Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Haiti and Our Shame

He was the democratically elected leader of a nation. He was popular in his home country. On February 29, 2004, members of the American military and other officials broke into his home and kidnapped him then transported him to Central African Republic and held him in captivity until his release was negotiated by Randall Robinson and others. Amy Goodman interviewed Robinson on Democracy Now, yesterday.

Despite his popularity, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has still not been allowed to return to Haiti. Haiti has a long history of being abused and exploited by Western Nations. It was originally a slave colony of France where the slaves revolted and won in 1804, thus establishing the first democracy where everyone was a participant and free it the world. (The US had slavery).

Rather than embrace this new young democracy as allies, The US worked to undermine the nation by joining with France to embargo the nation. The US was afraid of what would become of its slaves if the successes of the slave revolution were made known to slaves in America. France also charged Haiti with a debt for the freed slaves that Haiti didn't pay off entirely until 150 years later. Aristide was gathering international support in an effort to get France to make reparations for these debt payments that crippled Haiti's economy that continues to struggle today. Despite Frances vocal opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, France willingly went along with the coup to oust Aristide in 2004. All of this is available via Robinson and his new book, An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.

When reading such accounts of our past and current imperialistic adventures around the world, it makes one cynical about our democracy in America where nothing is beyond the realm of possibilities when considering various ideas and theories that commonly fall under the heading of conspiracy. I don't dismiss any allegation anymore of the potential corruption of those representing the money interests in America. Obviously, to embrace such theories as absolute truth is foolhardy. But to dismiss such theories out-of-hand as preposterous is equally foolish.

I have read many of Robinson's previous works and find him a compelling and honest writer. The fact that he makes me look at our culture under a scrutinizing lens and ask hard questions about our history I think is enlightening. It makes me really believe the old adage that none of us are truly free when their are others suffering under tyranny somewhere else in the world. We should be ashamed of our actions in Haiti, even more so than our invasion of Iraq. We have had a long history of abuse in our relations with this democratic island nation that is led and populated by descendants of former slaves. America will never be truly free until it comes to terms with its past as imperialist, slaveholders and conquerors/exterminators of entire tribes and nations of people. Most of this past helped consolidate power in our nation today and contributes to our corrupt ways as can be seen by our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and, now, the Island nation of Haiti.