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a379: Re: a347: How nation-building has gone awry - Knowles comments(fwd)

From: Phil Knowles <Phildk@prodigy.net>

The comment  "I was there when the so-called multi-national force came in
fall 1994 and DID NOT disarm the Haitian army"  may be over simplified.

I was there in January 1995, and the guns/arms issue was very hot.  Critics
did indeed decry the evident weakness in rounding up guns. So I asked some
senior US commanders about it.  The perspective I got was this:

    1) Would you like the US Army to go house to house throughout Haiti (or
any country), demanding entry, and searching each home top to bottom for
hidden weapons?  Isn't there an obvious problem with that?  What should
soldiers do when refused entry by a Haitian family?  What is the legal
basis?  Would the 'public' support such actions by outsiders?  etc. etc.
    2) Cash for weapons was offered, and quite a pile of them were
collected. So to say nothing was done is not factual.  Of course, one could
argue how much money, how well advertised, how widespread, etc. and I do not
have a handle on that. Quite possibly more could have been done.
    3) US Special Forces did try to collect weapons using town-by-town
public meetings and appeals.  That didn't work very well and became too
time-consuming relative to the results  They were busy with local projects
like clean water supply, school re-opening, police rebuilding, etc.

I assume when the writer speaks of disarming the Haitian Army he/she really
means the weapons hidden all over the country by former army and irregular
fighters, not a barracks full of soldiers you could line up and disarm.
Honestly, I do not remember what was done when the country (under Aristede's
order) abolished the Haitian army. I can't believe they just sent the troops
home with their weapons, but I don't remember what did happen In any event,
it was later, and it was Haiti, not the US Army, (or OAS) in charge.

This issue has been debated over and over, and I guess there is merit on
both sides. Whether the coalition forces (mostly US, but several other
important contingents were clearly in evidence) could have, in real
practical terms, disarmed the whole country has never been clear to me, but
I'm sure they could/should have done more. My point is, you can't simply say
"..the multi-national force ....DID NOT disarm the Haitian army."

Phil Knowles