Originally: The Haitian army, scapegoat of the elite: a new historical double-cross

Webmaster?s note: Despite an overall conceptual flaw, Cyrus Sibert?s article has merited the translation-summary given below (the gist, not verbatim). He contends that the army is recognized in the constitution and so the current deployment of armymen in some northern towns should be legalized and these men paid their salaries and pensions. The article overlooks the primary conceptual point that the army overthrew the constitutional president in 1991, proving once again that in Haiti constitutions are paper, weapons steel. A bit cheeky then to return thirteen years later and claim one’s rights under it. Also, Haiti is in an extra-constitutional situation in a number of respects, not merely the status of the army.

Along the way, however, Sibert makes a number of points which will have to be contended with by the political parties, civil society, and international actors:

He warns the politicians, diplomats, and journalists in the capital against dismissing the armymen?s grievances. These spokespeople in the capital contend that the way to guarantee order is to disarm the armed groups including the armymen, whose presence alongside the National Police and the MINUSTHA U.N. forces is said to be abnormal, illegal, and unacceptable.

Yet the abolition of the army was an arbitrary act of Aristide?s and these politicians are counting on U.N. forces to consolidate this arbitrary act. Unless they reverse course, they will draw the U.N. into an operation that is illegal, illegitimate and unpopular, and which the Haitian politicians themselves lack the means to carry out.

It is reminiscent of the Caricom approach to Haiti: they can do anything they want in Haiti, even if it is against the constitution. They can demand the extra-judicial freeing of Yvon Neptune. So the government need not proceed legally. It looks to foreigners. Woe to any government that doesn?t take account of the internal balance of forces!

Many plead their grievances against the armymen. Victims of the FAD?H, former prisoners of Fort-Dimanche, former government officials under Manigat, etc. What they call reestablishing the authority of the state is a kind of vengeance. That method is no different from Aristide?s: deal with national questions from the viewpoint of personal gain.

It is a question of principle. One doesn?t have to be a militarist to appreciate this.

The political scientist Jean-Yves Calvez reminds us that in normal times you don?t need them but in times of crisis, police and army are necessary to save civilized government. The police preserve public order and the army national security. The police specialized units cannot carry on a real military campaign. The anti-Aristide military campaign in the north and the pillage in Port-au-Prince prove that. Also, creating military-style units in the police is a perversion of the police.

A journalist in Port-au-Prince calls the presence of the Haitian military in the north abnormal. It?s very bad when the press endorses the illegal exactions of Aristide. U.N. Resolution 940 in 1994 foresaw a role for a reformed army but Aristide subverted that in 1995. From that time the interior of Haiti has been left without security, with no-man zones for human rights.

Note the rape of Haitian girls on July 24, 2004 at Carrefour La mort, and other incidents. The political class ignores these no-man zones for human rights. We know, however, that the armed gangs get arms from the police in Cap-Haitien. The complicity of the police and Lavalas chimPres (thugs) is such that public opinion in the north doesn?t want to see the armymen disarmed. The national police offer scant security and have yet to investigate the involvement of their own in widespread looting and arson in February 2004, and their passivity at the crimes of the chimPres.

The rural economy is hurting. Farmers cannot get their goods to market because of the gangs. Smuggling and arms-trafficking is rampant. Gangs in Cap-Haitien use the Dominican Republic as their rear base. This is the actual situation in the rural areas, ignored by Aristide, and now by the analysts of the “Republic of Port-au-Prince” and the diaspora.

The foreigners in the U.N. force don?t know the terrain. A merely dissuasive role won?t destroy the gangs. Meanwhile, those in the capital only know the military recently as providing security guards for their private firms.

How can you ask the armymen who for four months have fought the whole Lavalas apparatus of repression?the politicized police and chimères?to disarm and place their safety in the hands of the police whom they are resisting? There is no institution to protect them. The police, yesterday?s enemies, will attack them with the chimPres to take vengeance. Recently two armymen were attacked on the Bahon road, and one was hacked to death by machetes.

The first one hundred days of government are fixated on the capital. Cleaning the capital, getting electricity in the capital. What about security outside Port-au-Prince, in the towns of the provinces? If the political class is happy with the way things are going, this is because they don?t live outside Port-au-Prince.

In the north we recognize that the absence of the army with its myths and taboos has destabilized the system of security nationally.

They argue against it on the grounds of cost:

1. Haiti doesn?t have the money to create an armed force.

Lack of means is no excuse for neglecting one?s defense. Money is not the only means of defense or war. We have need to defend against the Dominican Republic. In the Ouanaminthe area Dominican forces are making exactions on the Haitians. While the force?s equipment certainly depends on money, the existence of the force depends on the constitution. Those in Port-au-Prince don?t know the situation.

2. The United Nations and the United States won?t support the occupation of Haiti by a local force.

The United Nations in Liberia is recognizing police and army. The same in Iraq and the Ivory Coast. The rebels control part of the territory. In Sierra Leone, they are an interlocutor with the international community along with the president.

In Haiti, in a spirit of betrayal and ingratitude, the Port-au-Prince ideologues and the transitional government, despite the victory of the armymen and the departure of Aristide, are readying themselves for a replay of the assassination of Dessalines at Pont-Rouge. The armymen must be chased away before they enjoy the fruit of their combat. They count on the U.N. forces to shoot them like bandits. If in 1994 the American soldiers were manipulated by Lavalas to shoot the soldiers while they were playing dominos, in 2004 let?s not repeat the same mistake. Our leaders are trembling before the foreigner rather than ruling legally on the armymen?s case.

3. The United States will protect us.

Various great powers have come and gone in history. It?s irresponsible to count on the foreigner with all his prejudices and interests to defend our territory.

4. The Haitian army is a coup-plotter and extortionist.

All the armies of Latin America have been such. Those who are in Haiti, the Argentines, Chileans, Brazilians, Paraguayans, et al., were all criminal forces in the service of U.S. strategy and their local obsolete bourgeoisie. Today they are in Haiti to stabilize democracy and institutional reform.

There?s a disturbing class element in the disparagement of the army. They are sons of the masses and peasants. After suffering for ten years, there?s nothing for them in the social contract. Like all Haitians they have no access to justice. This is the betrayal of one by the other, whether they are democratic, constitutionalist, or whatnot. Today we are glad that we have been promised $1.4 billion.

Even Neptune differentiated between armymen, FRAPH, and criminal gangs, but now they lump them all together and call the armymen outlaws.

Since these were the rebels, isn?t Haiti blaming itself for acting heroically? Here is the fundamental difference between the U.S. civil war and the rebellion against Aristide?s barbarism.

In the north we have the national symbols, the Citadel, the Sans-Souci Palace. We have not forgotten. We cannot believe in a social contract that forgets fundamental principles and favors personal or class interests.

The Haitian state has become illegitimate because of centralization, the Republic of Port-au-Prince has slain the Republic of Haiti. It is illegitimate because it ignores the rest of the country. It cares little for the difficulties confronting the nine departments. It is illegitimate because of the lack of public services, the cement of a republic. It is illegitimate because it is run by the international community and not by Haitians.

If after the departure of Aristide there are people who think they can ignore the reality and the opinion of the provinces, they have not taken into account November 17, 2002 (date of a massive anti-Aristide demonstration outside Cap-Haitien).

Now this movement against Lavalas anarchy will launch another demonstration on November 17, 2004, sending a message to the central government: we are ready to defy your arrogance and lack of realism. Internal colonization must end. Stop deciding our problems without consulting us. Have the decency to respect the laws of the republic. Don?t use force to impose something that is illegal and illegitimate.

The armymen should put their case before the supreme court. If the international community allows justice to proceed independently, the armymen will win their case.

The Haitian intellectuals warn against a civil war such as that of the United States, which was a brutal break from retrograde economic and social practices, but won?t talk about the war which we must wage against Lavalas barbarism. They don?t want to offend the international community. The prime minister regrets that he called the rebels “freedom fighters.” The Haitian reporters talk about that as an error. We ask, Is Haiti blaming itself for its own acts of heroism? Who will stand up for ourselves?