How Bush-Cheney Policy Screwed Haiti

| Wed Jan. 13, 2010 1:00 PM EST

In the wake of the devastating earthquake, American eyes are again turned toward Haiti—something that only seems to happen when yet another disaster strikes, and never during the daily chaos and misery that plague the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I’ve spent a good deal of time in Haiti, reporting first on the repression under the Duvaliers, then on the rise of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's popular movement, and then on the 1991 military coup that brought him down. I was there during the period of the 1994 military intervention that restored Aristide to power.

US interest in the country seemed to wane with the departure of American troops, and in the aftermath of September 11 and the Bush administration's numerous adventures around the world, Haiti returned to its usual state of invisibility in Western eyes. Few people noticed a remarkable report that appeared in the New York Times in 2006, based in part on the analysis of former ambassador Brian Dean Curran, showing how US policy helped to destabalize Haiti in the years leading up to 2004, when Aristide was again forced out by armed rebels under an accused death squad leader. Written shortly before the election won by current president Rene Preval, Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg titled their story "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos." Here's their account of the events following Aristide's 2004 departure:

Haiti, never a model of stability, soon dissolved into a state so lawless it stunned even those who had pushed for the removal of Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who rose to power as the champion and hero of Haiti’s poor.

Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is virtually paralyzed by kidnappings, spreading panic among rich and poor alike. Corrupt police officers in uniform have assassinated people on the streets in the light of day. The chaos is so extreme and the interim government so dysfunctional that voting to elect a new one has already been delayed four times….

Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its first elected president since the rebellion two years ago, questions linger about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide's ouster—and especially why the Bush administration, which has made building democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq and around the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its shores.

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