New York Times Promotes Destructive Myths About Haiti: Reply to Ginger Thompson

By Joe Emersberger, Z Net, Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ginger Thompson wrote in the New York Times on January 19 that former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide “rose to power as a champion of Haiti’s poor but became notorious for his violent crackdowns of political dissent.” [1]

The "political dissent" that Thompson refers to is a campaign that included murderous raids into Haiti by rebels comprised of former soldiers and death squad leaders. The rebels were given a safe haven and a base for operations in the Dominican Republic. They were audacious enough to mount an assault on Haiti's National Palace in December of 2001. After a gun battle, they were chased back into the Dominican Republic. The rebels were led by Guy Philippe and Jodel Chamblain, a man responsible for the deaths and torture of thousands of people during Haiti's military rule of 1991-1994 (after the first US backed coup ousted Aristide in 1991). [2]

The collaboration between the armed rebels in the Dominican Republic and the "political opposition" led by sweatshop owners Charles Baker and Andy Apaid was always clear. After the 2001 coup attempt Aristide's "peaceful opponents" did not denounce it. Instead they outlandishly insisted that the whole incident had been staged. After Aristide was overthrown in 2004, one of the first things the political opposition did in power was speedily acquit Chamblain of his crimes in a farcical trial that even US officials criticized - while of course keeping the money flowing to the unelected regime they had installed. Guy Philippe would eventually boast that he had been funded by key members of the political opposition like Andy Apaid. [3]

The rebels killed dozens of Haitians - most through relentless hit and run raids into Haiti's Central Plateau that went on during Aristide's second term. There were a similar number of people killed in sometimes indiscriminate reprisals by Aristide partisans. Security throughout Haiti suffered as the Haitian police were spread thin by the raids and subjected to a crippling embargo. Aristide disbanded the Haitian military shortly after his return from exile in 1994 – a move that was very popular in Haiti. However, at the insistence of the Clinton administration, after Aristide was restored, the police were infiltrated by known human rights abusers from the deposed military junta of 1991-1994 who would later become key allies for the rebels. Human Rights Watch expressed strong objections to the Clinton Administration about this at the time. [4]

It is worth considering how the US government would react if confronted with a similar threat - barely able to fight off armed insurgents or protect (or control) its own supporters. Bradley Manning sits for several months in solitary confinement - not for funding insurgents murdering US citizens in an attempt to overthrow the government - but for embarrassing US officials by disclosing information about grave human rights abuses. [5]

Aristide's ouster led to real crackdown that left thousands of people dead. About 4000 political murders were perpetrated over two years by police and death squads allied with the de facto government according to a scientific survey published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2006. The jails were filled with hundreds of political prisoners. [6]

Under Aristide, the political and financial enablers of the rebels remained free to openly express their support for a coup. Rather than a “crackdown” what Aristide’s opponents faced was mainly an endless series of concessions and repeated offers to share power and hold internationally-supervised elections.

Right after Aristide was overthrown in 2004, Guy Philippe and Andy Apaid thanked the international press. That Ginger Thompson could casually refer to Aristide's “violent crackdowns of political dissent” is proof of how rational they were to be thankful.[7]

[1] Aristide Says He Is Ready to Return to Haiti, Too By GINGER THOMPSON, Published: January 19, 2011…
[2] For an overview of the paramilitary campaign against the Aristide’s second government see “Damming the Flood” by Peter Hallward. Chamblain was second in command of the FRAPH death squads during 1991-1994 military rule. See numerous Human Rights Watch reports from the period for details of FRAPH exploits. For example, HRW; Fugitives from Injustice: The crisis of internal displacement in Haiti; August 1994;
[3] Insurgency and Betrayal: An Interview with Guy Philippe,…
[4] On HRW objections to Clinton see HRW: HAITI: Security Compromised Recycled Haitian Soldiers on the Police Front Line
[5] For information on Bradley Manning see
[6] Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, "Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households," The Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006. On political prisoners see Thomas M. Griffin, University of Miami School of Law: Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004,
[7] Isabel MacDonald; The Freedom of the Press Barons,