The other day my colleague attached was a document entitled “National Security Study Memorandum 70 – Haiti”
The classified document was written on January 8, 1970 and unclassified on April 16, 2002.
It was sent by Max Antoine our columnist and in the body of the email, he wrote “good reading.”
The email sat unread in my in box for a couple of days, having forgotten about it and was about to delete it and had a change of heart. I printed the document and could not put it down. I don’t think I need to say anything further. I have selected a few passages that I think put our beloved Haiti in context in the eyes of American officials of that period. I don’t think much has evolved over the years. This is a direct challenge to us living here in the United states to begin the hard work of turning this around.
“The trouble with Haiti is that it cannot reasonable be considered a member of the hemispheric community, and yet there it is, right in the middle of the Caribbean. The trouble with Haiti is that its leadership has been a succession of scoundrels, each of whom has driven the country further into darkness and desolation. The trouble with Haiti is that it is barely a country, yet its resident and expatriate would-be elites demand that it be treated like one. The trouble with Haiti is that it won’t respond to anybody’s therapy. Even if Haiti’s trouble should be compounded by violence and un uncertain succession after Duvalier passes from the scene, its hemispheric neighbors would be little tempted to press for intervention. And no matter who succeeds Duvalier, Haiti’s troubles are not likely to be relieved.”
The 32 page document was essentially what the US should do after Francois Duvalier passes on. It shows clearly that the US was not a fan of the old dictator and was on to him from the beginning. They didn’t buy his anti-Communist rhetoric, showing clearly that he let the Communists roam freely in Haiti because they pose no threat to his reign.
“Duvalier remains an absolute despot; as long as he lives in control of his mental faculties he will not accept rivals nor groom a successor. In general, retention of the status quo is about the best the U.S should now seek, for our vital national interests in Haiti are not greatly threatened now nor are the likely to be in the foreseeable future.”
In describing the people, it said: “The lot of the people – the 90% who are illiterate and who subsist as peasant farmers or city slum dwellers – has not changed basically in the past 12 years.
“The various Haitian exile groups – split among themselves by personal rivalries – do not seem to be sufficiently strong to threaten the regime. Located for the most part in New York, they are disorganized and lack resources. Their strength can be numbered by dozens rather than hundreds.”
POLICY CONCEPTS HITHERTO PURSUED
“The United States has played a crucial role in twentieth century Haiti. Our early involvement, inspired by fears of increasing European influence in Haiti, later took the form of attempts to help Haiti modernize and develop. This has in turn implied certain responsibilities both in our eyes and those of the Haitians.”
“Since World War II, our involvement has been limited mainly to economic and military assistance programs. Before 1957, these consisted principally of $30 million in long term Export-Import Bank loans (including $27 million for the Peligre Dam), a small technical assistance program, military training, and hurricane relief. “
After our AID Mission withdrew in 1963, we continued to support a few humanitarian assistance projects (principally malaria eradication and PL 480 food distribution) of only marginal political value to Duvalier. Most of the current US assistance is channeled to the Haitian people through multi-lateral or private charitable institutions. We have avoided bilateral assistance or other support to the Haitian Government, and have concentrated on humanitarian relief of hunger and disease, local community development, and financing some multilateral technical assistance to the Haitian Government. Our $3-4 million in annual grant assistance is divided as follows:
$1-2 million in PL-480 food donations through CARE and church group
About $1.5 million for malaria eradication (administered by the U.S. Public Health Service, the Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF and the Haitian Government
About $150,000 annually to support OAS technical mission (from the $475,000 U.S grant to the OAS in FY 1968 for this purpose)
About $120,000 granted to CARE for community development and family planning in northwest Haiti; and
A $40,000 special activities project to support local self-help activities.
U.S. interest in Haiti is based on:
Its location in the Caribbean, near Florida and Cuba, and bordering Dominican Republic;
The $50-60 million in U.S. private investment, the substantial American missionary and charitable activities, and the fact that about 1,000 of our citizens are residents there;
Haiti’s role as a member of the United Nations and the Inter-American system;
A humanitarian concern about the poverty, illiteracy, and ill-health of its people.
Our objectives are to:
Ensure that Haiti does not become a hostile military base under Communist control threatening the security of the U.S. (e.g., Cuban missile crisis)
Prevent to the extent politically feasible, Haiti from becoming a base or haven for subversion, anti-U.S. attitudes, extremism, and racism in the Caribbean.
Protect U.S. lives
Alleviate conditions of misery and deprivation, out of humanitarian concern for the Haitian people
Avoid supporting the Duvalier dictatorship
Stimulate Inter-American and other multilateral interest and involvement in social, economic and other problems of Haiti (including emergency problems of public order and political transition that may arise when Duvalier leaves the scene).
Protect, to the extent feasible, property and other interests of U.S. citizens.
Encourage the establishment of more stable and progressive institutions in the post-Duvalier period.
Unfortunately the authors of this report failed miserably to predict that Duvalier would hand over power to his 19-year old son who continued the ruinous path and has led to this endless cycle of violence and poverty. So my fellow Haitian Americans we have a lot of work to do. Are we willing to rise to the challenge?