Focus on Haiti: Washington’s Militarized Takeover – by Stephen Lendman
Haiti is no stranger to adversity and anguish – over 500 years of severe oppression, slavery, despotism, colonization, reparations, embargoes, sanctions, deep poverty, starvation, unrepayable debt, and natural calamities from destructive hurricanes to a dozen magnitude 7.0 or greater Caribbean region earthquakes in the past 500 years. The last major one was in 1946 at 8.1 in the adjacent Dominican Republic, also striking Haiti. Earlier catastrophic ones were in 1751 and 1770, both devastating Port-au-Prince, and the 1842 one destroying Cap-Haitien in the north.
On September 25, 2008, Phoenix Delacroix quoted geologist Patrick Charles of Havana’s Geological Institute saying:
“conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince. The inhabitants of the Haitian capital need to prepare themselves for an event which will inevitably occur.”
Citing a real danger, he explained that the dangerous Enriquillo Fault Zone extends across Port-au-Prince, starting in Petionville, traversing the Southern Peninsula to Tiburon. Noting earlier tremors in the area, he said a larger earthquake usually follows, yet no precautions were taken, leaving Haitians vulnerable to what happened – vast destruction, perhaps hundreds of thousands dead, countless numbers seriously injured, and disease, depravation, and militarized occupation haunting survivors in the aftermath.
After Washington ousted President Jean-Betrand Aristide in February 2004, UN Blue Helmets (MINUSTAH) occupied Haiti as paramilitary enforcers. They still do, subordinate to around 20,000 US land and sea based troops, including Marines, Army 82nd Airborne paratroupers, Navy assault ships, and Coast Guard vessels offshore, a powerful force for indefinite occupation, severe repression, and ruthless exploitation for American interests – obstructing, not providing, humanitarian aid, and facilitating potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation, dehydration, disease, untreated wounds, trauma, and for some perhaps just giving up and expiring unnoticed, unreported, and uncared about by forces able to help.
It’s an old story for Haitians, beleaguered for over 500 years and under America’s thumb for nearly two centuries, unrecognized, embargoed, exploited, and slaughtered to assure their freedom is denied. Now again, but first some background.
On April 30, 2004, the UN Security Council authorized MINUSTAH – paramilitary peacekeepers, illegally sent for the first time ever to support a coup d’etat regime in place of a democratically elected president.
Rebel thugs got free reign to join them in the streets, the result being hundreds turned up dead or missing. The state Port-au-Prince morgue was swamped with bodies. Many showed up with their hands tied behind their backs and bags placed over their heads. Ruthlessness was empowered. Orders came from Washington.
Bodies turned up everywhere, in streets, on beaches, abandoned as food for pigs, and anyone connected with Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party (FL) was fair game.
US Marines and foreign troops arrived, not to deliver aid or for protection, but to intimidate, terrorize, crush resistance, solidify coup d’etat rule, and destroy Haitian democracy under Aristide and prevent any chance of it returning.
MINUSTAH and the reconstituted Haitian National Police (the force Aristide abolished with the army) took over from the initial Multinational Interim Force (MIF), terrorizing Haitians through thousands of political killings, disappearances, torture, and unlawful arrests and incarcerations.
FL was effectively destroyed and Aristide’s remarkable accomplishments ended in areas of healthcare, education, free expression, economic and social reforms, human rights and justice, lost under coup d’etat rule and thereafter under the Preval government, a pseudo one subservient to Washington.
In the 2006 presidential and parliamentary elections, he agreed to painful concessions, surrendered his authority, and yielded power to US and elitist Haitian interests – a shameless betrayal of his people.
After the coup and thereafter, episodes like the following were commonplace:
On December 22, 2006, Blue Helmets assaulted Cite Soleil (one of Port-au-Prince’s most impoverished communities), randomly shot and killed 30 or more people, supposedly to capture a gang member, but in fact to terrorize.
In an earlier July 6, 2005 incident, hundreds of heavily armed troops attacked Cite Soleil with an array of powerful weapons – high-powered assault ones atop armored personnel carriers, precision rifles for assassinations, and a type of gattling gun firing depleted uranium tipped armor-piercing bullets. Thousands of rounds were indiscriminately fired. About 70 people were murdered, and many were left unattended to bleed to death on streets or in their homes.
On January 23, 2007, MINUSTAH forces were back, open fired randomly for hours, and used helicopters to reign death from the skies, killing dozens, then removing the dead to prevent a body count.
From February 2004 – December 2005 alone, Wayne State University School of Social Work researchers estimated that 8,000 people were murdered and 35,000 women sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area – attributed to MINUSTAH, the Haitian National Police (PNH), Haitian demobilized army members, and anti-Aristide paramilitary gangs enlisted to commit terror. Also reported were documented kidnappings, extrajudicial detentions, assaults other than rape, death threats, physical threats, and threats of sexual violence against helpless people. The report concluded that “crime and systematic abuse and human rights were common in Port-au-Prince” involving criminals but also “political actors and UN soldiers.”
Today, similar abuses crush resistance, prevent the restoration of democracy, and keep Haitians cowed, abused and exploited. Washington decides their fate, and now the Marines are back along with thousands of combat paratroupers and naval forces (an authorized 20,000 force mostly arrived), not to provide aid, to deny it and perhaps let hundreds of thousands perish – a crime of genocidal proportions, a US specialty, honed and perfected from decades of ritual slaughter, especially against people of color, deemed inferior to American “exceptionalism” and “moral superiority.”
Marines came earlier in 1915, stayed 20 years, ravaged the country, destroyed Haitian society and institutions, and committed horrendous crimes against humanity. Most notorious was the infamous 1929 slaughter of 264 peasants protesting in Les Cayes. In addition, corvee or forced labor was employed, brutally exploited, and new weapons tested like today, including aerial bombing years before the Nazis did it against Guernica (in April 1937) in support of Spanish fascists in the country’s civil war.
Haiti’s Catastrophic Tragedy
After its worst catastrophe in nearly 170 years, millions in the country need everything, not Marines – food, water, medical care, shelter, and deep compassion at their greatest time of need.
Instead, the country is occupied, militarized, denied aid, and taken over for greater exploitation. General Ken Keen, in charge of forces, says US troops will “be here as long as needed,” signaling an open-ended commitment for years.
On her January 16 photo-op visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton practically announced an emergency decree, suspension of the rule of law, and authorization of curfews and martial law under Pentagon control. She said:
“The decree would give the government an enormous amount of authority, which in practice they would delegate to us,” omitting that its choice was do it or else.
Despite the calm and lack of disorder, it’s now official under Pentagon command enforcing a state of emergency and martial law. US troops control Port-au-Prince’s airport and port facilities, blocking and slowing aid, including relief flights from France, Brazil, Italy and other countries, diverting them to the neighboring Dominican Republic, hours from Port-au-Prince on bad roads. In addition, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders report aid flights can’t land for fast access to treat the injured, ill and dying. Pentagon troops obstruct them, willfully letting people suffer, die, and be ethnically cleaned from Port-au-Prince areas wanted for new development. More on that below.
According to General Keen:
“If an air traffic controller doesn’t know what’s on an incoming plane, then he doesn’t know what priority to give it.”
Military flights in and ones out with US citizens and foreign nationals have top priority. Saving lives don’t matter. They’re just Haitians, poor, black, unimportant, to be removed, using the earthquake as a pretext to do it, dead or alive.
In natural disasters, immediate aid is critical. After that, casualties multiply fast and in Haiti they’re exploding, from a lack of medical supplies and equipment, vital surgeries, infections, diseases, extreme trauma, and inadequate essential to life supplies not let in or delayed. Three million or more Haitians need help. A fraction of that number are getting it. As a result, thousands are dying daily.
Phillippe Bolopion from FRANCE24 TV said supplies are piling up at the airport and not being delivered. Desperate people can’t “understand why the generosity of the world isn’t getting to them. It’s really hard to comprehend.”
Radio Television Esponola’s (RTVE) Fran Sevilla reported:
“There continues to be no distribution of humanitarian aid, of food and water. I ask myself how all these human beings survive. I ask if anyone is helping them, if they are receiving anything, and the answer is always no. They survive thanks to the solidarity between them, sharing between families and groups of friends what little they have, what they can get.”
President Rene Preval is disturbingly absent and silent, reportedly at the airport, out of sight, playing no role in the relief effort – something he should lead, not abstain from, and do it visibly, actively, on the ground in Port-au-Prince, what Aristide would do if there.
Despite the obstacles, some nations are doing what they can, Venezuela for one, a critical Hugo Chavez saying on his weekly Sunday broadcast:
“It seems that the United States is militarily occupying Haiti, taking advantage of the tragedy….Thousands of (soldiers) are disembarking in Haiti as if it were a war. (Haiti) needs doctors, tents, rescue teams and machinery….Now, who said soldiers, rifles and machine guns are necessary?”
Venezuelan and Cuban aid were some of the first to arrive, and Chavez and Castro promise more, including food, water, doctors, medical supplies and rescue equipment, yet Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicholas Maduro said shipments were diverted to the Dominican Republic, losing precious hours to deliver it to victims.
So far, Venezuela alone has sent fuel, 616 metric tons of food, and 116 metric tons of equipment, including water purification systems, electrical generators and heavy equipment for moving rubble, Chavez saying:
“The Venezuelan people (will do more and) will donate all the fuel the Haitian people need. We are coordinating with the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, who put the terminal of the refinery of his country at our service.”
Chavez later announced that another five ships loaded with food and medical supplies left for Haiti on January 19 with Venezuelan soldiers on board to “protect the safety of everyone, but not to militarily occupy (the country) as the US intends to do.”
Venezuela and other ALBA nations (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) pledged generous aid, additional shiploads already sent carrying thousands of tons of food and other supplies.
America’s Response – Occupation, Not Aid
In a show of strength, US paratroupers took control of the Presidential Palace, symbol of the nation’s sovereignty, wanting it for a command center, and angering one Haitian to say:
“I haven’t seen the Americans in the streets giving out water and food, but now they come to the palace.”
“It’s an occupation. The palace is our power, our face, our pride,” now taken, occupied, a deep humiliation while critical needs go begging.
Besides control, security is top priority, never mind how calm, resilient, compassionate, and committed able Haitians are to help, asking no more than for vital supplies to survive at a time they can’t provide them on their own. Yet Keen claims:
“incidents of violence (are) imped(ing) our ability to support the (Haitian) government and answer the challenges that this country faces as they’re suffering a tragedy of epic proportions,” one America exacerbates along with repressive MINUSTAH forces, to be reinforced with thousands of additional troops.
In separate incidents, they fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a crowd close to the Port-au-Prince airport, and Hatian police did as well against civilians in the city center. Another report said police were shooting Haitians and letting them bleed to death in the street.
“We don’t need military aid. What we need is food and shelter,” shouted one man at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his one-day visit with officials and UN forces, not to assess the tragedy and direct massive aid to address it.
Arriving on January 17, he left the same day, an appalling display of arrogance and indifference. During a photo-op near a tent city, he was heckled by angry crowds demanding help from the international community. Instead he said:
“Coordination will improve as we are better organized. Deliveries are now being made in a more effective and efficient manner.”
In fact, they’re being obstructed and prevented from landing, and much getting in is stacked at the airport, not delivered or delayed. The result is death, devastation, and human suffering everywhere while Ban, Hillary Clinton and husband Bill come for photo-ops and shameless comments like the former president saying:
“There was an extraordinary amount of time devoted to try and dig through those buildings to try to find living and dead.”
If fact, no heavy equipment was delivered. UN and US troops didn’t help, and Haitians had to use small implements and their bare hands to rescue a bare handful of people on their own while perhaps hundreds of thousands perished.
At the same time, desperation grows, arousing one woman to say:
“I have been here every day. I heard they gave away some food but there was a riot….we have been on this spot since the day of the earthquake and we have not seen anyone give away anything but water,” and not enough.
Another man shouted:
“Have we been abandoned? Where is the food?”
Head of mission of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Michelle Chouinard, described their enormous challenges:
— limited supplies of everything;
— extreme crush injuries, partial amputations and open fractures;
— people in severe pain with festering wounds;
— a young man, typical of others, with a traumatic crush injury; he was young and strong, but his leg was dead and had to come off;
— gangrenous limbs removed to save lives;
— after surgeries, patients can’t go home; they have none and need care – to prevent infections, change dressings and control pain;
— many amputees and the paralyzed need lifelong care, but from where, by whom, and the numbers are so great it’s impossible to help everyone;
— thousands of children have been orphaned;
— shocked, traumatized people are everywhere;
— the number of people needing surgery is overwhelming; teams work under makeshift conditions around the clock with inadequate supplies running out as well as enough fuel for refrigerating medicines; and
— people are dying and will die without essential treatment, and for the seriously ill, survival depends on leaving Haiti for what’s not available internally – but Washington is blocking Haitian citizens from leaving, even parents whose children are US citizens; they can go, not their parents.
Two million or more are homeless, living on streets or, if lucky, in tents. Partners in Health, (with 25 years experience providing healthcare to Haitians), estimates 20,000 are dying daily from lack of surgery and essential treatment. The human tragedy is incalculable. Tens of thousands of bodies get dumped in mass graves like garbage.
MSF’s Dr. Greg Elder fears:
“The next health risk could include outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, and other diseases among hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in overcrowded camps with poor or nonexistent sanitation.”
On January 20, even The New York Times reported that:
“….people (are) writhing in pain (in squatter camps around the capital), their injuries bound up by relatives but not yet seen by a doctor eight days after the quake struck. On top of that, the many bodies still in the wreckage increase the risk of diseases spreading, especially, experts say, if there is rain.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Port-au-Prince General Hospital is besieged by over 1,000 patients needing surgery. “….thousands of injured, some grievously, wait outside virtually any hospital or clinic, pleading for treatment.”
BBC correspondents said aid arriving by sea is taken to the airport, “where it is piling up and not being distributed to those who need it.” As a result, most Haitians are getting little or nothing. An estimated two hundred thousand or more have died. Many more will perish for lack of help.
At the same time, MINUSTAH and US forces provide security, not aid, leaving Haitians on their own, at the mercy of what relief agencies can provide and doctors from Cuba, Venezuela and other concerned nations, not America, not the EU, not Canada, not the world’s wealthiest states able to mount a sustained, large-scale effort but won’t.
Instead, reports say flyers are being circulated throughout Port-au-Prince, telling people to evacuate to safer places. It’s reminiscent of New Orleans post-Katrina, a mass ethnic cleansing exodus to level the city’s most valued parts, prepare it for upscale development, and prevent poor Haitians from returning.
On January 22, AP reported that:
“Haitian officials are planning a massive relocation of 400,000 people from makeshift camps to the outskirts of the capital….to help residents survive the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake.”
In fact, Pentagon forces run everything, providing aid not their concern. They’re relocating people, dumping and forgetting about them, out of sight and mind.
The New York Times ignores it, referring only to aid groups helping the homeless by “an epic relocation (of) up to one million people.” Not a word about capitalizing on disaster for profit.
Before the quake, Haiti had over 10,000 NGOs profiteering on the nation’s misery, preparing now for a bonanza at the expense of the poor, displaced and immiserated.
Blocking a Haitian Exodus
The Pentagon has Haiti under siege. Five US Coast Guard vessels and Navy warships patrol offshore to interdict those fleeing and forcibly return them back home.
On January 19, cnn.com reported that:
“A US Air Force plane serving as an airborne radio station is broadcasting messages to Haitians (warning) them not to attempt ocean voyages to the United States, saying they will be intercepted and turned back home if they do.”
The message comes from Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s US ambassador, saying in Creole:
“Listen, don’t rush on boats to leave the country. If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems….If you think you will reach the US and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”
If large numbers flee, they’ll be incarcerated at Guatanamo’s Krome Service Processing Center under conditions others earlier faced. After the 1991 coup deposed President Aristide, thousands fled to America. Most were sent home, but around 300 were held at Guantanamo because tests showed they were HIV positive. In subsequent years, thousands more were interned there.
Conditions were deplorable. Treated like prisoners, they were held behind razor wire in leaky barracks with bad sanitation, poor food, and little medical care even for the sick and pregnant women. After one protest and a hunger strike, crackdowns were severe, and many were imprisoned.
In October 2002, 212 Haitians reached South Florida seeking asylum and safety. Instead, they were rounded up, handcuffed, held in detention, and grossly mistreated. Families were separated from children, husbands from wives, and siblings from each other, but it wasn’t an isolated incident under a secret Bush administration policy authorizing what now is the Department of Homeland Security to detain South Florida arrivals, regardless of their asylum eligibility.
It’s how Washington always treated Haitians since they began arriving over 50 years ago to escape repression, only to be treated abusively once here.
Today, sick and dying Haitians are denied visas for emergency medical treatment and those with them can’t leave. On January 19, the Miami Herald reported that commercial flights from Haiti are banned because checks can’t screen out potential terrorists, a policy applying to Haitians, not US citizens or others allowed to depart.
Abducting Haitian Children
Noted international law and human rights expert Professor Francis Boyle reports the following:
“The USA is stealing the alleged ‘orphans’ of Haiti, taking them away from their families. Haiti is currently being occupied by the United States….Obama basically told Preval he was taking over the country, and Preval said OK — no choice in the matter” as Washington does what it pleases, especially against defenseless countries like Haiti.
“….the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to this situation. It clearly states in Article 2:
‘The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.’ “
Under Fourth Geneva, Haitian “orphans are protected persons under the terms of the (Convention). Hence, they cannot be moved from Haiti for any reason. To do so is a serious war crime.”
Boyle added that Defense Secretary Gates said America won’t police Haiti. However, under Fourth Geneva, occupying the country and displacing its sitting government (even in weakened form) is precisely what Washington is doing.
On January 19, The New York Times headlined, “53 Haitian Orphans Are Airlifted to US,” then explained that some Haitian orphanages “are fronts for traffickers who buy children from their parents and sell them to couples in other countries.” Now profiteers are stealing them.
According to UNICEF spokesperson Christopher de Bono:
“In orphanages in Haiti, there are an awful lot of children who are not orphans.”
According to UNICEF adviser Jean Luc Legrand, children are also missing from hospitals.
“We have documented around 15 cases of children disappearing from hospitals and not with their own family at the time. UNICEF has been working in Haiti for many years and we knew the problem with the trade of children….that existed beforehand. Unfortunately, many of the….networks have links with the international adoption market.”
Fast-track adoptions are proceeding in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and America.
They’re victims of child-traffickers, now aided by Homeland Security’s January 18 announced policy of waiving visa requirements on humanitarian grounds for Haitian children approved for adoption, or perhaps abducted to be sold for profit, never to see their parents again or know if they’re alive. DHS is facilitating a crime, a practice it’s expert at targeting Latino immigrants, including documented US citizens.
Boyle asks who gives “the White Racist United States (the) Divine Right to go around the world (stealing) Black Children from Third World Countries, depriving those children and their countries of their future?”
“The forcible transfer of children of one group (Black Hatians) to another group (White Americans) is genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention (besides violating Fourth Geneva).”
It may also violate America’s “Genocide Implication Act as amended by the Genocide Accountability Act and perhaps the US War Crimes Act.”
The White House pressured the Haitian government to comply, forcing it to be complicit in child abductions – trafficking potentially thousands of Haitian children for profit at a time they’re most vulnerable.
“Notice the duress and coercion involved here. The Black Haitian government was forced by the White Racist USA to surrender up their Children to White American child thieves,” parents complicit in a crime with lawyers helping them who know better but are well paid to stay silent.
“Are we American Lawyers going to stand by and let their genocidal thievery of Haitian babies happen? Or are we going to do something to stop it?”
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.