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6446: Simplification of history: Chamberlain replies to Driver (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

> Greg Bryant wrote:
> > There is some credible documentary evidence
> > that the US trained the leaders of the coup that
> > overthrew Aristide, and perhaps even helped
> > organize and finance the coup itself.
> May we know what that is, or is this assertion
> the familiar fruit of the simplification of history
> with hindsight?
>         Greg Chamberlain

My querying above of Greg Bryant's assertion about CIA involvement was
meant to refer to responsibility for the coup, not the training of people
who years later did it.  I didn't make that clear.  Of course the US army
has trained Haitian military officers and of course the CIA has worked and
still works with Haitian "spies" throughout the years.  It doesn't follow
however, _on that evidence_, that CIA masterminded or "helped organise and
finance" the coup, however ardently one might wish to believe that.

Tom's experience with the NYTimes about his letter was unfortunate.  I
agree with him that the editor who dealt with it was unreasonable.  But
that shouldn't lead on to immediately seeing the NYT (not that Tom did, but
others on his side do) as some monolith, with the likes of Tom's letter
debated urgently at the highest editorial level, clear ideological policy
engraved in stone, military-industrial elite etc., all as part of some
perpetual conspiracy of the press.  Perhaps Corbetteer Janet Higbie, of the
NYTimes, might enlighten us on NYT policy here?

I have my doubts about Allan Nairn's investigative reporting, though the
subjects he takes on indeed urgently need to be tackled.  Sometimes I've
noticed that when you get to the crunch, the final telling evidence, it
turns out to be a quote from a not so credible official or another report
and one is, for the sake of the cause, implicitly invited to make a leap of
faith.  Apart from that, I simply have hesitations about someone who has a
demigod status among the left, like Noam Chomsky.  Such excitement isn't
conducive to sober reasoning. 

Tom takes me to task for "along with the editors of letters to the NY Times
(...) engaging in 'the simplification of history.'"  Yet what does he
present us with as evidence?

First, my good friend Maggie Steber's note, in which she offers only a
sketchy recollection.  Then follow quotes listed by Tom, many of them
exasperatingly general and simplified.  Yet these are the same mainstream
newspapers dismissed as "agents of imperialism" (or some such) by Tom's
allies when their reports do not conveniently support the cause in hand. 
Can we have an explanation of the grounding principle, the attitude to this
media which is one day garbage and the next fit to be quoted, good enough
to be true one day and not the next?

Maggie Steber says the NYT and the WP said "the CIA was directly linked to
supporting Cedras and others who were involved in the coup of '91."  We
know (1993 reports in the NYT and WP) that the CIA tried to train or mostly
simply gave money to officers from 1986 to fight drug trafficking (the
S.I.N. programme) and then it all got out of control when they just stole
all the money the CIA gave them.  This doesn't mean the CIA _therefore_
mounted or supported the coup five years later, though it doesn't mean the
1986-and-on guys didn't do it.  One cannot credibly merge elements like
this or make such convenient inferences.

To take the items Tom cites as evidence:

Latell report (23 Oct 93).  Yes, Latell said those things about Aristide. 
But I seem to remember he was soon discredited by his own side (people will
say, of course, that this was just a trick...).  I may be wrong.  Can
anyone tell us the story of Latell's career since?

The reports on Nov 1 and 14, 1993 (NYTimes).  This was the story about the
S.I.N. funding.  Tom, who deplores, as I do, what he calls "the effort to
suppress historical information when it does not fit" into the views of
whichever side one is on, forgets to tell us that the paper stated that
there was no indication the CIA, having been involved in the SIN project,
had even supported the coup, much less directed it.  The reports even said
the CIA evacuated six senior Aristide officials in the hours following the
coup (was this yet another cunning trick?).  The paper said the CIA had
paid soldiers and politicians for info until the coup.  Is this the same as
the CIA masterminding or "helping to organise" the coup?  Not at all,
however one might yearn for it to be true for one's agenda.  I don't recall
either that Cedras was among the officers involved in the SIN project.  Or
Michel Francois, the leader of the coup, who forced Cedras to join it (the
two appear to have detested and distrusted each other throughout the

The LATimes of 31 Oct 93 reported that a CIA plan to finance candidates
during the aborted 1987 election and the rigged one in 1988 was refused by
the appropriate US Senate committee.  Another smokescreen?  Choose your
favourite conspiracy.

> Apr. 10, 1994.  In an Op-Ed piece called "Abandoning Democracy," 
> another Times' regular columnist, Bob Herbert, wrote:  "... the Clinton
> Administration -- in its actions if not its words -- has abandoned
> Father Aristide and his followers and sided with the murderous 
> enemies of democracy in Haiti."

No problem with that.  But we are supposed to be reading evidence about CIA
involvement, not generalities like these.

> Sep. 21, 1994.  Soon after U.S. troops landed in Haiti, Bob Herbert
> again wrote: "In a betrayal of everything this country stands for, the
> United States is openly forging an alliance with the fiendish,
> grotesquely sadistic enemies of human rights and democracy in Haiti."

Ditto for this.

> Oct. 8, 1994.  "US officials link CIA to Toto Constant."  Constant, of
> course, had organized and run the murderous paramilitary group 
> FRAPH under the eye of the CIA.  It was most active in the year 
> following the Governor's Island agreement in July, 1993, and played 
> the key role in turning back the Harlan County in Oct. 1993, the U.S. 
> ship that carried troops intended to prepare the way for Aristide's 
> return at the end of that month.

Correct.  And herein lies an interesting tale, which was documented in at
least one lengthy newspaper article, which described the confusion from top
to bottom of the Administration at that moment, notably the incompetence of
defense secretary Melvin Laird (who was generally seen as a disaster in the
job he had worked all his life in Congress to win).  Such confusion
_appears_ to have allowed the CIA/DIA a chance follow what _appears_ to
have been their then anti-Aristide agenda (for whatever reason they had
one).  But the accusers in the posts here seem keen to lump all this
together as "the US", not recognising the complexities and contradictions
of the US state and telescoping events and factors so as to "prove" the
existence of the usual giant conspiracy of something or other.

If it was so clear that the CIA was the driving force behind the coup,
isn't it odd that even the likes of Haiti-Progres don't say straight out
that it was and (correct me if I'm wrong, Kim) simply allude acidly to such
an eventuality?  The debate goes on here and elsewhere simply
because the evidence isn't clear enough.  

        Greg Chamberlain