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6455: Re: Simplification of history, etc. (fwd)

From: Greg and Susan Bryant <gregandsusan@rainbowtel.net>

Well, I'll chime in again:

I'm not an investigative journalist, as I've said, and for the most part
"all I know is what I read in the papers" and on this list and wherever
else I can find information. I almost regret bringing this mess up, but
apparently I only know a little less than some others, and all of us really
want to understand this, and some of you may hold the keys to
understanding. So:

I want to know if it's safe to say that the U.S., while certainly not
monolithic, is hostile to JBA in its foreign policy? And that when actions
by the U.S. seem partly out of sync with this antipathy, the actors (i.e.
Clinton) time their actions so as to benefit Aristide and his supporters as
little as possible, backhandedly furthering the same old ends of corporate

Is it not true that the U.S., and especially the CIA, supported FRAPH as an
"alternative" to Aristide?

And is it not also true that after Constant and FRAPH revealed their intent
as violent and hostile, the U.S. still opposes any and all alternatives to
JBA, including the remnants of FRAPH et al? I mean, I read the stories
based on press releases from the U.S. state department and other agencies.
I see that every government spokesperson who actually speaks out vilifies
JBA as a dictator and a madman (except Clinton, who sounds very bland in
both versions I've read of his letter to JBA -- will the real letter please
stand up?). And who is speaking up in JBA's favor?

The stance in U.S. government press releases consistently clings to the
extreme right-wing of Haiti's factions, whether they're talking about JBA's
motives and character, the estimated voter turnout, the role of
multinational corporations in Haiti, the legitimacy of the May elections,
the legitimacy of the 1997 elections, etc. etc. etc. The American
government is (almost) always to be found on the hard right, and
anti-Aristide, even in light of the behavior of our favored "alternatives"
in the wake of our support. Can we validly observe, at least, that the U.S.
pursues a consistent and deliberate foreign policy in favor of whatever
factions will support the interests of American-based corporations, with
less regard to what benefits the economic well-being of the vast majority
of Haitians, and with no regard to which leaders the Haitians themselves
have democratically chosen?

Can't it even be said that U.S. policy actively interferes with the
development of Haitian democracy when such development threatens U.S.
business interests?

(None of my business, because I'm not Haitian? Well, I'm an American and
these agencies claim to represent me. I am embarassed by this.)

Can it be fairly noted that there has been no outcry of regret by U.S.
officials that the people and movements they are on record as having
supported turned out to be murderous traitors and tyrants?

I mean, RE:
>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.

...Where is the American outcry against this horrendous betrayal, in view
of how easy it has been for JBA to generate American suspicion and
contempt? U.S. spokespeople have begun wrinkling their brows with concern
about the character and ambitions of JBA and hinting that he is on a course
for becoming a murderous tyrant and traitor to his own supporters,
apparently forgetting the behavior of the (paid!) U.S. favorites in the
drama. And in this, once again, they cling very closely to the position
voiced by the press releases of the so-called Democratic Convergence. I
mean, I have trouble telling the press releases of the CD from the press
releases of the Republican legislators who are the loudest, and therefore
the de facto official, U.S. spokespeople on the subject of Aristide.

Isn't it also true that the CIA's position through the years is consistent
with this overall right-wing, pro-corporate U.S. policy, and that insofar
as it has been involved, it has faithfully served those American corporate

While I can agree in the strictest logical sense with this:
>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.

...still we have to remember that we are not trying a case in a criminal
court, we're just doing our best to understand what is happening by looking
at sparse, often carefully occluded evidence which emerges in a passionate
environment of incipient democracy versus old-line money interests and
imperialism. Because we are not satisfied with obscurity on this important
issue, we have to use the best facts available and our best judgment and,
in the end, provisionally make "leaps of faith" because in this case,
considering our history, caution lies on the side of suspicion of the U.S.
involvement in Haiti.

We must also keep humbly in mind the flaws and weaknesses in our
evidentiary trail and always seek to correct those flaws, regardless of the
direction that new evidence may move the conclusion.

All that said, can we at least provisionally interpolate from the testimony
and documents and history which we do have, that the U.S. supported, and
still supports, the removal of Aristide, while not necessarily concluding
that the U.S. wants people to die?

Some other comments:

>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

I like the (mythical) American spirit of suspicion of elected and appointed
officials, and the idea of a "watch-dog" press. If the press often errs in
its deadline-induced haste, let it err on the side of skepticism of
government. They have been admirably dogged in their skepticism toward of
Aristide. Let them pursue the CIA with the same vigor. To give the benefit
of the doubt to functionaries of the American government is not only
historically un-American: that same history tells us it's unwise. Trot out
the fragmentary evidence and we'll all assemble the puzzle together in the
daylight. To trust the U.S. government to do what's right for the most
people is demonstrably a wilder leap of faith than to draw sinister
conclusions from sinister discoveries and damning testimony.

>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. 

And I'm confident, though you don't say so, that you also have hesitations
about someone who has a demigod status among the right, like Jesse Helms.
Hesitations are good. But behind your statement seems to lurk a familiar
pseudo-fairminded assumption that if there are two extremes, the "truth"
lies somewhere in the middle. Journalists, for example, wisely use this
guiding principle in lieu of actual "fairness," which most of us agree is
almost impossible. Usually, journalists can at best only report what they
perceive to be the extremes of an issue and the spectrum between, and let
the reader sort it out. It is the journalists' job, after all, to trot the
evidence out, not to tell us what to think.

The problem is, the truth isn't necessarily always in the middle, and we
all know it. Sometimes it's smack dab on one end of the spectrum or the
other. In fact, the "truth" usually never shows its face until much later.
Journalism hangs to the center because it can do its work best there, but
that doesn't mean that what's true, or even fair, is somewhere in the
center of the mass of opinion out there. It's up to us to go farther than
the journalists.

>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.

I guess it depends on one's definition of "credible," which could run from
"beyond a reasonable doubt" to "satisfactory to the credulous." The first
is just plain unattainable, and I think it would be unfair to use the
second phrase to describe what we're talking about here. In fact, that
assertion would take a pretty good dose of credulity itself.

I realize this sounds like backpedalling from my original remark: "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." I still think it's credible, though it wouldn't prevail
in a criminal court. It's at least credible enough, and sinister enough, to
make any watchdog worthy of the name start digging. And given our history,
it warrants a provisional assumption of antidemocratic U.S. maneuvering. In
my opinion.

Greg B.