?Some people see things as they are and ask why; I dream things that never were and I say why not.? (Robert F. Kennedy)
When a nation has missed too many opportunities to build timeless foundations and reposition itself to participate in a dignified way in the stunning human adventure, one must begin to wonder whether there?s a piper in the distance playing a tune to charm Haitian souls to self-destruct for the glory of the devil. Of course, the paranoid would see a nation still paying the price for 1804, the most daring moment of all of Black history when the black Jacobins previously led by the greatest black leader of all time, Toussaint l?Ouverture, challenged the army of Napoleon to become the standard-bearer of freedom for millions of African slaves.
But 1804 has long since faded in the memory of men. Thanks to a series of irresponsible governments, the nation is but a shipwreck. Can Haitians rebuild and launch Haiti anew on the high seas of human progress?
I will attempt to answer this question as I formulate proposals to the three sectors that can positively influence events and alter the dramatic sequel of Haitian life. But first, let me offer a crisp perspective on some defining moments of 2002.
The Lowdown on 2002
Applying high standards of excellence to Haiti?s politics, only two events stand out in 2002. They are the call for mobilization against the Aristide regime by Leslie Manigat of the RDNP (Rassemblement des Démocrates Nationaux Progressistes) and ?Union Patriotique,? and the peaceful march of November 17 called and organized by the ?Initiative Citoyenne? in Cap-Haïtien to protest the mishandling of the nation?s affairs by the Lavalas gang in power. At the other end of the spectrum, we?ve witnessed a feverish push to pressure the Bush administration into nation-building, a movement that has gained momentum and is now defining the entire struggle.
This drive for nation building is primarily the work of Democratic ideologues of the Haiti Democracy Project, among them former Clinton administration officials such as Lawrence Pezzullo and Timothy Carney. The basis of their argument is the defense of Miami Beach against invasions of Haitian boatpeople.
Carney et al. have overlooked the compelling simplicity and appeal of the economic proposition neatly interwoven in illegal immigration: Cheap labor fuels small entrepreneurship, which constitutes the most powerful engine of the richest economy in the world. Who are the landscapers, the jobbers, the farm workers, and the cleaning ladies in America today? Ask the Mexicans and Haitians if you can?t answer this question. Illegal flow of immigrants is a function of demand; supply being unlimited.
The military might of the United States of America is so overwhelming, intimidating, and readily deployable that if Washington wanted to stop illegal immigration, it would do so in a jiffy. The Democrats know that, but they chose to do nothing about it under Clinton. Oh, the security thing? The American outposts of Guantanamo, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic make this argument vastly irrelevant.
In addition, the push for American intervention or deeper engagement in Haiti isn?t well articulated at all. It is not going to be on U.S. public opinion?s radar screen no matter how many times it is repeated in the columns of the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the liberal press at large. And if it is not a public concern, it is not going to materialize.
Finally, I perceive the push for nation-building by a third party as a major distraction in Haiti?s struggle for liberation. Indeed, almost everybody is focusing on this seemingly unreachable goal to the point that some Haitians wrote poignant letters to Bush directly to cry for help. You add to that the barrage of articles lately in the liberal press all championing the nation-building concept and you have the illusion that something is imminent, thus leading Haitians to place all their hopes elsewhere instead of relying on their own strengths and ability to unite in order to defeat the beast.
The instigators of those articles are retired Clinton officials with no decision-making authority. We?ll get a clear signal when we see an eventual Bush policy initiative publicized and reinforced in the papers the same way we saw it happen with Reagan (1985?86) and Clinton in (1993?94). Bush has clever advisers on foreign policy and it is not retired Democrats that are going to ?help America find a policy? in Haiti. Dream on!
My friends, it is time to get real. Those of you who are spending a small fortune supporting advocacy that will yield nothing better think twice. I surmise Mr. Aristide must have been scoffing at those futile efforts as he holds the most coveted piece of the Haitian political chessboard: the Black Caucus. I say categorically that no change will ensue as long as the Black Caucus doesn?t waste its pawn Aristide in favor of a better piece on the American political chessboard and Mr. Bush cannot find a way to get the caucus off his back on social issues. Let?s see whether we can break this virtual lock.
Bush Can Help His Social Agenda
If you tell Washington that Haiti is the door to woo more blacks to the Republican camp and help their political agenda, you may stand a better shot at getting America involved. Here?s why. After Trent Lott?s foolish statement recalling the era of segregation, the Administration agenda in Congress dealing with social issues may come under heavy fire and erode black and Hispanic support for the Republicans. But if Bush can help turn Haiti around by partnering with responsible and reliable Haitian political leadership, he may come back with success and tell a story that the Black Caucus has deliberately thwarted for selfish and darker motives. Bush can say: ?I upheld Dr. Martin Luther King?s dream in Haiti. What have you done under Clinton for the black people of Haiti? I will uphold King?s dream in America as well.?
This approach could invite more cooperation from the Bush administration without direct U.S. intervention and arbitration.
Now, let?s do a retrospective on the world in the form of questions.
A World That Needs to Find Its Soul
It is against a backdrop of bewildering and flabbergasting attitudes and policies that I am submitting the simplest yet most fundamental questions to the international community:
1. Why are you taking an obviously passive stance on international mega-corruption in Haiti?
2. Why is the OAS-world tandem so adamant in maintaining the following subtle catch-22:
?True, Port-au-prince thrives on corruption only, but you must release funds to Port-au-Prince.?
?We?ll release funds to Port-au-Prince only when Port-au-Prince has its act together.?
?But Port-au-Prince can never get its act together. Please release funds.? (How cute!)
3. Why are you proposing that the Haitian opposition compromise and negotiate with Aristide when the same type of character would have been impeached for much less in your civilized world?
4. When are you going to take meaningful and decisive steps to effectively help foster the emergence of true national leadership in places like Iraq and Haiti?
5. How is it in the interest of America to show that it cares and is willing to decisively and forcefully help establish democracy even where it has temporarily no economic interests?
It belongs to the international community, the Haitian opposition, and the private sector to help enlightened leadership emerge. How do they respectively go about it?
Let?s tackle the international first.
Proposal to the World
Show ? not just reiterate empty declarations ? zero tolerance for corrupt and totalitarian regimes; they will fall apart, and as they do, responsible leadership will emerge and be on the spot to perform.
The proposition is simple, yet doable with enough will and vision on the part of America and the other world powers. It ties in with the practices that have yielded success in the Western World and especially in corporate America: When you fail to deliver, pressure from Wall Street and shareholders opens the way ineluctably to new leadership with the hope that it will bring in new vision and thinking to preempt total collapse. Furthermore, by just facilitating the emergence of responsible and enthusiastic national leadership, America and the leading powers will have established greater credibility in the Third World.
As a world leader, America must begin to dream for the world in a way that inspires trust and begets the dawn of an unprecedented era of cooperation among nations that shall keep corruption, racism, bigotry, terrorism, and extremism of any vintage in check. America must begin, for the stakes are high and the future of civilization is in the balance.
Proposal to the Haitian Opposition
Unite in deeds and not just mere words.
If salvaging Haiti is what we want, what have we got to lose by uniting effectively as the founding fathers of the new Haiti-to-be?
Although the opposition has seemingly answered the call for unity, it must unite in deeds and not mere words.
Haiti doesn?t need any left or right at this hour of agony. Haiti needs founding fathers?well, mothers too. I enjoin the opposition to gather together in its entirety to fashion a forward-looking plan to bring Haiti back from the brink of disaster. It is time that leaders of the opposition show that they can work together as founding fathers. They all have examples before them: Toussaint l?Ouverture ? the great gatherer that Napoleon stole from us?who understood that independence meant hard work, prosperity, pacific coexistence of all races, and above all, economic interdependence between nations; the founding fathers of America whose lasting legacy is second to none; and Nelson Mandela, the most patient and graceful leader of our time, just to name a few.
Merge your parties into a single front and start practicing democracy, transparency, and leadership in a way never seen before on national soil. Live true values in the open before the entire nation.
?Dream of things that never were and say why not.?
Proposal to the Haitian Private Sector
You must demand a climate conducive to security, law, and order capable of helping you proceed with expanding your businesses. If that can?t be achieved within a reasonable time of your choosing, you must demand that the current government step down.
Mr. Aristide?s government has violated a basic premise of modern capitalism: No security, no investments. In fact, Mr. Aristide entertains a flawed vision of capitalism altogether. Indeed, he doesn?t understand that the source of his problems resides in the insecure climate he has fashioned to hold on to power. He blames the level of poverty on the lack of foreign aid and is feverishly lobbying for release of funds. A waste of time and money!
No substantial funds will be released for as long as the financial institutions don?t see a climate conducive to investments, which in turn can support economic growth allowing repayment of the debt.
The private sector must have already recognized that it has no future in Haiti under the conditions imposed on the economy by Lavalas. The businesses that can afford to establish barracks elsewhere will do so and those that can?t must ponder their next decisive step as a matter of life and death.
The drive to get America to do nation-building is futile and represents a major distraction. Besides, it will never materialize under the conditions I described earlier. Haitians must be the ones rebuilding Haiti, albeit with the help of the international community. There must be Haitian political will invested in any solution aiming at bringing about lasting change, for Haitians will be the ones in charge of maintaining the ship.
As I stated herein, I frankly don?t see any resolution of the Haitian crisis for as long as:
1. The international community does not conduct a policy of zero-tolerance beyond empty words toward corrupt leaders. (Corruption is the greatest roadblock to change in Haiti.)
2. The Haitian opposition does not reorganize as an effective united front living the values of change within its ranks: transparency, democracy, and leadership etc.
3. The Haitian private sector does not forcefully demand security, law, and order within a given period of time, and if not met, does not demand that the current government step down.
In general, I say to every Haitian concerned about the future of their nation, start by changing yourself before you start changing the world. Welcome the ideas and the thoughts you don?t like to hear for they?re the ones that will most likely help you grow new wings and stretch your minds for your own sake. It is through clashing peacefully with one another that we will in the end induce a profound cultural change in Haiti. We must value people to give Haiti a new chance.
And to those Haitians, who spend money behind the scenes to articulate the after-Aristide, I say: Spend it wisely. The struggle is not about quantity, i.e., keeping the focus on Haiti in American newspapers; brute-force techniques lack definition and turn out to be so cumbersome that people give up the goal sooner rather than later. The struggle is about quality, clarity of vision, and the right choice of means to activate the levers of change. If you want wimps, you?ll get wimps, but remember that Duvalier and Aristide looked like wimps before people like you catapulted them to the highest echelon of political power confident that they could be manipulated. If on the other hand, you want democracy, you?ve got to live its values before you can make it happen; you?ve got to be tolerant of opinions different from yours. A word of wisdom: Break away from the modus operandi that has kept Haiti in darkness for two hundred years.
Strangely enough, the movement to liberate Haiti seems to have taken a turn for the worst recalling 1986 and 1990 when zealous politicians and the makers of events steered the masses into scenarios of doom.
Just to make it clear, I am not fighting the Haiti Democracy Project, I am against their positions as I told them in private. I think they can apply their efforts more productively and intelligently. Likewise, I am not against Mr. Aristide as a person, I am against his policies. If Aristide were to change and use his lock on power to set Haiti on the right course, my writings would no longer serve any purpose.
The truth is never impatient; it never begs to be told. Trying to silence it is futile. No web of lies no matter how intricate and tight can defeat the truth.