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#4034: What is Mike Norton on? Chamberlain replies to Arthur (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

It wasn't a "red herring" (irrelevant diversion) that I raised in response
to Charles' rage against Norton, but a valid related issue that certainly
_does_  "further an understanding of what is happening."

Charles seems to think the post-election arrests (sorry,  "detentions") are
not important or relevant.  Yet all governments since the dawn of time have
had their little excuses as to why they suddenly round up a bunch of folks,
90% of them their opponents.  Such a familiar scenario!  Why do we fall for
it?  Haiti Progrès (Stalinist pro-Aristide) newspaper provides an excellent
example.  Their excuse is:

" The Haitian government is acting to preserve democracy by reining in
politicians who, unhappy with the outcome of the May
21 elections, have brazenly threatened to organize a nationwide

Amazing how the (sometimes) healthy scepticism of these apologists where
the US, IMF, "Death Plan" etc. is concerned is suddenly nowhere to be seen
when their own side is in the top seat.  Well, not amazing at all, of
course, but let's just remember the hypocrisy involved.

I haven't, BTW, seen anything saying that the 30 or so "detainment" (hah!)
persons have been released, as Kevin announced to us, except for Paul
Denis.  They may've been, probably have, but perhaps Kevin would tell us
how he knows, since he's on the spot.

Yes, the elections were as good as could be expected in the circumstances
and sort-of congratulations all round.  But please allow me to take my
knowledge of Charles' sympathies into account when I read his version of
events.  I can't buy his explanation of the "over-zealous" behaviour of the
Lavalas people as an understandable reaction to the memory of the coup and
foreign-driven "artificially-inflated" importance of the opposition
fractions.  I don't think most Haitians have been touched by this so-called
"inflation."  It might read like that in some of the foreign press and in
the angry reaction of the foreign Lavalas supporters, but I don't think
anyone in Haiti is fooled at all by this.  Though that's not to dismiss all
the opposition by any means, plenty of joke figures though there are in
their ranks.  No, the "over-zealousness" is more to do with habits of
political intolerance, something that has to be urgently changed if Haiti
is to move forward for the benefit of all Haitians.

I would be absolutely delighted if Aristide produced the goods, if he
managed to control corruption, if he managed to keep thugs and drug lords
out of his entourage -- these curses which afflict any politician in power
in a small or poor country -- all of it without a vicious repression
explained as being forced on the government by outside forces.  But to
raise the possibility that he might _not_ pull that off is _not_ to doom
him to failure.  That's the old shoot-the-messenger, blame-Johnny-Foreigner
trick.  But that's the convenient charge that'll probably be made.  It's
the old fallacy that the slightest criticism is fatal, so should not be
made.  (As I've already noted, Papa Doc spread the slogan that "Vouloir
détruire Duvalier, c'est vouloir détruire Haiti" -- They who want to
destroy Duvalier, want to destroy Haiti).  Very handy for whoever's in
power to have a bunch of religiously chanting mostly-foreigners to laud
every step you make.  But no good for the health of Haiti and Haitians, I
would think.

How far should the truth be suppressed for the sake of a good cause?  What
a thin, shaky and perilous line to draw!  Because Aristide might have
enemies (JHelms, MREs, CIA or whatever), must we abstain from all criticism
using this neat excuse?  One might be inclined to do so (quite dangerously
for the health of any body politic) if one did not know the political class
in Haiti and if one had not seen how Aristide and his guys have behaved in
the past (= pretty normally for guys in power in Haiti), along with some
good things they did.

Lest I be accused of Gill-style doomsaying, may I note that a deafening
silence followed my attempt to start a discussion here the other day with a
lengthy post about forward-looking things such as supporting community
radios, literacy, DR-style consensus habits, use of the Internet.  When
we're not doomsaying or nitpicking, us Corbeteers don't seem too interested
in looking to a brighter future, yet we all swear our deep love for Haiti.

        Greg Chamberlain