By Kenneth J. Theisen
The devastation and death that has occurred this week in Haiti has made me cry as I read accounts and see pictures of the tragedy there. The numbers of dead will likely be in the tens of thousands, if not higher. The whole world is watching and people want to do what they can to help the Haitian people.
But as the Haitian people suffer, the U.S. government is conducting what amounts to a military invasion of a suffering population, and accompanying this with a public relations campaign to portray the U.S. military and U.S. imperialism as some sort of humanitarian saviors. We must not forget the real role played by the U.S. war machine around the world and also in Haiti.
The New York Times carried a story about the first American ship to reach Haiti after the earthquake. The Coast Guard cutter Forward was dispatched from the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The 82nd Airborne, the marines, and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson have also been sent by the President. On the Pentagon’s website today there are 5 articles about how the U.S. military has come to the aid of the Haitian people. The White House has stated that Haiti is Obama’s number one priority.
All this is intended to re-cast U.S. imperialism and its vast military as a positive force in the world. We are expected to forget the many current wars in which the U.S. is the aggressor and the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by these wars. We are supposed to ignore that the American Empire has troops deployed in over 100 nations and patrols the seas with nuclear armed armadas to make the world safe for U.S. imperialism.
And even the many interventions, coups, and occupations of Haiti by the U.S. are not mentioned in the mass media. I have not seen one article or broadcast since the earthquake that mentioned that the U.S. invaded Haiti and occupied it from 1915 to 1934. The U.S. imposed military rule on Haitians for two decades, brutally suppressing any resistance. Not one mention was made in any article that the U.S. forces killed thousands of Haitians during this period – people who dared to resist the foreign occupation of their country, people caught in the crossfire, people who were killed because they were Haitians..
The Times article that talked about ships being deployed from Guantánamo Bay did not mention that Gitmo was previously used in the 1990s as a detention center to imprison HIV-infected Haitians who were seeking asylum in the U.S. The article mentioned that the Coast Guard cutter was there to assist in the relief effort of Haiti, but did not mention the many years that the Coast Guard has been patrolling the sea to keep Haitian refugees from reaching U.S. shores. As a result of these patrols and U.S. immigration policies, thousands of Haitians have perished at sea trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The mainstream media has also failed to mention the violent overthrow and forced exile of Haiti’s democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the hands of the U.S. imperialist in 2003. The years of the U.S. supported dictatorship of the Duvalier regime are also left out of current media reports of the “humanitarian mission” of the U.S. military.
Some would say that all this is not relevant at this time. After all this is merely a “natural disaster.” While it is true that nature led to the earthquake, the extent of the death and destruction is not natural. The poverty of Haiti is not natural. The lack of properly constructed buildings which collapsed in the earthquake is not natural. The poor infrastructure which inhibits the relief of Haiti is not natural. The inadequate health structure is not natural and this has led to unnecessary death after the earthquake. All these are directly caused by the hundreds of years of imperialist domination inflicted upon the Haitian people.
It is not the purpose of this article to detail all the oppression of the Haitian people at the hands of the imperialists, but Haiti did not come to be one of the poorest nations in the world by accident or because Haitians are lazy. Most of the people of Haiti are the descendants of slaves forcibly removed from Africa hundreds of years ago. The Haitian people who have frequently risen to demand freedom for themselves and their nation have been repeatedly put down by military force, including the brutal force of the U.S. military.
Over the last century, the Haitian people have been directly governed by the U.S. or by U.S.-supported repressive governments for most of that time. Occupation forces have at different times included the U.S. marines and army and even U.N. forces. The underdevelopment of Haiti is a direct result of U.S. imperialism. That underdevelopment is a large reason that this earthquake has resulted in so much destruction. But you will not hear that story from the U.S. propagandists.
Instead over the coming weeks we will hear how generous the U.S. is in providing aid to the country.
We will see stories of the U.S. troops handing out food to the Haitians or unloading cargo plains with relief supplies. We will see crocodile tears from U.S. officials who are “concerned” about the devastation in that tiny nation. But do not forget that much of that devastation is also the responsibility of the U.S. government. And do not forget the real role of the U.S war machine – to enforce the domination of U.S. imperialism over the world.