Those who’ve read Paul Farmer’s account of foreign intervention in Haiti, appropriately titled “The Uses of Haiti,” know that the world-renowned doctor holds a low opinion of the U.S. media. Taking aim at both The Wall Street Journal and New York Times for circulating government propaganda, Farmer accuses them of misleading the U.S. public during the brutal (and U.S. supported) reigns of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, aka “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc.”
Perhaps the NYT is playing an old trick - feigning opposition to a government policy to provide a liberal outlet - but yesterday it snapped away from Washington. According to its editorial board, “The Last Thing Haiti Needs” is the return of “Baby Doc,” a refreshing contrast to the official U.S. position. To no surprise, the State Department has announced that the “last thing Haiti needs” is the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristde, exiled president and possibly the most popular man in Haiti.
Aristide has posted a statement online announcing, "As far as I am concerned, I am ready. The purpose is very clear: to contribute to serving my Haitian sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education."
Now who would ever want that?
Voice of America bluntly “reports,” “The United States Thursday expresses opposition to the possible return to Haiti of deposed former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. U.S. officials say in the wake of this week’s arrival in Haiti of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, the return of another controversial figure is the ‘last thing’ Haiti needs.”
"Haiti has its hands full dealing with the current ongoing election process," Tweeted State spokesman Philip Crowley. "And we do not think that any actions by any individual at this point that can only bring divisiveness to Haitian society is helpful in helping Haiti move forward - expressly because the Haitian people need the emergence of a new government that they believe, and have confidence, can lead Haiti to a more prosperous future."
Deputy spokesman Mark Toner added that Haiti should focus on its future, and that Aristide "is not really part of that equation." Yes, because the government outlawed one of Haiti's most popular parties, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas.
Crowley paradoxically echoed, “We do not doubt President Aristide's desire to help the people of Haiti. But today Haiti needs to focus on its future, not its past."
The U.S. response to Aristide is to be expected given his intimate knowledge of unlawful U.S. activity; the State Department ignored warnings from Congressional Democrats to appeal Fanmi Lavalas’s disqualification, which many suspect Washington of privately backing. Yet the State Department’s reaction is no less revolting and insensitive. To argue that Haiti's past has no bearing on its future is unconscionable, not just because the link between past and future is proven, but because Washington is obviously trying to conceal its own nefarious history in the country.
Thus America continues to oppose Aristide out of its own interests, not because of Haitians. Some things never change - past meet future.