Editor's Note | Matthew Rothschild
George W. Bush chalked up another overthrow, this time that of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. No Mandela, Aristide was still the democratically elected leader of Haiti. His overthrow has all the earmarks of a successful U.S. destabilization campaign.
First, the Bush Administration strangled Haiti's economy by blocking U.S. foreign aid and pressuring other countries and the World Bank to hold off. For this poorest country in the hemisphere, such an aid embargo proved devastating.
Second, the Administration was in cahoots with Aristide's opponents for some time. Bush hardliners, such as White House adviser Otto Reich and Robert Noriega, U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, actively promoted regime change in Haiti.
"Ambassador Noriega is working closely with the opposition in Haiti," the Congressional Black Caucus wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell shortly before the overthrow of Aristide. Noriega, who was heading the State Department's negotiations there, used to be Senator Jesse Helms's chief of staff, which gives you a big clue. Noriega "has a long history of being aligned with the anti-Aristide business owners in Haiti and undermining the democratically elected governments of Haiti," the letter from the Black Caucus said.
Third, the United States may have helped out the armed rebels, even though many of them had blood all over their résumés. Aristide's general counsel, Ira Kurzban, accused Washington of direct involvement with the rebels. "This is a group that is armed by, trained by, and employed by the intelligence services of the United States," Kurzban told Amy Goodman and Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now!
"I am especially concerned by the possibility that the U.S. government may have armed and trained the former military officers and death squad leaders" who carried out the coup, said Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California.
Fourth, as the rebels gained ground, the Administration played a little game. Colin Powell said a group of thugs couldn't be allowed to take down a democratic government. But then the Bush Administration refused to intervene to keep Aristide in power. Instead, it said it would send troops only on the condition that he step down.
Finally, the Administration forced him out, even spiriting him out of the country against his will, according to Aristide.
As Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, told ABC News, "We are just as much a part of this coup d'état as the rebels, looters, or anyone else."
Congress needs to investigate this latest example of Bush's lawless policy of overthrowing governments--before he moves on to Venezuela.
Paul Sweezy died on February 27. One of the giants of leftwing thought and progressive journalism, Sweezy served as a co-editor of Monthly Review for a remarkable five decades. With Paul Baran, he co-wrote the classic work Monopoly Capital in 1966, and he and fellow Monthly Review editor Harry Magdoff wrote several additional books providing a radical critique of the U.S. economy.
We interviewed Sweezy in May 1992. Here are the last words of that interview, as true today as they were then: "This ruling class is the smartest ever. It's been able to divide and conquer like never before. It knows how to beat down potential opposition, but it doesn't know how to manage the system it's got."