Aristide deserves better from U.S.

March 9, 2004

By Jesse Jackson

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti states that he was kidnapped by American forces, taken to a plane and shipped without knowing where he was going. He ended up in the Central African Republic, while U.S. Marines landed to provide protection to the interim government in Haiti and demand that the rebels put down their arms.

The U.S.-engineered coup against Aristide has generated outrage throughout the hemisphere and across the world.

Secretary of State Colin Powell states that Aristide's claim is ridiculous. The United States did not kidnap him. He wanted to avoid bloodshed in his country and resigned and asked for political asylum. Powell defends the Bush policy toward Haiti and dismisses the global criticism as unfounded.

But beneath these apparently contradictory stories is a reality on which both sides agree that implicates the United States directly in Aristide's overthrow.

Both the administration and Aristide agree that the Haitian opposition, mostly of the elite, loathed Aristide and feared the poor that he represented. Both agree that the rebels were composed of former remnants of the deposed dictatorship, thugs, drug smugglers and Papa Doc death squad members. Both agree that the Haitian police were outgunned by rebels who had a sanctuary in neighboring Dominican Republic, and access to machineguns and weapons beyond that of the sidearms carried by the police.

Both the administration and Aristide agree that as the rebels began shooting police, terrorizing cities and ''taking them over,'' Aristide sought U.S. assistance. Both agree that the United States refused to assist Aristide, the democratically elected leader of Haiti.

Both agree that Bush representatives demanded that Aristide accept an agreement that would make him essentially a figurehead president for the remainder of his term, with the opposition joining with Aristide's party to appoint a prime minister. If that agreement was reached, the United States announced it was ready to send in Marines to provide security and disarm the rebels.

Both agree that the opposition refused to accept any agreement that kept Aristide in office. Both agree that the administration did nothing to force the opposition to sign, and refused to protect Aristide or the Haitian capital from the rebels.

Both agree that Aristide was told the administration would not protect him or his family unless he agreed to resign and leave. Both agree that armed Marines escorted Aristide to the airport. Both agree that the plane took off with Aristide having no idea where it would land.

Nothing more is needed to establish that the Bush administration was directly implicated in a coup of the elected government of Haiti. The only disagreement is in the details:

Was the CIA, which had long ties to the leaders of the rebels, aware of the planned rebellion before it was launched? Did it assist or ''nod'' to the rebels when asked? Did it know of the flow of arms to the rebels? If it knew, did it do anything to intercept or impede that flow, or to warn the Haitian government or the regional allies?

It is vital that Congress hold hearings on what the CIA and the State Department and the Defense Department knew and how they acted on that knowledge.

But even without any further evidence, there is sufficient agreement on the facts to establish that this administration aided and abetted the coup against Aristide. And now it is working to put back in power the very Haitian elites that its ideologues had supported from the beginning.

Aristide is now languishing in Africa. But under U.S. law, he has the right to claim asylum in the United States. Unless it is afraid of the truth, the administration should proffer an invitation to him.

After all, as Powell's own story establishes, he wouldn't be in need of asylum if the Bush administration hadn't decided that he had to go.

Aristide.Org created and maintained by Jay Atkinson