There are so many tragedies wrapped up in the bloody chaos in Haiti. There's the specter of anarchy and further hardships in a nation already the poorest in the hemisphere. There's the possibility of death squad leaders coming to power. There's the frustration certain to set in when the jubilation (by some) at the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide turns to the difficulties at hand.
But a tragic result facing Americans is one we've been warned about, and now has come to pass: We don't believe our leaders' explanations. That was the concern raised before the invasion of Iraq, when it was clear the Bush administration was fabricating its rationale for war--that no one would believe us the next time.
Down deep, even many who supported the Iraq invasion know it's now difficult to believe the government's line on Haiti--even if some of it's true. We are told that Aristide, despite his protestations to the contrary, left of his own accord, concerned for his life. We are told he had become corrupt. We are told that the U.S., France and the U.N. want to establish a democratic government.
But look who's doing the telling. There's Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who stonewalled in his answers about the President's time in the Texas Air National Guard. There's Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, a protege of Jesse Helms who "has been dedicated to ousting Aristide for many, many years," according to Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, warns in The Guardian: "The ease with which the U.S. thereby brought down another Latin American democracy is stunning. What has been the CIA's role among the anti-Aristide rebels? How much U.S. money went from U.S. institutions and government agencies to help foment this uprising? Why did the White House abandon the Caribbean compromise proposal it endorsed just days before? These questions have not been asked. Then again, we live in an age when entire wars can be launched on phony pretences with few questions asked."
I have a friend who worked in Haiti for more than a decade as a journalist and then for the U.N. He covered Aristide from his days as a parish priest. I e-mailed him the other day to ask his view. It wasn't pretty:
"As for Aristide, he was a bad guy and deserved to go. He was democratically elected in 1990, but not in 2000. And he was never a democrat. He used armed gangs to neutralize the opposition by means of violence and intimidation. A very courageous movement of peaceful opposition protest marches led by a newly emerged civil society coalition began in late 2002, was beaten into temporary submission and then bounced back with even more strength in November 2003. Ultimately, this movement could have brought Aristide down.
"Unfortunately, one of Aristide's gangs in a provincial city (Gonaives) got out of control and started a relatively minor insurrection on Feb. 5. Thereupon, former members of the disbanded army (in exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic) jumped in and turned it into a major armed uprising. And now these guys, who include human rights violators, drug traffickers and death squad leaders, want a piece of the action in the new, post-Aristide Haiti. A very messy situation. The new Haiti could have been the result of immaculate conception. Instead, it was born in sin."
I don't pretend to know the whole truth. But my friend has credibility. The Bush Administration does not.