Haiti and the Impotence of Black America



Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney delivered this address March 6 at a UC Berkeley conference titled “The Role of Law & Policy: Africa, the Caribbean & the U.S.” sponsored by the African-American Law and Policy Report.

Nowhere do we see the impotence of Black America played out before our eyes and those of the world as we now see in the case of Haiti. But let me add that it hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

First of all, as I see it, the correct call is not just for investigation, but also for reinstallation. Just as the U.S., in the 1950s, launched its policy of rollback for communism, so too must Americans of good conscience call for the Bush gang of thieves to roll back the coup in Haiti.

If you will recall, the United States and Haiti have been in this exact same place before. Gen. Raul Cedras had stolen power in a coup against the democratically elected priest who worked in the barrios of Port-au-Prince. Haitian Americans in Florida and New York and elsewhere worked non-stop to reinstall Father Aristide to power.

The Republican Justice Department had just overseen the largest expansion of the Congressional Black Caucus since the passage of the Voting Rights Act as it forced Southern legislatures to draw districts that would allow rural Blacks finally to elect candidates of their choice. Black voters, with a massive turnout, had turned George Bush’s father out of the White House and elected Bill Clinton instead.

So the stage was set on the inside and on the outside for a massive shift in U.S. policy toward Haiti, leaving the Republican antipathy for Aristide behind. This shift so infuriated at least one small group in white America that, in the Florida redistricting case, the plaintiff actually wrote that the increased strength of the Congressional Black Caucus had actually changed U.S. policy toward Haiti, and for that reason, among others, the size of the CBC had grown too large, thus the lawsuit against the district of Congresswoman Corrine Brown.

The brief of the Florida plaintiffs provides a smoking gun for the effectiveness of the larger, stronger, younger Black Caucus that entered Washington with an agenda grounded in the people. It also places in stark relief what is possible when Black America has authentic leaders, well placed, in politics.

Eventually, Cedras was given money and escorted out of Port-au-Prince while some of the leaders of FRAPH, the CIA-inspired tonton macoute replacement, found refuge in the U.S., the Dominican Republic and other places. With most of his term spent out of office, Aristide eventually was triumphantly returned to office. Upon the expiration of his term, Aristide left office and ran for reelection after the end of the term of his successor, Rene Preval.

Now, according to one of my investigative sources, one of the contracts that Preval put in place was with the Steele Foundation to provide presidential security. The Steele Foundation, headquartered here in the Bay Area, is reportedly very close to the Pentagon, with its former leader coming directly from the Pentagon’s Office of Intelligence. Interestingly, it reportedly maintains an office in Miami, the home of the headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command, which was reportedly involved in training the rebels who ousted Aristide. So, at the time of Aristide’s “capture,” he supposedly was protected by a Pentagon-sanctioned security team that just happened to fail to secure him.

Additionally, according to this same source, some of the Dominican troops and Spanish and English-speaking paramilitaries trained by the U.S. during last year’s Operation Jaded Task in the Dominican Republic were fighting alongside Haitian rebels in the north and on the southern coast of Haiti. We are told further that Haitian government authorities intercepted vans carrying new M-16s across the border from the Dominican Republic. According to the report I have received, Haitian authorities began intercepting vans carrying the weapons from the Dominican Republic beginning last year, and shortly after the U.S. military delivered 20,000 M-16s to the Dominican Army.

Haiti was about to celebrate its bicentennial. I remember how happy this country was when it celebrated its bicentennial. That joy has been denied to the Haitian people. Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s slogan during the country’s commemorative campaign was restitution, reparation, celebration. And he had declared Haiti an African country.

Aristide was no COINTELPRO leader. No “clean Negro.” And, in the language of J. Edgar Hoover, he “excited the Negroes.” So now, understanding who Jean Bertrand Aristide really is, and at the same time knowing how our country deals with authentic leaders like him, we can’t be surprised by what happens. We should, however, be dismayed if our collective power is not able to restore Aristide to power once again.

Haiti’s lawyer charged that the U.S. government was directly involved in the coup and that the coup leaders were armed, trained, employed by the intelligence services of the United States.

An eye witness, Aristide’s caretaker, told French radio that “the American army came to take him away at two in the morning. The Americans forced him out with weapons.”

After having spoken directly with President Aristide, Congresswoman Maxine Waters reported that Aristide was surrounded by the military. “It’s like he’s in jail. He says he was kidnapped,” she said.

Randall Robinson also spoke to President Aristide. Robinson said that Aristide emphatically denied that he had resigned.

Rev. Jesse Jackson got Aristide on the phone with an Associated Press reporter, and Aristide himself said that he was forced to leave. He said, “They came at night. There were too many. I couldn’t count them.” He said that agents told him that if he didn’t leave, they would start shooting and killing. Aristide is quoted as describing these agents who threatened him as “white Americans, white military.”

Donald Rumsfeld said that the idea of an abduction was just totally inconsistent with everything he heard or saw. The White House dismissed allegations that Aristide had been kidnapped by U.S. forces eager to force him to resign and flee into exile. Colin Powell said flatly that Aristide was not kidnapped. Powell said, “We did not force him on the airplane.”

Now, I don’t know about you. But it is clear to me by now that I can’t believe Donald Rumsfeld. I can’t believe the White House. And I can’t believe Colin Powell.

But even more than that, notice Powell’s use of the word “we.”

And therein lies the essence of our predicament.

On March 1, 2004, the Washington Times headlined Colin Powell’s comment, “I am on the President’s agenda.” Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell have provided a Black face for policies that have devastated the global community and our American community. Progressive America and the global community need a strong, vibrant and activist Black community.

A recent report in the New York Times found that 50 percent of the Black male adults in New York City are unemployed. According to the State of the Dream 2004 report, if current rates of progress remain the same, it will take eight years for America to close the Black-White gap in high school graduation. It will take 73 years to close the college graduation gap, 190 years to close the imprisonment gap, 581 years to close the per capita income gap, and 1,664 years to close the home ownership gap. Clearly progress on important quality of life indices is not being made quickly enough.

But we won’t see that portrayed on UPN, FOX, CNN or the WB. Increasingly, prominent leaders tell us that we don’t need a movement any more and that agitators who concentrate on these facts are passe.

And to them I only ask one question. What becomes of a community that rewards those who pick the fruit up but fails to protect those who shake it down?

Tree shakers are all over the globe trying to uplift their communities. Only through our active and informed participation in the political process here will we be able to stop the powers that produce pernicious policies. Only through our participation in the political process will we be able to protect the global community – like Haiti, like Venezuela – from the vicissitudes of powerful people acting in our name who don’t care one whit about the values that we hold dear.

Black America, vibrant with authentic leaders, in active partnership with all progressives, can change what is happening here at home and the policies being implemented abroad.

And so I end with a plea and a charge for us as a people to stand up, speak truth to power, don’t cower, and say to those who control this awful machine, “It’s time for you to stop, right now.”

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