Send an Email to Congress to Stop the Biden "Permanent War" Funding Requests!
By James Patrick Jordan
(This is an adaptation from a lecture given at the Salt of the Earth Labor College in Tucson, Arizona on October 28, 2023)
If we’re going to talk about Haiti, then we’re going to talk about gangs, and if we’re going to talk about gangs, we might as well talk about the gang led by Guy Philippe, the paramilitary leader, narco-trafficker, and ex-Duvalier-dictatorship cop, who was funded and advised by the US government via John McCain’s International Republican Institute. After being trained at an IRI base in the Dominican Republic, Philippe launched the coup against President Jean Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.
Or let’s talk about the right wing and criminal gangs that prowled the streets in the aftermath of the coup, carrying out the bloodiest period of violence in the history of contemporary Haiti.
And we must talk about the policies of US puppet governments led by the likes of presidents Jovenal Moise and Ariel Henry who armed and directed gangs to help repress the people throughout their administrations, policies that continue right up to today.
Let’s talk about gangs and guns, because the last I looked, there aren’t any arms manufacturers in Haiti or the Caribbean. Where did all the guns come from? The number of guns in Haiti grew exponentially following the overthrow of Aristide and subsequent US and UN military interventions then and following the 2010 earthquake.
We must reject the use of the word “gangs” at all to talk about Haiti. It is a racist code word, like the use of “thug” in the US. It is a word that conjures terror, exactly what is needed for the US to get consent for its own violent and repressive aims in the country. For instance, consider this: we generally only hear about the intolerable situation in Haiti, all the horror stories, at times the US is out looking for partners for the new invasion and occupation it wants so badly. As soon as it makes some kind of progress in getting other countries to agree to participate, or getting international resolutions passed or securing funding for a new invasion, suddenly the flood of horror stories dry up. Apparently, the “horror of it all” only matters when there’s also a policy battle to be won, a partner to enlist, a step towards the new occupation to be taken.
Of course, some of the horror stories do not bear repeating in corporate press. How many of us heard about the 80 to 100 deaths by starvation in Haiti’s prison system that was rebuilt and redesigned by the US government and the American Correctional Association following the 2004 coup and the 2010 earthquake? How many of us know of the three deaths from hunger in one of the most recently built US-funded jails? And lest you think the people dying in these prisons are from the alleged “gangs”, don’t be deceived. Most of those in Haitian jails have never even seen a judge or been formally charged. Many of them are simply lost indefinitely in the system. Of the two who starved to death in the US funded Petit Goaive prison, one was accused of having stolen some electric wire, the other, a rooster. But we don’t hear about this, because it would shed light on the cruel and perverse failures and abuses stemming from US policies rather than lending justification for another US sponsored invasion.
As for the word “gang”, it only serves to muddle and confuse, because there is another story to these so-called gangs that is completely different than the dominant narrative. There are uprisings, rebellions, people’s defense, and resistance happening in the streets. Haiti could well be on the verge of revolution. Instead, both uprisings and death squads, rebellion and paramilitary repression are lumped together under one word. Racist fear and faux concern are manufactured through a flow of lies and distortion, followed by silence and the cultivation of ignorance.
There are also armed criminal groups that are not necessarily politically aligned. These are also lumped together under the term “gangs”. And we, the international public, are spoon fed a story and led to support, or at least not speak out against, the repression of Haiti and the new invasion and occupation unfolding before us.
The Alliance for Global Justice has been working with the Zone of Peace Campaign initiated by the Black Alliance for Peace. This campaign includes Haitian and other Caribbean voices. I also am part of an active list of international activists on Caribbean issues. I, therefore, have had some limited access to activist voices and allied movements on the ground on a semi-regular basis. And one thing I have heard from several different sources is that there are numerous cases where so-called “gangs” have reached agreements to end violence and restore order and safety to areas, only to have that disrupted by the attacks of other “gangs” that are being armed and directed by political, business, and foreign interests—in other words, what we would more correctly call paramilitaries and death squads.
So, let’s take that question that is on so many minds: What is to be done about the gang crisis in Haiti? Let’s take that question and toss it in the trash because that’s not the question we need to be asking. Instead of talking about gangs, lets talk about paramilitaries, and who is behind them, lets talk about criminals in a system that the US helped break, and let’s talk about uprising, rebellion, and revolution, because that’s the story that we’re not being told. Among all the other things going on in Haiti, the country is in the grips of a spontaneous outpouring of anger and rebellion that has been brewing ever since the overthrow of Aristide, and that has been, in fact, going on for years. It is crushing that rebellion that, more than anything else, lies behind US policies toward Haiti.
The heart of the crisis in Haiti, then, is not a crisis of gangs, but a crisis of democracy and sovereignty, and the endless interference of foreign interests and foreign interventions. The people of Haiti are rightfully upset after twenty years of outrageous abuse and disrespect following the overthrow of the popular government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Since that intervention, Haiti has been denied democracy. First, it was subject to sham elections in which the most popular political party, Lavalas, the party of Aristide, was outlawed at US insistence. Even what government Haiti has, an unelected puppet government, chosen and kept in power through the manipulation of its colonial masters, even that government has never been allowed to truly govern. Rather, all important decisions are either made by or overseen by the CORE group, made up of representatives from the United Nations, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, the United States, and the Organization of American States. Nevertheless, the corporate mills of US propaganda reduce the anger in Haiti’s streets to nothing less than a massive outbreak of “gang” violence.
The interventions carried out by the US and UN, in turn, are carried out in our names, by the same powers that rob us of our rights and needs at home to pay for their military adventures in Haiti and around the world. Empire’s wars can be both direct or less direct, they can be proxy wars, but they are all Empire’s wars.
The newest intervention in Haiti is scheduled to begin shortly before the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of Aristide back in February 2004. The Black Agenda Report has dubbed this “Imperialism in blackface”, because the international force is supposed to be led by the Kenyan police, an institution widely known for its abuse and repression.
An article by Luke Taylor for The Guardian gives us a glimpse of the Kenyan police’ human rights record. Taylor tells us,
“The unexpected prospect of Kenyan officers being sent across the Atlantic has raised concerns from experts and civil society groups… given the police force’s poor human rights record.
Kenyan riot police beat protesters and gunned down civilians during the country’s Covid-19 curfews and never sufficiently addressed the grave rights violations, according to Human Rights Watch.
As many as 30 people in Kenya’s poorest neighbourhoods were killed by the police in July during protests over the rising cost of living, a local group told Associated Press. Police are also accused of carrying out forced disappearances….
Kenya has participated in several UN peacekeeping missions across Africa and received counter-terror training from the US….
Kenyan peacekeepers were accused of supporting local smuggling rings…. With armed groups extorting much of Haiti’s business and corruption penetrating the highest levels of politics and policing, any external force is likely to become entangled in Haiti’s criminal economy.”
But there should be no mistake, this whole affair has been crafted together by the US State Department, and the US would be the major funder.
There are, however, cracks in the plan. The Kenyan High Court has temporarily blocked the deployment saying the process has not been constitutional and is not part of a treaty. The opposition has declared that the deployment must first be approved by Kenya’s congress. Partners in Kenya report that the deployment is unpopular.
The $200 million pledged for Haiti is surpassed significantly by the $105 billion the Biden administration is asking for further funding of wars in Ukraine, Gaza, provocations against China, and for border militarization. The package asks for $61.4 billion to support the war in Ukraine, $14.3 billion to Israel for the genocide in Gaza, $13.6 billion for militarization of the Southern border, $10 billion in so-called humanitarian assistance activities, and $7.4 billion towards military activities around Taiwan and the Indo Pacific. Following Biden’s disastrous history supporting hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps he’s decided it’s better to pay other people to fight for us.
In many cases, what we think are US funded proxy wars are not simply that. US proxy wars and secret wars always move us closer to sizeable and direct engagements. Consider the secret missions in Africa. According to an article in the People’s World by Matthew Hunter, the US has 2,000 troops in Djibouti, followed by 800 in Niger, 400 in Somalia, and 100 in Cameroon. But how much do we truly know about US activities in Africa? Many of us were surprised by the deaths in combat of four US soldiers, including one general, in Niger in 2017. Most of us had no idea there was that kind of active engagement going on there. In fact, retired Brigadier Gen. Donald Bolduc who commanded special forces in Africa up till 2017, boasted that, “I’ve got guys in Kenya, Chad, Cameroon, Niger [and] Tunisia who are doing the same kind of things as the guys in Somalia, exposing themselves to the same kind of danger…. We’ve had guys wounded in all the types of missions that we do.”
Since 2007, and the establishment of Africom, the US has increased its military presence across Africa, as well as advising police and jail construction for some of the continent’s most repressive regimes. Clearly, the US wants to spread the model it has used in South America to have a much more direct influence, indeed, domination over African governments and militaries as a base for its operations not only in Africa, but beyond. Pentagon activities in Africa are especially strong in the Horn of Africa due to its strategic location with the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden on either side, and its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, the Suez canal, and, of course, occupied Palestine.
Given his all-round support for interventions, be they hot or not, and given the degree to which the entire Democratic representation in Congress seems to be lining up behind Bomber Joe, we always have reason to worry that we could be drawn in to deploying our troops in another hot war. In the world of today, that means we are knocking at the door to world war and nuclear war.
Truly, the best definition of a US proxy war is simply that we supply the gasoline and the matches. Believe me, there’s a good chance we’ll get burned.
The US is an Empire in decline, and it will do anything to keep that Empire in power. The US is being challenged by China both politically and economically, and by the growth of the BRICS alliance which has emerged as a polarity to challenge and compete substantially with US/NATO domination. And like a neighborhood bully lacking in imagination, intelligence, and empathy, the US responds the only way it knows how: with guns and bombs. Unfortunately, it has so very many that the fate of the whole world is put in the balance.
And back to Haiti where, as is so often so true, we find its people largely ignored and forgotten by US-ers. One of the worst aspects of racism is not the irrational hate and active prejudice against Black people. It is that Black people are ignored.
The Biden requests for $105 billion and for $200 in additional funding for a new invasion of Haiti provide us an opportunity to make connections and to demand an end to all Empire’s proxy wars. The whole planet is moving rapidly towards a World War that is, essentially, a war to maintain and extend the grip of the US/NATO Empire. We must continue our specific protests against the genocide in Palestine, but we should also take it further and organize against this funding request, and to build the movements to end the war in Ukraine, to stop the invasion of Haiti, to stop the provocations against China, to end the sanctions and blockades on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, and more. We must build a cohesive and global movement to dismantle the Empire.
If we can make the connections and move towards building a broad movement against the Empire and all its wars, direct or indirect, that will be truly transformative.
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