Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Haiti: A Case Study In Condi's 21st Century Foreign Policy

Plenty of blatantly hypocritical assumptions and proclamations have made their way onto the scene as a result of the conflict over South Ossetia, but Condoleezza Rice deserves an award for the masterpiece she uttered, straight-faced even, the other day:

Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.

Any member of the press present that did not instantly burst out into uncontrolled laughter should have their credentials revoked. President Bush, no stranger to rhetorical one-upsmanship, won't go down without a fight, though:

The Cold War is over. The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us...Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

A formidable challenger, to be sure.

There is no country on Earth to which Condi's epithet is more applicable than the United States, for when it comes to finding a military solution to every perceived problem, the US is without peer. Running a close second is the US's baby brother, Israel, with the aid of US arms. For all the animosity flung in the direction of Iran, Iraq under Saddam, and North Korea, none have invaded another country in the past ten years, a claim the US is in no position to make.

Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere, provides but one prescient example of the US's dependency on military solutions to diplomatic problems, presenting us with perhaps history's only example of a country performing a second coup on the same democratically-elected leader in 2004. Not surprisingly, the first came in September 1991 under the first President Bush, when the US funded a coup that forced out Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had beaten out 11 opponents with a massive 67 percent of the vote. (For comparison, our current president didn't even capture a majority against a single opponent the first time around.)

Aristide was reelected in November 2000, again democratically, but hadn't yet learned his lesson. As he again moved to push out the criminal elements of the military, democratize the government, and begin other social programs sure to be unpopular in the boss of the hemisphere to the north. In February 2004, the US kidnapped Aristide and took him to the dictatorial Central African Republic. The official narrative, dutifully repeated verbatim by a complicit press, was that the leader simply chose to up and disappear, with no help from the US. But as Amy Goodman notes,

Why would Aristide have willingly chosen to go to a place he'd never been -- the Central African Republic -- a remote African dictatorship with poor communications and minimal access to the outside world? [Static, page 120]

Indeed, the US also banned the Steele Foundation, in charge of Aristide's security detail, from performing their duty, ordering them to leave the country instead.

For all its harping on the need to spread democracy around the globe, the US has an absolutely miserable record when it comes to supporting it more than simply rhetorically. Haiti is but one more example of the US aversion to democracy when it comes at the expense of multinational corporations of US influence. Democracy is to be supported only when it amplifies US power, never the reverse. The US, in some cases, takes an active role in bringing down democracies, as it did in Haiti.

Upon Aristide's reelection in 2000, the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute set about creating his opposition, spending millions to create, arm, and organize the group, which was portrayed as a grassroots movement free of foreign influence. Thus, while promoting democracy in its rhetoric, the US was actively making Haiti ungovernable, paving the way for the return of dictatorial rule. The leaders installed by the Bush administration began a military campaign, rounding up Aristide's supporters with the help of US marines, who had conveniently failed to show up to protect the democratically-elected leader.

The story is well-worn by now. America is rightfully a symbol of democracy and republican government to be a model for the rest of the world. When it comes time to practice what it preaches, however, it invariably fails anywhere that falls out of step with Washington. The NED and IRI, central to the coup in Haiti, also had a hand in the attempted coup of Hugo Chavez in 2002. (Chavez is indeed a demagogue, but in the words of Bush, himself, "the days of overthrowing regimes are over.") If the US backed up its rhetoric with tangible support of democracy, its problems would be diminished many-fold, but it chooses instead to tear democratic leaders down.

Worse still, is that the American public and its press agents absolutely refuse to call the government on their double-talking foreign policy.

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Anonymous said...

It gets extremly difficult reading constantly how the United States is this terrible country which is no better than communist Germany and George W. Bush is worse than Adolph Hitler. If I felt this country was so oppresive to it's people and empirical, I would not want to live here.

Tim said...

I don't subscribe to the theory that any criticism of American foreign policy denotes "America hating."

Under that premise, any criticism of the choices your children make would indicate that you hate your children.

I never said George Bush was equatable to Hitler. I just said that America should not be overthrowing democratically-elected leaders, which is verbatim what Rice, Gates, Bush, and McCain have said regarding Georgia. (Even though Russia didn't overthrow Saashkivili and America did overthrow Aristide.

Calling hypocrisy out when it's obvious is not the same as calling the government Nazis.