solidarity with the people of haiti – US troops out!

25 01 2010

by Claudio Testa
Socialismo o Barbarie

Much of the media has portrayed Haitians "looting" - the US has intervened to "restore order"

Although UN troops have been occupying the country for six years, the USA has decided to engage in a second invasion of its own, without even going through the farce of “consulting” previous occupiers.

In 2004 a joint US-Canadian-French military intervention, under the pretext of “maintaining order”, brought down president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, leader of the national-populist Fanmi Lavalas. Then, as is customary, the blessed UN entered, to legitimise the imperialist assault. The Security Council voted for the creation of MINUSTAH (from the French, Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en Haiti).

That time, both to avoid continent-wide and international protests, as well as to free up more US troops for Iraq and Afghanistan, the UN voted that the dirty work should be performed principally by Latin American troops. The “progressive” Brazilian president Lula pushed to the front of the queue, followed by his friend in Argentina, the “national and popular” Néstor Kirchner.

Thus MINUSTAH, commanded by Brazil and with the participation of troops from Argentina and other “progressive” governments like those of Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, defending the colonial occupation of Haiti. MINUSTAH also had troops from France and a smaller number from the USA. Since then, under its protection, have followed a series of puppet governments reporting direct to the US embassy in Port-au-Prince.

But now US imperialism appears to have decided to cast aside its MINUSTAH subalterns, without even bothering to tell them about it. First, it sent troops which took control of the airport at gunpoint. Then the marines invaded by air and sea. As to ensure there was no doubt as to what they were doing in Haiti, the White House announced that its troops were not coming to carry out “humanitarian tasks”, but “to guarantee security”.

So brutal was it that France (which continues to see Haiti like a colony), Brazil (which commanded MINUSTAH) and the European Union expressed their outrage. The USA, after taking control of the airport, closed it to non-US planes. From that point no plane, not even those of Brazil, France and other MINUSTAH countries, could operate without US military permission. France worried that the Port-au-Prince airport had been converted into “an annexe of the United States”. Brazil, whose 1700 troops lead the UN contingent, declared that it would not cede its mandate to any other country.

But it was not up to them. Ultimately Lula and Sarkozy walked away with their tails between their legs. Washington’s reply, beneath some diplomatic pleasantries, was a sharp ‘no’: it would continue doing as it saw fit.

After the coup d’état in Honduras and the establishment of seven military bases in Colombia, the direct military occupation of Haiti by the USA shows clearly the imperialist intervention in Latin America.

“Security” for who?

The USA’s direct military intervention to “maintain order” has several causes.

First is the geopolitical reason: that US imperialism considers the Caribbean as a kind of lake or interior sea of the USA, and it has rights over everything within. This is, for example, one of the main reason why no US government has managed to reach a modus vivendi with Cuba, given its intolerable degree of independence.

Within the Caribbean, Haiti has always been considered and treated by the USA like a colonial protectorate under its ownership, even if France has shown slave-holder attitudes for longer than the White House. Victim of a US military occupation from 1915 to 1934, the majority of its governments since have been bloody dictatorships backed by Washington, such as those of “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son “Baby Doc”, lasting from 1957 to 1986.

So it is not strange that the White House’s reflex has been to send in the marines.

This impulse reaction has also been particularly strengthened by the politico-social situation before and after the earthquake.

The truth is that the “government” of René Preval – a former collaborator of Aristide and ex-leader of Fanmi Lavalas, today totally sold out to US imperialism – practically disappeared with the quake.  Not only did it bring down the presidential palace, but the government itself. One correspondent described this situation aptly: “The government, which in the first few days met in the open air, has now practically disappeared and the power vacuum created in the country is more than obvious. Indeed, may believe that with the massive influx of troops, it will be the USA who holds the reins.”

But this “power vacuum” created by the quake and Preval’s absolute inability to deal with the situation, comes dangerously soon after the significant rise in workers’, students’ and peasants’ protests against occupation and the puppet government in 2009.

Indeed, one of the motives behind the invasion of Haiti is to “guarantee security” so that this “power vacuum” does not end up being filled by an alternative, independent of imperialism.

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27 responses

25 01 2010
Steven

To call for ‘troops out’, now, given what the US is doing, is mental. And it sums up, in one neat little package, what’s wrong with a great deal of the far left. fuckwits.

26 01 2010
David

Why’s that?

26 01 2010
martin ohr

it’s a strange trajectory you are on, from workers’ self government to idiot-anti-imperialism in 12 months since leaving AWL.

Is the main issue facing the working class in Haiti the presence of US troops? Is the main thing that marxists outside of Haiti should be doing to call for troops out?

This article is totally ridiculous, it like a pastiche of a parody of what you would expect to read on the socialist unity website.

26 01 2010
David

“Idiot anti-imperialism” is just a slogan, meaningless in this context. It is one of the labels by which the AWL likes to differentiate itself from the “kitsch left” but you don’t actually argue with any of the points Claudio raises.

Whether or not it is the “main” issue is not the question at all, you cannot infer from whether or not it is the “main” issue that it is right or wrong. Claudio’s article simply explains the motivations and processes at work behind the sending of troops.

Being for troops out of Haiti is not at all at odds with the kind of communism we advocate/self-management – what does it mean to say there is a “trajectory” from one to the other?

26 01 2010
M

I presume the trolls above advocate furher US militarisation to subdue the restless natives in their times of need then?

How radical… er, right wing and patronising claptrap more like it.

27 01 2010
martin ohr

David, let me clarify this then ‘cos I don’t get it from the article. It’s a call for immeadiate withdrawal of all US troops from Haiti right now? But only US troops?

David, indeed you can infer that something is believed to be the main issue when it is the lead article on your blog and you haven’t got a single scrap of other writing about Haiti.

In terms of the article itself, I disagree with almost every single paragraph, if I thought you were remotely serious about it’s contents then I would engage in a longer debate.

The point about the idot-anti-imperialism tag is a serious one. It’s a criticism of the laziness and lack of politics which just looks at what the US is doing in any situation and opposes it. It’s not genuine anti-imperialism in the sense that a marxist would understand it, just a reflex. Worse it’s a reflex to say something rrrrrradical sounding when the analysis is a hard thing to do.

The thing that distinquishes the AWL from similar groups is that we don’t shy away from the hard thinking.

27 01 2010
Chris

Stating the reality of the actual nature of the USA intervention is hardly shying away from ‘hard thinking’. A critical Marxist approach is not one of providing a left vaneer to populist image of the Obama administrations intervention. A critical, mature analysis would recognise the neccessity of aid and assistance whilst also being capable to recognising when a callous power is utlising the disaster to its own advantage to reinforce its hegemony. Which is the primary role of this latest intervention to “restore order”. That being the primary role and objective, which is being done to the actual detriment of other actuall efforts to provide aid, it is therefore the duty of communists to state the truth and draw conclusions accordingly. To do otherwise is engage in opportunist rehtoric.

27 01 2010
rob kirby

Martin,

The article isn’t calling for “aid workers out now!”. Despite the “humanitarian” pretentions of Western governments in recent years, there is still a difference between a soldier and an aid worker.

Could you explain what “geniune” anti-imperialism is, if not criticising a country for essentially taking over its neighbor on the pretext of a natural disaster? As to whether it is “just” US troops, I’d personally argue for all foreign troops out of Haiti as soon as possible, as they have a distorting impact on Hatian politics, by giving the Hatian state a support base that it can rely on other than its own people.

Cheers,

Rob

27 01 2010
martin ohr

Chris: “A critical, mature analysis would recognise the neccessity of aid and assistance whilst also being capable to recognising when a callous power is utlising the disaster to its own advantage to reinforce its hegemony.”

A bit like these articles then http://www.workersliberty.org/haiti

and total unlike the one above.
————–
Let me make sure I have this correct, your headline “US troops out!” does not mean US troops now, but actually should have read “US (and other) troops in for a bit and then out!”

27 01 2010
David

Hi Martin

- The analysis is “the hard thing to do”? Yes, OK, the above has much of the analysis of the role of imperialism (including the UN) in Haitian politics. What other analysis do you want. Do you have some counter-analysis rebutting this?

- The article is clearly against the presence of UN troops too and attacks those governments who participate. The title of the article used in translation here is a mix of two separate titles and subtitles on the Socialismo o Barbarie website, however the original advert for their latest edition does include the words US and UN troops out now. Certainly I agree with that, I can’t see any sign any others don’t agree too.

- I do not understand the source of the assertion “it actually should have read “US (and other) troops in for a bit and then out!” Who thinks or suggests this? Do you have this position? You imply that this is the case.

- The articles on the AWL site: well, Patrick Rolfe’s article features a similar and good analysis of the historic role of US and Brazilian troops in Haiti. It does not call for troops out, nor does it specifically argue against that idea.

The other two articles: one by the Haiti Support Group explains the damage of free trade policies. The other is a series of pieces: a commendable Liverpool TUC resolution, along with a CONLUTAS document (both of which criticise the occupation) and then a piece from the Guardian by Seumas Milne. This latter piece is from the Permanent Revolution site. Nothing wrong with that.

But you have come onto this post with much bombast about how nonsensical every line of the piece above is. So where is the evidence that your analysis is oh-so different, that the AWL alone are the “thinking left” as against the “idiotic” “kitsch” anti-imperialists? Which piece, and which argument? Is the AWL against troops out now, or you, or not even you?

If you wrote a piece against troops out now (or extolling the virtues as well as faults of the US occupation) you could at least justify some claim to hold a radically different/special position. Whereas instead you sort of insinuate that you are against the demand for troops out now, without explaining why.

27 01 2010
Steven

Turn the central heating up, go down the pub for a swift pint, back with a take-away. Put your feet up, plug in the iPod, turn on the TV. Post an article which might as well be titled, ‘Fuck you, the Haitian poor, we need to damage the US and make ourselves feel better without any responsibility for anything or anyone else.’ Turn on the toaster. Maybe add a bit of Mayo. Turn up the music. Scratch your arse, open the second bottle of wine. Denounce those pro-imperialist bastards who think about what their slogans mean. Have a look at Facebook, try and get off with someone. Ring your mum and leave a message. You can take your clothes round on Sunday afternoon. Practice looking like Lenin in the mirror. Call for workers to take action on Haiti. Call for a workers’ militia. Write a stiff email to some ultra-left in Sweden. Fuck off and go to bed.

27 01 2010
Chris

Whilst I am for full freedom of contributions to the site we also engaged in attempting create better culture of communist discussion and debate. This contribute really doeas nothing to encourage that sort of space on The Commune web-site.

27 01 2010
Sean Carter

As far as I can tell, no one, literally no one else on the left is raising this slogan. Is that because they are hypocrites who secretly believe in it? Or do they think that the choice of agitational slogans is a political matter and it may not be the best idea to foreground a slogan which would mean catastrophe for the people of haiti if implemented? Surely if you believe the rest of the left are being so cowardly you should condemn them for effectively endorsing the invasion with their silence and denounce them for their socio-imperialism. Go on, it’ll be funny. Start with Harpal Brar, I’ll pay to watch that.

28 01 2010
c0mmunard

Personally, I don’t know much about Haiti. But if people are going to describe the slogan as one “which would mean catastrophe for the people of haiti if implemented”, they ought to be able to explain why.

What are US/UN troops doing that it would be disastrous were they to stop doing it? What is it they are doing that is not being, or could not be done better by aid workers?

I would agree that it’s value as a mass agitational demand depends on real conditions in Haiti, but then no interlocutors explain what these are, and why they validate their perspective.

28 01 2010
martin ohr

Chris. The tone of stephen’s comment might not be to your liking, however I suspect he was describing what he believed was the only plausible thought process behind the slogan “US troops out”.

I get the feeling that stephen might be pretty close to the truth too wrt to how the commune conducts it’s decision making.

28 01 2010
Darren

I’m guessing that Stephen has that comment on a stickie and has cut and pasted it more than once.

28 01 2010
Chris

The Commune has not taken a decision on Haiti we have re-published an article by a Latin American Marxist organistion with a close affinity and knowledge of the situation. To which some comrades have expressed sympathy. Some foul mouthed individuals who know a lot more based in England have expressed their own opinion in a manner characteristic of the left here, a manner which expresses more abuse and disdain for others on the left than they ever do about capitalism.

28 01 2010
29 01 2010
marcus bent

OK, you’ve no position. But you did choose to publish a particular article, which is in itself a political decision. Minimally you must have found something in the ‘Troops Out’ article that you found worthwhile (it is the single piece you picked from hundreds of left articles on the subject).
Frankly the group ‘Socialism or Barbarism’ seems to be advocating barbarism. The article is pure nonsense.
Where does this ‘absolute anti-capitalism’ ‘absolute anti-statism’ come from? I guess there are several strands: one is anarchism – primitaive and outdated in the modern world; another is Stalinism (anything that damages capitalism and the US in particular) is good.
And without some order not only people won’t eat, or get medicine. But how could the workers’ mvt reconstitute itself here? Or even the modern working class, as a class, begin to exist again. There are worse things possible, now, in Haiti, than bourgeois order … chaos, for example.
And I don’t know what Andy Kershaw says, nor do I care, nor should you.

29 01 2010
Harley Filben

It’s almost heartwarming to see the AWL’s faith in US troops restored, after a very idiosyncratic wobble into troops-out-ism over Afghanistan. One was perhaps naive to expect that to be generalised, given the sheer weight of defence mechanisms in place, but there you go. It’s perfectly clear why the bourgeoisie thinks there need to be troops on the ground in Haiti – there are hordes of ‘thugs’ marauding around and making mischief. Indeed, the presence of such hordes of thugs is the only possible justification for the deployment of US troops. What the hell else are they to shoot at? Local wildlife? Demons emerging from the bowels of the earth in the aftermath of the quake? So, to support (or “not oppose”, or whatever act of linguistic imagination the AWL favours at this point) troop deployment requires you to buy into, implicitly or explicitly, a wholly colonial discourse of wild savages and voodoo priests who can only obstruct their own recovery.

and given how the US has behaved in relation to Haiti throughout its entire history, it would be tremendously naive to think that in the long run their presence will work out better for the Haitians. When the next quake comes, these luckless folks will be even less prepared than this time. What we have is a philistine and profoundly un-Marxist method, which isolates the shortest of short term conjunctures, spins tall tales about that in any case, and ignores the longue duree completely. History? It’s a nightmare from which the AWL is trying to awaken. Utterly pathetic.

29 01 2010
martin ohr

Harley, nice for you to turn this into an impromtu attack on the AWL, perhaps you’d care to visit our website and repeat the same drivel; I look forward to seeing your head metaphorically ripped off when you do.

Like so much of the rest of this site, it reads like posh-boys pretending to have a left wing debating club. I suggest you’ll make more progress for humanity if you just go back to wanking yourselves stupid.

29 01 2010
Darren Ambrose

Except you have to deal with the fact it’s not just the AWL choosing not to raise ‘troops out’ on Haiti. It is every other group on the left including the CPGB ML.

29 01 2010
Darren Ambrose

Sorry, except for Fight Racism Fight Imperialism. That’s the company you’re keeping.

30 01 2010
David

“Except you have to deal with the fact it’s not just the AWL choosing not to raise ‘troops out’ on Haiti. It is every other group on the left including the CPGB ML. Sorry, except for Fight Racism Fight Imperialism. That’s the company you’re keeping.”

Even aside from the fact it’s not true, this is an utterly spurious argument. This kind of argument-by-deduction is absurd. One might equally reply and say “look, you have the same position as the CPGB ML and, indeed, the US state department, look at the company you’re keeping”. But this tells us nothing.

For all the talk about looking reality in the face, doing the hard thinking no-one else is prepared to do etc., where is your special analysis, and where is your argument for why you want the troops to stay?

It is an unfortunate side-effect of our tolerant comments policy that we receive comments by people who would censor most critical comments on their own group’s site, never mind the kind of childish abuse they post on here. I would nonetheless be interested to see some of your substantive arguments justifying support for the occupation of Haiti – rather than just sarcasm and bluster.

30 01 2010
David

Presumably “Darren Ambrose” and “Marcus Bent” are the same AWL member posting under various different pseudonyms to make themselves look more important… given that these are the names of two footballers who recently played for both Charlton and Ipswich, I’d imagine it’s a fan of one of those two clubs. “Sean Carter” is also the same person.

30 01 2010
M

Harley:

“It’s almost heartwarming to see the AWL’s faith in US troops restored, after a very idiosyncratic wobble into troops-out-ism over Afghanistan. One was perhaps naive to expect that to be generalised, given the sheer weight of defence mechanisms in place, but there you go. It’s perfectly clear why the bourgeoisie thinks there need to be troops on the ground in Haiti – there are hordes of ‘thugs’ marauding around and making mischief. Indeed, the presence of such hordes of thugs is the only possible justification for the deployment of US troops. What the hell else are they to shoot at? Local wildlife? Demons emerging from the bowels of the earth in the aftermath of the quake? So, to support (or “not oppose”, or whatever act of linguistic imagination the AWL favours at this point) troop deployment requires you to buy into, implicitly or explicitly, a wholly colonial discourse of wild savages and voodoo priests who can only obstruct their own recovery.”

Spot on.

If ‘most of the left’ are not calling for troops out of Haiti that pretty much just shows how ideologically bankrupt they all are.

30 01 2010
David

A few news sites had an article about the US State Department calling a temporary halt to deportations of Haitians. But only those who were already in the USA already on the day of the earthquake.

According to this article – http://socialismo-o-barbarie.org/haiti/100125_i_invasionusa.htm – US troops in Haiti have distributed a communicado that

“The US government is determined to take a hard line, with no exceptions, against admitting any Haitian who tries to reach the US coast illegally. If any Haitian is found on the high seas they will be taken to the Guantanamo naval base”

And indeed from Associated Press:

The U.S. has begun preparing tents at Guantanamo Bay for Haitians migrants in case of a mass migration spurred by the earthquake, a senior official at the base said Wednesday. About 100 tents, each capable of holding 10 people, have been erected and authorities have more than 1,000 more on hand in case waves of Haitians leave their homeland and are captured at sea, said Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Copeman. Authorities have also has tested the latrine facilities and gathered cots and other supplies, said Copeman, the commander of the task force that runs the detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, where the U.S. holds nearly 200 men.

The Haitian migrants would be held on the opposite side of the base as the detention center, separated by some 2 1/2 miles of water across Guantanamo Bay, and would have no contact with the prisoners.

U.S. immigration officials have said they will fast-track applications for a federal designation that will allow illegal Haitian immigrants to live and work temporarily in this country, but only if they were in the U.S. on the day of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The U.S. base in southeastern Cuba is also being used to transport supplies and personnel to the aid effort in Haiti, about 200 miles away.

In the early 1990s, it housed tens of thousands of Haitian boat people were held at Guantanamo until they could be sent home.




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