DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
August 16, 1994

HAITI: A QUAGMIRE WAITING TO HAPPEN

Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- President Clinton and his Haiti advisors argue the U.S. can't have a dictator in its "backyard." What a load of bull dung!

Dictators have ruled south of the Rio Grande since the Spanish conquistadors ravaged and raped everything and everyone in their path. Sadly, liberty, equality and justice have never been the norm for the vast majority of our Latino neighbors. Nor have dozens of Yankee invasions in Central America and the Caribbean brought American- style democracy. instead, disorder and exploitation have almost always followed in our footsteps. Clinton and clones should figure out from past forays that U.S. values can't be imposed on other lands with the point of a U.S. bayonet.

White House and State Department do-gooders -- most of whom avoided serving in Vietnam for reasons of conscience -- want to invade Haiti to salve their post-Vietnam acquired morality. Their sons, now dying age but safely tucked away in graduate schools, won't have to sully themselves with the Invasion. As usual, the price will be paid by those who honor and not by those, as Clinton wrote during the Vietnam War, who "loathe" serving in America's armed forces.

If Clinton is willing to risk our sons to punish some democracy-denying foreign devil, he should concentrate on Cuba. That cold war relic's regime is far more of a threat to America's security than the cartoon clowns that couped-out Haiti's elected but unstable -- as reported by the CIA -- Jean Aristide.

Haiti does not involve America's national security. The main lesson of the Vietnam War, a tragedy that bloodied 360,000 Americans, was that civil war between Hanoi and Saigon did not threaten the security of the United States.

Using U.S. Manes to restore an Aristide, despised by thousands of well-armed sharpshooters all over this ravaged island, won't bring the people of Haiti democracy. The consensus here is the Voodoo practicing, former Catholic priest wouldn't last a week 'after being reinstalled in the presidential bunker. Returning Aristide would be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

The last time the United States invaded Haiti -- back when a Yankee soldier cost less than a dollar a day -- it took us 19 years to get out. This time around, we'll be dealing with 1990s bank-breaking occupation rates, and the Haitian insurgents will be armed with more fire-power than a 1916 model machete.

Clinton wasted 44 American lives and over $2 billion in Somalia, only, in the end, to write that rescue effort off as a miscalculation. The 44 dead warriors, now forgotten except by their loved ones, will never return. Nor will the blown $2 billion. Could your city use a spare $2 billion? Could the children of the dead warriors use a father?

The embargo has only empowered the coup leaders, who remain in charge, making big bucks running the black market and smuggling network. The embargo makes our policymakers feet good because they think they're doing something. But we're only hurting the dirt-poor have-nots by a blockade that's already cost them their jobs. Because the people can no longer make a lousy $2 a day to feed their children, malnutrition is taking its toll. The hospitals are overflowing with dying babies and sick little kids, while the rich continue to enjoy their caviar and smoked salmon, and the goons with the guns glom up whatever they want that's left. Haiti has become an ecological disaster as well. The poor have had to ransack the land to survive, chopping down most of the trees to make charcoal to cook their meals. The top soil has been sliding down the hills into the sea, gradually destroying the farmers' and fishermen's livelihoods.

So it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild the country. The roads, sewers, water and electrical systems, industrial and agricultural infrastructure, hospitals and schools -- all are broken. Eight-five percent of the population -- the democratic majority who voted for Aristide -- are illiterate.

Clinton should withdraw our forces that have already cost over $200 million to maintain off Haiti, lift the embargo and suggest to our friends south of the border to solve the problem in their own backyard.