James R. Morrell
Executive director, Haiti Democracy Project
Congratulations are due the Haitian people for their achievement in 2003-2004–a broad consensus, a moment of precious national unity that recalls that of 1804. Then it was an insurrection against foreigners imposing slavery, today it is a national insurrection against a ruler who was foreign-installed–still bearing then the hopes of the Haitian people, and the product of a rare democratic election–and who was supported by many Western power centers up to the very day of his inglorious flight.
The $4 million in lobbying fees, probably only the tip of the iceberg, that Aristide lavished on his partisans in the world’s richest country go a long way toward explaining the stubbornness of that support against all the evidence of gross political violence, corruption, fraudulent elections and drug-trafficking. The lobbyists, the Congressional Black Caucus, the former congressmen on the board of telephone companies with contracts with the regime, all had achieved that rare feat of finding a way to make foreign policy pay. The victims were not Americans who could sue in court but the silent and uncomplaining Haitian people.
In the last days of the regime the Congressional Black Caucus and the leading lights of the Democratic Party, including presidential candidate John Kerry and Iowa senator Tom Harkin, and echoed even by human-rights organizations in violation of their mandate to stay above partisan politics, campaigned vociferously for a U.S. military intervention to save the tyrant against his own people. In the coming days and weeks, there will be a concerted effort to wipe that from memory. This would be a great mistake because it will expose some other disadvantaged country to the same victimization in the future. The flagrant corruption of the Black Caucus and Democratic Party, the betrayal of Haiti by the American left, all need to be thoroughly examined so that the progressive sector in American politics can actually help in a future difficult foreign-policy case.
The achievement of the Haitian people today is therefore all the more impressive because it came in the teeth of this betrayal by those elements in the West who should have been their strongest supporters.