Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Haiti: Iraq On a Smaller Scale

Another of America's foreign policy disasters is playing itself out in the Carribean nation:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 21 - Nearly 20 months after the United Nations arrived to stabilize the hemisphere's poorest country and avert a civil war, there is still no cease-fire in this violent city on the sea.


But last Tuesday, two Jordanian soldiers were shot to death in skirmishes with local gangs, and another was seriously wounded. It was the third fatal strike against United Nations personnel since December, a month when relations between the international peacekeeping mission and local people worsened.

The violence has raised demands in capitals from Brasília to Washington to Ottawa for an explanation of what has gone wrong with Haiti's transition to democracy. What is clear is that the $584 million a year mission has failed to bring peace to Haiti, and the caretaker government has failed to bring elections.

First of all, Haiti is not undergoing a "transistion to democracy." Haiti was already a democracy before the US-backed coup against Aristide in 2004. Secondly, violently overthrowing a democratically-elected and locally popular leader generally will create conditions that make bringing peace to a country difficult.

But he and several other United Nations officials, as well as two high-ranking Western diplomats, rejected assertions that the mission had failed. They charge that Haiti's tiny elite, along with interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, have orchestrated a campaign to undermine the mission and delay the elections, because the Haitian leadership is nervous about what opinion polls indicate are likely to be the results.


A recent poll sponsored by the United States government indicated that the leading candidate is former President René Préval, considered a protégé of Mr. Aristide. The Aristide government was undone by a protest movement, led by people like the businessman Mr. Apaid, a revolt by former soldiers and police officers and American

"They thought they could get rid of one government and have the country to themselves and their friends," a United Nations officials said, asking not to be identified out of fear that his comments could hurt his position in Haiti. "But Préval has come and ruined the party."

Exactly. This is a classic Western (and especially American) we-don't-like-your-leader-so-we'll- have-him-overthrown-and-install-a-sympathetic-puppet,-but-oops,-this-is-a-lot-harder-than- we-thought scenario.

When will the Masters of the Universe ever learn?


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