Building Utopia on a Garbage Heap

Building Utopia on a Garbage Heap


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




Haiti has suffered not only from a lack of national security in the sense of borders

and territorial integrity but also an ongoing crisis of human security, the right

of each person to live in peace and with the guarantee of basic rights

‘Prime Minister’ La Tortue 


 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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Building Utopia on a Garbage Heap

By John Maxwell


In the United States the ship of state sails on. The band plays on the promenade deck where the Emperor presides, resplendent in his new clothes. Below decks, however, it is a different story, with the stokers and the oilers, the spinners and the bilge-men, slaving away to repair the growing breach in the double-bottomed, gold-plated hull. Some think they may have hit an iceberg.

Every day, it seems, a new crack appears in the credibility of the White House. Dr Condoleezza Rice is, after all, to testify under oath to the 9/11 commission, after it appeared that the Administration’s refusal to allow her to do so is worrying many Americans.

Then, a few days ago, it was discovered that thousands of pages of documents which the Clinton Library had wanted the Commission to see, had been blocked by the Bush White House. Of course, people are beginning to wonder whether these documents might prove that Richard Clarke is right when he said that President Bush had taken his eye off the Al Quaida ball, with disastrous effects.

Then, on Friday, the Independent in London published an interview with a woman called Sibel Edmonds, a Turkish American translator who worked briefly for the FBI intelligence office. She says  during her time at the FBI, documents she saw made it clear that the US National Security adviser, Dr Rice, had told an ”outrageous lie” when she said that there was no intelligence warning the administration that terrorists were planning to attack buildings in the US with aircraft.

Mrs Edmonds says she has provided information to the panel investigating the 9/11atrocity which proved senior officials knew of al-Qa’ida’s plans to attack the US with aircraft months before the strikes happened. She gave the Commission information that was circulating within the FBI in the spring and summer of 2001 suggesting that an attack using aircraft was just months away and the terrorists were in place. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has sought to silence her and has obtained a gagging order from a court by citing “state secrets privilege”.

Normally, one would expect that such an explosive charge would get at least as much publicity as has been given to the transcendentally significant Grand Jury investigation into the charge of child molestation against Michael Jackson. Instead, TV anchors are apologising for telling the truth when it doesn’t suit the White House; and people alleged  to be journalists, such as Wolf Blitzer find it necessary to help the White House smear and discredit people like whistleblower Richard Clarke. Another so called journalist, Robert Novak, having allowed himself to be used as an instrument of the White House in smearing an earlier whistleblower, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, is exporting his talents.

Candide  in Haiti

Novak has recently been used to try to embellish the image of the gunmen now ruling Haiti. According to Novak, the Haitian ‘Prime Minister’ La Tortue  “is correct in calling the rebels  ‘freedom fighters’”.

According to Novak “The radical president’s  [Aristide’s] reign left a country without electricity, passable roads or public schools, with a devastated economy and, according to LaTortue, a looted treasury.” (Novak has been to Haiti before, for the same propaganda purposes, so he should know the facts.)

La Tortue told Novak: “The public finance is in crisis. They (the Aristide regime) took everything they could from the reserve of the country.” His estimate: “over $1 billion stolen in four weeks.” (Emphasis added)

Novak is either the most credulous journalist in history or he is a willing tool of the thugs now ruling with US protection. Maybe he is both, because it is difficult to understand how anybody could give credence to anyone who claims  that “over $1 billion” was stolen from Haiti. Perhaps Aristide made away with the entire stock of Monopoly game sets in Haiti, but even that could hardly have provided him with one billion of anything.

Novak, of course, is meant to lend a gloss to the libels and fantasies now creating a storm in certain news media. On Friday the regime announced that it would seek Aristide’s extradition from Jamaica for all manners of crimes. Which might be a good idea, since the pathetic pettifoggers who run the country would be forced at last either to put up or shut up.

That may be wishful thinking, since the Haitian Opposition has been never been able to produce the evidence of the misdeeds it has historically charged against Aristide.

Perhaps the Jamaican government should become interested in this ten-cent opera. The Jamaican government, it seems to me, is doing its level best to find a way around common sense and the law in order to recognise the bunch of murderers and their accomplices who now say they rule Haiti. And, of course, the demand for extradition would be heard in a Jamaican court according to our rules of evidence and with the press present.

As I said on a television programme a few weeks ago, the only thing Aristide has not yet  been accused of is cannibalism. But that too, may be in the offing.

Perhaps the Jamaican government should seek the advice and assistance of Mr Ira Lowenthal, the head cook and bottlewasher of the Haiti Democracy Project, who is now stationed  in Jamaica, busily enhancing our democracy. Apparently, Mr Lowenthal, an expert on voudou,  spent years on a USAID mission “enhancing  Haitian democracy”.

He is on a similar contract in Jamaica. Should we be alarmed?

De-criminalising  Haiti

Haiti’s basic problem is a systemic one. Because of the hostility and the constant threat of invasion from France, Britain, and the United States in the nineteenth century the Haitian revolutionaries organised every institution in Haiti along military lines, with soldiers in charge, everywhere. The mulatto elite found it easy to co-opt and corrupt this system with their money and it was further co-opted and corrupted by the US occupation after 1915.

All signs of incipient democracy among the peasants have been repeatedly and violently aborted – the latest being four weeks ago.  The best brains have been driven out or murdered and the power has almost always been in the hands of the elite and their servant  army.

The Nobel Peace prize winner and former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias has been making impassioned pleas against the reinstatement of the Haitian army:

Like so many Third World countries, Haiti has suffered not only from a lack of national security in the sense of borders and territorial integrity but also an ongoing crisis of human security, the right of each person to live in peace and with the guarantee of basic rights such as food, healthcare, education, and citizenship. The army, long an instrument of suppressive authoritarian regimes, has historically deprived Haitians of these fundamental rights.

Isolated and destitute, Haitians have been terrorized not only by military violence but also by its accompanying legacy of poverty. In the late 1980s, the army consumed approximately 40 percent of the national budget [almost as bad as the IMF -jm] even as hunger and AIDS decimated the population. Haiti could count on one soldier for every 1,000 citizens, and 1.5 doctors for every 10,000.

It is clear to most observers except the Bush White House that Haiti cannot be treated as some foreign relations triumph, as Mr Powell’s visit next week will suggest. 

The UN Special Envoy to Haiti, Reginald Dumas, declared this week that the UN should be committing itself to a long-term mission in Haiti to last about twenty years, “We cannot continue with the start-stop cycle that has characterized relations between the international community and Haiti. You go in, you spend a couple of years, you leave, the Haitians are not necessarily involved and the whole thing collapses. This has to stop,” Dumas said he told the council

“There has to be a long-term commitment, which I perceive the council is ready and willing to give,” Dumas said.   “It must be coordinated assistance. It must be sustained assistance, and it must be assistance that involves the people of Haiti. It cannot be a situation in which the UN or some other agency goes in a says `I have this for you.’ There has to be discussion. There has to be cooperation, or else it will fail again.”

This is what Aristide was attempting to do, but he was sabotaged at every step by the United States CIA and USAID, by the European Union, by the IMF, and the World Bank.whose ideological commitment cannot comprehend the development of grass roots democracy and prefer to believe that select elements of ‘civil society’ will be able to provide at least a democratic facade.

That facade is intended to provide a mask for the slavery Haitians fought so valiantly to extinguish 200 years ago. The most significant actions of the outside world in the past month have been –

1.    A loan from the World Bank, the first since 1998, to a private company which intends to produce free-zone manufactures for the US market and

2.    the US Congress  initiative – “The  Haiti Economic Recovery Opportunity Act Of 2004,” which will extend   concessions to clothing and other goods produced in Haiti at starvation wages  in free zones.

Aristide Speaks

“On another day, I walked down another [slum] corridor and three young girls – wearing second-hand dresses thrown away by nice middle-class girls in a northern country and brought here by profiteering middlemen – these young girls were selling themselves for quarters and dimes and less, to any man – and that was the new generation of my beloved country. . . .

“I say to them, come back and make a new Haiti. Spurn comfort. Come back, live in misery and build a new way. . . . You know how hard it is to build Utopia on a garbage heap; indeed it is hard to build even a decent poor man’s home there. But that’s all we ask, a decent poor man’s home, and no more corruption, no more inflicted misery, no more children bathing in sewage.”

“…We are all living under a system so corrupt that to ask for a plate of rice and beans every day for every man woman and child is to preach revolution. That is the crime of which I stand accused!”  (Jean Bertrand Aristide: In the Parish of the Poor)

Copyright 2004 by John Maxwell

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update 5 January 2012




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