“The Bush administration made it abundantly clear that Aristide would do best by leaving the country. Which means that the rebels, the looters .. . [were] given to believe that they should never, never, never accept Aristide as the president,” Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York said the other day.

While Rangel brought up a valid point concerning U.S. attempts to eliminate an elected leader of a foreign country simply because he is undesired by the public, Rangel seems to neglect the biggest problem with the Haitian conflict:

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, himself.

Now in exile in the Central African Republic, Aristide continues to allege that the United States staged a sophisticated coup to relieve him of his duties. He claims he did not get a fair chance. Stating that Aristide’s chance to rebuild Haiti was fair is an understatement. It was more like generous. It is not that the United States does not want to believe in Haiti, to have it prosper as a country and practice democracy. Instead, it’s that Aristide — a glimmer of hope for Haitian and Third World politics when he was elected in 1990 — hasn’t given anyone reason to believe.

Aristide self-destructed Haiti from the inside. His selfishness and negligence toward his people are what caused the revolution in the first place, yet the United States is blamed for ousting him. It is not the job of the United States to pick up Aristide every time he falls and skins his knee, because, frankly, he tripped over himself.

The United States gave Aristide $1 billion in aid after restoring him to power in 1994, and gave an additional $850 million over the past 10 years. It seems reasonable that any leader, especially of a developing country, could benefit greatly from nearly $2 billion. Only after disputed legislative elections in 2000 did the United States withhold a chunk of aid. Sadly, during Aristide’s tenure, money that was supposed to rebuild Haiti instead went to establish his own police force, which he used for drug trafficking, rigging “free” elections and demolishing any opposition to his rule.

Did the United States remove an elected leader? Yes.

Is the United States ruining democracy in Haiti? No.

But now careful measures must be taken to ensure that a successor can be relied upon. Similar steps must ensure that, for once, the money given to rebuild Haiti is spent in the best interest of all the battered and starving citizens. And it is vital that the bloodshed and corruption end.

Unfortunately that vision for safety, democracy and prosperity in Haiti proved unlikely, if not impossible, with Aristide.

The situation in Haiti is being handled the way Iraq should have been. The United States now has international support, and Aristide was removed peacefully and safely. In this case, initial reluctance has proven more beneficial than initial action. The question posed by U.S. officials as well as Haitian-Americans should not be: Why did the United States get involved? Instead, they should ask: Can Aristide’s successor prove stable?

Dante Lima, 18, is a senior at Boone High School in Orlando.