereby severely crippled and in some senses ruined Haitian rice growers? And why does Bill Clinton’s much-praised plan for Haiti, which we are told will bring hope to Haitians, actually involve setting up sweatshops in which Haitians will be paid 38 cents a day?!?

Do you really want to aid Haitians in developing self-sufficiency? Or is it really the case that America decided in the early 1980s to crush any elements of the economy in scores of oppressed countries, Haiti among them, which might be a basis for self-sufficiency, and to do so in a way that made the economies of these nations even more dependent on the needs and actions of the U.S. imperialist economic system, and that your plans now entail even more fully using the brutal and terrible impoverishment of the Haitian people as a way to pile up even higher profits?

FIVE: If you are so overwhelmingly concerned to just help Haiti, and criticize those who would speak of the U.S. role in creating the conditions that have made this disaster so much worse than it had to be, then why do you grant a megaphone to certifiably insane ignoramuses like Pat Robertson who claim that Haitians made a pact with the devil, or to vicious morons like Rush Limbaugh who stirs up hate and resentment against Haitians among his audience? Why do you have your think tanks like the Heritage Foundation write up ideas for using this disaster to even further take over and reshape the Haitian economy to imperialist needs, and then hurriedly have them remove this blueprint from their website once they are discovered? (Listen to Naomi Klein on Democracy Now!, 1/14/10) Why do your hired slime-merchants like David Brooks of the New York Times spout off about how the reason for Haiti’s suffering is that its “culture” is inferior to that of the country which first, in 1804, isolated Haiti and put vicious economic sanctions on it for daring to rise up and overthrow slavery and French colonial domination (and this policy was the brainchild of that great American “father of democracy” Thomas Jefferson)...inferior to the country which invaded Haiti and occupied it and plundered it, backing tyrants and overthrowing (twice) popularly elected presidents...inferior, in other words, to the “culture” of the imperialist system for which Brooks so slavishly propagandizes?

Or are you in fact concerned only that some political explanations – those which point to the actions of your system – not be allowed out, but that other political explanations – those which blame the Haitian people and absolve American imperialism – be circulated 24/7?

SIX: If you are so eager for people to give to charity and want people to believe that such charity is more important than and should even trump mobilizing politically to fight for aid, then please explain how it came to be that the tons and tons of aid collected by people in 2008 to aid Haitians hit by a series of four hurricanes sat in a warehouse in New York for months, with food and medicine literally rotting there, as government officials shirked responsibility and went back on promises? Please, dear sirs and madames, explain how thiswon’t be like so many other crises where the huge efforts of people to assist are channeled into ways that dissipate their feelings of solidarity, where governments make huge promises which then are never delivered, once the TV arc lights go away?

Or is this in fact just one more crisis for your system to snake its way through, distracting people from the root causes, taking their highest aspirations and channeling them into harmless dead ends, as your system continues to create conditions and preserve social relations which make the cost in human lives of such crises far beyond what they need to be?

And then, one question for the people:

When will we see through these lies and fight the power? When will we penetrate into, and show others, the root causes of the problems we face? And when will we build a movement to fight for a whole other way, a revolution, and bring in a new system and society – a communist revolution – that could actually put an end to the ways that these kinds of situations just amount to horror upon horror, agony upon agony, insult upon insult, trauma upon trauma?

Is NOW too soon to begin working to bring into being the conditions where such a revolution could be made? Or is it time, and past time, to be about this? And will YOU take what you have learned in your agonizing over this crisis and your activity to deal with it to join those who are dedicating themselves to this work?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The truth is that they did make a pact with the devil.

Now the significance you put on that pact I guess has to do with whether you believe the devil is real or not.

But it is one of Haiti's founding myths.

According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman, in French). At that ceremony on August 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to possess the bodies of the participants, encouraging them and fortifying them for the upcoming revolutionary war. Despite deep ambivalence on the part of intellectuals, Catholics, and the moneyed classes, Vodou has always been linked with militarism and the war of independence and, through it, the pride of national sovereignty.

So, yeah if there is a devil, Haiti made a pact with it. Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.