[Marxism] Haiti: Dangerous Muddle ( Mark Solomon)

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Fri Mar 5 11:03:25 MST 2004

 Haiti: Dangerous Muddle

Dear Portside:

Conn Hallinan's reporting and analyses are nearly
always penetrating and provocative. And -- his "Haiti:
Dangerous Muddle" provokes some friendly disagreement.

The fundamental problem with US "liberal
interventionism" is not primarily that it is
unilateral. The root problem is imperial domination and
exploitation with a "democracy and human rights" cover.

Regarding Haiti: (quoting from a piece written for
Portside last fall): "Clinton's return of Aristide to
power in 1994 seemed to suggest even to some on the
left that perhaps a new post-cold war epoch of US
enlightenment was dawning. To put it mildly: that was
not the case. As a price for returning, Aristide was
forced to accommodate to Washington's agenda: vowing to
include elements of the right wing in his resurrected
government to preserve stability, accepting the
dictates of global financial institutions -- including
acceding to IMF demands for dismantling what little
remained of the public sector, maximizing the
profitability of Haiti's free trade zones, assuring a
compliant non-striking flow of cheap labor controlled
by security forces, and allowing the US Coast Guard to
patrol Haitian waters. Under these circumstances
Clinton's 'humanitarian intervention' had locked Haiti
into its grinding poverty with two out of three
jobless, a per capita annual income of $250, and 4.7
million out of 7.7 suffering from severe malnutrition."
Such accommodations to Washington's neocolonialist
agenda made it impossible for Aristide's government,
whatever its internal weaknesses, to overcome that
country's historic privation. And even those extensive
adaptations were nowhere near enough to sate the
determination of the right wing elements that make
Bush's hemispheric policies to force Aristide from

In the case of Yugoslavia, Conn does not explain why
the thuggish Tudjman was OK with Washington while
Milosovic was ticketed for removal. Actually, Milosovic
had sought ways to accommodate the escalating demands
of the IMF for an expedited 20 billion dollar debt
payment and increased privatization and marketization
at a time when Yugoslavia was being pulled apart by
western-inspired secessions in Slovenia and Croatia.
Caught in a vise between rising public resistance to
the IMF agenda and US and NATO pressures, Milosovic
embraced the dubious banner of Serb nationalism and
aligned with right wing Serb military officers. But the
United States, abetted by NATO, determined that a
fragmented Yugoslavia reshaped into weaker client
states would constitute the best road to the extension
of US and NATO influence into the Balkans and to
reducing the danger that two NATO members, Greece and
Turkey, might intervene on opposing sides. Serbia, the
fulcrum of a formerly coherent Yugoslavia, with perhaps
the most deeply rooted remnants of socialism, became
the principal target while bombing campaigns unleashed
by the Clinton administration against Serbs in 1995 and
later in Kosovo killed more than 10,000 civilians and
injured tens of thousands more.

Finally, multilateralism is not automatically the most
reliable antidote to an imperial unilateralism. Without
informed and powerful grass roots pressure, it is not
always enough to rely on the UN to counter or
neutralize Washington's objectives. In the absence of
those pressures, the UN has at times, intentionally or
unintentionally, provided cover for interventions which
did not, to say the least, raise living standards and
promote democracy. Taking into account present day
reality, the demand for action to repel injustice has
to be based on a strong global opposition to false
claims of humanitarian and democratic intent in sending
forces across borders. Rather, the composition and
political character of multinational efforts must be
firmly grounded in concrete and clear commitment to
principles of economic and social justice. And that
requires a global justice movement with a very loud

Mark Solomon

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