Insight

The past few days, I have been trying to compile a list of the things that are wrong with the Clinton administration’s policy toward Haiti. It’s a daunting task.

Let’s start with the list of the good news: As I write, no Americans are dead down there. That’s it. And I hope it’s still true when you read this.

Now, on to what’s wrong:

1. Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (Actually, this is going to be more than one entry.) Aristide is more or less your standard left-wing Latin American/Caribbean Roman Catholic priest who got into politics out of a sense of social conscience. A social conscience of the sort that expresses itself in the view that we can bring Earth closer to the kingdom of heaven if we just kill the right people.

In addition, at least some people in the CIA think Aristide is, well, squirrelly. Now ordinarily, I tend to think the CIA is a bit squirrelly, as befits people who have read too many spy novels and have been given billions of dollars to secretly reenact scenes from them in the real world. But in this instance, they have a case.

The point I am making is that, generally speaking, the United States, before dispatching thousands of troops to restore somebody to power, should make sure he is not A) a goon and B) goo-goo. (Exceptions can be made for despots from nations with lots of oil.)

2. How ’bout that Bill Clinton? Where to begin? (This is also going to be a multiple entry.) There are those who have said that Clinton needed to get past his own record of military nonservice by establishing himself resolutely in the role of commander in chief. To prove his toughness, he chose to take on the world’s 157th-largest army.

3. Haiti’s rulers. Okay, which is it? Are they raping, murdering, torturing, pestilential neo-Nazi scum, as described by President Clinton to the nation the Thursday before we didn’t invade? Or are they honorable men with a sense of duty to their country, as described by President Clinton and his emissaries the Monday after we didn’t invade?  What, did Clinton think we forgot what he said Thursday?

4. Jimmy Carter.  Haiti is proof positive that no policy is so confused and senseless that the intervention of Carter cannot make it worse.  It came down to this: Nominal President Clinton wants Haiti’s military rulers out. He’s prepared to send the 82nd Airborne Division to do it. In a last-ditch move, he agrees to dispatch Carter, who has been making a pest of himself all week, to try to work it out peacefully.  One deadline passes, then another. Still no agreement. Nominal President Clinton orders the U.S. military to proceed. It’s wheels-up for the troop-transport planes. The moment of reckoning is nigh.  And then, the stunning climax: Carter announces that he has an agreement. The military rulers will stay! Peace is at hand! Nominal President Clinton calls back the planes!

Wait. The military rulers will stay?

Well, they’ve given notice: They’ll resign in a month. That should be more than enough time to loot the treasury.

It should also be noted that Carter has started writing poems. He recently read one called “With Words We Learn to Hate” to a New York Times reporter: “We justify our nation’s wars each time with words to prove we kill in a moral cause. We’ve cursed the names of those we’ve fought – the ‘Japs’ instead of Japanese, German Nazis or the ‘Huns,’ and ‘Wops’ – when they were enemies. Later, they became our friends, but habits live in memories.”

Aiieee! The chief U.S. negotiator on Haiti has the sensibility of a high school freshman!

By the way, we called the Nazis “Nazis” because they were Nazis.

5. Aristide. And another thing: It takes the little twerp 72 hours to muster a thank-you to the American people? He dominates U.S. policymaking in the region for three years, ultimately driving us to actually launch an invasion (for a while, anyway) and he doesn’t have the grace to say thanks?

6. Congress. You may think that come the next Republican administration, you won’t have to listen to little sermons from members of Congress about how they have the real war powers – Congress having bravely surveyed the tough choices on Haiti, weighed the options and ran like a rabbit for the brush. But you’re wrong, they’ll be back. Maybe we could trade Congress for the Haitian Parliament – half of which is in Miami anyway.

7. The U.S. military. Excuse me, but what are we doing using an aircraft carrier in the
Caribbean as a troop-transport ship and a launch platform for helicopters? This wouldn’t happen to be because the USS Eisenhower is the only combat ship with women on it, and the Joint Chiefs brass has assured Commander in Chief Pat Schoeder that when the time comes to hand out the medals half of them will go to women, now would it?

8. Clinton. Fortunately, this whole thing has not gone well for him in the polls. Otherwise, his political advisers would be telling him to whip up lots more highly unpopular military actions and then cancel them.

9. Aristide. All things considered, I don’t think he really wants to go back. He’s got a sweet deal here, after all: cachet as an esteemed, democratically elected head of state deposed by ruthless, evil military men; invitations to all the best parties; great restaurants all over the place; the budget to run an entire country without having the country on which to spend it; and the best lawyers and public-relations firms money can buy.

If he goes back, all he’s got is – Haiti. Bummer.

10. Clinton. I must have missed the campaign slogan, “Vote for Bill – Get Jimmy Too!”