There can no longer be any doubt: the United States government, under the leadership of the Bush administration, is behind the current coup against Haiti and the kidnapping of that nation’s rightful president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Bush cadre are no longer content to simply use Jim Crow tactics to steal elections here at home (Florida, 2000); they have exported their racism by overthrowing the democratically elected president of a nation observing the bicentennial of its successful revolt against slavery. Bush and his Republican cronies are certainly ready to wage class oppression – but they ain’t got one shred of class.
One organization in particular has played a vital role in this illegal aggression: the International Republican Institute, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and including on its board rightist luminaries such as Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and David Dreier (R-Calif.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Lawrence Eagleburger, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Brent Scowcroft. Funded by Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy, the IRI is the convener and one of the major funders of the Haitian opposition umbrella group, the Democratic Convergence.
As Paul Farmer notes in his book, “Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor,” “Although the Democratic Convergence has scant popular support within Haiti, it clearly has support in Washington.” In the Haiti Action Committee booklet “Hidden in the Headlines: The U.S. War Against Haiti,” Laura Flynn, Pierre Labossiere and Robert Roth write that “the U.S. has spent millions to fund the ‘Democratic Convergence.’”
What do the Republicans and U.S. ruling class so despise in Haiti? The gains that have been made under Aristide on behalf of the Haitian people – despite the U.S.-sponsored embargo (begun under the Democrat Clinton) and its ongoing campaign of subterfuge – seem of no import to them whatsoever. No matter that Aristide won the first and third democratic elections in Haiti, by a landslide each time; no matter that under Aristide the Haitian military was dismantled, more schools were built than in the entire previous century, and the minimum wage was doubled. Democracy and the security and welfare of the Haitian people simply do not matter to Bush, McCain, the IRI, the Republicans, the power-hungry wealthy elite of our country.
Through the International Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy’s other core grantees, the U.S. ruling class carries out a global agenda in the shadows, with taxpayer funding. The IRI represents the far right wing of these grantees.
The NED was initiated by the Reagan administration and funded by an act of Congress, yet was designated a “private” institution. This means that it and its core groups carry out foreign initiatives with public funds, free of meaningful or official oversight. Allen Weinstein, the NED’s theoretical planner, noted in a 1991 Washington Post interview, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” The fact is, in many respects, the NED-sponsored groups are even freer of congressional monitoring then those of their CIA predecessors.
These organizations work in the shadows to support and direct assaults on democracy and people’s movements around the world. The IRI, for example, boasted about its support of elements behind the failed coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. It actively funds and coordinates organizations working to destabilize the government of Cuba, even bragging about the increasing number of illegal disruptions it has supported there. It has provided resources to anti-democratic, extremist organizations throughout Eastern Europe. It aids and abets reactionary movements in Ecuador, Brazil, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Baltics, ad nauseum – for example, it coordinated a Conference of the Central and Eastern European Centre-Right Political Parties. Wherever and whenever any nation or people’s movement stands in the way of right-wing lust for profits and power, the IRI is there.
We must recognize the NED, the IRI, and their initiatives for what they are: right-wing shadow foreign policy institutions funded by taxpayers, yet subject to no meaningful oversight whatsoever. Certainly, they should be abolished altogether. But short of that, we must demand that they be de-privatized and that their activities be made public and subject to congressional review.
And we must demand that our senators and representatives join the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for an investigation into U.S. involvement in the illegal coup against Haitian President Aristide. Especially, we must investigate the role played by the Bush administration and the IRI. And we must hold George W. Bush, John McCain, and other “shadow operatives” personally responsible for any wrongdoing by the anti-democratic thugs whom they have organized, armed and funded. If a bloodbath occurs in Haiti, these are the persons and the institutions behind it.
That should matter dearly to anyone who cares about democracy.
James Jordan is a member of Turnwind and the Tucson Peace Action Coalition. He can be reached at email@example.com.