Opening  of the Haiti Democracy Project
Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 2002

Remarks by  Amb. Timothy Carney

At the onset, I want everyone to know that while in Haiti, I often benefited from the professional skills of Meg Gilroy and Dan Whitman, but they did not draft a single word that I will say tonight and they will probably be glad for that.

Interests and Policies

The policies exist to realize the interests. Ambassador Roger Noriega mentioned that one of our interests is to defend human rights, but he didn?t mention the fundamental interest, which is to defend Miami Beach. We don?t want Haitians on Miami Beach and we have proven that very recently. That is a fundamental interest of the United States?no illegal immigrants. Now that you have realized that interest, you hopefully will have policies by which Haitians can realize their prosperity and their future at home. How do you do that?  Well, we haven?t figured that out yet, have we? 

Now, U.S. policy towards Haiti has essentially vacillated between a not-so-benign neglect and a rather active and indeed very-long-running interventionism. Of the two interventions one lasted for nineteen years and failed. It ended up with the Forbes Commission in the mid?1930s and I got a nice house out of it when I was there, and its twin was built in Santo Domingo; and look at the contrast between the Dominican Republic and Haiti today. If you are Haitian, you are ashamed, you have to be. If you are from the United States, you scratch your head and wonder what the hell is going on. We don?t know yet what?s going on.

Now, what is the problem by which the United States can?t figure out what to do in Haiti? Part of the answer is that the issue has been turned over almost entirely to special interest groups. There is no real debate in the United States about Haiti. Today, we are seeing a massive debate in the United States about Iraq. You don?t even see Haiti in the newspaper except when Ambassador Roger Noriega makes some rather well-chosen remarks on the subject and when Ambassador Luigi Einaudi is caught in the act down in Port-au-Prince trying to accomplish something with President Aristide?s hapless régime. In all of that, we have the special interests. And unfortunately, the most active special interest is the Black Caucus which has produced the most astonishing nonsense relating to what?s going on in Haiti today. [applause.]

Now, I am speaking as absolutely non-politically as I can. The focus is realizing U.S. interests in Haiti. In all this, where does the Haiti Democracy Project fit?  Well, Jim has very cleverly put together a misnomer. It?s not a Haiti Democracy Project at all but an advocacy group. It?s a group designed to help America find a policy. It?s about time! Congratulations.

There needs to be something done to begin to get this process under way. I think that the seminars that the Haiti Democracy Project has in mind doing in an effort to spark a debate are probably the only thing that can be done given the fact that there aren?t any journalists worth their salt to go down and write about Haiti. Where?s Herb Gold? I hope he is still alive. Yes, he is still in San Francisco.

Who else is writing on Haiti in anything other than desultory fashion?  We need a lot more focus in America on what?s going on in Haiti today. And I would hope that the Haiti Democracy Project is going to do that. Ambassador Luigi Einaudi made the extremely well-taken point that Haiti is at a critical point. Eight million?plus people on twenty-seven thousand square miles, less than 5 percent of the national forest left. The aquifer is beginning to salinate. The dams soak up whatever topsoil is left that washes into them because there is no way to catch the rainwater runoff. There is no time for experimentation.

Herb Gold could write when he was there in the early 1950s about how worried everyone was that there were four hundred thousand people in Port-au-Prince. You just have to go to that town today and you will be appalled of what has become of the facilities, the infrastructure, and the future of the children of Haiti. So what do you do? 

Well, I have spoken to Ira Lowenthal about that and he has an idea which is very similar to what my ambassadorial colleagues mentioned, which is to say you have to have an election. It has to be free and fair, and let the chips fall where they may. I don?t know what else to do and it?s one of the reasons that I have been so quiet about Haiti in the two and a half years since I have returned. If you don?t know what to do, you ought to keep quiet, it seems to me. But, I am delighted to be here tonight just to provoke what I hope will be some questions and see if we can try to move this issue a bit forward. Thank you. [applause]

Timothy Carney was U.S. ambassador to Haiti during 1998?99. He is on the advisory board of the Haiti Democracy Project.