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#3422: Aristide and violence: Chamberlain comments (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
How heartening that Corbetteers are robustly tackling such a pressing (but
politically incorrect) issue as Aristide and violence, one which too many
people try to duck or argue their way out of confronting.
I am not in any way saying Aristide is the instigator of violence by
juxtaposing those words.
But we should recognise that the often contorted arguments of his
apologists and supporters are simply attempts to spare him at any cost from
having to condemn people acting in his name. And to avoid it in the narrow
interests of Aristide, not in the wider interest of Haiti or of defending
the Haitian people against evil foreigners, as some have pretended. It's
like the US trying to dress up the 1994 invasion (which of course had the
freely-given approval of Aristide) as an "international" force, which it
was in theory but not in practice. Those loudest in trying to get Aristide
off the hook on not disowning the "chimères" were the same people who
loudly denounced that "international" description of the invasion. I'm
tempted to rank some of these defenders of Aristide with the Corbetteer who
clearly implied a few weeks ago that the burning down of the EC party
headquarters was justified because he had heard (!) that Evans Paul hadn't
paid the rent for a couple of years.
Aristide aspires to be a statesman, a leader of all Haitians. His interest
(in the absence of any immediate "revolution") is to maintain order --
without casseurs (mob rule), without macoutes at the service of the state.
I'm sure this is ardently desired by 99.9% of all Haitians. The remaining
0.1% being the double-dealing ideologues of the ilk of Haiti Progres and
others who seek only to use Aristide for their own ends.
If Aristide is to be worthy of this noble role of statesman in office
(whether or not he tries for "revolution" subsequently), his clear duty is
to go beyond the smooth statements of "Lavalas condemns all violence" and
address the issue of the mobs claiming to be his supporters. By either
specifically condemning them or by taking the risk of saying straight out
that "these people are all agitators and provocateurs paid by the CIA," if
that is what he believes. If Ben Dupuy can say that, why can't Aristide?
The people can then judge him by these statements. If he doesn't address
the chimeres issue squarely, what are people to assume? They will assume
he's guilty. Well, why not do something to head that off?
As some have pointed out, he's operating in a public arena, where there are
certain conceptions, whether real or "manufactured by outside forces" (like
the neat phrase "the death plan," for the IMF/WorldBank policies, was
thought up by the foreign left rather than by "the people" as we are led to
believe). The public conceptions, right or wrong, have to be tackled.
Does Aristide realise that many ordinary Haitians are looking askance at
his smooth statements? People like "conviction politicians," those who say
what they think. He used to be one, but power has made him sadly just
like the rest of the political class. Such a waste.
Or is Aristide just another Messiah politician, and not a statesman at all?
If so, he isn't constrained by the demands of statesmanship and acting in
the interests of most Haitians. His concern in that case is simply himself
and his own personal power, with the people as a footnote, to be
As ever, his apologists are busy practising the politics of blame, of the
kneejerk evocation of conspiracies, most of which don't exist. This is how
the energies of the political class in Haiti (and many of its supporters
abroad) are consumed now, as before. While Haiti starves, and continues to
be an unfit partner for regional cooperation and for the international
assistance it so badly needs. How is this this vicious circle to be
broken? Hard to say, but it's clear the present political actors are doing
nothing to break it. Instead we are witness to savage and mindless attacks
on bodies like the NCHR for having the courage to call a spade a spade.
This is profoundly depressing.
"Aristide has always been consistent in calling for non-violence and
reconcilliation, especially after he was shouldered back into power,"
writes Kevin Pina. One hopes that he has indeed learned from certain
"errors" during the Aristide I period (1991) that calls to violence (even
in desperation) quickly lead nowhere but down. One also hopes he will be
able to control the usual group of thugs, crooks and opportunists that,
impatient for their turn at the trough of public money, crowd round anyone
like Aristide. Of course the CIA might (not would) have an interest in
playing up the presence of such people, but their presence is nevertheless
a reality. The CIA didn't invent them. The bottom line is whether
Aristide can control their excesses or whether, like most charismatic
leaders, he will be tempted to use them as enforcers of his rule. Perhaps
I am being too generous. The open campaign by Fanmi Lavalas against the
police leadership (two down, only one to go -- Denize) so as to give
Aristide personal control of it, is, in the Haitian political context, a
dark and depressing omen.
So far, Aristide hasn't shown much sign of being up to his future job of
statesman-president. A tragedy for all Haitians, many of whom, along with
many foreigners, are inclined to give him an undue benefit of the doubt
because of his former status as a priest, because of the saintly image we
all had of him, which is hard for us to throw off because people in general
hope for the best. Haitians need to be much more demanding of Aristide if
he is to be truly worthy of their confidence.
I have no brief for evil and odious people like Jesse Helms -- who, I have
it on good authority, is driven largely by a member of his staff out to
avenge his failure to get a job with the UN/OAS mission in Haiti -- but the
priority should be to avoid giving his ilk any ammunition. If you are
clean as a whistle, such people can do you much less damage. They
shouldn't of course be able to do any, but since they can, precautions have
to be taken as long as they have power.
If people feel inclined to dismiss any of the above remarks as similar to
the "CIA line" (whatever that conveniently vague bogey might be), so be it.
Many of our arguments here in Corbettlan will, by simple range of
probability, sometimes coincide with such thinking. That of course doesn't
invalidate them in the least. We all have a sacred duty to think for
ourselves. Whether the "CIA" men in shades and trenchcoats happen to agree
with us or not. Let's have no defeatist-style waiting for them to set the