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7554: This Week in Haiti 19:2 3/28/2001 (fwd)

From: "K. M. Ives" <kives@gateway.net>

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. To obtain the full paper with other news in French
and Creole, please contact us (tel) 718-434-8100,
(fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at <editor@haitiprogres.com>
Also check our website at <www.haitiprogres.com>.

                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                  March 28 - April 3, 2001
                          Vol. 19, No. 2

by Kim Ives

Rare is the individual who can withstand the relentless and
insidious indoctrination which takes place in modern capitalist
society. The military culture submits its recruits to even more
rigorous brainwashing, making its escapees rarer still. But those
who manage to rebel, clearly analyze, and speak out against the
dynamics of the U.S. military-intelligence-financial complex
after having been on “the inside” are the rarest of all.

In this respect, Stan Goff’s “Hideous Dream” is a true gem. After
nearly a quarter-century career in the U.S. military, Goff
participated in the 1994 U.S. invasion of Haiti as a Master
Sergeant of Special Forces (SF) team number 354. The Master
Sergeant or “Top” is the non-commissioned officer (NCO) who, in
effect, cracks the whip and leads the team to achieve its goal
(although he works under the command of a captain).

Goff’s goal -- at least as he chose to interpret his commanders’
directives -- was to assist Haitians in liberating themselves
from the grips of military dictatorship and paramilitary death-
squads which directed the 1991-1994 coup d’état against President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and to be an agent of the Haitian people’s
will. Although this was a reasonable interpretation of U.S.
Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton’s stated objective, Goff’s
forceful moves to “uphold democracy” -- such as arresting death-
squad members and publicly admitting that the U.S. had backed
Haitian dictatorships -- brought him within a whisker of a court-
martial, the fate which befell another literal-minded soldier,
Capt. Lawrence Rockwood, who attempted an unauthorized single-
handed prison inspection on Sep. 30, 1994 (see Haïti Progrès,
Vol. 12, No. 51 3/8/95).

Both Goff and Rockwood learned the hard way that their “mission
was never to restore popular power,” as Goff explains in his
introduction. “It was to put Aristide’s face on a neoliberal
fraud... Our mission in Haiti was to stop a revolution, not a
coup d’état.”

The book plots the final stages of Goff’s radicalization, which
crystalized in Haiti, a process which began 24 years earlier
when, as a young infantryman on patrol, he called a Vietnamese
peasant “a fuckin’ gook.” The man then offered him a stalk of
sugarcane asking “Why can’t we be friend?”

“For the rest of that day, I fought hard against the hole he had
driven in my dam with the simplest act of courage and
hospitality,” Goff writes. “That night the dam ruptured in the
darkness, and I cried quietly through a whole guard shift,
wanting more than anything to just go home.”

In another scene marking his road to political consciousness,
Goff relates his outrage and deception when a lieutenant colonel
told SF team leaders huddled on the Port-au-Prince airfield the
first night after the intervention that they would be working
with the Haitian Army [Fad’H], rather than against it.
“‘Bullshit,’ I said, too loud. Helmets turned in the dark,” he
writes. “The implications were converging on me too fast to sort
them out. This was to be the one mission I could be proud of when
I had a clear look back at it... Here was the badge I sought,
disappearing before my eyes. I had wanted so badly to do this one
thing. One decent thing to salvage me and my country... Just one
decent fucking thing as absolution!”

The book is studded with such poignant vignettes, and Goff’s
emotions pour onto the pages with the force of an open fire

The author is as unsparing with himself as he is with those
around him. An implacable foe of racism, he describes with
intimate detail and brutal honesty his ultimately futile battle
to root out bigotry from his soldiers. Goff’s anti-racist crusade
in the intrinsically racist Special Forces finally pushed his
troops to mutiny. They turned to his superiors to have him
drummed out of the service.

Nonetheless, he had turned his team from one of the worst in the
Special Forces into one of the best. Through night-time parachute
jumps and long-distance treks with 110-pound rucksacks, Goff’s
Detachment 354 earned a “‘killer team’ reputation.” Goff and a
few of his men were among the first to surreptitiously venture
out of the U.S. compound at the airport into the streets of Port-
au-Prince in a Humvee, where they were greeting by cheering
throngs. “I was completely overtaken by it, exhilarated beyond
words,” he recalls. “I made up my mind then and there to do
everything I could not to betray the hope that flooded around

Goff took an aggressive stance against the Haitian Army (Fad’H)
starting from his deployment out of a helicopter in Gonaïves,
where in front of a crowd of thousands, he grabbed a club from a
Haitian soldier’s hand and flung it away. “The wild chorus of
approval from the crowd was deafening, and they flooded toward
the now terrified, retreating Fad’H soldier,” Goff writes in one
stormy scene. In Gonaïves, Goff became known disparagingly as
“Batman,” and his team “cowboys.”

The author takes the reader on a soldier’s-eye-tour of the U.S.
intervention from Ft. Bragg, to the U.S. Naval Base in
Guantanamo, Cuba, to the landing at the Port-au-Prince airport.
His comical anecdotes, like having to piss into a bottle on a
crowded helicopter ferrying troops across the Windward Channel,
brings home the very human realities of “U.S. deployments,” which
have become so lionized in the popular imagination by the
mainstream media’s Pentagon spin-masters.

In fact, “Hideous Dream” is essential reading for anyone seeking
an antidote to the ceaseless glamorization of the U.S. military,
especially those who have read Bob Shacochis’s “Immaculate
Invasion,” another account of the Haiti invasion (see Goff’s
review in Haïti Progrès, Vol. 17, No. 40 12/22.1999) Shacochis
became infatuated with the Special Forces and portrayed them as
heroes, albeit flawed. Goff strips away this romantic fuzz and
bares the incompetence, pettiness, and ignorance which laces this
“elite” corps and the military in general. A recurring comic
thread in the account is how the 354 was constantly being
“busted” for not having their uniform sleeves buttoned at the
wrist in Haiti’s 90 degree heat.

The book is tremendously entertaining, deriving much of its humor
in describing such absurdities. In one scene, Goff explains his
astonishment when his team was forced to rehearse an assault on
the Gonaïves barracks in which the commander might be killed. “I
had always learned that if you are planning a course of action
that has a high probability of unacceptable casualties, you
change the course of action to preclude that contingency,” he
writes. “Yet here we were, practicing the commander’s demise
again and again.”

Such amusing commentaries are spiced with Goff’s down-home
expressions which pepper the account. I liked, for example, when
his nerves were “stretched tighter than a rat between two
terriers” and when some group went after someone “like ducks
jumping on a June bug.”

The final half of the book recounts the 354's experiences in the
northeastern town of Fort Liberté, where they were based. On
arriving in town, Goff immediately arrested FRAPH leaders,
befriended the Lavalas mayor, and established an icy relationship
with the local Fad’H garrison. Goff refused to let the team set
up in the comfortable hotel of a former Duvalierist ambassador
Neal Calixte – who was also arrested but immediately released on
orders from Washington –  but instead forced them into a hot
cramped house in town which had formerly been used by the French
NGO Doctors Without Borders, a decision which would ratchet up
the team’s growing resentment against him.

The author also reveals his early naivete, describing how a
former Tonton Macoute and military attaché temporarily duped his
team into cracking down on Lavalas partisans by misrepresenting
them as Tonton Macoutes. The complexities of Haiti, far from a
comic book battle between good and evil, are laid out in
instructive and soul-baring episodes.

Portraits make up much of the account. There is the murderous
Gonaïves Fad’H Captain Castera “clean cut, uniform pressed to a
razor edge, shoes gleaming, mustache trimmed so perfectly it
seemed painted on, nails manicured, smelling of cologne;” the
team’s mild-mannered translator Lieutenant Percy “his head
pitched indefinably, as if bravely awaiting a blow;” hyperactive
eight-year-old Ft. Liberté neighborhood girl Eaulin, who
“constructed strange architectures with stones, searched the
crannies of broken buildings and trash dumps for bits of food and
treasure, or played ‘jacks’ with small rocks;” Lt. Col. Schroer,
a “clueless asshole” with a Napoleon complex; Ft. Liberté mayor
Adele Mondestin, who became one of Goff’s closest friends; and
then the members of Goff’s team: Ali, Gonzo, Rod, Pedro, Kyle,
Skye, and Dave Grau, a “shiftless” warrant officer who ended up
ring-leader of the mutiny against Goff and his captain, Mike

Also amusing are Goff’s portrayals of the journalists,
missionaries, spooks, aid workers, and “international policemen”
with which his team came in contact.

Goff writes full-throttle prose punctuated by poetic ruminations.
A Shakespearean scholar (his title is culled from Julius Caesar),
medic, and former West Point instructor, Goff also takes time
throughout to make penetrating social analyses. “I’m only
supposed to relate – to be evocative – because I’m a soldier, and
if I begin to tread in the realm of theory, if I begin to form
conclusions, I become threatening, and I lose my charm,” he
writes in his last chapter “Epilogue.” “But I’ve already broken a
whole jar full of taboos, so fuck it.” He proceeds to lay out his
radical social vision based on his years in the military and
lessons learned in Haiti.

“Revolutionaries are not normal people,” Che Guevara once
remarked. Trained precisely to combat revolutionaries, it is
clear after reading “Hideous Dream,” that Stan Goff became one, a
true abnormality. “I was an instrument of imperialism for quite a
long time before I realized what I had become,” he writes toward
the end of the book. “I learned what I was, and began learning
who I must become in Ayiti.”

Passionate, intelligent, and brutally honest, Stan Goff’s account
is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the 1994
U.S. invasion of Haiti, the modern-day U.S. military, and the
imperial wars still ravaging countries like Yugoslavia and
Colombia today.

(“Hideous Dream,” 483 pages, published by Soft Skull Press, 2000,
available at www.softskull.com)

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