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5382: Re: 5320. Driver back to Simidor (fwd)

From: "Tom F. Driver" <tfd3@columbia.edu>

I'm belatedly picking up the thread of Daniel Simidor's Oct. 24 response
to me.  We were talking about possible US involvement in a coup, which
led Daniel to take a swipe at Lavalas:

        > people on this list will recall the pre-election violence which
        > kept everybody but the Lavalas candidates from seriously
        > campaigning.

My interviews with members of the opposition before the elections last
May led me to think that what kept them from serious campaigning was
their lack of anything serious to say.  Daniel writes as if he knows
that all or most of the violence came from Lavalas.  It seems to me.
however, that Lavalas had nothing to gain from the violence, which would
not be true of forces trying to head off Aristide.

I also think Daniel misreads the political scene in the US.  He

        > Clinton and Gore are still willing to cut Aristide some slack
        > even though he doesn't always do what he's told, and that's
        > because he remains an asset in their political portfolio.

But he doesn't.  Clinton and Gore are vulnerable with the electorate on
the subject of Haiti, and Jesse Helms knows it.  Their problem is that
they put him back there and can't repudiate him outright without
acknowledging the failure of their Haiti project.  That project had
never envisioned Aristide's having real power in Haiti.  The closer he
comes to it, the more determined, but also the more devious, their
opposition to him must be.

        > it's conceivable that one arm of the US ruling class would stage
        > a coup against Aristide/Preval, and for another arm to forewarn
        > them.

Fantasy is always conceivable, but this scenario is not very plausible.
Think again what happened in September, 1991.

Finally, Daniel comes to the matter of Aristide's greatest achievement
during his first term of office -- the dismantling of the army.  But
Daniel is so determined to attack Aristide that he credits the US with
this move:

        > I don't doubt for a second that Mr. Aristide dearly wanted to
        > rid himself of the military.  But what were the chances of
        > Aristide actually dissolving the army if this really was
        > contrary to US wishes?  In fact who but the US occupation forces
        > had the might to disband the Haitian military?  The very same
        > thing happened during the first US occupation of Haiti: the
        > Haitian army of that time was replaced by a police force,
        > trained and equipped by the US occupation.  Then as now the
        > Haitian president served as little more than a rubber stamp on a
        > US policy decision.

I have two comments to this:  First, I think the record shows that the
US did oppose getting rid of the army this last time around.  Aristide
wanted to abolish it completely.  The US objected.  So he just
fired all the senior officers, and that was that.

Second, the US has virtually as much power in Haiti today as it had in
1994-95.  Although its troops are not there, they could return any day,
and the US has many more levers of power than troops in any case.  But
surely Daniel is not arguing that either the Haitian president today or
its president-to-be is "little more than a rubber stamp on a US policy
decision."  The US would like them to be, of course.  But they're not
behaving like good little stamps.  And that's why Jesse Helms is ranting
and Clinton and Gore are swallowing hard, and the CIA is doing God
knows what.

Tom Driver

Tom F. Driver
New York City