Daily Archives: 22 June 2005

Haiti, 1993: After Watching Somalia on CNN

The U.S. chargé d’affaires goes to the docks to greet the American soldiers and their landing ship, the USS Harlan County. The chargé’s car is kicked and rocked by a gang of drunken macoutes with crude weapons. “Haiti, Somalia! Haiti, Somalia!” they shout. “Aidid, Aidid!” Their eyes are wide and bloodshot and gleeful. Goliath is wounded and confused. Democracy in Haiti is no longer worth American blood.

So President Clinton orders the American soldiers and their ship to withdraw from the docks and from Haiti. It’s too dangerous.

But it isn’t. The American military could crush the macoutes in an afternoon’s training exercise. They know it, and the macoutes know it.

The problem is not military; it’s psychological. Fear ripples from Somalia through Washington to Haiti. A few punks with small guns and big mouths and the world’s only superpower is in retreat.

Far up the hill at the Hotel Montana, the UN’s special representative for Haiti is on TV assuring the world that the USS Harlan County will soon dock and American soldiers will disembark before dark. Someone forgot to tell him that they’ve withdrawn and that the whole city is watching as the ship grows smaller and smaller and disappears over the horizon, past Cuba, toward Miami.

It’s a lonely and demoralizing sight. The chargé d’affaires is almost in tears on TV as it dawns on her how badly she’s been betrayed by her superiors. She denounces the macoutes as gangsters who don’t want the future of Haiti to arrive. But it’s her ship that didn’t arrive. Last week it required eighteen fallen Rangers in Somalia to get Clinton running scared. This week a group of loudmouthed thugs did it.

How in hell is he ever going to face down the Bosnian Serbs, who, unlike their Somali and Haitian brothers, have a real army?

SOURCE: Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson (Miramax Books, 2004), pp. 170-171

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Somalia, 1993: Watching Haiti on CNN

I check in with Heidi at India Base. She’s watching CNN with the American Intel officer who’s been hovering around her lately. Wonder what’s up there. They’re watching breaking news from Haiti. The Intel guy says the USS Harlan County arrived yesterday to deploy American and Canadian peacekeeping troops and a crowd of Haitians came to the dock to greet the ship, shot in the air, shouting “Aidid, Aidid,” and the Harlan County was ordered to retreat. Turned tail. Withdrew.

From Haiti?

I look at the Intel guy. Are you shitting me? We retreated from Haiti? They barely have an army for fucksake. The macoutes will run riot now. Open season. They win. He looks back at me with a cold stare. I try to hold his gaze. There’s an entire doctoral dissertation communicated in the three-second silence of that stare-down. It’s the most coherent articulation of an American foreign policy critique I’ve ever heard in my life, and he didn’t have to say a thing.

I’m ashamed in front of the officer. For being a civilian. Like I personally represent everything that’s wrong with the policies we’re all watching fall apart. Only civilians would imagine that you can keep the peace in a hot war without fighting.

This will never work now. It’s over. I gave this idea everything I had, literally. Why am I taking this all so personally? It’s not about me, I tell myself, even as I talk to myself. This is exactly why Heidi thinks Andrew and I are full of shit: it’s always about us and our ideas, not about individual humans. But an idea died this week, just like a human dies. How many successful peacekeeping missions will never be sent now? How many lives we could have saved will be lost now? The question is palpable as India Base Somalia watches CNN Haiti.

SOURCE: Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson (Miramax Books, 2004), pp. 171-172

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Filed under Africa, Caribbean, NGOs, U.N., war