LT Rob Lyon, serving in Iraq I appreciate the support we have been getting here in Iraq. Knowing that folks like you are out there, not just for the support, but to provide much needed diversion, is greatly appreciated.
More evidence that, to the leftest, the US should only intervene to help people when we have NO national interests at stake.
In a local discussion on this point recently, I asked a left-thinker why the left was calling for intervention in Africa while opposing it in Iraq. He used the oil explanation. So, I asked: If we intervened, and discovered oil while there helping, would we have to get out immediately? Rather than answering, he went into a four-letter-word-filled tirade about how we right-wingers were so opinionated, stubborn, etc.
As a libertarian, I say don't intervene EXCEPT if national and world security interests are at stake, and then not to occupy, but only to knock the bad (guys) down to a local or regional problem (warning them "well be back" if they get too big for their borders again).
As the US puts its soldiers' boots on Haitian soil for the second time in a decade, questions are arising about what went wrong the first time, when the Clinton administration sent 20,000 Marines in 1994 to return to power a president deposed by a military coup.
Representatives of Haiti's civil society say the international role will be crucial in rebuilding, and that Haiti offers a key lesson: focus on institutions, not individuals.
"The Clinton administration - whose nation-building competence was largely discredited as a result of Somalia - had to proceed cautiously," says James Dobbins, who was Clinton's envoy to Haiti for two years after 1994 and worked on Afghanistan under the Bush administration. "The fears they had to answer then were of mission creep, so they agreed to an exit strategy - but that was not compatible with getting the job done."
Personally, I like Neal Boortz' [tongue-in-cheek] idea of declaring Haiti a protectorate of the UN, and appointing Al Sharpton the President for life. Jesse Jackson would make a great Ambassador, as he desperately needs a real job. I also like his idea of moving the UN headquarters there. That would give lots of Haitians jobs working in all the hotels, restaurants and bars which would open. A morning and evening flight from/to Atlanta could shuttle the reps in and out.
US marines guard the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (WALTER ASTRADA/AP)
So far, the UN coalition has performed a very limited role of defending key facilities, but with Guy Phillipe declaring himself the head of the military, and the rebels refusing to lay down their arms, more will have to be done to establish a lasting stability.
I'd like to see the US Marines pulled out, leaving the job to the French & Canadians, under the direction of the UN. Let's see how they do this time.
Marines in North Carolina are on notice that they could be called to duty off Haiti. The commander of 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (2200 Marines) at Camp Lejeune informed his troops a week ago that they might be deployed soon.
But White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said: "I wouldn't overinterpret the planning that's going on right now. We make appropriate contingency plans for circumstances. But right now we remain focused on finding a peaceful and democratic and constitutional solution to the situation in Haiti."
The US has issued a statement warning to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to rein in pro-government gangs (who are rampaging, looting, and murdering innocent civilians), while also calling on the rebels to halt their advance on the capital, Port-au-Prince.
This Caribbean capital descended into widespread lawlessness Friday, with armed gangs loyal to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide executing at least two suspected rebel collaborators in public, stealing vehicles at gunpoint and shooting at motorists trying to drive through streets blocked by flaming barricades.
AP (via ABC News) reports the rebel leader Guy Phillipe intends to besiege the Capital, rather than attack it:
Guy Philippe, commander of the motley group of Haitian rebels, said he intended to besiege the capital and "close the circle" around Aristide.
"We want to block Port-au-Prince totally," he told reporters in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city, which the rebels seized on Sunday. He said the rebels would try to cut land routes into the capital and would send two boats to attempt to prevent ships from bringing in supplies.
"Port-au-Prince now ... would be very hard to take it. It would be a lot of fight, a lot of death," Philippe said. "So what we want is desperation first."
The CS Monitor quotes Phillipe (center in photo below) as saying nobody is talking to him regarding peace negotiations.
No wonder no progress is being made with all the behind the scenes diplomacy. And where is Jimmy Carter when we need him - nailing nails somewhere? Isn't this exactly the kind of thing his center in Atlanta is supposed to address? (He actually was instrumental in avoiding the need for the 82nd to drop in and kick butt in '94).
He says he's been checking his e-mail at his motel room. (Ahh, modern rebellion technology! Wish they'd published his e-mail, and that of President Aristide. Perhaps we bloggers could work out a deal between him and Aristide, resulting in the first blog-facilitated peace negotiation.))
Rebels control most major cities now
We've already waited too long to restore order, and who really expected the French or Canadians to do anything? It will be a bigger job now, and the relatives of the innocent victims have new resentments. It's a vicious cycle, similar to Palestine and Northern Ireland.
For an in-depth look at the rise and fall of Aristide and the dream of democracy in Haiti, read this CS Monitor article.
Fri 27 FEB 04. Port-au-Prince. AP via ABC News. President Aristide continues to call for international intervention to save his administration as the rebels move ever closer, Colin Powell hints he should step down, and France continues to call for UN action.
Rebel leader Guy Philippe, speaking to an Associated Press reporter in Cap-Haitien on Thursday, said his forces were already converging on Port-au-Prince and would attack if Aristide did not resign.
On this PDF map of Haiti, if you zoom in you can see Mirebalais (map spelling) to the NE of Port-au-Prince (not to the SE as the linked report says), and Les Cayes (which has reportedly also fallen to the rebels) to the far SW.
It appears the rebels can move into Port-au-Prince anytime they like. The US is (so far) not PUBLICLY showing support for an elected official in a democracy in our own back yard, but may be making it clear BEHIND THE SCENES to the rebel leader that a coup will not be tolerated. I certainly hope so.
If the French want to come in and deal with the mess they created over 200 years ago, fine. But if they continue to fool around until it's too late trying to set up a UN coalition, we need to take care of business in our own neighborhood.
I'm willing to bet the 82nd is ready when Bush is. Or, the Marines can make a landing. [Hopefully, they know better than to do it at low tide, unlike these poor British troops (beret tip to Argghh!, who asks that you right click on the link and DL it, rather than play it off his site. Please comply.). That wouldn't look good on CNN. If they use the air cushion landing craft, it won't be a problem.] Or, if they don't wait too long, almost any military unit can simply walk down the ramp from a ship. A forced entry is only required when a tolerated entry is no longer possible.
My suggested solution: Send in a peacekeeping force ASAP (tonight would be good) to re-establish stability and avoid a mass exodus of boat people, then set up an internationally supervised recall vote. If Aristide is recalled, supervise an election. The rebel leader can run for President if he likes (assuming he's not guilty of violating any laws, in which case he should be in jail at the time).
Burning tires are annoying and smelly, but not really an adequate defense.
Well, a solid wall of black smoke would reduce visibility, but unfortunately it has a two-way effect.
Thu 26 FEB 04. BBC. Both the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) are due to hold urgent debates on Haiti later on Thursday.
The BBC's Stephen Gibbs in Port-au-Prince says the semblance of normality that continued even as rebels were taking over northern towns and cities has almost all but gone.
Intervention is necessary to avoid mass chaos and another armada to Florida, and the sooner the better. If the French believe it should be done, it's their turn. Stop begging for a UN force, Frenchies. Just go for it! We don't mind if you take unilateral action. We'll allow a variance to the Monroe Doctrine in this case.
The time for talking appears to be about over. It's s#@% or get off the pot and let s#@% happen time.
A good test question for the politicians
This situation presents us with an opportunity to test both President Bush and the two leading Democratic candidates, by getting their BEFORE and AFTER opinions.
John Kerry has already blamed the Bush administration, at least in part, for the current situation.
"I think the administration has missed a lot of opportunities, in fact, has exacerbated the situation over the last two years with its cutoff of humanitarian assistance and its attitude towards the Aristide administration," Mr. Kerry said. "So they sort of created the environment within which the insurgency could grow and take root, and now they're trying to manage it, I think."
Why do I get the feeling that no matter what Bush did or did not do regarding Haiti, John Kerry would find something to criticize?
Here's what Kerry says he'd do:
He said that if he were president, he would be pressing Haitian rebels to back off their goal of toppling Mr. Aristide, perhaps by threatening the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.
"I think you've got to be real and threatening," he said. His message to the rebels, he said, would be: "You're not going to take over, you're not kicking him out, this democracy is going to be sustained, we're willing to put in a new government, new prime minister, we're willing to work with you, but you're not going to succeed in your goal of exiling" Mr. Aristide. "And unless that's clear, you can't necessarily stop it in its tracks."
"This democracy is going to be sustained." RIGHT ANSWER. I suspect Colin Powell has told Philippe essentially the same thing. Now let's see if JfK criticizes GWB if he has to back it up with boots on the ground.
It's important to note JfK included the word "international" in regard to a peacekeeping force. Somebody should have asked a followup question: "What would you do if the UN did not agree to an international peacekeeping force?" Does he believe, like Dean, that we cannot act without UN permission?
I've not seen what John Edwards would do, if he's even been asked, but will add it here when and if I see it.
In a democracy (ours, anyway), a leader is legally ousted before his elected term is over by impeachment (by representatives of the people), by a recall vote (by the people), by resignation (of his own accord), or by death (by natural causes). (Did I overlook anything?) The US should insure Aristide is ousted by only one of these means.
National Revolutionary Front chief commander Guy Philippe (R) walks around his hotel in Cape Haitien, Haiti, February 25, 2004. Philippe vowed to walk into the capital of Port Au Prince along with his troops in less than 10 days. (Carlos Villalon/Reuters)
I'm still wondering who is supplying weapons to the rebels. This is an M14. Other images show M16s. I suppose they could have taken them from government troops or arsenals, once they got rolling. I've yet to see a rebel holding an AK-47 type weapon.
Al Jazeera photo
Moving day for many in Port-au-Prince
The United States is sending about 50 Marines to Haiti to protect its embassy and other U.S. facilities in the Caribbean nation, where an armed revolt to unseat President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has intensified, officials said on Monday.
From what I've read, it's time to EVACUATE all Americans, until things stabilize.
An opposition coalition was on the brink Monday of rejecting a U.S.-backed peace plan because it did not require Aristide to resign. But Secretary of State Colin Powell phoned opposition politicians and persuaded them to delay their formal response for 24 hours, according to Evans Paul, a leading opponent once allied with Aristide.
With the rebels headed toward the capital, it wouldn't surprise me to hear soon that Aristide has flown out of the country, while he still can. The US might even help him escape.
Aristide was elected (though there were irregularity questions) in a democracy. Democracies change administrations via votes at scheduled intervals, or in some cases recall votes, not military coups. He has reportedly violated civil rights, ruling with a heavy hand. The US proposal of adding a Prime Minister has been rejected by the rebels. No peaceful solution with Aristide still in power appears possible.
Perhaps a multinational peacekeeping force supervising a recall vote (something the British have which we could use) and a new election is called for. Not surprisingly, France has now said it will only send troops as part of a multinational force. The talk will soon be overtaken by events.
Haiti's problems go all the way back to 1804 when the nation was founded by a slave revolt against the French.
The bigger question (asked before in an 18 FEB 04 ACE post) is: Will the US allow a coup (something like the 14th in the tiny country's history)? [The last time Aristide was overthrown by a coup, the US restored him to power.] From all reports, we should know soon. The rebels claim an attack on the capital is "imminent."
I'd like to think our response to this crisis is based on principles and established policies, and not influenced by our current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor the fact it is an election year, but I'm afraid that would be naive.
I do know (actually, I assume based on my experience there over three decades ago) the 82nd is ready when the President is, just as it was in '94, when the drop was called off just 3 hours before it was scheduled.
Where did the rebels buy their firearms?
AP image at BBC News
Isn't that an M1 or M14? Another image showed a rebel carrying an M16:
AP image at ABC News
(He's firing a celebratory shot, not shooting at snipers or birds in trees.)
Who's selling them weapons?
US citizens can buy M1, M14, and M16 look-alikes from numerous companies. Without researching it, I don't know if there are any restrictions on sales to Haiti. (Of course, if there are not restrictions on sales to anywhere outside the US, the rebels could have bought them from arms dealers in other countries.) I do seem to recall we supposedly cleansed the country of assault weapons before we left in '99.
The Bush administration said Thursday it would send a military team to Haiti to assess the security of the U.S. Embassy there, but stressed that it is still looking for a political solution to the bloody uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Lawrence DiRita told reporters that U.S. Ambassador James Foley had requested the military team, which is expected to consist of three or four experts from U.S. Southern Command, the military command with authority over the Caribbean, Pentagon spokesman Di Rita told reporters at a press conference.
Also Thursday, a band of rebels declared their independence in Gonaives, a city of 200,000 residents about 100 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. Two weeks after they drove police away in the opening salvo of the armed uprising, the insurgents named a gang leader as their president and an exiled police chief charged with a past coup attempt as head of their armed forces.
"Alone we are weak, together we are strong, together we are the resistance," shouted Buteur Metayer, head of a group once known as the Cannibal Army, chanting along with more than 20,000 supporters in Gonaives, Reuters reported. The rebels named their country "Artibonite," after the rice-growing region surrounding the city.
18 FEB 04. Washington. NY Times. Christopher Marquis. The Bush administration on Tuesday [all but] ruled out sending American troops or police to quell the political violence in Haiti, while Canada and France said they would deploy their police only as part of a political settlement there.
Mr. Powell said. "What we want to do right now is find a political solution, and then there are willing nations that would come forward with a police presence to implement the political agreement that the sides come to."
Mr. Powell said the United States would not support Mr. Aristide's removal in a coup. "We cannot buy into a proposition that says the elected president must be forced out of office by thugs," the secretary said.
The question at hand is: Will we allow a democracy in the Western Hemisphere (flawed as it is) to be overthrown by a coup, which will probably result in a military dictatorship?
Or, will we stop the coup, re-establish law & order, and work with the UN to re-establish a just democracy?
Situation deteriorating rapidly
Mon 18 FEB 04. Independent. The armed rebellion in Haiti extended its reach over the central third of the country yesterday after 50 men led by a former army death-squad commander stormed the town of Hinches, near the border with the Dominican Republic, killing the police chief and breaking open the local prison.
The raid on Hinches, which witnesses described as a furious gun battle lasting about two hours on Monday evening, marked a sharp escalation of the 11-day conflict which has claimed more than 50 lives. From their base in the port of Gonaives, the rebels, backed by some of the most sinister elements in the disbanded Haitian military, have now divided the country in two.
The rebels control the whole of Artibonite, the central region that is one of Haiti's few fertile areas of food production. They have vowed to march north of the port of Cap-Haitien, the country's second largest city, where pro-Aristide gangs have waged a bitter campaignagainst opposition sympathisers in recent days.
Also Tuesday, airlines in Port-au-Prince canceled flights to the Cap-Haitien, a city of a half-million people, after witnesses in the barricaded city saw a boat approach and rumors swept the town that rebels were about to attack.
The operation in Hinches was led by Louis Jodel Chamblain, who ran death squads in the 1980s and later headed a notorious paramilitary organization called Fraph, which terrorised Haiti in the aftermath of the 1991 coup that ousted President Aristide during his first term. Eyewitnesses said Mr Chamblain's men killed the police chief, Jonas Maxime, his bodyguard and another uniformed officer.
Amnesty Internation issued a 16 FEB 04 press release in which it encouraged the rapid arrest of Chamblain and others known for their rights abuses in the past. Easier said than done.
Without intervention, military dictatorship is likely outcome
Mr Aristide is the democratically elected leader, with two more years of his mandate to run. But his dependence on armed thugs and criminals to shore up his authority has earned him the mistrust of most, if not all, of the international community.
According to an Independent correspondent, Andrew Gumbel, the rebels are being manipulated and apparently taken over by disgruntled former army officers who, if left to their own devices, would probably return Haiti to the dictatorship and military terror of the Duvalier era. Although such a prospect is being publicly deplored, diplomatic sources in Port-au-Prince say.
Gumbel says world leaders are pondering a difficult question:
"Western governments are increasingly wondering if Haiti would be more stable - at least, from their point of view - under a dictatorship rather than Mr Aristide's flawed version of democracy."
French & Canadians will not step in until the fight is over
French and Canadian officials said Tuesday that they were ready to augment Haiti's 4,000-member police force once the violence stopped. [Technically speaking, that would be a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but we'd no doubt make an exception for a humanity mission.]
That leaves the question of what country is "man enough" (just a phrase, ladies) to stop the violence?
As mentioned in an recent ACE post, the United States sent 20K American troops to Haiti in 1994 to oversee the reinstatement of Mr. Aristide as president after he was overthrown in a coup in 1991. 2.5K of them remained after six months as part of a UN peacekeeping force, and remained until '99. Last minute negotiations avoided an 82nd Airborne drop, called off just 3 hours before planned drop time.
A flawed democracy
Aristide, who was wildly popular when he became Haiti's first freely elected leader in 1990, has lost support since his party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000. He is accused of using police and armed militants to stifle dissent and allowing corruption to fund lavish lifestyles for his cronies as the majority of the 8 million people suffer deeper misery.
Do we protect a democracy which has gone bad against a military coup d'etat which is likely to result in a non-democratic form of government? Does it depend on the "leanings" of the leader of the coup? Is there a way we could impose new elections, which might satisfy the people and deprive the coup of fuel?
Does the US covertly support coups to eliminate governments we don't like?
The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, yesterday angrily accused the United States of being behind a 2002 coup and of helping continuing opposition attempts to overthrow him. The US denies both accusations. Peter DeShazo, US deputy assistant Secretary of State for western hemisphere affairs, urged the election authorities not to use technicalities to invalidate petitions demanding a recall referendum that could lead to a new presidential election. Relations between Venezuela, a top oil supplier, and the US have been strained over Mr Chavez's friendship with Cuba's Fidel Castro and his open criticism of Washington-backed free market policies.
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was non-committal about whether France would send a peacekeeping force to the Caribbean nation. He told Inter radio that France was in contact with its partners in the framework of the United Nations, which has set up a humanitarian mission.
The announcement came after Haitian President Jean-Bertand Aristide appealed for international help as rebels appeared to widen their grip on the Caribbean nation of 8 million after seizing the key central town of Hinche.
A notorious Haitian militia leader named Louis Jodel Chamblain and an exiled former police chief, Guy Philippe, slipped into the country over the weekend from neighboring Dominican Republic to join the rebels in Gonaives, whose revolt spread to several other towns and has killed more than 50 people so far. Chamblain, wearing a camouflaged bush hat, military uniform and carrying an AK-47 and sidearm, rode into Hinche in a column of four-wheel-drive vehicles, accompanied by around 25 armed men.
The CS Monitor has a good Q&A page explaining what's behind the uprising.
The media, which seems only able to handle a handful of story lines at a time, is all but ignoring what's happening in Haiti, but, trust me, Condi Rice and the Defense Department are on top of it!
Doubt the French are scaring them, but they better watch the skies
While the French call it a "peacekeeping mission," they are really talking about a humanitarian mission, which doesn't solve the problem. My guess is the 82nd Airborne is finalizing a plan to restore democracy, law, and order right now, with maps up in the war room, as it did in '94.
The 82nd Airborne Division was tasked to conduct an airborne assault to seize Port Au Prince International Airport and to secure key objectives in Port Au Prince and the surrounding area to oust Haiti's military dictator. Several months of rigorous training had been conducted prior to the invasion to ensure that the mission would be a success. Less than three hours from drop time, however, the mission was terminated, and the aircraft returned with the 82nd units to Pope Air Force Base. Last minute negotiations and the knowledge that paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne were enroute proved to be the decisive factors in the Haitian dictator's decision to submit to United Nations directives and U.S. resolve to restore the duly elected government to power.
This is an excellent test of whether the 82nd has been able to maintain its 18-hr worldwide crisis response mission despite heavy involvement in Iraq. In 1970, we found the drain of individual officers to Vietnam had left the 82nd less than optimized for its primary mission of rapid response (though we would still have accomplished the mission had the bluff not been sufficient to send Arafat & Co. running).
President Clinton called off the invasion, and more than 20,000 U.S. troops peacefully entered Haiti to maintain security and re-establish the democratic government. U.S. troops peaked at about 22,000, followed by a gradual drawdown and replacement by multinational forces from 28 nations. About 2,400 U.S. service members donned blue peacekeeper berets in March 1995 and became part of a U.N. mission. The last of the US troops were pulled out in '99.
The mere threat of sending in the 82nd Airborne has been sufficient to resolve a number of military crises in the past, including the "Black September" crisis in Jordan when this old soldier was in the 307th Engineers of the 82nd Airborne Division. (The American public never heard how close we were to going in at the time, but it's since been declassified.) The bad guys know we're not bluffing, and if the 82nd goes to the trouble to come (which it can do within days, anywhere in the world - no long shipment of vehicles in ships - we're talking AIRBORNE here!), it will be kicking some serious butt.
Military power is at its best when the mere preparation to use it is sufficient to achieve objectives.
Tues 17 FEB 04: Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday "there is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence." I still don't think the US will alllow Chamlain to pull off a coup. To paraphrase what GWB said about Iraq, we didn't come this far just to let democracy fail now.
The police cannot handle the situation in Port-au-Prince