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#3594: Haitian Refugees: A reply to Grey


> Then there were the camps in Guantanamo, where Haitian 
>  women fleeing rape and torture at the hands of the Haitian military were 
>  treated to rape and torture at the hands of the American military. 

I spent a week in Guantanamo Bay with hubby treating 20 Haitian refugees a 
day. sometimes more, depending on their dental needs. If there was such thing 
I didn't see or aware of it.  The reason is many of the soldiers in 
Guantanamo were Haitian Nationals.  There was a lieutenant named Margaret 
Jean Louis.  She was well liked by the refugees.  The refugees were 
encouraged to paint and painting supplies were given to them. Their work, 
which was mainly a reflection of their experience in the camp, was exhibited 
at the McDonald in the base which I have pictures of.  Lieutenant Jean Louis 
was one of the military personnel who was recognized in a painting.

I saw other Haitian servicemen who were so kind to these people I was touched 
by their kindness myself, and that had given me hope that there is still an 
ounce of goodness in the Haitian hearts if only they will let it show and not 
be so dominated by ego.

I saw a white American soldier who took in his arm a young girl, who may have 
been eight.  The soldier laid down his weapon and in that little bit of shade 
on the back of the medical tent he placed the girl on his lap where she felt 
asleep.  I have a picture of that too.  I was observing him at a distance and 
when I saw that I was so touched I took a pic of it.

Another African American from Louisiana who worked as a dental tech in the 
tent, with three children back home himself is another example.  I met a 
woman with three children who said she has a sister in New Jersey who didn't 
know she was in the camp. That woman has a young girl who was close to 
twelve, a young boy of six, and a nine month old baby boy who had chicken pox 
then. She was a smoker.  That AA from Louisiana had gone above and beyond the 
call of duty to help this family.  He made sure that woman has her cigarette 
when she needs to.  He even purchased Mcdonald food for the entire family 
when she expressed her uneasiness with the oatmeal served with rice that was 
offered to her and her family.  Although Haitians were placed in the kitchen 
to help with the preparation of food, the food was not inviting.  The 
refugees complained that the food was tasteless, and that has nothing to do 
with the fact that Haitians love spicy food.  It is simply not in the 
American culture to add spice to their cooking.  Rather, the salt and pepper 
were given separately to the Haitians to be added to their food as they wish. 
For good reason too because some may have had high blood pressure and were on 
limited salt intake.  This way it was safer.
That Haitian family didn't speak English and had a hard time communicating 
with the American soldiers, but for some reason before I arrived to the camp 
there was already an established communication system between the AA and that 
family. As I befriended that family I was able to learn more about the 
situation and translating back and forth between the two.  The six year old 
boy, one morning, asked me to translate to the AA that he's willing to 
exchange his twelve year old sister  if he will get him a motorcycle  (You 
can read anything you want into this).

I also met a Haitian soldier who fell in love with a 19 year old refugee 
girl. He wasn't fluent enough in Creole to express his emotions thus he came 
to help for help. Through his efforts, the girl's father who was in Miami 
then was able to come in contact with her and that girl was released to him.  
Upon my return that girl called me from her Miami's parents home to tell me 
she was pursuing her High School degree and she was still dating that HA 

This HA soldier was the lucky one.  Another soldier  (from  the Navy) whose 
story made the "Nouvel Lakay," and "Sak Pase" Newspapers, a Gitmo's paper, 
wasn't so lucky.  Whether he indeed raped the girl or was it consential I 
cannot say, but he was not in any position to let his emotions get the best 
of him.

I was able to stay in the Officers Quarters, and  when I go to the tent to 
work with my husband I was allowed to be accompanied by a soldier to tour the 
camp.  To communicate with the refugees in ways many of the INS translators 
were not allowed to do.  The reason was I was not under anyone or group's 
watch.  As long as I had a soldier in uniform to walk with me I was allowed 
to visit all the camps, and talk to any refugee I wanted to talk to.  A 
newspaper was published in the base  to inform the refugees, radios were 
provided for entertainment, dominoes and card games, art supplies were 
provided to anyone with interest or talents as a passtime.  Im not aware of 
any Haitian prisoner in Haiti who has been treated with so much consideration 
and dignity.

The only thing I thought, in my opinion, was inappropriate was the carnival 
advertisement in the "Sak Pase" newspaper of Feb. 22, 1992.  A large picture 
of a decorated coast guard yatch with written words that read " Ale nan 
Kanaval! Yon Jou, yon nuit epi ouap kote ki guin kanaval la." "Pran plezi ou 
nan kanaval Jacmel, Cap Haitien.  Vwayaj 29-27 Feb.

To me, these people didn't risk their lives in their search for a better 
existence simply to return for Carnival.  To these people there is more to 
life than enjoying Carnival, and by leaving the country the way they did they 
had proven it. I thought that was very inconsiderate in the part of the 

>From what I saw in that camp: from the individual efforts that were made on 
behalf of these Haitians and my one on one discussions with the refugees I 
can say it will not be fair to view the US in a negative way in this case.  
In  fact, I saw a side of those Haitian soldiers in the US Joint Military 
Task Force I never thought was posible considering the brutality that is 
associated with men in uniforms in the Haitian military.  Perhaps they are 
not in an environment where unbecoming conducts are encouraged.  This is not 
to say that men in US military are not capable of barbarism, however, in this 
case cruelty was unwarranted and was not encouraged.

This is my take on this. I do believe at times when US does good things for  
Haitians they should be noted and not constantly bashing the US as if it has 
never done anything good for Haitians.