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The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the UN Occupation in Haiti
central america / caribbean | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis Wednesday November 03, 2010 06:27 by B.O. Solidarity Network
At first glance, one might wonder what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have in common with a UN “peace” mission on the opposite side of the world, in Haiti, a non Muslim country. Indeed, from the standpoint of US military casualties or US military expenditures, there is little in common
The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the UN Occupation in Haiti
But for a few weeks earlier this year, after the January 12th earthquake, there were proportionally as many US troops in Haiti as in Afghanistan in 2009, before Obama’s surge. And the death toll of over 300,000 and the devastation which left more than 1.2 million people homeless certainly made Haiti look like a war zone. The militarization of rescue efforts, which gave absolute priority to establishing and maintaining military control rather than to the distribution of critical aid left piling up in airport hangars, and the division of Port-au-Prince into red, orange and green security zones, were eerily reminiscent of US occupation policies. And although military control was soon handed back to a beefed-up UN multilateral mission, the MINUSTAH, this relatively brief US military incursion was quite revealing in terms of US political and strategic interests. Why did the US react with such a massive troop deployment in Haiti? What is at stake for the US in Haiti? Why should the US anti-war movement consider Haiti as another front in the US military campaigns of aggression? What do these policies have to do with the US New World Order globalization agenda?
Much as Viet Nam and the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba are long lasting symbols of US imperialist failures and overreaching ambitions, the failures of the US war efforts in Iraq and in Afghanistan are re-stamping the tag of paper tiger onto the flanks of the US war machine. Notwithstanding the corporate media’s complicity in attempting to cover up the US military debacle, fewer and fewer in the US believe in George Bush’s “mission accomplished” or that the US has won, is winning or will win these 2 wars. Even a precarious stalemate at the cost of a continuing military occupation seems overly pretentious.
The National Priorities Project at costofwar.com puts current military war expenditures at over $1 trillion. That’s close to $37 billion for New York City alone, or about $4,400 for each one of us in this room. But, according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, the current total economic cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is four to six times higher than that, at $4-6 trillion. This figure includes an estimated $900 billion to care for returning disabled US veterans who are reportedly dying 3 times faster upon their return than they were in actual deployment.
The immorality and injustice of these wars that have claimed over 1.4 million Iraqi civilian casualties, according to justforeignpolicy.org, are the foremost reason we should oppose them, not their military costs. However, it seems clear that the figures for military spending point to relevant underlying class interests at stake in these military conflicts.
The US military industrial complex, or the US War Machine, has devised a new kind of war, the so-called War on Terror, which can supply it with a seemingly endless source of military conflicts. Quite conveniently, the enemy is everywhere, and supplemental military appropriations and Patriot acts get voted in Congress with almost no opposition whatsoever. On top of that, the odious character of military operations themselves, with their indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, ensures a steady supply of new recruits for those who oppose the US. And the targeting of the worldwide Muslim community has made the War on Terror a self-fulfilling renewable policy.
Having conveniently shrugged off the now useless WMD motive, or even the War for Oil strategic imperative, the most thriving sector of the US industrial economy, and one of the sectors of the US ruling class with uncontested political power in both Republican and Democrat ruling class political parties, the US Military Industrial Complex reigns as one of the dominant fractions of the US capitalist ruling class. Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, GE, Boeing, Bechtel, Halliburton, Blackwater, DynCorp, Xe Services… all these huge multi-legged monsters have successfully pushed through their agenda of expanding and privatizing war.
But they are not alone. Indeed, US wars of aggression can best be understood as policies that are intimately tied to the overall agenda of US dominated capitalist globalization (as outlined by PNAC [Project for a New American Century], the right wing think tank that predicted the need for another Pearl Harbor) and the ever-increasing dominance of finance capital as the hegemonic fraction of the US capitalist ruling class. Follow the money: in 9 years, the military industrial complex got about $1 trillion in supplemental appropriations for its 2 wars. The financial sector got about that much in the bailout in one year, and much more in loan guarantees from the Federal Reserve.
Without getting sidetracked into theoretical debates, it’s important to realize that US and international capitalism are governed by several deep inherent contradictions that provoke recurring crises. Among them are a tendency for falling rates of profit (money makes money and the money money makes more money… compounded interests mean the systematic reinvestment of profits driven by competition, mutual funds, 401k funds, pension funds… meaning that there is a constant need to find new sources of profits for new capital by reducing labor costs, leading to offshore outsourcing and offshore sweatshop manufacturing…) contradictions between state and private monopoly capital (like the health care crisis and the military industrial complex), contradictions between finance and manufacturing (the real estate crisis, just think, what part of the bailout did GM get? What part did AIG get?), contradictions between nationalization of profits and expansion of multinational corporations and contradictions between the national character of capital and the internationalization of finance (how long will China keep taking paper money in exchange for manufactured goods?). These contradictions result in national debt crises, balance of trade crises and currency crises.
Different capitalist ruling class fractions seize upon these recurring crises to promote and implement their own agendas, however overriding class interests unite the US capitalist class behind a two pronged agenda of Free Trade capitalist globalization combined with US global military expansionism as its safeguard. Why are capitalists so obsessed with Free Markets and Free Trade? Not because they’re “free and democratic”, but because Free Markets mean dog eat dog competition where the big dogs wins, and to back up these wins, just like the loan sharks need an enforcement arm, US capitalism needs its military. The US nuclear arsenal is the ace in the hole that backs up the dollar as an international currency. Capitalism would like us to believe that we’re just one bubble away from the next round of prosperity… In reality, real wages in the US have been falling since the 1970’s. Just ask offshore sweatshop workers how good the last bubbles were…
New World Order, (a phrase re-coined by George H Bush in a speech on September 11, 1990), capitalist globalization is an overall agenda of the US capitalist ruling class that uses Free Trade policies to promote capitalist and imperialist expansion, and uses debt crises to implement austerity programs that reduce wages and social benefits for workers and increase profits for capitalists. Free Trade policies provide opportunities for US led multi-national corporations to expand internationally in dominated, so-called Third World countries, as big bullies, gaining monopolies by buying out newly privatized state industries or by sheer market strength, overtaking local industry and agriculture and establishing cheap labor assembly sweatshops. Debt crises provide the political opportunity to implement these otherwise unpopular austerity measures. These Free Trade policies, pushed through via various international agencies such as the IMF, the World Bank, the IDB, the WTO, and through regional trade accords such at NAFTA and CAFTA, enable capitalist imperialist globalization to coerce through debt and achieve goals that it once used to pursue mainly through colonial wars.
But the Free Trade option is not the only option wielded in this outright capitalist class war. When governments resist the implementation Free Trade policies, or when outright imperialist expansionism is too tempting for neo-cons to resist, as in Iraq, the iron hand behind the Free Market is swift to enter into action. As always, US global military expansionism is the safe keeper of US capitalist expansionism.
This one-two punch of capitalist expansionism is implemented in part by international finance institutions on the Free trade side, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and international trade accords, and in part by international politico-military alliances such as NATO and the UN, on the enforcement side.
To quote a 2002 Global Sweatshop Coalition forum in which the BO solidarity Network took part:
Whether through outright invasions to seize control of the Middle East's oil reserves or through negotiated “Free Trade” agreements to establish sweatshops and “privatize” state run monopolies, the common objective is to bust open markets for US corporations to pillage the resources of oppressed and dominated nations. That is why those who mobilize against the war are aligned in their struggle with those who battle exploitation, repression and corporate globalization.That was our statement in 2002.
As a result of complying with these IMF, World Bank and US State Department mandates, Haiti has privatized the Minoterie, the State flour mill, Ciment d’Haiti, the state cement industry, Enaol, the state vegetable oil company, and more recently, Teleco, the state phone company, and partially privatized EDH, the state electricity company. All these privatizations have effectively eliminated most sources of funding for government programs. The Haitian government, reduced to mendacity, depends on foreign grants and loans for 70% of its budget.
Haiti cut its import tariffs, reduced government subsidies on most primary goods, eliminated trade restrictions, cut the size of the government by more than 70%, eliminated the army, reduced spending on social services to the point that the budget for the state university is about $10 per student per year. The Aristide government set up a Free Trade Zone on the Dominican border, jailed union organizers, gave complete impunity to illegal union busting practices by factory owners, and delayed and limited the cost of living adjustment of the minimum wage to half its legally mandated level.
But that was not enough. In 2004, the US intervened militarily again, with France and Canada, and again escorted Aristide out of Haiti. This intervention came about as a result of US funded destabilization of Aristide’s government, compounded by growing popular discontent due to government corruption scandals and repressive practices. In February 2004, a band of about 200 CIA funded mercenaries headed by Guy Philippe and Louis Jodel Chamblain, crossed over from the Dominican Republic and laid siege to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. That was enough to provoke Aristide’s removal.
The US again led the way in establishing a UN proxy occupation of Haiti. This new US proxy occupation force, the MINUSTAH, a French acronym for “Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti”, or in English, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, came about as a result of negotiations between the main superpowers engaged in Haiti: the US, France and Canada, and emerging regional powers, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, resulting in UN Security Council resolution 1542.
According to a February 2006 GOA (US Government Accountability Office) report, the US government is able to save about 85% of the cost of maintaining a US occupation force in Haiti by relying on a UN multinational force. With US military resources stretched by the ongoing wars, clearly, UN intervention was a viable option.
Currently, the MINUSTAH is composed of about 9,000 military personnel from 19 different countries, 3,000 police personnel from 50 different countries, and about 2,000 civilian personnel. The MINUSTAH’s military is headed by a Brazilian contingent of about 1,300 troops. Its current budget is about $732 million per year, of which the US contributes about 27% and the Haitian government about 0.2%, or about $1.4 million. Throughout its 6-year term, the MINUSTAH occupation has cost more than $4 billion, or about $440 per Haitian citizen, in a country where most adults struggle to make $2 a day.
But why should the Haitian popular masses object to getting such massive peacekeeping efforts? After more than 500 years of invasions, genocide, pillage, enslavement, occupations, government overthrows, racist discrimination, embargos, and imperialist domination and exploitation, why should the Haitian people object to a little foreign aid?
Or, as some Brazilian passers by asked us as we were recently picketing the Brazilian consulate demanding the withdrawal of MINUSTAH troops from Haiti: why are we blaming Brazil? Aren’t they helping us? And now we want them to get out?
We gave them some fliers and told them that we don’t need soldiers with guns and tanks to give out aid, we need doctors and tractors, and that in Brazil, there are also popular protests against Brazilian participation in the MINUSTAH, and they seemed to understand, but that of course, is only part of the story.
On the face of things, a UN peacekeeping mission to train the Haitian police and help run democratic elections should be welcomed by all good-hearted peace loving people. But if UN peacekeeping missions are so good-hearted, why choose Haiti?
Is there a UN peacekeeping mission in Mexico, where the drug war has resulted in over 26,000 civilian casualties over the last 3 years? Was a UN peacekeeping mission dispatched to Honduras after the military overthrow of Zelaya in June 2009? Is there a UN peacekeeping mission in Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country for trade unionists and a country engaged in civil war since the 1960’s? Clearly, in Central and Latin America, there are other countries with higher rates of kidnapping and political violence.
So what makes Haiti so special that it should benefit from the “benevolence” of the more than 50 countries that take part in the MINUSTAH occupation? In many ways the US proxy occupation of Haiti can be best described as a crime of opportunity. In Creole we say: “Dan pouri gen fòs sou bannann mi” or rotten teeth are strong when eating ripe plantains. Haiti represents the exacerbated contradictions brought about by the forced implementation of the mantra of Free Market policies. Because of the systematic planned weakening of the Haitian state, rendered impotent, puppet-like through successive US backed coups and the dissolution of the Haitian army, Haiti is an easy target for imperialist aggression, presenting almost no resistance. Indeed, every year the Haitian government itself renews its request for the prolongation of the MINUSTAH occupation. Having been rendered a failed state through years of oppressive policies, the Haitian government is itself a partner in its own receivership.
Haiti is like the “canary” in the mineshaft of capitalism, and because of its extreme poverty it is one of the weakest links in the empire. As such, Haiti is made into an example of compliance with all the dominant models of neoliberalism. It does not matter that these prescriptions, like free trade and sweatshop promotion fail utterly to develop the country’s economy. What is most important is to keep Haiti in line and to prevent revolutions or catastrophic overflows that would send boatloads of refugees to the shores of Florida and destabilize the region. It’s OK if Haiti becomes a wasteland of zombies, as long as it doesn’t create a bad example by implementing nationalist policies instead of neoliberal free trade policies or as long as, god forbid, it doesn’t become socialist.
Peering through and peeling away the humanist language of the UN security council resolutions, one can see the class objective of the MINUSTAH’s mandate: “save” Haiti for capitalism, through capitalism, even if that means laying the country to waste. Free trade that destroys the national economy, assembly sweatshops that pay slave wages built right next to earthquake survivor refugee camps (Coraille Cesslesse), Monsanto GMO seeds and fertilizers, mango cola and exclusive beach clubs, that’s the proven-failed prescription that complies with the New World Order mantra. That’s the $11 billion ICRH Haiti reconstruction plan ratified in the March 31st donor conference in New York. In this sick logic of for profit development, even in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with the lowest wages, the only way to promote investment and grow the economy is to make it more profitable for investors to invest, by lowering the already starvation wages. That was Bill Clinton’s major achievement last year as he rallied more than 100 investors to “save and develop Haiti”. That was what Wyclef Jean meant when, announcing his candidacy, he proclaimed that: “Haiti is open for business”. Why can’t those few who have so much tighten their belts a little bit for development? But we should ask the same question about policies here in the US.
In 1985, even after close to 30 years of economic regression and degradation under the Duvalier dictatorships, Haiti was self sufficient in rice production. According to US Department of Commerce statistics, in 1985 Haiti produced 163,000 tons of rice and imported only 7,000 tons. By 1995, after IMF mandated trade liberalization measures cut import tariffs from 35% to 3% under Aristide, Haiti was importing twice as much rice as it was producing, and by 2000, it was producing only 130,000 tons of rice, but importing 220,000 tons. Haiti's extremely low import tariff on rice is part of the trade liberalization policies which earned it a score of 1 on the IMF's 1999 Index of Trade Restrictiveness, making Haiti the least trade restrictive country in the Caribbean, but also the poorest.
When Bill Clinton recently reflected on these policies, he admitted to their failure and commented that he regretted those policies that were more beneficial to rice farmers in Arkansas than Haiti. Crocodile tears: that did not stop Clinton for lobbying for limiting a 6-year delayed adjustment to the minimum wage to half what it should have been under Haitian law and from promoting slave-wage sweatshop Free Trade zones as the main alternative for industrial development in Haiti. Is that humanism, economic realism, or just plain pandering to capitalist greed? Is there no other way? We think there is. The Haitian people think there is.
Like in Iraq and Afghanistan, elections are being organized this year in Haiti because, as per the Free Trade mantra, elections promote political structures that are favorable to the free trade agenda. Less than a year after the January 12th earthquake that destroyed much of the capital, killed over 300,000 people and left 13% of the population homeless, Haitians are being urged to go to the polls to choose a new government. Having exhausted the Préval government’s legitimacy, imperialism needs a new puppet to rubber-stamp its so-called reconstruction program. The Haitian people are being asked to choose one of nineteen candidates, none with any popularity or program but all with false promises, because imperialism finds it necessary to legitimize its continuing mandate of occupation.
As quoted from a 2008 NACLA article: The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), which began its mission in June 2004, has been marred by scandals of killings, rape, and other violence by its troops almost since it began. As has been documented by human rights investigators and declassified U.S. government documents, Minustah conducted a number of raids into Haiti’s slums—ostensibly to target armed gangs—that have repeatedly left scores of unarmed civilians dead.
In February 2008, the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services released its findings from an investigation into accusations against Sri Lankan MINUSTAH troops. It found that acts of sexual exploitation and abuse of children were "frequent" and occurred "at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed." No UN soldiers were ever brought to justice.
On July 6, 2005, in an operation aimed at capturing Dread Wlimé, a gang leader in Citè Soleil, one of the largest slums of Port-au-Prince (the capital of Haiti) with thin-walled dwellings, a squad of 440 UN Brazilian troops fired more than 21,000 rounds of ammunition in a span of a few minutes, according to internal UN reports, in an operation that lasted about 7 hours overall. Various independent sources reported that there were about thirty civilian casualties, among which were about twenty women and children. Dread Wilmé and a few of his associates were also killed.
On December 22, 2006, another UN raid in Cité Soleil resulted in 30 more reported civilian killings, although the UN disputes that number. There are numerous other documented incidents of MINUSTAH violence resulting in civilian casualties. Recently, on August 17, Gerard Jean Gilles, a 16 year old Haitian boy was found hanged inside a UN Nepalese compound in Cape Haitian.
This year, protests throughout Haiti against the MINUSTAH occupation have been on the rise. The January 12th earthquake exposed the MINUSTAH’s incompetence and uselessness. 12,000 soldiers and police bearing arms, none of whom speak the country’s language, cannot provide any security to the Haitian masses. They do not provide any deterrence to rapes and kidnappings. Their only role is to maintain the government in power. They only point their guns at the poor and at protesters. As long as they are in Haiti, the government can implement the neo-liberal agenda with impunity. No wonder, the Haitian government is quite willing to renew the MINUSTAH’s mandate every October.
In Creole we say: Si pa t gen sitirè, pa ta gen vòlè, meaning, "there would be no thieves without those who entice them". In the case of the MINUSTAH and the Haitian government, this is a 2-way relationship. They are clear associates, complicit servants to the policies of exploitation and domination of the Haitian ruling classes and of imperialist interests.
The fear in popular circles is that a new era of repression will begin after this year’s November 28 elections. With worsening conditions resulting from the implementation of failed agendas, popular unrest is sure to be on the rise, and the MINUSTAH is sure to be called upon to “keep the peace”. Already, a peaceful, legal protest on October 15, this year, in front of MINUSTAH headquarters was violently repressed by the Haitian national police and MINUSTAH forces. Over 400 protestors were tear gassed and violently beaten back with batons for attempting to protest the extension of the MINUSTAH’s mandate for an additional year.
We call on the anti-war movement here in the US to mount an anti-occupation campaign as part of its stand against global imperialist aggression. We call on the US progressive community to build an anti-occupation movement in solidarity with the popular movement in Haiti. We must unite our struggles against neo-liberal austerity policies that reduce our wages and social benefits here with the struggle against the implementation of these same policies abroad. Our struggle against neo-liberalism, New World Order policies, wars and occupations is part of our class struggle to free ourselves from capitalist domination and exploitation.
We must realize that the anti-war movement just like the anti-globalization movement is fundamentally a worker solidarity movement in a global class war. That is why the anti-war movement, just like the anti-globalization movement must be rooted in anti-imperialism and in support for popular movements. The answer is not in ousting neo-cons and voting Democratic leadership into the White House, Bush did most of that: Wolfowitz, Lake, Noriega, and now Rumsfeld and Cheney are gone, Obama’s Iraq policy is Bush’s Iraq policy, the war in Afghanistan is now Obama’s war. The answer is in challenging the system and in changing it.
TINA, that was Margaret Thatcher’s proclamation, that capitalist slap on our collective worker faces. But the popular movement in Haiti believes that we have an alternative. The popular movement is growing, spearheaded by organizations like Batay Ouvriye that bring working class leadership to specific and broad mobilizations for all kinds of demands, from adjusting the minimum wage, to the respect of worker rights to organize, to agrarian reform, to protesting GMO promotion and the privatization of water resources, to student rights, to demanding the withdrawal of all MINUSTAH occupation forces… In recent protests in Haiti, broad coalitions have been forming around these demands. Groups like Batay Ouvriye (Workers Struggle), MODEP (Democratic Popular Movement), Chandel, SOFA (Haitian Women in Solidarity), FRAKKA (Housing Action and Reflection Front), PAPDA (Promotion of an Alternative Development), Tèt Kole òganizasyon popilè (Alliance of Popular Organizations), Antèn Ouvriye (Worker’s Antenna), PEVEP (Platform of Fired Public Sector Workers), CATH (Autonomous Federation of Haitian Workers), Komite Relèvman Divivye (Divivye Renewal Committee), Tèt Kole ti Peyizan Ayisyen (Alliance of Small Haitian Farmers), Asosiyasyon Solidarite ti Peyizan Plezans (ASPP) (Association of Small Farmers in Palisance), Mouvman Òganizasyon ti Peyizan Plezans (MOPP), (the Plezans movement of organized small farmers) and many others, have been building up these mobilizations.
But these struggles are facing more and more repression; they are starving for resources and need our support. On October 12, the Haitian police shot dead Jean Louis Filbert, a mathematics professor who was peacefully protesting for constitutionally mandated free education. We appeal to you, as part your stand against the wars, against the occupations, to build a solidarity movement with these surging struggles. These are struggles that can eventually drive out the occupation forces, and that’s precisely why they are more and more targeted. And that’s why they deserve our support.