James Morrell, of the left-wing Center for International Policy in Washington, dared to criticize Mr. Dellums earlier this year, accusing him of working for “an arbitrary leader ruling by violence and fraud, whose purpose with foreign lobbyists is to avoid any power sharing with the opposition.” Mr. Morrell was promptly sacked by CIP.
[Haitipolicy.org editor’s note: James Morrell is the director of the Haiti Democracy Project. He was a co-founder of the Center for International Policy and served as its research director for twenty-eight years. When he was forced from CIP, he set up that organization’s Haiti project as an independent organization with the indispensable aid of civic-minded Haitians and Haitian-Americans.]
Wall Street Journal:
The scenes of 220 Haitians jumping ship into Miami harbor this week have been painful to watch, with some of the refugees dressed in their Sunday best for what they hoped would be a better life. The agonizing might turn to anger, however, if more Americans understood that the indirect sponsors of their flight include some in the American Congress.
We refer to the same Members of the Black Caucus who are now using these boat people as one more opportunity to take a pre-election shot at Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Congresswoman Carrie Meek called in the press to demand that Mr. Bush “call your brother,” the President, “and ask him to release those Haitians.” Unlike Cubans, who get automatic asylum in the U.S., the Haitians are by law detained before being repatriated; so Ms. Meek wants to elevate the issue of how black Haitians are treated just before election time.
Well, one reason for their different treatment is that Cuban-Americans (more of whom in recent years are likely to be black) benefit from U.S. political asylum for fleeing the oppression of Fidel Castro. Haitians, meanwhile, are fleeing a country whose government is supposedly an enlightened democracy that has been routinely praised and supported by the likes of Ms. Meek and the Congressional Black Caucus.
Haiti has been run for eight years by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was restored to power after a U.S.-led invasion deposed a military junta. President Clinton ordered that invasion after months of lobbying led by Black Caucus powers Charlie Rangel and John Conyers, among others.
Far from restoring the rule of law, Mr. Aristide’s reign has been a political and economic disaster. Already the most impoverished corner of the Americas, Haiti’s annual per-capita income was $367 in 2000, according to the World Bank. Life expectancy fell to an appalling 54 years in 2000, from 57 in 1998.
As Raymond Joseph reported on these pages yesterday, Mr. Aristide’s paramilitary squads have terrorized the Haitian population. The Organization of American States, always loath to criticize a country other than the U.S., has protested his actions. Even Amnesty International says its examiners found that “Seven years after Haiti’s return to constitutional order in 1994, many of the important human rights gains made in that time were in danger.”
The U.S. Congress has heard about all of this firsthand, most recently during an October 1 hearing of the Senate immigration subcommittee. Haitian refugee Marie Jocelyn Ocean testified that “I suffered several shocks as a result of Lavalas,” Mr. Aristide’s party. “They killed a brother of mine. They beat up one of my brother’s children. Fifteen days after my brother’s funeral, my father was killed. Because they did not find me, they beat up on my nine-year-old girl. These are the reasons I fled the country by boat.”
None of this seems to have dulled Black Caucus enthusiasm for Mr. Aristide. Mr. Conyers attended Ms. Ocean’s hearing but was apparently unmoved. He limited his public comments to denouncing U.S. immigration policy. Ms. Meek said this Wednesday that the refugees were fleeing “persecution” but she never mentioned Mr. Aristide or Lavalas.
These moralists have also resisted the Bush Administration’s attempts to show U.S. disapproval. Most recently they’ve objected to Mr. Bush’s decision to withhold all but humanitarian U.S. aid until Mr. Aristide complies with some minimum standards of democracy. “The Black Caucus has unanimously agreed that these funds be immediately released,” declared Mr. Conyers.
As for moral outrage, the Caucus invited Mr. Aristide only last month to be an honored guest at its annual Washington dinner. Mr. Aristide didn’t make the gala. But we wonder what those Haitians jumping into Miami harbor think of the spectacle of Mr. Aristide being feted as a moral hero and champion of democracy in Washington salons.
Mr. Aristide has other friends in the Beltway, some on his payroll. Former Black Caucus Member Ron Dellums, the law firm of Patton Boggs, and Hazel Ross-Robinson, the wife of Randall Robinson of the TransAfrica Forum, have all lobbied on his behalf. James Morrell, of the left-wing Center for International Policy in Washington, dared to criticize Mr. Dellums earlier this year, accusing him of working for “an arbitrary leader ruling by violence and fraud, whose purpose with foreign lobbyists is to avoid any power sharing with the opposition.” Mr. Morrell was promptly sacked by CIP.
America is a generous place, and we have no problem welcoming the Haitian refugees here. But Mr. Aristide is clearly using these boat people now as a political weapon to purge his domestic enemies and embarrass the Brothers Bush. Perhaps it’s time for Mr. Aristide’s American friends to admit and condemn what their sponsorship has wrought.
(lead editorial, November 1, 2002)