The true extent of an injustice is measured, when the perpetrator feels insulted by the agony of the victim. As insulting this hypothesis is, it has been the guiding principle behind the relations between Haiti and the international community, from 1804 to the present. To that effect, Haiti, the victim, is invariably vilified for resisting the advances or complaining about the punishments meted out by the perpetrator, i.e. the international community. Hence, in the twisted version of the reality, Haiti’s dismal state of affairs is not the result of underhanded machinations by the international community (induced instability, economic embargoes, meddling, extortions, intimidations and military interventions) but the shortsightedness of Haitians and their leaders (adherence to Vodou and other idiosyncrasies) who refuse to embrace western values.
Be that as it may, why are so many countries in Africa and the Caribbean, which have wholeheartedly embraced the prescriptions of the international community, remain mired in poverty and underdevelopment? Because the axis of economic and political power has been North America, Europe and East Asia, many commentators and authors (the great majority working for government-financed think tanks) prefer the euphemism “benign neglect” to describe the situation, which implies that geopolitical considerations, not calculated mistreatment is the most plausible explanation. The term however does not accurately explain Haiti’s situation, because everything has been done to stifle that country’s social, political and economic development since its inception to the present under a policy meant to punish, humiliate and bring its people on their knees.
Besides the hostilities of the great powers (Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the U.S) at the beginning of the 19th century, Haiti was isolated within the Western Hemisphere as its southern neighbors on whose behalf Haitian blood were spilled simply turned their back on the beleaguered country. At the Congress of Panama held in Panama City from 22 June to 15 July 1826, widely considered the precursor to the Pan-American Union and later OAS (Organization of the American States), Haiti, the second-oldest republic of the Americas (1804), was not even invited. The spirit of American solidarity was simply not applicable to Haiti, which had one year earlier (April 14, 1825) been subjected to the most onerous treaty ever imposed by one nation upon another. Even the Monroe Doctrine (1823), conceived by Washington as a hemispheric shield against European interference in the internal affairs of the newly created countries of the Americas, was not extended to the lone Negro Republic. The reason: Haiti was then perceived as an abomination and an existential threat to western civilization and all that it stood for, e.g. white supremacy and enslavement of non-whites, a fallacy that followed the country to the present-day.
On the 14th of April 1825, with 14 warships facing Port-au-Prince and the French threatening to resume hostilities and re-imposing slavery, the Haitian government, cut off from international support and under the threat of an invasion, acquiesced to France’s demand for an indemnity of 150 million gold francs for the material losses incurred during Haiti’s war of independence (1791-1803). This insult was unquestionably the beginning of Haiti’s decent into poverty since servicing the ransom prevented the country from building the necessary infrastructures for its development. Thus, the notion that corrupt strongmen are responsible for the present-day situation in Haiti is a smokescreen designed by the international community to exculpate itself from any responsibilities.
Fast forward to February 29, 2004 and the policy of deprivation and subjugation becomes clearer. On that fateful day, Haiti is invaded by French and U.S forces and its democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, flown to the far away Central African Republic in gross violation of international laws. Adding insult to injury, hours later the U.N Security Council declares the country “a threat to international peace and security” under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which deals with threats to peace and security in the world. The reason: in 2003, the Haitian government, having made clear its intention to seek the restitution of the ransom money, was on the verge of filing a claim against France, which could have embarrassed the former slave-owning countries that have re-invented themselves as standard-bearers for human rights and decency. Therefore, the invasion and occupation of Haiti in the year of the bicentennial of its epic victory against injustice and oppression was premeditated and in line with the evil policy of isolation and subjugation in place since 1804.
As Karl Von Clausewitz, the famous 19th century Prussian general (1780-1831) correctly wrote: “War is a continuation of politics by other means”. He should however have added that propaganda is essential in achieving the goals. In the months leading to the February 29, 2004 invasion of Haiti, the demonization of Jean Bertrand Aristide was so comprehensive that the underlying causes of the crisis never got the attention of the Haitian people who naturally became immersed in the induced euphoria. Meanwhile the alternatives to Aristide’s rule, (the occupation, the Gérard Latortue regime (2004-06) and that of René Préval (2006?), and the headlong integration of Haiti’s economy into the global system), have yet to bring the stability which seemed the logical outcome to his unorthodox removal from power.
As the cycle of oppression and emancipation remains an inescapable reality of history, Haiti will, once again, free itself from injustice and oppression. For its people, it would certainly be the Second Coming.