Haiti is no stranger to the war crimes of the former colonial powers which now make up NATO.
By Maude LeBlanc, Haiti ProgresBefore our independence in 1804, we were colonized at different points in time by the French, English, and Spanish. Our colonial period was one extended war crime.
First, the colonizers wiped out the indigenous Arawaks, estimated at over one million people, in a mere 13 years. Essentially the Europeans worked the Arawaks to death as slaves mining gold which was stolen from their land to enrich the kings and emerging bourgeoisies of Europe.
When the Arawaks were exterminated (and that is the right word), the Europeans were forced to import new slave labor. They went to Africa, waged bloody wars, and enslaved millions of our ancestors. Almost half died in the "Middle Passage." If they survived, they could look forward to a very short and brutal life. Slaves in colonial St. Domingue were routinely tortured, raped, murdered, or simply worked to death. At the slightest hint of rebellion, slave heads were cut off and impaled on stakes.
Finally the masses rose up and overthrew the French colonists in the only successful slave revolution in history. The Republic of Haiti, which was the Arawaks original name for the island, became the first independent nation of Latin America.
But the Europeans and the nascent United States continued their war crimes. They embargoed Haiti for her first six decades. They planned invasions and counter-revolution from the neighboring Spanish colony. France demanded that the former slaves pay their former torturers and executioners 150 million gold francs in war reparations. (That sum would be worth billions today). The United States stole Haitian territory like the Ile de Navase, a small island just west of the tip of Haiti, which the U.S. continues to claim as its own to this day.
Finally the aggression of various colonial and neo-colonial powers culminated in the first U.S. military invasion of Haiti on July 28, 1915, exactly 84 years ago. The U.S. Marines first action was to blast into the Haitian national treasury, take all the gold (stolen for a second time if any of it was Arawak gold), and ship it to the First National City Bank in New York. They tore up the Haitian Constitution, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Secretary of the U.S. Navy, wrote a new one. His allowed foreigners to own land. U.S. companies then grabbed the most fertile valleys and set up agribusinesses growing sugar, rubber, sisal, and other crops. Haitians were again enslaved under a system of forced labor called the "corvée." At bayonet point, Haitian peasants were forced to build roads, railroads, buildings, and other infrastructure to service U.S. companies and their neo-colonial administration.
But the Haitian people resisted. A guerilla army known as the "Cacos" under the leadership of Charlemagne Péralte and Benoit Batraville was formed. They put up heroic resistance to the Yankees, with horses, machetes, and ancient guns.
Just as this year in Yugoslavia, in the Haitian war, the U.S. tested its new weapons, many for the first time, such as aerial bombing and strafing, rudimentary tanks, and machine guns.
The Marines killed thousands of Caco fighters, including Péralte and Batraville. Peasants in guerilla zones or who resisted the "corvée" were herded into concentration camps, precursors to the infamous "strategic hamlets" of Vietnam.
The U.S. occupied Haiti for 19 years until 1934, and there were many atrocities. The most famous was on a day in 1929 when the Marines gunned down 264 protesting peasants in the town of Les Cayes.
In the decades following the first occupation, U.S. war crimes against Haiti were generally carried out by a proxy army. First the U.S. trained the Guard of Haiti, which later became the Armed Forces of Haiti. After the rise of the dictator Francois Papa Doc Duvalier in 1957, the U.S. collaborated with the infamous Tonton Macoutes to terrorize and kill the Haitian people.
But finally the Haitian peoples resistance was victorious, overthrowing Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier in 1986 and electing Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990. But once again the war criminals struck back.
Working with Tonton Macoutes and Haitian soldiers trained at Ft. Bragg and in the Panama Canal Zone, the U.S. government fomented and supported the Sept. 30th 1991 coup against President Aristide. Agents of the CIA and the Pentagon sat in Haitian Army headquarters as the coup went down.
Over the course of the next 3 years, Haitian soldiers and paramilitaries killed about 5000 Haitians. One of the principal death-squads was a group called FRAPH. About 150 of its members had been in the U.S. military. FRAPHs leader Toto Constant like many of the Haitian high-command, was an admitted CIA agent, who took directions from Washington. He now enjoys political asylum in Queens.
Finally on September 19, 1994, the U.S. invaded Haiti for the second time. Twenty thousand U.S. troops occupied Haiti, supposedly to restore President Aristide to power. In fact, they only restored themselves to power.
They claimed it was a humanitarian mission, just as they say today in Kosovo. But their real purpose is to 1) enforce the take-over and sell-off of the Haitian economy to U.S. and European businesses 2) squeeze interest payments out of the hungry Haitian people for a $1 billion debt rung up and embezzled by the Duvaliers and 3) protect their allies, the former soldiers, Tonton Macoutes, and FRAPH militiamen.
In 1915, the first thing they stole was gold. In 1994, the first thing they stole was evidence.
The U.S. troops went to all the military and FRAPH headquarters and collected over 60,000 pages of documents including videotapes, hit-lists, and "trophy photos," where the killers held up their victims. They then took all these documents to Washington. The Haitian government has repeatedly asked for the return of the documents in their entirety, but Washington refuses. It will only give back censored documents. The U.S. says it wants to remove the names of all U.S. citizens. In other words, it wants to hide the role and identity of its CIA and Pentagon agents.
So its no surprise that U.S. soldiers have also helped former Haitian soldiers and FRAPH thugs elude capture, avoid justice, and hide their weapons. These former henchmen are terrorizing Haiti with car-jackings, murders, and robberies, on a scale never seen before. Their goal is destabilization of the government so that they can return to power.
Take note: the 1994 U.S. invasion of Haiti, which was done under a UN fig leaf, was not only a flagrant violation of the Haitian Constitution of 1987, but also of Article 7 of the U.N. Charter. Article 7 explicitly prohibits UN intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states.
Again today, the U.S. is mocking the very international laws it helped set in place. Take this weeks example. Only the Security Council is allowed to authorize the deployment of military forces in a country. The Security Council mandate for UN occupation troops in Haiti finishes in December of this year, less than 6 months away. The U.S. would like the Security Council to renew the mandate indefinitely, but China has said that it will veto such a move.
Listen to what the July 10 Miami Herald has to say about the U.S. dilemma: "Foreign diplomats are scrambling for a formula that would maintain a permanent international presence in Haiti beyond the years end." So what international fig-leaf can the U.S. use to keep its troops in Haiti? NATO? The OAS? Maybe something new? According to the Herald, "The U.S.-led effort is focusing on the U.N.s Economic and Social Council called ECOSOC, a largely dormant organization in recent years."
They are remaking an obscure U.N. agency to circumvent the Security Council. The ECOSOC is made up of 54 members of the General Assembly, and its main purpose has been to make studies, reports, and recommendations about "international economic, social, cultural, educational, health, and related matters," according to the UN Charter. Now they are trying to confer on it powers wielded by the Security Council, so they can keep a long-term foreign military presence in Haiti, dressed up as police trainers, advisors, and supervisors. All this to steer the country down the political and economic path they want.
As the InterPress Service reports from Geneva, where the plan was hatched this week, "The United Nations has selected Haiti... as a test case to experiment with new policies for political and social recovery."
Well, we the Haitian people are sick of their experiments, of their invasions, their coup détats, their military training, their police training, their "structural adjustment programs," their peace-keeping forces, and all the rest of it. Like the people of Yugoslavia, of Iraq, of Cuba, of Libya, of North Korea, of China, and of every other oppressed nation around the world we are tired of the war criminals.
We want our sovereignty and our own democracy, as we define it.
The Haitian people stand with the heroic Yugoslavian people in their resistance to U.S. imperialism and its European lackeys.
In Haiti, a proverb says: "Bat chyen, tann mèt li." It means: Beat the dog, wait for its master. Well, the master is coming. And it is not only the Haitian people, but all the people of the world who are sick and tired of colonization, neo-colonization, aggression, hunger, and war crimes.
Long live the Haitian peoples struggle!
Down with US/NATO War Crimes!
Commission of Inquiry
c/o International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889
initial inquiry program