#130 – Dick Bernard: "the gods must be crazy"

December 13, 2003, I arrived back from Haiti, all imbued with idealism, but pretty certain that Haiti’s democratically elected government would be deposed, though not sure how or by whom. I had met a lot of people who were standing by President Aristide, even though it was clear that his government was being starved out of existence, unable to really accomplish any of his goals for lack of resources. He and his government had been marked for extinction.
January 11, 2004, the St. Paul Pioneer Press printed a column of mine, which Common Dreams still archives, and which speaks for itself here.
As time went on, it became more and more clear to me that the United States, in alliance with Canada and France, was out to get rid of Haiti’s elected leader and his entire Lavalas party. This ultimately happened late at night February 29, 2004.
A week before the coup was accomplished in Haiti, distinguished Knight-Ridder senior military correspondent Joseph L. Galloway wrote a column appropriately headlined “If U.S. returns to Haiti, get the job done“. Essentially he endorsed the 1915 U.S. “solution” for Haiti, in which the U.S. Marines began their occupation and control of the country for 19 years “Good men and true, and they took and pacified the entire country with a loss of only three Marines killed and 18 wounded” was the essence of his story. He appeared to support the Bush administrations decision to restore democracy by (effectively) destroying the existing democracy (which he referred to as a dictatorship – interesting how words can ‘sing’.)
Haitians of course have a different spin on the reality of those 19 years from 1915-34, and all the years before and after, including the coup d’etat of February 29, 2004, and its fore- and after-effects. But who cares about that? Old news…. Most recently, Aristide’s Lavalas has been denied standing as a political party in upcoming elections for supposedly technical reasons.
The 2004 coup did not bring peace and prosperity to Haiti. Less than a month after President Aristide was safely out of the country, Haiti disappeared as news in the U.S.
In May, 2006, Mr. Galloway and I had a brief e-mail correspondence about the current situation in Haiti. He had just retired from Knight-Ridder, and said, after defending his earlier comments, that “I’ve been going to America’s wars for 41 years…from Vietnam 1965 to Iraq January, 2006. I am not going to study war anymore. Instead, I shall study peace.”
About Haiti, he said “what I said and meant [in the February 22, 2004, column] was that if we went in again we should be prepared to stay and help rebuild a nation and educate a new generation of Haitians to a different kind of politics and governance than they have endured for centuries now…nobody seems willing to invest what is needed to make Haiti something other than a nation of poor people ruled by a very tiny oligarchy.
Truth be told, U.S. troops scarcely touched Haitian soil during and after the 2004 coup. Nation-destruction was accomplished by U.S. Aid to anti-government de-stabilization folks, while the legitimate Haitian government was economically starved to death.
After the coup, the United Nations, through “Peace-keeping” forces, became and remains the U.S. surrogate in Haiti. It is far too early to tell what changes in direction will come from the Obama administration after eight years of a Bush foreign policy. I have heard that there is now an immense embassy in Haiti, an enduring symbol of American pre-eminence in that still desperately poor country.
I bring this up, now, since most recently Mr. Galloway has argued against U.S. continuing engagement in Afghanistan (here). He is now extolled as a hero of sorts on the Left.
I would like to believe that his motives are pristine and sincere, that he ‘beat his sword into a plowshare” and “won’t study war no more”, but like the Kalahari Bushman who found an empty Coke bottle in the desert, and couldn’t conceive of what in the world it could mean, I’m not sure where (or if) what he says and what he means intersect. I feel like the Bushman and that Coke bottle on the desert floor: “the gods must be crazy”*.
What I see, now, as the “gods” are the “chattering class” – talking heads of all ideological stripes – who are attempting to establish their own version of reality. Left, Right, makes no difference whatsoever.
For now, Mr. Galloway is my sample worthy of study. And he’s not coming across as very real. He is highly respected, deservedly so. I’m hoping that he truly had a conversion of heart in 2006. (I tried to meet him in person in D.C. in May, 2006, but it was a close call…didn’t happen. I’ll hope to get this writing to him where he now resides.)
Meanwhile, I stand by my comments in my blog post on December 1, 2009. The ice is thickening here….
* – Some video clips from the 1980 film “The gods must be crazy” are available on YouTube, for anyone interested.