Friday, March 05, 2004

Jean-Bertrand, We Hardly Knew Ye 

I'm dumbfounded by the response some people are having over the ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide is "democratically elected"?! What have these people been smoking? Thankfully, Adam Kushner has taken the time to detail Aristide's corruption and crimes, so I can spare myself the grief.
Turns out Aristide had a closet full of skeletons. For example, he admired mob rule. During his days as a radical, populist priest in the slums of Cité Soleil, the Catholic Church tried to persuade him several times to eschew sermons about class struggle. He refused, and when preparations were made to transfer him to another church, his parishioners began hunger strikes until the church backed down. The Vatican finally pressured Aristide to resign the priesthood when he took office, but it had long since become clear that his philosophy was more Marx than Merton.

Aristide also came to despise democratic institutions. When he assumed the presidency in 1991, he butted heads often with the legislature, which remained more conservative than he and still partly in thrall to Haiti's mulatto elite.

Then, in 1993, the CIA -- under R. James Woolsey -- leaked a classified study of Aristide to congressional Republicans. It claimed that Aristide had incited a rabble to "necklace" his political opponents (a practice in which a gas-filled tire is hung on the victim's neck and set alight) and that he ordered the assassination of a rival. Some of the report's contentions were discredited, but when congressional Democrats rushed to Aristide's defense, the director of Human Rights Watch reminded them that Aristide had not repudiated 25 lynchings performed in his name in 1991, and that "he condoned threats of popular violence against the judiciary and the legislature."

(Emphasis mine)

I was surprised that after the 2000 elections in Haiti, where pro-Aristide gangs and militias literally beat the voters into electing Aristide and his minions, that the world seemed to go on with the delusion that Aristide was still some sort of democratic leader. The people that still claim that he is a supporter of democracy are either willfully ignorant or bending the facts beyond recognition to score political points against the Bush administration.

Kushner, by the way, still supports the 1994 intervention that brought Aristide back to power in Haiti. Since I was in elementary school at that age, I only have the benefit of hindsight on that issue, so it would not be quite as fair for me to judge. In general, though, I believe that foreign intervention on the basis of human rights issues is not a good idea. Nonetheless, we both agree that nobody should be shedding any tears for the fate of Aristide.
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