How Involved Were We In Aristide's Departure?
Can someone explain to me how the CIA, which doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right lately, ranging from guessing about WMDs, to figuring out who outted Valerie Plame, somehow has enough time to overthrow and virtually kidnap a head of state into exile? According to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti late today, he was removed from power physically by a team of armed white men and flown into exile in Africa. This revelation came in an interview with the Associated Press arranged by Jesse Jackson. Yet the Administration claims that Aristide went willingly, even if through the typical footdragging by the Bush team they had a hand in Aristide’s downfall.
When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Aristide quickly answered: "No. I was forced to leave. "They were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting, and be killing in a matter of time," Aristide said during the brief interview via speaker phone. He spoke with a thick Haitian accent, his voice obscured at times by a bad connection.
When asked who the agents were, he responded: "White American, white military. "They came at night. ... There were too many. I couldn't count them," he added.
Aristide told reporters that he signed documents relinquishing power out of fear that violence would erupt in Haiti if he didn't comply with the demands of "American security agents."
Both Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel heard similar stories separately from Aristide.
Of course, both the CIA and the White House deny Aristide’s claims. And Jackson wants Congress to investigate how some of the “rebels” were so well armed with high quality US weapons.
Of course, there is another plausible explanation for what happened. Aristide, faced with the loss of his own personal and private security forces, would have been killed within hours had he stayed. Reports came in yesterday that the rebels delayed their final assault upon the palace for some reason. It could very well have been that the US told the rebels to stand down until they could extract Aristide and get him to safety. Had the democratically elected Aristide been killed by the rebels, there is no way any law-abiding government could have recognized the revolt and new government that arose from it. So seeing this, the US acted. And Rangel suggests that the military did in fact convince Aristide to go when he could, and the Bush Administration confirms that Americans escorted him away from the palace and flew him into exile.
But under either scenario, the US was involved in removing a legitimately elected ruler in its own hemisphere, using CIA or Special Forces that should be focusing their energies elsewhere. Instead, we could have been focusing on forcing the rebels to accept what Aristide had already agreed to accept: a power-sharing arrangement. But when the rebels balked at sharing power and tested the US resolve in the matter, we didn't back up Aristide.
Already, the rebel leaders say they do not want to lead the country, but only want to restore order, ominously reconstitute the infamous Army, and deliver the country to the constitutionally next-in-line former Supreme Court Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre.
But if the United States is truly concerned about restoring order and giving Haiti a good shot at long-term stability, it will see to it that the international peacekeepers arrest the military leaders of the revolt who are all former members of death squads or the Army, and were responsible for the last coup against Aristide in 1991. If the US and France are against such arrests for any reason, then this wasn’t about justice after all.