Saturday, January 16, 2010

Noam Chomsky on Why Haiti is Haiti

Here is a snippet of a fascinating piece by Noam Chomsky on the sad history of American involvement in Haiti:

Given the cultural climate of the day, the character of (Woodrow) Wilson's 1915 invasion comes as no great surprise. It was even more savage and destructive than his invasion of the Dominican Republic in the same years. Wilson's troops murdered, destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery, and demolished the constitutional system. After ruling for 20 years, the US left "the inferior people" in the hands of the National Guard it had established and the traditional rulers. In the 1950s, the Duvalier dictatorship took over, running the show in Guatemalan style, always with firm US support.
The brutality and racism of the invaders, and the dispossession of peasants as US corporations took over the spoils, elicited resistance. The Marine response was savage, including the first recorded instance of coordinated air-ground combat: bombing of rebels (Cacos) who were surrounded by Marines in the bush. An in-house Marine inquiry, undertaken after atrocities were publicly revealed, found that 3250 rebels were killed, at least 400 executed, while the Marines and their locally recruited gendarmerie suffered 98 casualties (killed and wounded). Leaked Marine orders call for an end to "indiscriminate killing of natives" that "has gone on for some time." Haitian historian Roger Gaillard estimates total deaths at 15,000, counting victims "of repression and consequences of the war," which "resembled a massacre." Major Smedley Butler recalled that his troops "hunted the Cacos like pigs." His exploits impressed FDR, who ordered that he be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for an engagement in which 200 Cacos were killed and no prisoners taken, while one Marine was struck by a rock and lost two teeth.

Please read it all. Keep this in mind when people like Rush Limbaugh complain about the United States offering aid. Haiti has suffered for years at the hands of the French, the US, and more broadly, the world.

The United States wasn't just built by hardworking farmers and John Galt types. It was also built with the sweat, blood and tears of of many innocent people. The United States imposed its will on people from the Atlantic to the Pacific, destroying nascent civilizations as it looted their wealth. It owes a moral debt to these nations. For the most part, they just want to be left alone. But it is incumbent upon us to help these people, because we are responsible for (and have benefitted from) the economic situation many of these nations find themselves in today.

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