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#3679: Re: Enemy Ally: The Demonization of Aristide (fwd)

From: kevin pina <cariborganics@hotmail.com>

Interesting background material:

Enemy Ally: The Demonization of
Jean-Bertrand Aristide

November/December 1994

By Jim Naureckas

Usually when the U.S. military intervenes overseas, the U.S. press demonizes 
the enemy. But in the case of the Haiti occupation, many media reports have 
spent more time demonizing the U.S.'s ostensible ally, deposed President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Newsweek (9/26/94) described Aristide as "an anti-American demagogue, an 
unsteady left-wing populist who threatened private enterprise and condoned 
violence against his political opponents."

An editorial in the liberal New York Newsday (9/21/94) proclaimed: "Aristide 
seems bent on proving his critics' claims: that he's a fickle ideologue, a 
rabble-rouser with a messianic complex essentially uninterested in the 
pragmatic realities and possibly incompetent to be chief exec."

Fred Barnes on the McLaughlin Group (9/20/94) dismissed the fact that 
two-thirds of the Haitian population voted for Aristide: "The notion that 
because Aristide was once elected, that we now have to impose him, carries 
democratic formalism to an extreme....Hitler was elected."

Disinformation Campaign

Aristide has long been the target of a disinformation campaign, with CIA 
distortions sourced to the Haitian military being disseminated through the 
media by P.R. agents paid for by the Haitian elite (Extra!Update, 12/93). 
The key elements of the campaign have long been disproven, but they still 
coming up in coverage of the Haitian occupation.

John McLaughlin provided one of the shriller summaries of the claims on the 
McLaughlin Group (9/20/94): "Aristide has been charged by eye-witnesses with 
criminal horrors, including assassination; complicity in the humiliation of 
the Papal Nuncio...and, most horribly, Aristide's exhorting of mobs to
use necklacing, Haitian slang for gang execution with a gasoline-soaked tire 
put around the neck and
set aflame, also called Pere Lebrun." McLaughlin then showed a video clip 
that he said showed "Aristide inciting a mob to Pere Lebrun with his lunatic 
sing-song chant."

The assault against the Papal Nuncio, who was suspected of supporting an 
attempted coup, occurred before Aristide came to power, and Aristide was not 
involved. As for the alleged "Pere Lebrun" speech, it nowhere mentions 
necklacing, and seems in context to be referring to the Haitian constitution 
as a "beautiful tool." Despite the constant repetition of the claim that the 
spell-binding Aristide "exhorted mobs to use necklacing," there were no 
documented cases of necklacing from the day of Aristide's inauguration until 
the day of the coup.

While the old charges linger on (Newsweek, 9/19/94, merged quotes from two 
different statements into "one angry speech" to make it seem like Aristide 
had called for necklacing), new disinformation is surfacing -- often based 
on the flimsiest of reporting.

Time (9/26/94) ran an item on "a series of uncorroborated but sensational 
allegations that "Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's erstwhile President, took 
hundreds of thousands of dollars in
look-the-other-way money from Colombian drug cartels while in office."

Not even Time claims that they have credible evidence for this: "None of the 
claims have been supported, and the sources may have suspect motives," the 
magazine admits. In reality, far from
looking the other way, the ascetic Aristide instigated the first-ever 
serious crackdown on drug trafficking by the military -- whose involvement 
in the cocaine trade is well-documented.

What could motivate Time editors to print such a dubious charge against 
Aristide? Time's standards were quite different when a reporter there tried 
to do a story in 1987 -- based on substantial
documentation -- about drug smuggling by Oliver North's contra resupply 
network. After the article was repeatedly sent back for rewrites, the 
reporter told Extra! (11-12/91), assenior editor leveled with him: "Time is 
institutionally behind the contras. If this story were about the Sandinistas 
and drugs, you'd have no trouble getting it in the magazine."

The Cherubin Smear

Another Aristide smear involves his administration's Port-au-Prince police 
chief, Col. Pierre Cherubin, whose human rights record compares very 
favorably with others who have held that post - particularly compared to his 
self-appointed successor, Col. Michel Francois.

But while Cherubin was in charge, five alleged "bandits" were murdered by 
Port-au-Prince police - a crime for which a subordinate of Cherubin's was 
arrested. Because of the new seriousness about human rights under Aristide, 
an investigation was launched to see if Cherubin himself had anything to
do with the killings -- an investigation aborted by the 1991 coup.

This incident has resurfaced in distorted form. The Washington Post's 
version of the charge (9/18/94) is that Cherubin was "authorizing torture 
and killing of Aristide's opponents." The Post's evidence? An anonymous U.S. 
government official provided a "classified assessment" that "concludes there 
is circumstantial evidence to suggest it could be true." If Woodward and 
Bernstein were dead, they'd be turning over in their graves.

As with the children's game of Telephone, the charge becomes wilder with 
each retelling: John McLaughlin (9/20/94) refers to him as "Cherubin the 
torturer and the murderer."

Why is this incident being re-examined now? Because Cherubin is Aristide's 
representative in trying to form a new police force. If Cherubin can be 
discredited, Aristide's influence over the new force may be greatly limited.

Moral Equivalence

It was difficult to whitewash the murderous Haitian military and police, who 
savagely beat demonstrators in plain view of U.S. cameras. (CBS's Dan Rather 
did make an honest effort,
conducting a series of interviews with Gen. Raoul Cedras -- whom Rather 
referred to as "President Cedras" -- that concentrated on his patriotism, 
honor and love of family, and avoided any serious
mention of his human rights abuses.) Instead, reports adopted the "balanced" 
approach of condemning equally the violence of Aristide and the military.

"For two centuries, political opponents in Haiti have routinely slaughtered 
each other," wrote R.W. Apple in the New York Times (9/20/94). "Backers of 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, followers of
General Cedras and the former Tontons Macoute retain their homicidal 
tendencies, to say nothing of their weapons."

"Everybody in both factions down there, both factions are shot through with 
slavering murderers," Jack Germond declared on the McLaughlin Group 

This equation of the military and Aristide would seem ridiculous if news 
reports were accurately reporting on Aristide's human rights record. The 
number of killings dropped precipitously during
Aristide's tenure: There were 53 murders in Haiti in the seven months he 
held office, including common non-political murders, spontaneous lynchings 
of criminal suspects, and killings by the military. A comprehensive Human 
Rights Watch report does not attribute direct responsibility for any of 
these murders to Aristide. Compare that with the estimated 3,000 killings by 
the military regime since Aristide's overthrow.

Still, violence is treated as an endemic quality in Haitian life. 
"Vengeance, not voting, has been the Haitian way," reported Newsweek 
(9/26/94). Morton Kondracke (McLaughlin Group, 9/20/94) gave the same 
sentiment more of a racist spin: "Nobody is going to bring democracy to 
Haiti any time soon. This is a country soaked in blood -- primitive, 
backward, you know."

Unnoticed fact: The per capita murder rate in the United States in a normal 
year is roughly nine times what it was in Haiti under Aristide's 

Historic Revisionism

R.W. Apple (New York Times, 9/20/94) suggested vaguely that Clinton's 
occupation would be "another futile attempt to reshape a society that has 
long resisted reform." But the absence of any real
historical context was glaring in most U.S. coverage of the occupation.

Occasionally reporters mentioned the 1915-1934 occupation as a "previous 
attempt to support democracy." But how many mentioned that the U.S. 
occupation dissolved the Haitian parliament, forced Haiti to accept a 
U.S.-written constitution that allowed foreign ownership of land, and 
reinstituted virtual slavery? (This and other information about Haitian 
history can be found in The Uses of Haiti, by Paul Farmer.)

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