A Plea For Haiti: Haiti: The Truth And Getting The Priorities Right!
A wise man once said that: “Important events require time to develop an accurate perspective and analysis”, and an even wiser man one said: “On a hot summer's day in a crowded elevator a short person has a different perspective of the environment than a tall person.”
I'm short and some of the vomitings on the tabloid/advocacy/news media press-room floors is providing a retching-reflex stench.
The priorities in/for Haiti should be simple: (1) Save as many Haitian lives as is humanly possible, (2) Provide as rapidly as possible as necessary medical care, food, clothing and shelter, (3) Keep and/or restore law and order, (4) Recognize that the restoration of that nation is a task that will take years, requires genuine international cooperation and participation and, (5) This disaster zone should not be seen as an opportunity for any nation, religious group or corporate interest to exploit for power, influence or profit.
The rebuilding should be carried out in such as fashion as to involve and employ native Haitians in that colossal task. Haiti can emerge from this disaster as nation in better shape than ever in its history. Utilize the people and their pride to rebuild with a genuine feeling of ownership. Every cent expended to reconstruct this nation must be accounted for and not be permitted to be siphoned off into the coffers of political and financial corruption. This is about the people, a nation our brothers and sisters in humanity. Their history has been so tortured (see the end of this post); they deserve a better day and that day can be now. There can be no rivalry is saving a people; if there is; the effort is not a humanitarian one but yet another exercise of political exploitation.
Before anyone runs off at the mouth with righteous judgmental self-indignation and knee jerk American superiority at the growing, and inevitable to be become worse, complaints, violence, looting and machete wielding gangs and street rapes, as some sort of Haitian failure and ingratitude; it is not; it a human failure and human instinct to survive. Put yourself in that human condition and ask yourself; what you do to live/survive. Even the most pacifistic amongst us would yield to the animal instinct within us to survive. Calming, containing quelling such conduct will not be easy and will only be heightened/provoke more of the same conduct if the answer becomes “John Wayne-Like Black Water “mow-em down” reactionary machismo insanity.
There are no easy solutions to providing all of the aid needed and it will never happen for many. There is no easy answer to coordinating the efforts being made and those who spew forth disapproval at efforts to improve things by the hour are idiots contributing to fueling frustrations and flash points in the name of media second-guessing. This is a disaster of imminence proportions for which there is no manual of procedure. It is being written by the minute.
It is becoming Gin clear by the moment that the successes we experience will be pale by comparison to the number of human souls that will be lost in the final and incomplete body count. Those who will eventually vomit up their Monday Quarter Back “If we had done this and if we had done that” belated brilliance should be discounted as egomaniacal idiots. They are all safe and sound in their self-important drive to sound profound. They serve no good or constructive purpose.
There are men and women in harm’s way trying to save every life that they can. Their effort should never be diminished or tarnished by those provided the right of free speech, the right to pontificate no matter how wrong they are. If they can do better; toss their microphones in the rubble and get down and dirty in the blood, carnage, filth and the stench of death in the midst of the struggle to survive…otherwise…shut up!
The National Anthem of Haiti: La Dessalinienne
(The Dessalines Song) is the national anthem of Haiti, honoring Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Written by Justin Lhérisson and composed by Nicolas Geffrard and adopted in 1904.
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
Pour le Pays et pour nos Pères
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie
For our country,
For our country
For our forebears,
For the flag,
Gang Members In Haitian Slum Profit From Disaster
By JONATHAN M. KATZ - Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti --
"If you don't kill the criminals, they will all come back," a Haitian police officer shouts over a loudspeaker in the country's most notorious slum, imploring citizens to take justice into their own hands.
The call for vigilantes comes as influential gang leaders who escaped from a heavily damaged prison during the country's killer earthquake are taking advantage of a void left by police and peacekeepers focused on disaster relief.
In the sprawling Cite Soleil slum, gangsters are settling into the haunts they dominated before being locked up and resuming struggles for control that never really ended once they were inside the walls of the city's notorious main penitentiary.
AP Photo - A police officer detains a youth who had taken goods from quake-damaged stores in Port-au-Prince, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. Haitian police officials fear that gang leaders who escaped from prisons damaged in last week's earthquake are filling the void left by Haiti's decimated police and U.N. peacekeepers struggling to provide aid.
- Despair and suffering at the Crossroads in Haiti
- Haitians search desperately for missing relatives
- Haitian families struggle to find, bury their dead
- Gang members in Haitian slum profit from disaster
- Help steps up, but so does scale of Haiti tragedy
"The trouble is starting," said Jean-Semaine Delice, a 51-year-old father from Cite Soleil. "People are starting to leave their homes to go to others."
As police urged residents to fight criminals themselves, Delice said, "I think it's a message we should listen to."
There is the potential for violence in any disaster zone where food and medical aid are unable to keep up with fast-growing hunger and mass casualties. But the danger is multiplied in Haiti, where self-designated rebels and freedom fighters - or simply neighborhood toughs - have consistently threatened the country's fragile stability with a few weapons, some spare money for handouts and the ire of disaffected throngs.
"Even as we are digging bodies out of buildings, they are trying to attack our officers," Cite Soleil police inspector Aristide Rosemond said, surrounded by officers wielding automatic weapons.
Neighborhood residents say three people died and several women were raped in a small-scale turf war that gangsters nicknamed "Belony" and "Bled" launched in the seaside slum in the days following last Tuesday's quake.
People who live here have been told not to count on security forces for help.
The Brazilian peacekeeping unit assigned to Cite Soleil lost 18 of its 145 soldiers in the earthquake. Ten perished when the "Blue House" - a landmark concrete tower converted into a U.N. post near the slum's entrance - collapsed, leaving weapons and equipment readily available to fast-acting looters.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission also lost its chief, deputy chief and acting police commander.
The police lost an uncounted number of personnel and equipment, leaving a group of officers who in large part are just recently recruited and trained.
"The problem is they have weapons ... so we cannot send the population or (just) any policemen" to capture them, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press on Monday.
Bob Perito, coordinator of Haiti programs for the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace think tank, said concerns about the gangs are legitimate - in the long run.
In the more immediate future, "the gangs may be more of a nuisance," Perito said in an interview from his Washington office.
"They are not going to challenge the U.S. military," he said. "But when the U.S. decides the emergency is over and goes home, will the reconstituted U.N. peacekeeping force have the coherence necessary to suppress the problem?"
There are 1,700 U.S. troops on the ground in Haiti and 2,000 Marines off shore.
Security has always been precarious in Cite Soleil, although it is far calmer then the days when it became a war zone, during the 2004 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
On Monday, Brazilian peacekeepers drove from one food-distribution point to another as women, children and older men jockeyed to fill their buckets from a spouting broken water main. The gang members stayed out of sight.
The scene was drastically different Sunday, when a man robbed a motorcyclist's bag of rice with a .38-caliber pistol in broad daylight and residents swapped stories of gangs equipped with heavy automatic weapons coming out of hiding even as U.S. military cargo planes rumbled overhead.
Bellerive said he has met with U.N. peacekeepers, police and the newly arrived U.S. Army to discuss ways of combating the escaped convicts. Tactics thus far have included distributing photos and tracking the gangsters, which has led to some arrests.
But it is not a top priority, even though officials estimate as many as 4,000 prisoners escaped from the main prison.
"We are not worried about one or two guys," Brazilian battalion spokesman Col. Alan Sampaio Santos said. "Later on we can go after them."
Until then, much of the neighborhood's security will be in the hands of local populations, who are forming night brigades and machete-armed mobs to fight bandits across the capital.
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s aggressive response to the deadly earthquake in Haiti has led to criticism from the far right that the United States is taking on too much, at a time when its foreign-policy plate is already full.
What are America's obligations to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake?
But the more relevant question, experts on the region say, is whether the United States will maintain a muscular role in the reconstruction of Haiti once the news cameras go home. The United States has a history of either political domination or neglect in its backyard, and administration officials acknowledge that for Mr. Obama, striking the right balance in Haiti will be crucial.
“The classic U.S. role in the whole hemisphere is either complete neglect, or we come in and run the show,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director for the Center for Democracy in the Americas. But with Haiti, a mere 700 miles from Miami, “there is a great opportunity for the United States to do this in a new way,” she said.
Mr. Obama has pledged that the United States is in Haiti for the long haul. On Sunday, he mobilized military reserves — particularly medical staff for hospital ships — signing an executive order that said it was necessary to back up active-duty troops “for the effective conduct of operational missions, including those involving humanitarian assistance, related to relief efforts in Haiti.”
American troops have taken control of the airport at Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and are helping to provide security for the enormous international relief effort. A steady stream of administration officials have headed south, from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — who cut short a trip to the South Pacific, rushed home, and then flew to Haiti on Saturday — to one of Mr. Obama’s closest aides, Denis R. McDonough, the National Security Council’s chief of staff.
“We will be here today, tomorrow, and for the time ahead,” Mrs. Clinton said to Haitian journalists in Port-au-Prince, standing alongside President René Préval.
With so many others in the Haitian government missing or dead, the Obama administration is already facing questions of whether the United States is the only entity capable of bringing order to Port-au-Prince. Beyond that is the question of whether Mr. Obama can handle Haiti at a time when he is already grappling with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The short answer is yes,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois and a frequent visitor to Haiti. “As challenging as it is, there is no question about it straining our capacities at home. This is a tiny country. It’s close, and it’s not going to be our job alone to rebuild.”
Mr. Obama has indicated that the amount the United States has pledged so far to Haiti, $100 million, is bound to go up significantly. Still, it is well below the $350 million that President Bush pledged in the early weeks of the Asian tsunami, which killed 226,000 people after it struck in December 2004.
And while Mr. Obama has increased the number of American troops in Afghanistan by 30,000 to just below 100,000, and promised ambitious efforts to stabilize Yemen and Pakistan, the number of American troops being sent to Haiti is of course smaller — some 10,000 Marines and soldiers by Monday, military officials said.
The bigger issue may be sustaining the effort. In 2009, much of the administration’s energy was focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, with little time on this hemisphere. The administration’s new point man for Latin America and the Caribbean — Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere — was confirmed only in November.
In the past, American interest in Haiti has waxed and waned. President Clinton sent 20,000 troops there in 1994 to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, an intervention still viewed today as producing, at best, mixed results.
If Haiti’s only problem were poverty, American officials discovered at the time, the job of building its economy would have been one thing. But endemic government corruption and a history of post-colonial abandonment left Haiti in shambles 10 years later, when Mr. Aristide was finally driven from power in 2004.
In the years since 1994, Haiti has resurfaced in the American conscience only during times of crisis: the Aristide meltdown; and after four devastating storms in 2008 that wiped out most of the country’s food crops and damaged irrigation systems, causing acute hunger for millions.
Some Haiti experts say that despite the criticism from conservative commentators — Glenn Beck complained that Mr. Obama spent more time reacting to the Haiti earthquake than he did to the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack — the heart-rending tragedy in Haiti may make it impossible for the United States to ignore it once the news media attention goes away.
Mr. McDonough, the national security aide, spoke to that in a call with reporters on Sunday, saying that the administration was determined to do everything it could to alleviate the suffering in Haiti. “The more we hear criticism, the more we are intent on trying to improve the lot of the Haitian people,” he said.
What is more, the administration and the international community appear to be uniform in their belief that Mr. Préval, unlike Mr. Artistide, is someone with whom they can deal. They credit him with taking steps in recent years to develop the economy.
Mrs. Clinton said a major reason for her four-hour visit to Port-au-Prince was to buck up Mr. Préval. At one point on Saturday, the Haitian president walked through the makeshift American command center at the airport, appearing dazed by the clamor.
But he seemed comforted by the presence of Cheryl D. Mills, Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, who is in charge of the Haiti portfolio at the State Department and who has made multiple visits to Port-au-Prince over the last few months.
Administration officials say the White House can handle Haiti without neglecting its other concerns. They noted that Mr. Obama convened a National Security Council on meeting on Friday to discuss the implementation of his new Afghanistan policy.
“It’s only a problem if the whole government isn’t functioning properly,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly discuss internal matters. “What you see here is a good example of the government functioning well.”
Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Mark Landler from Port-au-Prince, Haiti
PARIS -- The United Nations must investigate and clarify the dominant U.S. role in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a French minister said Monday, claiming that international aid efforts were about helping Haiti, not "occupying" it.
U.S. forces last week turned back a French aid plane carrying a field hospital from the damaged, congested airport in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, prompting a complaint from French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet. The plane landed safely the following day.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned governments and aid groups not to squabble as they try to get their aid into Haiti.
"People always want it to be their plane ... that lands," Kouchner said Monday. "(But) what's important is the fate of the Haitians."
But Joyandet persisted.
"This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," Joyandet, in Brussels for an EU meeting on Haiti, said on French radio.
In another weekend incident, 250 Americans were flown to New Jersey's McGuire Air Force Base on three military planes from Haiti. U.S. forces initially blocked French and Canadians nationals from boarding the planes, but the cordon was lifted after protests from French and Canadian officials.
The U.S. military controls the Port-au-Prince airport where only one runway is functioning and has been effectively running aid operations. However, the United Nations is taking the lead in the critical task of coordinating aid.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the U.S. government had no intention of taking power from Haitian officials. "We are working to back them up, but not to supplant them," she said.
Joyandet said he expects a U.N. decision on how governments should work together in Haiti and that he hopes "things will be clarified concerning the role of the United States."
Other French officials sought to calm diplomatic tensions over aid. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero insisted the plane incidents were "minor problems" to be expected during such a difficult relief mission and said that Kouchner and Clinton have been working since the quake on coordinating help.
Both nations have occupied Haiti in the past.
France occupied Haiti for more than 100 years, from 1697 to independence in 1804 after the world's first successful slave uprising. More recently, U.S. Marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934 to quiet political turmoil.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he intends to travel to Haiti "in the weeks to come," though no date has been set. Former Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has cautioned that Sarkozy shouldn't go too soon because it could divert attention from aid efforts.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said, "Clearly it can be a problem if every leader in the world wants to turn up. It will inevitably cause problems, particularly for the leadership of these operations, although not, of course, for the humanitarian workers on the ground."
The History of Haiti
Major Events Ordered by Date:
Christopher Columbus lands and claims the island of Hispaniola for Spain. The Spanish build the New World's first settlement at La Navidad on Haiti's north coast.
Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish Santo Domingo.
For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France's most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French.
A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue's colonists and later, Napoleon's army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by his officers Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe who opposed his policies, which included reconciliation with the French. He was subsequently exiled to France where he died.
The Haitian blue and red flag is devised at Arcahie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it in its side and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières marks the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.
The hemispere's second Republic is declared on January 1, 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Haiti, or Ayiti in Creole, is the name given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak peoples, meaning "mountainous country."
Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines is assassinated.
Civil war racks the country, which divides into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.
President Boyer invades Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.
France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.
The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.
President Woodrow Wilson orders the U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs-houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. The Marines force peasants into corvée labor building roads. Peasant resistance to the occupiers grows under the leadership of Charlemagne Peralt, who is betrayed and assassinated by Marines in 1919.
The U.S. withdraws from Haiti leaving the Haitian Armed Forces in place throughout the country.
Thousands of Haitians living near the border of the Dominican Republic are massacred by Dominican soldiers under the orders of President General Trujillo.
After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military-controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. François Duvalier, who in 1964 declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tonton Macoute. The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.
"Papa-Doc" Duvalier dies in office after naming his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) as his successor. Baby Doc proves more ruthless than his father.
The first Haitian "boat people" fleeing the country land in Florida.
Widespread protests against repression of the nation's press take place.
"Baby-Doc" Duvalier exploits international assistance and seeks to attract investment leading to the establishment of textile-based assembly industries. Attempts by workers and political parties to organize are quickly and regularly crushed.
Hundreds of human rights workers, journalists and lawyers are arrested and exiled from the country.
International aid agencies declare Haitian pigs to be carriers of African Swine Fever and institute a program for their slaughter. Attempts to replace indigenous swine with imported breeds largely fail, causing wider spread hunger and despair.
Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declares publicly that, "Things must change here."
Over 200 peasants are massacred at Jean-Rabeau after demonstrating for access to land. The Haitian Bishops' Conference launches a nation-wide (but short-lived) literacy program. Anti-government riots take place in all major towns.
Massive anti-Government demonstrations continue to take place around the country. Four schoolchildren are shot dead by soldiers, an event which unifies popular protest against the régime.
Widespread protests against "Baby Doc" lead the U.S. to arrange for Duvalier and his family to be exiled to France. Army leader General Henri Namphy heads a new National Governing Council.
A new Constitution is overwhelmingly approved by the population in March. General elections in November are aborted hours after they begin with dozens of people shot by soldiers and the Tonton Macoute in the capital and scores more around the country.
Military controlled elections - widely abstained from - result in the installation of Leslie Manigat as President in January. Manigat is ousted by General Namphy four months later and in November General Prosper Avril unseats Namphy.
President Avril, on a trade mission to Taiwan, returns empty-handed after grassroots-based democratic sectors inform Taiwanese authorities that the Haitian nation will not be responsible for any contracts agreed to by Avril. Avril orders massive repression against political parties, unions, students and democratic organizations.
Avril declares a state of siege in January. Rising protests and urging from the American Ambassador convince Avril to resign. In a campaign marred by occasional violence and death, democratic elections finally take place on December 16, 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide a parish priest, well known throughout the country for his support of the poor, is elected President with 67.5% of the popular vote.
President Aristide is inaugurated on February 7th, five years after Duvalier's fall from power. A Government is formed by Prime Minister René Préval promising to uproot the corruption of the past. In September President Aristide addresses the UN General Assembly. Three days after his return military personnel unleash a coup d'état, ousting President Aristide. Over 1,000 people are killed in the first days of the coup. The OAS calls for a hemisphere-wide embargo against the coup régime in support of the deposed constitutional authorities.
Negotiations between the Washington, D.C. based exiled Government, Haiti's Parliament and representatives of the coup régime headed by General Raoul Cédras lead to the Washington Protocol, which is ultimately scuttled by the coup régime. U.S. President George Bush exempts U.S. factories from the embargo and orders U.S. Coast Guard to interdict all Haitians leaving the island in boats and to return them to Haiti. The OAS embargo fails as goods continue to be smuggled through neighboring Dominican Republic.
In July, President Aristide and General Raoul Cédras sign the Governors Island Accord, which inter alia called for the early retirement of Gen. Cédras, the formation and training of a new civilian police force, and the return of the President on October 30, 1993. General Cédras refuses to step down as promised. President Aristide's Justice Minister Guy Malary, responsible for the formation of a civilian police force is shot dead in Port-au-Prince weeks after local businessman and Aristide supporter Antoine Izmery is executed outside of a local church. The UN calls for "strict implementation" of the embargo against the de facto authorities. The Civilian Mission's human rights observers are allowed to return in small numbers.
In May additional sanctions were levied against the régime through a naval blockade supported by Argentine, Canadian, French, Dutch and U.S. warships. Tensions increase as human rights violations continue. On September 15th, U.S. President Clinton declares that all diplomatic initiatives were exhausted and that the US with 20 other countries would form a multinational force. On September 19th these troops land in Haiti after the coup leaders agree to step down and leave the country. On October 15th, President Aristide and his Government-in-exile return to Haiti.
In June Haiti hosts the annual OAS General Assembly at Montrouis. Legislative elections take place that month and in December the presidential contest is won by former Prime Minister René Préval. (President Aristide is precluded by the Constitution from succeeding himself). In November Prime Minister Smarck Michel steps down and Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh becomes President Aristide's fourth Prime Minister.
President Préval is inaugurated in February. A Government is formed under Prime Minister Rosny Smarth.
Municipal and legislative elections end in disarray because of a flawed vote count, alleged irregularities and fraud charges. The controversy triggers a boycott of the presidential elections later that year, won by Aristide.
The crisis sparked by the allegedly fraudulent election deepens amid a failure of international mediation efforts, a foundering economy and growing political violence. A few weeks after the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary in January, a rebel movement seizes control of a number of towns in an uprising that leads to the resignation of Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.
YOU DECIDE FOR YOURSELF WHAT THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE AND ANALYSIS OF ALL FACTORS SURROUNDING THIS HUMAN TRADEGY REALLY ARE: STOP, THINK, DECIDE AND THEN ACT.