Wikileaks releases 3rd cable from Haiti

The most recent cable Wikileaks released from Port-au-Prince helps answer a question that people often ask:

“Why does the US care at all what happens in a poor little country like Haiti?”

US ambassador Janet Sanderson, in a 2008 cable entitled “Why We Need Continuing MINUSTAH Presence in Haiti”, wrote

“The U.S. will reap benefits from this hemispheric security cooperation for years to come”

and explains that the “security dividend the U.S. reaps from this hemispheric cooperation not only benefits the immediate Caribbean, but also is developing habits of security cooperation in the hemisphere “[1]

If other countries develop “habits” of backing US intervention then “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces” whom Sanderson identifies as a threat in Haiti will be kept at bay.

Sanderson explains that “The fundamental USG policy goal in Haiti is to make it a viable state that does not post a threat to the region through domestic political turmoil or an exodus of illegal migrants.

Of course, the only threat that “political turmoil” in Haiti can pose to the region – from the US imperial view – is through successful mobilization for “populist and anti-market” reforms that inspire others to do the same. We are presently witnessing the impact that a popular uprising in Tunisia is having on Egypt, a country of far more strategic importance to the US.

Sanderson exhibits a worldview that allows her to do her job with a clean conscience.

She would likely be dumbfounded if confronted with the fact that her own country relies on deeply anti-market policies to remain wealthy. In Haiti, impoverished farmers have been forced to compete for decades with highly subsidized US agribusiness. Protecting and developing domestic industry- as the rich have always done – is routinely denounced as “populist anti-market” policy when poor countries attempt it.

A clean conscience is also maintained if myths about the despised enemy are believed. Sanderson wrote

“If gangs resurface, we could see the revival of politically-linked armed groups that during the Aristide era engaged in targeted violence including murder against regime critics.”

Throughout Aristide’s truncated second term (2000-2004) paramilitaires based in the Domincan Republic raided and killed scores of Haitians. The safe haven they received in the Domincan Republic, a US client, was crucial to their operations – as was the funding from Aristide’s elite “critics”. Some of Aristide’s supporters did engage in indiscriminate reprisals. However, the “regime critics” were placed in the driver’s seat by the “international community”. Aristide offered them an endless series of concessions and repeated offers to share power and hold internationally supervised elections. [2]

An official like Sanderson would have no incentive to become familiar with any of this.

However, Sanderson does sensibly observe that

“This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella. That same umbrella helps other major donors — led by Canada and followed up by the EU, France, Spain, Japan and others — justify their bilateral assistance domestically.”

In other words, there are significant limits to the what the US can achieve alone – something people throughout the Americas should bear in mind.

What comes through loud and clear in Sanderson’s cable is that US policy in Haiti is NOT just about Hait, just as Iraq was not only about Iraq, and Vietnam was not just about Vietnam. The world is seen as a US chessboard and Haiti, as Mark Weisbrot aptly put it, is seen as one of the pawns.



created Oct, 2008

[2] Common Dreams; NYT Promotes Destructive Myths About Aristide


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