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8594: O'Grady article: Chamberlain comments (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

This article by the "editor of the Wall St Journal's Americas column" is
appalling -- sloppy with its facts, hysterical in tone and facile in its
reasoning.  Take the "t" out of her absurd description of Port-au-Prince as
an "inferno of terror" and you get the picture.

The OAS has not been "negotiating with Mr Aristide... to end the violent
government repression."  It wants to get Aristide to correct electoral
fraud (minor compared with some other countries and the correction won't
even change the original result) and thus unblock suspended aid.

It isn't seeking to persuade him to accept "toleration of political
dissent."  The OAS and everyone except Mary Anastasia O'Grady knows there
are dozens of radio stations freely expressing themselves on political
events, though journalists are being threatened by pals of the regime. 
Anti-Aristide politicians get a hearing whenever they want.  The Duvalier
dictatorship or the army tyranny it ain't.  

The "six people burned alive in the streets" weren't anti-Aristide people,
as her article strains to have us assume, they were simply zenglendos.

Dame Eugenia Charles (former PM of Dominica) is hardly "a seasoned
negotiator."  She has done very little negotiation of this kind.  It's true
she backed the 1983 US invasion of Grenada, but it was Washington that
"requested" that she and other regional leaders "ask" for it (in
time-honoured meodern imperial style).  She's not a "Mrs" either.

The Wall St Journal has a long-standing connection with Ray Joseph, founder
and editor of Haiti-Observateur, once a brave fighter against the Duvaliers
but now an enthusiastic apologist for their ilk (Cedras, de Ronceray, many
other shady characters) and fierce opponent of Aristide.  Before founding
Observateur in 1971, he was a reporter on the Wall St Journal.  He later
left the paper but continued to write in it about Haiti, in recent years in
increasingly off-the-wall terms.   As a pioneer Haitian journalist in
exile, he has been the one the "mainstream" US press (especially the often
powerful columnists) have usually sought out to get a handle on what's
going on.  The O'Grady piece is remarkably similar to previous tirades by
US columnists who I believe had (or their relatively clueless researchers
had) recourse to him and his paper.

One is tempted to be angrier at the piece because the Wall St Journal is
very influential (but let's not get carried away by images of
cigar-chomping Uncle Sams in top hats...).  However, some of the most
thorough, thoughtful and courageous reporting around is consistently to be
found in the paper.  But that has rarely extended to its opinion pages
(from which the O'Grady piece is drawn).  There one finds some of the most
reactionary and ignorant material imaginable, often of the pitiable quality
of O'Grady's piece.  Most WSJ articles have the author's e-mail address at
the end for reader reaction.  By chance, by house-style or other intent,
O'Grady's does not appear.

I hope, though, that her piece won't set off an equally demented attack
here on journalism and journalists by those who, like her, have made no
serious effort to inform themselves about the object of their hatred. 
Journalists are good and bad, just like those other everyday "authorities,"
cops, doctors and politicians.  People like O'Grady are thankfully a

One thing that's still not being conveyed in the foreign press is that the
Convergence Democratique is little more than a chronically squabbling group
of _individuals_ only nominally at the head of "parties" that simply do not
exist in any serious shape or form.  All of us who have known personally
for many years the people currently involved in the CD are well aware of
the tiny amount of support they and their "parties" have.  But "15-party
coalition" in foreign ears sounds like a big deal...  

However, let's not forget either the sack of ferrets that Lavalas is and
has been, with all the thugs and deadly rivals spilling out the sides,
because it's now simply a bandwagon in power in a poor country.  If
Aristide died tomorrow, it would fall apart before he was six-feet-under,
leaving as ever the real (non-Aristide, beyond-Aristide) grassroots
organisations (not the mostly-fraudulent, opportunistic, gangster-led
"organisations populaires") to continue their substantive work.

Aristide has a lot of explaining to do, and more and more as the weeks go
by.  But not so much about elections he would've won anyway.  It's about
things like the failure to seriously support the investigation of the Jean
Dominique killing, to do anything about the campaign of threats and
violence to the investigators, about his failure to lead towards changing
the culture of political theft and violence, to lead towards that old
Haitian lament of "we have to change the mentality here" to achieve an
"organised country" comparable with Haiti's neighbours, who look with
askance and embarrassment at Haiti's political disease of intolerance,
"zero-options" and "alternative presidents."

At any rate, it's heartening to see that my old friends Kim Ives and Ben
Dupuy, those energetic chameleons of Haitian politics, have seen the  light
and taken their distance from _both_ sides after after years of
"correct-lining" and shameless whitewashing in their otherwise serious
newspaper Haiti Progrès.  Though of course they're still good for blaming
it all on mysterious outside forces, joining the politicians who seek
relief in delusion and illusion from tough problems they refuse to take by
the throat.

        Greg Chamberlain