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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A RETREAT FROM HAPPINESS

I had originally intended this post to be made last week, but the utterly ridiculous and unconstitutional Supreme Court decision lifting all restrictions on corporate campaign contributions derailed my initial plan. IMPEACH JOHN ROBERTS!

Here, now, retitled and rewritten, is the post I had earlier intended to make...



It states in our Declaration of Independence "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."

It would appear that we in the United State have viewed that statement as pertaining only to us, or to those living within our borders. For, ever since our independence, we have taken it upon ourselves to meddle in and dominate the affairs of nearly every other nation in our hemisphere. Haiti is but one example, as I will outline below.

Haiti, a former French colony for slaves, won its independence from France in 1804. Undoubtedly fearful of a nearby nation made up of freed blacks and wishing to protect its own slave-driven economy in the American South, the U.S. and a number of other countries immediately began a boycott of Haiti. Naturally, this crippled the Haitian economy and helped cause unrest. Former abusive white French slaveowners were understandably killed or exiled, a number of whom migrated to New Orleans. Years of instability followed. In 1825, France's King Charles X displatched a fleet to reconquer the island. Hasty negotiations between Haiti and France produced a treaty whereby France recognized Haiti's independence in exchange for a payment of 150 million francs as reparation for lost slave profits. While this figure was reduced to 90 million francs thirteen years later, it was still a huge and unjust burden on the tiny Haitian economy. Beginning in 1843, a long succession of coups and instability plagued the country. Its weakened state made it fall prey to economic exploitation from businessmen of many countries. On a number of occasions, various French, German, British, and U.S. forces have laid claim to large sums of money in the National Bank of Haiti. U.S. Marines occupied the country from 1915-1934, taking over Haiti's banks and forcibly repealed a Haitian law which had made foreign ownership of Haitian land illegal. (Curiously enough, little mention of this is made in U.S. history texts). Instability and periods of outright oppression continued long after the Marines pulled out. From 1957-1986, the country was ruled by the father-son "Papa Doc" and then "Baby Doc" Duvalier regime. A revolt against corruption and neglect broke out in 1986, creating further instability and resulting in Baby Doc's exile to France.

In 1990, former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristede won election as Haiti's President with two-thirds of the vote, under a new constitution. But his use of paramilitary forces caused him to quickly lose favor and be forced into exile. The military began de facto rule of the country. In 1994, the U.S. sent a team to negotiate the departure of the military to pave the way for democratic elections. U.S. forces entered the country peacefully under the Operation Uphold Democracy campaign, which proved to be a good move. Aristede returned then to resume his term in office, and relenquished it in 1996, as he would have originally. He ran for and again won re-election in 2000, although this election was boycotted by his opposition and so only about 10% of eligible voters took part. More instability followed. In 2004, Aristede and his wife were spirited away in the middle of the night, allegedly by the CIA and anti-Aristede forces, and put on a one-way flight to the Central African Republic. Charges of embezzlement, drug trafficking, and corruption were raised against him, but who knows what the actual truth is? One thing remains certain: repeated European and American interference in Haiti's economic and internal affairs for more than 200 years has not helped the country. Instead, it has ensured its instability.

As I began looking into historical U.S.-Haiti relations, I was astounded to see the huge amount of interference we have had with not only Haiti's, but ALL of Latin America's affairs over the past 100+ years. Just look at this ridiculously long list (and it's only a PARTIAL):

1900 - U.S. troops occupy Puerto Rico.
1903 - U.S. intervened in Panama's struggle with Colombia so as to be able to build the Panama Canal.
1906 - U.S. invades Cuba to supress revolutionary activity.
1910 - U.S. invades Nicaragua during her civil war.
1912 - U.S. mercenaries illegally invade Honduras to prevent the Honduran government from acquiring a U.S.-owned railroad.
1912-1920 - U.S. troops reoccupy Nicaragua to maintain American control.
1915-1934 - U.S. troops occupy Haiti.
1930 - U.S. troops enter Guatemala to protect our interests there.
1934 - U.S. troops prevent a trade union strike in El Salvador. U.S. warships stand offshore during a peasant revolution.
1947 - U.S. troops invade Paraguay to defeat a liberation movement.
1950 - U.S. intervenes to supress an independent movement.
1954 - CIA organizes a military coup against a popularly-elected leftist government in Guatemala which threatened to nationalize the U.S.-owned conglomerate American Fruit Company.
1961 - CIA plans, funds, and carries out Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
1965 - U.S. lands 20,000 troops in Dominican Republic to quell a leftist uprising.
1973 - Nixon administration and CIA engineer military coup against popularly-elected Marxist government in Chile, culminating in murder of Chilean President Salvador Allende and installation of brutally repressive right wing Pinochet dictatorship.
1970s - CIA supports bloody Somoza dictatorship over rising popularity of the Sandinistas, and undermines Sandanista government once in power.
1982-1986 - U.S. mercenaries support brutally oppressive right-wing dictatorship in El Salvador civil war.
1999-present - U.S. undermines UN and uses the WTO to bully poorer countries into restructuring their economies to benefit huge multinational corporations. Hugo Chavez is elected President of Venezuela, proclaims friendship with Cuba, and begins a broad, leftist reform campaign.
2002 - Hugo Chavez is briefly overthrown in a coup d'etat he alleges occurred as a result of U.S. backing. He regains power after a few months. Who knows if what he alleges is true?


Today, once again, U.S. troops have been dispatched to Haiti, ostensibly to preserve order and provide relief assistence in the wake of Haiti's recent devastating earthquake. This may actually be the case, and, naturally, we hope so. But given our sordid record of frequent political and military intervention throughout Latin America since our own beginning, we cannot say for sure. And, in light of our checkered past regarding our southern neighbors, how can Fidel Castro OR Hugo Chavez be rightfully castigated for having referred to us as their big devil to the north? For, as we have been busy with our own pursuit of happiness, have we not often simultaneously been responsible for a retreat FROM happiness among our southern neighbors?

COMING SOON: AN INSIDER'S VIEW OF CUBA!

10 comments:

Stimpson said...

Powerful stuff.

Another thing I've learned recently about Haiti is that it had a state-operated flour mill which it was forced by the IMF to privatize in 1997 (a year after Aristide left office). The mill was sold to U.S. interests and shut down in a couple of years. Now Haitians, who would benefit from a local source for a staple like flour, have no flour mill of their own.

When I saw Bill Clinton and G.W. Bush were joining forces to help Haiti, I thought "What hypocrites!!!" They destabalized Aristide and essentially engineered a coup against him. Bush's people kidnapped him and took him away from his homeland. Now Bush and Clinton are Haiti's friends? Well, they could have been a lot friendlier and more helpful in the past.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Lots of history there Jack! Whoa. TY. I purchase essential oils from Haiti, well, I used to. My company / people down there are lost, can't get any info. I think that the opportunity for some responsible companies / philanthropists to engage in rebuilding a GREEN Haiti, a sustainable country that would serve as an example to the globe. But, I'm a dreamer. Ain't givin' it up neither, but wouldn't that be great? :-)

TRUTH 101 said...

We propped up the Shaw. Nothing surprises me anymore Jack. My days of outrage at things my nation has done are over. It's now simply a feeling of wonder. as in I wonder what else we did?

Beach Bum said...

Seeing George W Bush and Bill Clinton sitting together always brings the image to my mind of a matter/antimatter collision.

U.S. Marines occupied the country from 1915-1934, taking over Haiti's banks and forcibly repealed a Haitian law which had made foreign ownership of Haitian land illegal. (Curiously enough, little mention of this is made in U.S. history texts).

Sounds a lot like Hawaii, even the lack of mention in the textbooks. Poor Haiti had the bad luck to be right in our backyard and not in some critical geo-political area.

Lisa G. said...

Clinton is a "special envoy" to Haiti, whatever the hell that is. I guess they had to fish GWB out of the drunk tank to get him down there to help.

I'm not surprised at our interventionist history - although that is certainly an extensive list. But then again, we're never happy minding our own business. We're an impatient lot; we can't wait for someone to invite us somewhere. Given our history though, I can't say we'd be welcome many places.

Excellent post Jack.

Oh, and John Roberts couldn't find his ass with both hands. His toddlers would do a better job as Supreme Court Justices. And what man in their 50's has toddlers? And what's with their little sailor outfits? Me thinks that whole family is whacked.

Jack Jodell said...

Good points, Stimpson. Your tale of the flour mill is a perfect illustration of the point I made about the WTO (AND IMF) bullying poorer nations into doing things THEIR way instead of what would really benefit the poorer nation. Is it any wonder there are mass protests every time and place there is a WTO or IMF meeting? And the clinton-Bush collusion on Haiti as well as in matters of "free trade" has disturbed me for a very long time.
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Gwendolyn,
I love your dream but fear it may be overtaken by further multinational corporate attempts to exploit those poor people again. Sorry about the lost 7 you described---let's hope and pray they will turn up ok!
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Truth101,
I share your frustration, but I will never lose my outrage. It's been with me ever since Vietnam. I didn't stand for my government being out of line then, won't now, and never will.
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Beach Bum,
Something confounds logic in the Clinton-Bush collusion: when matter and antimatter meet, there is supposed to be a massive explosion. When those two meet, though, all we get is the same ol' sh*t! :-)
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Thanks, Lisa G.
That list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our foreign intervention. It is very deflating to think of the domineering shenanigans we've pulled all across the globe. We seem to be obsessed with minding other peoples' business for them. As for the Roberts crew, I think they'd feel right at home with those wacko Heenes. Maybe both families should go up in a hot air ballooon and never come down!

MadMike said...

Bush/Clinton: Matter and anti-matter! Yes! Jack thanks for this fine piece. I love history, all history, and although I knew we had been swashbuckling down south for decades I had no idea it was to such an extent.

mud_rake said...

Your 'muckraking' skills are honed sharply, Jack. This expose' of the struggle that these people endured is amazing and utterly disheartening.

Thanks for your dogged determination to bring the truth to our attention.

SJ said...

Outstanding Jack. Better than the coverage and background on the disaster I've seen in the news.
-SJ

Jack Jodell said...

mud_rake and SJ,
I am humbled by your kind words, and I am grateful for the heart and insight you both (as well as everyone on this comment page) share.