Historic Lessons From Haiti Disaster


Historic Lessons From Haiti Disaster
by Ali A Parsa

Last week Armin Salami and Ari Siletz called our attention to two vital issues that affect America and the world. Armin discussed the possibility by the U.S. of utilizing HAARP-High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in inducing natural calamities such as earthquake in Haiti for exploiting the resources of other countries; and Ari had a stimulating article on how the majority of our Supreme Court justices have decided to consider giant corporations as The People in “We the People”. To me, the second issue is nothing new because as we all know and I indicated in my previous writings and in my website, the government of the people in America has lost much of its meaning during the past two hundred years and has mainly become government of a few or Corporate America. I have nothing against corporations, but I do believe that if we had more corporations with human face America would be the true leader of the world rather than being at the brink of self-destruction.

I do not intend to explore the conspiracy theory by HAARP and whether it is bound to be the future tool of greedy corporations for controlling the people and their resources by controlling  the natural cycles. Obviously we are all worried about the future and where we will end up with unleashing technology devoid of wisdom and ethics. While doing my share to save mankind I soothe my soul by resorting to the words wisdom of the rational thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “The end of human race is that it will die of civilization.”

My intention here is to discuss the Haiti disaster by utilizing a tangible-historical evidence rather than  speculative and fictional approach. Please take the time to read the following chronology of Haitian history by by Bill Quigley's ZSpace Page. Bill Quigley is Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and a long-time Haiti human rights advocate. Quigley77@gmail.com

December 5, 1492: Columbus discovers Haiti (the island of Hispaniola)
1697: The Spaniards cede the western third of Hispaniola to the French crown at the Treaty of Ryswick. Haiti is now called "Saint Domingue".
1697-1791: Saint Domingue becomes the richest colony in the world. Its capital, Cap Français, is known as the Paris of the New World. It is also a regime of extraordinary cruelty; the 500,000 slaves taken by the French are flogged, starved, and buried alive for minor offenses.
August 1791: the first major black rebellion takes place, initiated by Boukman, a voodoo houngan. This begins the markings of civil war between the black dominated north and the mulatto dominated south.
1796: Toussaint L'Ouverture, an educated herb doctor and military man, emerges as the leader of the former slaves in the north. He restored order, ended the massacres, and restored some of Saint Domingue's former prosperity.

The US has worked for over two centuries to break Haiti. The US has used Haiti like a plantation, it has helped bleed the country economically since it freed itself, repeatedly invaded the country militarily, supported dictators who abused the people, used the country as a dumping ground for our own economic advantage, ruined their roads and agriculture, and toppled popularly elected officials. The US has even used Haiti like the old plantation owner and slipped over there repeatedly for sexual recreation.

In 1804, when Haiti achieved its freedom from France in the world's first successful slave revolution, the United States refused to recognize the country. The US continued to refuse recognition to Haiti for 60 more years. Why? Because the US continued to enslave millions of its own citizens and feared recognizing Haiti would encourage slave revolution in the US.

After the 1804 revolution, Haiti was the subject of a crippling economic embargo by France and the US. US sanctions lasted until 1863. France ultimately used its military power to force Haiti to pay reparations for the slaves who were freed. The reparations were 150 million francs. (France sold the entire Louisiana territory to the US for 80 million francs!)

Haiti was forced to borrow money from banks in France and the US to pay reparations to France. A major loan from the US to pay off the French was finally paid off in 1947. The current value of the money Haiti was forced to pay to French and US banks? Over $20 Billion - with a big B.

The US occupied and ruled Haiti by force from 1915 to 1934. President Woodrow Wilson sent troops to invade in 1915. Revolts by Haitians were put down by US military - killing over 2000 in one skirmish alone. For the next nineteen years, the US controlled customs in Haiti, collected taxes, and ran many governmental institutions. How many billions were siphoned off by the US during these 19 years?

From 1957 to 1986 Haiti was forced to live under US backed dictators "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvlaier. The US supported these dictators economically and militarily because they did what the US wanted and were politically "anti-communist" - now translatable as against human rights for their people. Duvalier stole millions from Haiti and ran up hundreds of millions in debt that Haiti still owes. Ten thousand Haitians lost their lives. Estimates say that Haiti owes $1.3 billion in external debt and that 40% of that debt was run up by the US-backed Duvaliers.

Thirty years ago Haiti imported no rice. Today Haiti imports nearly all its rice. Though Haiti was the sugar growing capital of the Caribbean, it now imports sugar as well. Why? The US and the US dominated world financial institutions - the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - forced Haiti to open its markets to the world. Then the US dumped millions of tons of US subsidized rice and sugar into Haiti - undercutting their farmers and ruining Haitian agriculture. By ruining Haitian agriculture, the US has forced Haiti into becoming the third largest world market for US rice. Good for US farmers, bad for Haiti.

In 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads. These are the same roads which relief teams are having so much trouble navigating now!

In 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti when they supported the coup against Haiti's elected President Aristide.

Haiti is even used for sexual recreation just like the old time plantations. Check the news carefully and you will find numerous stories of abuse of minors by missionaries, soldiers and charity workers. Plus there are the frequent sexual vacations taken to Haiti by people from the US and elsewhere. What is owed for that? What value would you put on it if it was your sisters and brothers?

US based corporations have for years been teaming up with Haitian elite to run sweatshops teeming with tens of thousands of Haitians who earn less than $2 a day.

The Haitian people have resisted the economic and military power of the US and others ever since their independence. Like all of us, Haitians made their own mistakes as well. But US power has forced Haitians to pay great prices - deaths, debt and abuse. It is time for the people of the US to join with Haitians and reverse the course of US-Haitian relations.

This brief history shows why the US owes Haiti Billions - with a big B. This is not charity. This is justice. This is reparations. The current crisis is an opportunity for people in the US to own up to our country's history of dominating Haiti and to make a truly just response. Why does the US owe Haiti Billions? Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, stated his foreign policy view as the "Pottery Barn rule." That is - "if you break it, you own it."

(For more on the history of exploitation of Haiti by the US see: Paul Farmer, THE USES OF HAITI; Peter Hallward, DAMNING THE FLOOD; and Randall Robinson, AN UNBROKEN AGONY).

The moral of this history is that our world has no shortage of evidence of abuse and excess even as I am writing this the colonial powers continue to utilize our sophisticated technology to bring real death and destruction to the world. There are those who consider hiding such historic facts a service to America, but I believe that with friends like those America needs no enemy. As a long time friend of the American people I believe we do the American people disservice by concealing the root causes of their proboems. An  Ethiopian saying, “Those who hide their wounds will never find a cure.”We must choose between being subservient to the greedy corporations and the American people who are misinformed and uninformed even about the history of their country. I call this helping the cause of ignorance during our Information Age.

I find it very disturbing that most of our news media concentrate on superficial aspects of disasters rather than their root cause. I found it more disturbing that on the first Sunday after Haitian quake even two of my favorite TV programs-Global Public Square and charles Osgood skipped the historic aspects of the American involvement in Haiti.  The fact that even the best of media is afraid of standing up to the greedy corporations and military-industrial complex should serve as a strong warning to the increasing assault on freedom and democracy and the dawning of tyranny and doomsday.

On the positive side we should still have a glimmer of hope for the future as evidenced by the enormous outpouring of help by the the people in America and other countries for Haiti after this disaster. In fact people are increasingly waking up to the reality to claim the control on their own destiny. It was refreshing that while surfing the net I came across this very touching comment by an America with anonymous signature:

“I pray for all the people that are hurt, killed and missing, but what about us! Say you live in a flood zone and it rained 10 inches and everything in your house has been ruined by the water. Is the American red cross going to help me when I cant afford flood insurance, or the insurance company wont give me insurance because my home is in a flood zone NO! They’ll just tell me there’s nothing they can do and then I screwed. A flood is a natural disaster what is the difference. I don’t see charity money when I suffer.

A Louisiana attorney general has launched inquiries into two of the country’s best-known charities — the American Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States - after receiving complaints that they misused some of the millions of dollars they raised in the fall to help the human and non-human victims of Hurricane Katrina.” That is what happened when the United States got hit with a disaster, what do you think is going on in a 3rd world country? Where is all the money going?”
-Just Thinking

Let us admit that if American governments during the past two hundred years had invested in  infrastructure of Haiti, that nation would never suffer this magnitude of death and destruction. It is up to the benevolent American people and decent international observers to see to it that this time around all this aid is put into a good use by considering the simple wisdom of giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish which is against the colonial mentality of creating dependency.  

For us as Iranian-Americans it is interesting to note that our motherland suffered about the same fate and the same uprising as the Haitians. Let us not forget that President Obama recently admitted to this misguided foreign policy. And, why do we repeat making the same mistake as we made in Cuba?

Whether we can avert the self-destruction of America and the world depends on the courage we muster to neutralize the efforts of warmongers and hate-mongers who would do anything in pursuit of their insatiable appetite for money and power including the destruction of themselves, their own country and their future generations. Let us not forget the historic lesson that if not for the constant influx of  freedom loving immigrants, America had succumbed to corporate greed and public apathy long time ago.

As long as America preaches freedom and democracy and practices colonial mentality, other lesser powers emulate and fuel the flame of wars for profit that is getting us closer to the doomsday we hear so much about. Once America launches a war on ignorance, abandons colonial mentality and cleans its own act, puts its economic house and stops bankrupting itself by fighting the futile wars it will never be America again. In 100 A.D. Epictetus said, “Only the educated are free.” America was founded on that noble assumption and abandoning that ideal only leads to self-destruction. 


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