Around May or June last year, I was hiking around in the mountains up above Montrouis and somebody asked me when the White Man was going to come and take Haiti. We talked about it while we hiked up the mountain together and I explained that the Americans would never come occupy Haiti no matter how much Haitians might want it because it’s just too messed up. It was a strange conversation, but about a month later I had almost the same conversation with a different person, a woman this time. I agreed that it would be wonderful for Haiti, and we both agreed that most Haitians don’t care who is in charge, they just want to be able to feed their families. I told her, though, that there would be a few people who would make a lot of noise and complain, and they would be the ones that got listened to.
Eventually, I got it figured out. Jean-Renaud came to me to talk about the rumor everyone was excited about. He said they were saying that the US was supposed to be taking over Haiti July 1 as a territory. I’ve know Jean-Renaud a long time so I told him that I agreed it would be so good to have an honest government but that it would never happen because so many Americans are still afraid of black people, whether they admit it to themselves or not. I promised to do a little research for him and found a link to this, a hoax message which claimed Haiti would become a protectorate July 1, 2009. Somehow, this hoax message got Haitians so excited that they were talking about it even out on the mountain paths and in banana fields.
From 1915 to 1931 the US occupied Haiti. It was the time of Haiti’s greatest economic progress. To give you some kind of idea what happened, there were 7 miles of improved roadways in Haiti in 1915, and over 1500 miles in 1931. The takeover happened in an emergency move by the Marines on a single naval vessel, and Haiti became American overnight, if I have my facts straight, with the loss of a single soldier. It was spurred by the last in a string of Coup D’etat, when the president being overthrown murdered the 50 hostages he had kidnapped as his enemies advanced on the palace. Actually, he took refuge in the French ambassador’s residence after the murders, and a mob entered, killed the ex-president and dragged his body through the streets of Port au Prince, pausing only to mutilate the body further from time to time. It was this deviation from the norm, ie killing and mutilating the president instead of merely exiling him, in addition to the violation of foreign territory at the French ambassador’s place, that brought the marines in to end the bloodshed and establish some order.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing, considering what our most recent occupations have looked like, is that Haiti’s occupation cost us nothing. Very quickly, American officials cleaned up the corruption in customs and used the revenue to build all the projects in Haiti.
I think you know where I’m going with this. Pre-earthquake, Haiti was no different than it was in 1915 with the exception of the UN presence. Preval would have most likely been forcibly removed from power before now without the UN presence. Even with the UN presence, it looked very much like Preval was setting himself up to run for a third term in violation of Haiti’s constitution. Corruption in government is virtually universal. Actually, I want to share with you a quote from a government official (I won’t name him, I still live in this country after all) from about 3:15 on Tuesday afternoon before the quake: “Nothing is free in Haiti.” To get anything done, it’s bribes, bribes and more bribes, and in most cases, you can wait a lifetime to get something as simple as a driver’s license or a passport if you don’t pass money into someone’s pocket.
Haiti ought to be occupied to give the Haitian people a chance. The majority of Haitians are NOT thieves, they are good people trying to feed their families. The problem is that the minority run Haiti as a kleptocracy. If the kleptocracy saw their livelihood being taken away from them, they would make a lot of noise, but they don’t represent the Haitian people. There are ways to subvert people like that, and the United States is the nation to do it.
The idea of a protectorate in Haiti was floated as recently as 2005. For whatever reason, the powers that be weren’t ready to make a commitment back then, and they probably aren’t now either, but there should at least be a discussion. Haiti is very consistent in some ways: its history keeps repeating itself. There will be more coup d’etat, hurricane after hurricane with an unprepared government in charge, and many more lives destroyed with Haiti’s pay-as-you-go criminal justice system.
Haiti ought to be another Puerto Rico. When Puerto Rico became American, Haiti was the wealthier country. Now, Puerto Rico has drive through fast food and Walmart and Haiti has… let me think about that for a minute… a lot of sun. However, if America could muster some courage and bring stability to Haiti, Haiti could experience growth to make even the Chinese jealous. They are a people who want to work and feed their families. After 10-15 years there could be a referendum and Haitians could decide to become another American commonwealth, or to return to their old ways.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can enjoy my daughter’s birthday tonight. I know that in a few more days the Rolling blog is going to go back to its old readership levels, and I had to say my piece while people cold still hear my voice.