Haiti: Another American Annexation?

By Raffique Shah
January 24, 2010

HaitiWHAT surprised me about my column last week was the number of people, mostly local, who knew little or nothing about Haiti’s history. But what should I have expected in a country and an education system in which history has been deemed irrelevant? Or when students study the subject, the focus is on lands and civilisations afar? Let’s face it: we know more about America and Europe than we do of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.

Teachers and students alike were emailing or telephoning me to seek wider knowledge of the devastated country, to explain why slaves who fought for and won their freedom were made to pay huge indemnities to their defeated French masters. I pointed them to an incisive article written by UWI pro-vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, to an in-depth analysis of Haiti by Noam Chomsky, and asked that they read Black Jacobins by our own CLR James.

Of course many argued that ‘Black people cannot govern themselves’, citing the many failed states in Africa that, coincidentally, have similar colonial histories to Haiti. One friend who is involved in a billion-dollar project, and whose business partners are all black, had the audacity to tell me: ‘Raf, you know black people can’t run business!’ I almost asked him why, then, was he (of mixed race) involved in that particular project. But I held my tongue.

But this column is not about black or white or brown people. It’s about a Caribbean country that has long borne the dubious title of the ‘poorest nation in the Western hemisphere’. Last week I showed where, after 200-odd years of ‘freedom’, with which went ostracism from the developed world and a death-dealing trade and recognition embargo, Haiti’s government was forced to sign an ‘IOU’ to France for 90 million gold francs.

That amounted to some 70 per cent of the value of its exports, and it took Haiti almost 125 years to clear that dubious debt! The money was paid in tranches to France. But the US was complicit in its capitulation-in-victory because the US’s revered ‘founding fathers’, all slave owners, did not want the ‘bad example’ set by Toussaint and Dessalines to spread to its territory. Indeed, in exchange for the revered Thomas Jefferson’s assistance in securing this humongous reparation, France sold two American states that it owned-New Orleans and Louisiana-to the newly independent US. That secured for the US all territories west of the Mississippi that Napoleon coveted.

According the Eduardo Galeano (author of Open Veins of Latin America), the first country to abolish African slavery became a ‘new country born with a rope wrapped tightly around its neck: the equivalent of US$21.7 billion in today’s dollars, or forty-four times Haiti’s current yearly budget.’ And whereas France licked its wounds and took its money, the last tranche paid in 1947, America also imposed its will and its might on the hapless nation, repeatedly invading it, raping it, stealing its wealth and up to this day imposing its leader-of-choice on the Haitian people.

Here I quote from Galeano again: ‘In 1915, the Marines landed in Haiti. They stayed nineteen years. The first thing they did was occupy the customs house and duty collection facilities. The occupying army suspended the salary of the Haitian president until he agreed to sign off on the liquidation of the Bank of the Nation, which became a branch of City Bank of New York. The president and other blacks were barred entry into the private hotels, restaurants, and clubs of the foreign occupying power. The occupiers didn’t dare re-establish slavery, but they did impose forced labour for the building of public works. And they killed a lot of people. It wasn’t easy to quell the fires of resistance.’

I have already stated that the US and its ‘agencies of death’ (the World Bank and the IMF) must be made to share in reparations to Haiti, which, if we add interest and subtract what they have already loaned or given to that country, would amount to around US$40 billion-not the $20 billion that I mentioned last week. I heard Prime Minister Patrick Manning say it would take around US$2 billion a year to rebuild that broken country.

Manning has to be joking. Little wonder Caricom has so little influence in one of its member-states where its delegation was disallowed landing rights-by the occupying Americans.

I agree that only the US has the manpower and other resources to deal with the kind of catastrophe that has struck Haiti. But does that give them the right to deny entry to CARICOM leaders, to Cuban doctors, to disaster-trained medical personnel from Médecins Sans Frontières?

We saw the mess the Americans made after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. It took days for drinking water to reach victims, weeks for them to be fed and years later some victims still live in temporary shelters. Will Haitians fare any better with American troops instead of American humanitarian help? Already we see the additional pain that victims have borne. Amputations are done with rusted hacksaws. Field hospitals are few, medicines are in short supply and medical personnel even fewer.

-To be concluded: Plan for recovery

10 thoughts on “Haiti: Another American Annexation?”

  1. Correct,
    Galeano also in the book documented the slaughter.
    Wondering what are the US masses and progressives saying.

    Keep it up.
    Jot to get my press cards updated and will travel within the nest 6 weeks after some medical (just knees and not seriou) and legal.

    Books at printers.
    Was a hard task as sight was not well and files all over the place.

    The young submitted final essays. President of the Muslim Society. Went to Hajj (not Shia).
    Kinda upset. The guy (24 now) took a suitcase of books for his studies and they gave himm a bad time at the airport.

    His thesis seems to be on Islam in Africa, but I will see.

    Dem fellas coming down, but I do not bothering myself on the carnival this year. Not been attending, except panyards.
    Buz Johnson

  2. “Of course many argued that ‘Black people cannot govern themselves’, citing the many failed states in Africa that, coincidentally, have similar colonia histories to Haiti. One friend who is involved in a billion-dollar project, and whose business partners are all black, had the audacity to tell me: ‘Raf, you know black people can’t run business!’ I almost asked him why, then, was he (of mixed race) involved in that particular project. But I held my tongue.”

    I guess I can understand that mindset by some of the agents posting on this blog.

  3. Two gret pieces of news from and about Hiti. A “miracle girl, aged 17, was pulled from the rubble today, fifteen days after the earthquake. TAlk about the willto survive!
    AND. Venezuela’s Chavez put his money where his mouth is, he cancelled HAiti’s debt for oil.
    MAny like to see this proponent of the Bolivarian Reiolution as a blowhard, a man who talks a lot of stuff. Here, he has delivered.
    Now, let’s see what the rest of the greedy capitalists make of this. Vive Hugo! Thanks for showing what compassion really is. I hope my Anti-Hugo cousin in South Jersey notes this!

  4. Ms. L, as much as it is extremely important , we have to stop trying to justify throwing money at everything ,and every problem we confront.The Haitian and the rest of the global poor are not simply interested in foreign aid , instead they need to learn how to live, and co exist with each other peacefully , led by caring leaders, and a vibrant middle class capable of providing jobs , and basic infrastructure – the most important of which should be education , health ,housing ,and security.
    They need useful business and political partnerships with outside nations , and companies ,that treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve, not disingenuous folks that tries to bribe them with blood money, in efforts to ensure that they remain at home- as opposed to flooding foreign embassies -while exporting only their infant orphan kids for the highest bidders.

  5. Readers, this is my two cents on this fiaco that is played on our tv sets daily. Remember the Marshall Plan after WWII in which the US supplied Berlin with food after the Russians started their blockade. I dont think I have ever seen anyone in all those old black and white documentaries fighting for food. Where is the organization? Berlin and Nagasaki were demolished in the same pattern and was able to rise again. Common, why dont the powers to be put a plan in place to stop this suffering? Looking forward to any distiguished and intelligent suggestions or comments.

  6. Seeing that you were so kind to the Hatian people to compare the devastation they are presently experiencing with that which existed in destroyed Old Europe , and Imperial Japan, let me highlight a few differences,as explaination.
    The German and Japanese people knew fully well that they were defeated , had hit rock bottom , and so wanted absolutely nothing to do with their past lifestyles. The sourrounding nations of Europe , Asia ,led by rising USA,were prepared to do what was necwssary to see that Europe and Asia rise , as the latter establised it’s own neo imperialike fiefdoms in both region. Today both regions are so grateful , that before any of the respective nations decide on any policy , or even dare to
    choose a new leader , they seem always prepared to first obrain a green light from Washington, as to do otherswise would be interpreted as a sign of ungratefulness.
    For regionalism to work,be it ln the Caribbean , Asia , Africa , MiddleEast , or untra successful Europe , there must be one or two nations within that posses the will and ability to be leaders by example.
    Trinidad and Tobago is certainly incapable , and our local French Creoles have little interest for voodoo loving black Francophonic folks , nore care to speak French,even if you threaten to cut out their tongues with pliars before their favorite pastimes making money to ship abroad to private off shore accounts , and indulge in their own version of decadent escapism,via our annual Carnival jump up celebrations.What a tragedy!

  7. You cannot compare Haiti with Germany and or Japan. Haiti did not have the disciplined infrastructure or comparable resources that either Japan or Germany had. Remember, Haiti was ostracized by the Western Powers that controlled the region around them. Haiti, at no time was powerful enough to invade its neighbors to pillage their societies for resources that may have been able to contribute to any sort of meaningful expansion that would aid, preserve or progress the people in Haiti.
    Haiti is a different situation. I don’t think that there is another nation that has been through the ringer of destruction (politically) that Haiti has suffered.

  8. Never understimate the capacity of persistent questions on international issues, to produce results. Some of us kept asking Where is Rene Preval? A day after I asked if he was “locked in a basement somewhere in the capital city”, he “gave an intrview” to the Public Broadcasting Network of the USA. It was an exclusive, which immediately causd me to ask why?
    He made a few inane remarks about not going about with a camera crew, because he was not running for any office. I found myself saying”This man is the ruler of Haiti?” He reminded me so much of a former Minister of Helth inan Eastern CAribbean country, after Hugo. When asked by the BBC how were the people coping, he said he too, had to line up with a plastic bowl to buy meat, since there was no refrigeration. Of his responsibilities to the nation, in the face of a disster, he said nothing,so like Preval.Another woman was apparently coached into saying we do not need elections now, what we need is tents.(In perfect English) I wondered how much she was paid for this. Caribbean people through every media, must keep the international community from stealing HAITI AND ITS CHILDREN.

  9. http://www.miamiherald.com/582/story/1454479.html
    So there it is folks , after all the idle chatter about caring leaders , you are now getting a true picture as to why these United States military might be in Haiti . To the naive it might simply be to provide protection and aid rescue efforts , but for the observant it would be to ensure that Haitians do not leave en-mass for Florida or Texas Madame L’s home state so as to burden their social services.
    Only yesterday I heard an aging female one time popular rap star T-buzz ,of the former girls group TLC ,tell Larry King that she wanted to join the long line of a publicity starved wild bunch and adopt an Haitian orphan, but found it extremely difficult to get the paper work done. Talk about stupidity in some of these celebrities. It took her white fellow guest on the panel , to reveal to her that this situation was expected , because the country was devastated and had no viable government or infrastructure in place. She advised her also that there are thousand of black neglected and abandoned babies right here in America that are in dire need of adoption and love , and it would cost much less.
    When questioned today by me about his views on this rush to adopt Haitian babies ,while offering limited concomitant support for soft immigration policy by some of these large industrial nations to accept fleeing refugees. He admitted to me that Haiti even before this problem had a large orphan population, and this gesture might be welcomed, and do some good.
    Well perhaps Europe and America are Christian nations after all , for did their blond hair , blue eyed Jesus not say in
    Matthew 19:14 of the Black King James Version to “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven?” Perhaps I am mixing up the context, but who knows with these delicate matters that begs for explanations and interpretations, hmmmmmm?
    Oh yes the irrelevancy of Renne Preval the puppet, as well as stealing of Haiti and its children , due to a powerless confused Caribbean people , a sleeping complicit media, and complacent international community.
    Now let me see Ms. L , the last time I checked most of the greedy Caribbean nations were only concerned about themselves ,were neglectful of their children as well, and with few exceptions many were selling out their souls and country to the next highest Ponzi schemer, or drug baron criminal. It would mean therefore that Ms. L must be referring to Trinidad and Tobago . Mind you , the Haitian people , children , aid and reconstructions would have to wait from a Trinidadian vantage point , as they have very contentious elections to grapple with , and a fast approaching carnival season to enjoy. Tell them to send a SOS Ms. L = during the praying lent season. It’s when a Trini is most caring and vulnerable.

  10. Two developments: The “non existent” Haitian President spoke two days ago, to PBS, and said he was not running for anything, so he did not need to walk around with a camera crew, kissing babies. Sounded like he had been rehearsing for a few days, or listening to my critiques of his absence. Then a random woman in the street, said into a news camera “We do not need elections right now, we need tents.” In perfect English! Astonishing! And it was learned today that the Government of Haiti arrested a group of Americans trying to sneak a number of children, for whom they had no papers, out of Haiti, by bus to the Dominican Republic, just as the US announced it was ceasing emergency airlifting of very injured people.These people had hired a hotel by the beach in the DR and were, they said, going to establish an orphanage for children there, so that they could be adopted by “people who would see these cute children and want to adopt them.” OF COURSE IT WAS NOT CHILD TRAFFICKING they said. Wanting to establish an orphanage in a hotel in a touristy area sounds like a good business plan, not so?

    My view Neal,is that Haitian children belong in Haiti, first and foremost. A country needs continuity, and as such,it needs its young people. Too many children of Trini parents in the US grow up despising their country. I have had a few in my classes. This is particularly true when they are too poor to go home to visit. I prefer Castro’s model established for the children of Angolan Freedom Fighters years ago.
    The Isle of Pines was used to replicate an Angolan environment, and teachers and housemothrs hired to raise these Angolan orphans, as Angolans, so that at maturity, they could go home and help build their country. American movie stars have made adopting “cute” African kids a kind of fashion statement, one step above a poodle.So now, everybody wants one of those.

    I would like to see a Caribbean partnership with Haiti, where our people could go and do some skill transfer in infra-structure development, in education ,and in agriculture.If the European nations did not help Haiti get ahead for two hunded years, they are not likely to do so now. Sure they send help, but that is like renting a poor family a TV for ten dollars a month, for fifteen years. They could have more than owned the TV if we had given them the money in a different way. The loan keeps them poor.

    I am afraid the world I dream of, would never exist in reality, because man is essentially greedy and corrupt.I wonder where the world is heading when I read reports of Puerto Rican doctors taking pictures of themselves and critically injured people they were supposed to help, and posting them on “facebook”, as reported today in the American press. Their government is getting on their behinds though. Some people apparently think a disaster is a media circus. What you going to do with people like that?

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