October 14, 2003


The ruins of another US try at democracy: Haiti (Nick Caistor, 10/14/03, CS Monitor)

The United States is committed to building democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. But there is a country much closer to home that is in desperate need of help - a country where the US and the international community have left a job half done and have abandoned millions of innocent citizens to poverty and despair.

That country is Haiti. Back in 1994, Bill Clinton and the Organization of American States (OAS) called the bluff of a nasty military dictatorship there. After a brief showdown, they succeeded in restoring to power the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest whose populist Creole rhetoric captured the hearts of the poor masses. The United Nations came in to help create an independent judiciary and a new police force, and to lay the basis for continued democratic rule.

Ever since, Mr. Aristide - who, along the way, resigned his priesthood and lost much of his popularity - or his associates have held power. But Haiti is poorer than ever, and the political situation has shown little or no improvement. During the months they were in the country, American troops helped build a few schools and a few roads, but then pulled out, anxious not to be seen as an occupying power.

The UN stayed much longer. Its compound at the international airport in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, received plane loads of aid, as well as small numbers of troops and larger numbers of international experts in judicial reform, police training, and human rights. But because of allegations that Aristide's election to his second presidency in late 2000 was rigged, the UN pulled out of Haiti completely the day before he took office in February 2001. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the continuing instability in the country, and warned that Haiti could become an international "pariah" if the situation continued.

And pariah it has become.

Did Bill Clinton do anything positive during his eight years in office, besides sign stuff (like the Trade Agreements) the GOP passed?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2003 5:15 PM

Well, he helped turn the House over to Republican control in 1994! It's not anything he intended, but he had a lot to do with it....

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 14, 2003 6:45 PM

Rescue Mexico during the peso crisis?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at October 15, 2003 4:34 AM

What did that do that the market wouldn't have done?

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2003 8:09 AM

Make Monica for some reason a happy girl?

Posted by: Chris at October 15, 2003 11:20 AM

Deepen Hillary Clinton's frown lines?

Capture the hearts of female law students at my alma mater secunda?

Give Bush all sorts of talking points?

Help undermine Al Gore's presidential bid before it started?

Make the Democrat Party so dysfunctional it's not sure which way is "up," and whether that's just a Republican plot?

I got a million of 'em...

Posted by: Chris at October 15, 2003 11:24 AM

It seems hard cheese to blame Haiti on Clinton.

Except that it's in the New World, in what ways is Haiti different from the French-speaking "nations" of West Africa. None that I can think of.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 16, 2003 4:07 PM