At least 9 demonstrators killed during huge march on Haiti's Flag Day

Marchers face down US Marines, shout ‘Liberty or death,´ ‘Bring back Aristide´

by Marguerite Laurent, J.D.

Haitian Lawyers Leadership
This pro-Aristide demonstrator, Titus Simpson, 23, was shot by Haitian Special Forces (CIMO) less than 30 yards in front of an American journalist covering Tuesday´s march celebrating Haiti´s Flag Day. U.S. Marines threatened the journalist with arrest for filming the events, and he was shot at twice. Simpson was unarmed, the only item in his possession a Walkman disk player.

May 18 is Haiti´s Flag Day, and a demonstration was planned and authorized by the police authorities. Copies of the authorization letter, dated May 10, were sent by Fanmi Lavalas to the United Nations, OAS and CARICOM.

Yet today the Haitian police, along with U.S. Marines, shot indiscriminately into the crowd aiming to break up the demonstration.

“They slapped us hard today,’ one of the demonstrators stated over the phone from Port-au-Prince. “But we slapped them right back because they thought all their killings of Lavalas and torturing had intimidated us all into hiding in our own country. They did not expect so many of us to take to the street to ask for the return of President Aristide and the disbanding of the army soldiers who are now running the Haitian National Police. That´s why we slapped them back.’

According to this source, which shall remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, the demonstration was to start in the Bel-Air neighborhood at 10:00 this morning, going on until 3 p.m. with a church service to follow.

Reports are still coming in as to exactly what happened, but according to eyewitnesses, around 8:00 this morning, as people assembled for the march, a force of U.S. Marines arrived in full combat gear and shot in the air to disperse them. They dispersed and reformed again at different locations throughout the city. This happened throughout the day.

The demonstrators were demanding a stop to the slaughter of Lavalas voters, a stop to the witch hunt and arbitrary arrests and tortures, the return of President Aristide and the removal of the U.S. Marines, other foreign troops and the rebel, ex-soldier police who are now terrorizing them hand in hand.

The demonstrators came out in massive numbers. They attempted to march peacefully and had no weapons, only the Haitian flag. But as the crowd got bigger, it is reported the Marines got madder and more surprised, more frustrated, and started shooting directly into the crowds. People in the hundreds of thousands were singing “Libete ou lamo’ (Liberty or death) and refusing to be intimidated, even as their fellows kept being cut down by police and U.S. Marine bullets.

At least four people were killed in the area where the demonstrators who reached us by phone were demonstrating. The police and Marines took away three bodies. Other witnesses report at least five others have been slaughtered.

The demonstration was so large that no one could observe it all. Organizers say that 30,000 to 50,000 are estimated to have been in the streets at one time or another today.

At least three eyewitnesses corroborated this particular story: One Haitian woman seized the fourth body when it fell next to her, refused to give it to the Marines. She removed ALL her clothes to show she had no weapons while Marines surrounded her at gunpoint as she cursed in Kreyol (Creole), calling on the revolutionary ancestors and shouting “Liberte ou lamo!’ She picked up the dead body herself and put it on her bare back, daring the Marines to kill her also while she carried it away.

People who saw this cannot stop talking about it, nor marveling and crying, all at the same time. Reportedly, the “blan’ (the “white’ soldiers) looked at each other, shook their heads and backed off, letting her carry the body which she wrapped around her naked torso in a huge blue and red Haitian flag. All the while singing “Bring back Aristide’ and “Liberty or death.’

Today´s killings and arrests are seen by the demonstrators as part of the U.S.´s 14-year campaign to destroy the Haitian poor´s thirst for their vote to be counted - just another elevated version for the hunting down of supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, the terror campaign aimed at the systematic dismantling of the party. For each one they kill, a thousand more branches will rise, one demonstrator told us over the phone, just like Toussaint Louverture and President Aristide said when they both got abducted out of Haiti.

These Haitians we talked to believe that the violent arrest of renowned singer and humanitarian activist Sò Anne (Annette Auguste) in the early hours of May 10 (see last week´s Bay View) was intended to stop today´s march from taking place. Yet they confirm the Lavalas cleansing, like ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, will only serve as a rallying point for the people to fight on until democracy is restored and the lawful and principled will of the Haitian masses is respected.

One Haitian directly involved in the march said, “It´s unbelievable how the U.S. Marines stood in the background sometimes as the former disbanded soldiers and FRAPH soldiers, now in the police, slaughtered the marchers. If they (the U.S. Marines) weren´t there, the people would take down the hated soldiers and take back their country.’

Another responded, “President Aristide called for U.S. help to shore up our old civilian police. Bush sent the Marines to shore up the people´s enemies, to help the rebels. Now they are doing this job, slaughtering Aristide supporters under the guise of being MIF (Multinational Interim Force) ‘peacekeepers.´’

Reportedly, the Haitian National Police position today (www.AHPhaiti.org/ndujour.html) is that Lavalas officials did not have permission to demonstrate today because the police were not notified of the demonstration. The permit, however, signed by Altieor James of the Haitian National Police, duly approved the route and authorized the demonstration. The route to be taken has been clearly delineated in the request for the permit. A copy is available upon request.

Several tens of thousands of people began the march in Bel-Air and made their way toward the Champ-de-Mars, as planned. Nevertheless, throughout the day, the Haitian police, using a new SWAT unit called CIMO that includes the bloody former Haitian military, opened fire into the air and apparently also toward the ground.

The demonstrators retreated and the demonstration re-formed in other parts of the capital. Besides the four killings already mentioned, there are reports that an unknown number of demonstrators were also killed and their bodies taken away by police in plastic bags. Many others were arrested and put in custody.

The Multinational Interim Force was reportedly present in more massive numbers at the Champ-de-Mars and is said to have been very hostile, threatening and intimidating the demonstrators, aiming their weapons at them and doing nothing to restrain the Haitian police as they slaughtered the unarmed demonstrators.

The U.S. Marines shot twice at an American journalist who was with the demonstrators filming the carnage - filming how this new CIMO Special Forces team from the Haitian police were slaughtering the people as the U.S. Marines stood in the background, when they weren´t directly participating themselves.

The fact is that the demonstrators duly alerted the Haitian police about the demonstration a week ahead of time, sent a copy of the notification to the UN, OAS and CARICOM, and received written approval. Those facts should have required the U.S. Marines and other MIF to provide protection for the demonstrators.

Under no circumstances is there legal justification for the use of lethal force such as was used today by the U.S. Marines and former Haitian soldiers-now-turned-police against peaceful demonstrators.

It is also reported that “students who where demonstrating, prior to the coup d´état, against President Aristide, have joined in with the Lavalas demonstrators demanding the occupation to end.’

Eyewitnesses say that one Lavalas victim died in a hail of U.S. Marine bullets, falling back with one hand held high making the “five-year sign’ for President Aristide to serve out his term and holding the Haitian blue and white flag in the other hand. His body was taken away by the U.S. Marines in a plastic bag.

At press time Tuesday night, witnesses are reporting U.S. Marine helicopters all over the poor neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, flying low and landing with troops in full combat gear on wartime alert mode. A source who contacted MIF spokesperson Lt. Col. Lapan reports, “He said that there may be violence tonight, that he feels the day is not over yet.’

Marguerite Laurent, known as the hip hop lawyer, is an entertainment attorney and chair of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership, a network dedicated to protecting the civil, human and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. Visit her website at www.margueritelaurent.com.

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US Marines dispute Bay View´s account of Haiti Flag Day protest

On Thursday and again on Saturday, the Bay View received email messages from U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Lapan, spokesman for the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti, wanting to “correct the record regarding MIF forces and U.S. Marines.’ Lapan is disputing our coverage of the May 18 protest by 30,000 to 50,000 Haitians, headlined “At least 9 demonstrators killed during huge march on Haiti´s Flag Day,’ in last week´s Bay View. This response to Lapan by journalist and documentary filmmaker Kevin Pina, an eyewitness, is followed by Lapan´s first message, then by responses from Pierre Labossiere and Wanda Sabir and finally by Lapan´s second message.

by Kevin Pina

Despite the slaughter of thousands of democracy-loving Haitians since the Feb. 29 coup d´état, 30,000-50,000 marched for freedom on Haiti´s Flag Day May 18. And they kept marching, even into a hail of police gunfire that felled several – their courage equal to that of their ancestors who defeated Napolean´s best troops. The Haitians of that day are described by a French officer, Capt. Jean-Baptiste Lemonnier-Delafosse: “But what men these Blacks are! How they fight and how they die! One has to make war against them to know their reckless courage in braving danger when they can no longer have recourse to strategem. I have seen a solid column, torn by grape-shot from four pieces of cannon, advance without making a retrograde step. The more they fell, the greater seemed to be the courage of the rest. They advanced singing … a song of brave men.’ Photo: Haiti Information Project © 2004

I was an eyewitness to events of May 18 and wish to publicly respond to a letter written to the SF Bay View by Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, USMC, director, Public Affairs Office of the Combined Joint Task Force, Haiti. His letter was a response to an account of events on May 18 written by attorney Marguerite Laurent and published in the Bay View May 19.

While it is true I did not see the Marines fire into crowds, it is also true they were not required to do so, as they left that dirty work to the SWAT team of PNH or Police Nationale de Haiti (which Lapan should know is the correct acronym, by the way, not HNP). The role of the Marines was to enter the heart of the neighborhood of Bel Air with an extraordinary show of numbers and firepower in a clear effort to intimidate the community.

The Lavalas demonstrators had decided earlier to use the area in front of Perpetual Catholic Church in Bel Air, after receiving a legal permit to demonstrate from the police, as a rallying point for their intended peaceful march demanding the return of their constitutional President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Should Lapan decide to question whether Lavalas received such permission to demonstrate, I have a copy of the approval document with an official PNH stamp bearing the signature of a senior officer.

Lapan is indeed correct in describing the Marines as having “assisted’ the PNH. While the Marines intimidated the community with an excessive show of armaments, or what he calls a “security presence,’ the demonstrators would then mass to leave the area and march down toward Champ de Mars. As they descended, the Marines became conspicuously absent as SWAT teams wearing black battle gear suddenly drove up to the front of the march and opened fire. It had the appearance of a clearly designed and coordinated strategy between the U.S. Marines and the Haitian SWAT team to forcefully break up an otherwise peaceful march. Annette Auguste, aka Sò Anne, and Titus Simpton certainly would not agree with this propaganda literature of a smiling white Marine surrounded by doting Black children that is being distributed throughout Haiti. Auguste's residence was violently assaulted by U.S. Marines and she was arrested on bogus charges of "being a threat to stability and security in Haiti.’ Titus Simpton was murdered by the a Haitian SWAT team "assisted" by the Marines during a peaceful demonstration on May 18 calling for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The grim face of this Marine watching the brave marchers on Flag Day better represents the repressive U.S. occupation forces. Photo: Haiti Information Project © 2004

In addition, there were several statements given on the scene that more than one demonstrator had been shot by the Marines´ backup SWAT teams of the PNH. There were also unconfirmed reports, as there have been on several other occasions, that the Marines placed corpses in black body bags and immediately removed them from the scene.

Many inquiries have been made at the General Hospital morgue in Port au Prince and private morgues throughout the capital by countless families who have been unsuccessful in finding the whereabouts of missing relatives who publicly identified themselves with Lavalas. These instances of disappearances have grown in such frequency that it has led many of the poor, whether rationally or irrationally, to believe that the U.S. Marines may have a morgue of their own hidden somewhere in the area of the capital. Daniel Lescouflet, 16 years old, was shot dead at point blank range on Haiti´s Flag Day by the regular forces of the Police Nationale de Haiti, who left in a vehicle with license number 1-0044. Daniel, part of the rasanblement in La Saline, was killed on the street that runs in front of the church of St. Jean Bosco, where President Aristide used to be pastor. Photo: Haiti Information Project © 2004

Lapan states, “Press accounts here in Haiti are that one person - not nine -was killed during the demonstration. It remains unclear how that person died.’ As to the actual number killed on May 18, I can guarantee Lapan that the investigation continues by credible human rights activists and journalists. I wonder if he and his forces can claim they are doing more to investigate the truth other than relying upon “press accounts.’

As to his statement about the one person confirmed killed by a less than reliable Haitian press, I can state that I was a witness to the killing of Titus Simpton. Yes, Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, USMC, you should at least know the victim has a name and an age like yourself: Titus Simpton was 23.

He was shot and killed by a Haitian SWAT team member less than 30 yards in front of me, and it was I who filmed his last breath as he lie bleeding from a single shot to the head. The only weapon he had in his hands lay beside him, a bloodied Sony Walkman he was listening to as he marched peacefully demanding the return of his president.

After this, I attempted to film the faces of the SWAT team members who shot towards the crowd and they immediately responded by firing off two rounds in my direction. That Lapan states he does not know this is disingenuous, as I later reported it to an Officer Vasquez and gave him the license plate number of the vehicle the SWAT left in shortly after the murder of Simpton. Given his sense of duty and military discipline, he must also know I have since been contacted on two other occasions to verify the information.

I have interviewed every single member of Annette Auguste´s household, and they all tell the same story. At 12:30 a.m. on the morning of May 10, a Special Forces team of the U.S. Marines violently invaded her home using explosive devices, terrorizing the occupants. I have photos of the damage and the paraphernalia left behind, including blasting caps and M-60 fuses.

The Haitian police never entered the premises nor did any official magistrate of the Haitian government. This was a unilateral home invasion undertaken exclusively by U.S. forces as the PNH stood outside watching from their vehicles. A warrant was asked for several times by those inside, and none was ever produced at the scene.

While Lapan states that this armed assault was undertaken “for questioning about threats to our forces and to stability and security in Haiti,’ he then contradicts himself by stating that PNH arrested Auguste on an outstanding warrant. Again, every single occupant and neighborhood dweller who witnessed this event states quite clearly that PNH never entered the premises.

If this overwhelming testimony is true, then why on earth are the U.S. Marines executing arrest warrants for the Police Nationale de Haiti? The larger question to Lapan is, where is the evidence to back up the U.S. claims that Auguste was at any time a threat to “his’ forces and “stability and security in Haiti’? Provide us with the evidence and hold yourself to the same standards of proof you demand, or maybe we should just listen to the Haitian press and accept it as gospel.

When Annette Auguste was arraigned this week, the only charge made before the court was a weak accusation of purported participation in events that occurred at a university campus last Dec. 5. There was never any mention of her being a threat to U.S. forces, stability and security in Haiti.

In fact, the presiding judge never showed up to the evidentiary hearing on May 20, and Auguste´s lawyers suspect this is because it is clear there is no evidence to justify continuing her incarceration. Unless this is a stalling tactic to allow more time for Lapan and “his’ forces to prepare a stronger case for what appear on the surface to be specious and outrageous charges targeting an individual for her political beliefs.

Can we believe Lapan and the U.S. government when they state that “last week's arrest of Annette Auguste by the Haitian National Police had nothing to do with planned Flag Day activities’? The only way to answer that is by citing the role this brave woman has played in organizing previous peaceful marches and rallies in defense of democracy in Haiti.

Anyone who knows Auguste´s history is well aware of the huge cadres of women who heed her call in Haiti and identify themselves by dressing in white. Of course, Lapan could not be expected to know this, as he has not been here that long and his knowledge of the history and culture come from “official’ briefings prepared for him by military intelligence specialists.

Did Annette Auguste´s arrest have any impact on the peaceful May 18 Flag Day demonstration demanding Aristide´s return? You certainly prove you know little about Haiti if you think it didn´t. Lapan´s response is either mere rhetoric approved by his superiors or proves how little he actually knows about contemporary Haitian history.

My final offering concerning the arrest of Annette Auguste is this letter sent May 11 from Congresswoman Maxine Waters to Secretary of State Colin Powell which shows the serious questions raised by this incident.

“Dear Secretary Powell:

“I write to urge you to immediately investigate the circumstances of the arrest of Anne Auguste (Sò Ann), a well-known Haitian woman, who was arrested on or about 12:30 a.m., May 10, 2004, by U.S. military personnel in Haiti, acting as part of the Multinational Interim Force (MIF). I have seen reports that indicate that U.S. soldiers blew up the gates at Anne Auguste's home with grenades and entered her house carrying machine guns. Eleven occupants of the house, including two children, were taken into custody and interrogated. Anne Auguste was arrested and transferred to the Haitian National Penitentiary.

“Ms. Auguste is an elderly Haitian woman on medication who is recovering from recent surgery. Her grandson, who was one of the children detained and who was placed in handcuffs, is a five-year-old boy. It is virtually impossible to believe that an elderly woman and a child needed to be subjected to such overwhelming force, even if the MIF deemed it necessary to interrogate them. Ms. Auguste remains under arrest. While she was finally taken before a judge today, she still has not been charged with any crime.

“It is critical that you explain why Ms. Auguste is being detained or release her immediately. I urge you to conduct an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding her arrest in order to determine the reasons for her arrest, the charges against her - if any - and whether excessive force was used against her or other occupants of her household. If it is determined that excessive force was used, it is imperative that you act to hold accountable those who were responsible.

“Finally, I urge you to monitor the actions of U.S. armed forces in Haiti and ensure that they not take any actions that could endanger the very Haitian people whom you say they are there to protect. I would appreciate it if you would contact me as soon as possible to clarify the circumstances of Anne Auguste's arrest and to advise how you intend to proceed. I look forward to your prompt response.

“Sincerely,

“Maxine Waters, Member of Congress’

As far as the question of who fired upon me, I stated earlier it was elements of the Haitian SWAT team who were being “assisted,’ to use Lapan´s word, by the U.S. Marines. That does not mean that I was not threatened by the U.S. Marines. Before the killing of Titus Simpton, I was disgusted, as an observer and journalist, to see how the U.S. Marines coordinated and provided cover for the Haitian National Police to attack the peaceful march by Lavalas on May 18.

As I was filming in one of the calmer moments of that day, one of the Marine grunts asked me, “What´s up?’ I made the mistake of giving him my honest opinion, to which his commanding officer on the scene responded by threatening to handcuff me and arrest me on the spot.

I provided him with my press credentials and asked him to identify himself. He purposely hid his name tag under the strap of his M-16 and refused three requests I made for him to identify himself. He threatened me again with immediate arrest if I did not leave “his’ Marines alone.

I considered it a display of arrogance and abuse of authority that has come to symbolize the U.S. Marine presence in Haiti. In my opinion, the Marines are being used as pawns in a foreign policy debacle in the making by the Bush administration.

The U.S. forces are now trying to pretend they have no control over the Haitian police, while they were clearly seen collaborating and directing their movements. Even if Titus Simpton was the only murder victim on May 18, my photo of him drawing his last breath before dying is a symbol for the new nightmare the Bush administration now calls democracy in Haiti.

The Haitian people deserve better, the average American soldier deserves better and the American people deserve better.

Kevin Pina is associate editor of the Black Commentator (www.blackcommentator.com) and special correspondent for Flashpoints on KPFA radio in Berkeley, the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network.

Marines did not fire into any crowds, period

by Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, USMC

Your report on the Flag Day demonstration in Haiti is inflammatory and so riddled with factual errors as to be nearly fictional. As the spokesman for the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti, allow me to correct the record regarding MIF forces and U.S. Marines.

First, Marines did not fire into any crowds, period. Marine forces of the Multinational Interim Force did not fire any bullets - into the air, into the ground or at individuals. No one was killed by U.S. Marines. The Marines did not "take away" any bodies. Marines were indeed on the streets to provide a security presence and to assist the HNP as requested, but contrary to your report, they did not witness any "slaughter." Press accounts here in Haiti are that one person - not nine - was killed during the demonstration. It remains unclear how that person died.

In addition, last week's arrest of Annette Auguste by the Haitian National Police had nothing to do with planned Flag Day activities; instead, she was detained by MIF forces for questioning about threats to our forces and to stability and security in Haiti. She was arrested by the HNP on an outstanding warrant.

If you have information that an American journalist was fired upon by U.S. Marines, as you report, why do you not divulge the name or affiliation of that reporter? Since this event never happened, as no Marines fired their weapons as previously stated, I would be interested in speaking to the journalist to hear from him (or her) what he believed happened.

Finally, in both this report and in your previous story on the arrest of So Ann, you quote me or attribute statements to me even though you have never called to speak to me directly. It is clear from both your methods and your reporting that your publication is interested only in rumors and falsehoods. I find no other way to characterize what you have published on events in Haiti.

If you or your correspondents are interested in the full story of what is happening here, I'd recommend that you contact me directly, as well as the spokesmen for the Haitian National Police and the interim government.

Lt. Col. Lapan is director of the Public Affairs Office, Combined Joint Task Force- Haiti, APO AA 34005, (509) 514-0353/552-2659.

The Haitian diaspora has been buzzing with similar reports

by Pierre Labossiere

Marguerite (Laurent, who wrote the story Lapan is disputing) made at least two phone calls to Haiti that I know of regarding this story and spoke to participants in the May 18 demonstration who provided her the info that she so movingly reported. I was also provided similar information by others on the ground.

That there could be such close collaboration between the U.S. Marines and death squad killers in Haiti who have been integrated into the Haitian police by U.S. occupation authorities is in itself odious and criminal. That peaceful demonstrators running for their lives under automatic gunfire could not differentiate between self-styled "peacekeepers" and their protégés, the "new and improved" death squad police force, is very revealing of the repressive realities of this occupation.

Let us not forget the consistent denunciations by the people of Haiti of the actions of the U.S. occupation forces, from the kidnapping of President Aristide, raids and killings particularly in poor neighborhoods greatly supportive of President Aristide, the brutal arrest of Sò Anne and other Lavalas members, to the hostility and menacing attitude of the U.S. military in open collaboration with the Haitian police moments before the May 18 shootings, in their combined attempt to break up a legally permitted demonstration.

Let the U.S. occupation forces convince those who had witnessed their collaboration with their protégés, the death squad police, and were too panic-stricken, fleeing for their lives, to be mindful of the "division of labor" between U.S. forces and their protégés on this tragic day as to who actually fired on this unarmed crowd. Reports by several participants I spoke with who were still in shock clearly mentioned both U.S. forces and the Haitian police. The Haitian diaspora has been buzzing with similar reports.

Pierre Labossiere is a native of Haiti and a founding member of the Haiti Action Committee, www.haitiaction.net.

You are extremely naive or blind, Lt. Col. Lapan

by Wanda Sabir

Dear Lt. Col. Lapan:

I am responding to an email forward of your letter to my editor at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, where the story about U.S. Marine atrocities was printed Wednesday, May 19, 2004, about Haitian Flag Day 2004.

We have several reports from eyewitnesses verifying the claims Marguerite (Laurent) states in her article. Since their arrival on Haitian soil, the U.S. Marines seem to have done nothing to help the poor and now under siege Lavalas supporters.

While criminals run the police force and hunt Aristide supporters throughout the countryside, the U.S. Marines, according to eyewitness reports, facilitate the massacres by standing aside or shooting into crowds, arresting and torturing victims themselves, then disappearing the bodies so that there is no proof.

How can you say that these reports are fallacious when we have American citizens, journalists and members of the accompaniment units who have seen otherwise? A few persons who returned just two weeks ago reported back on Thursday, May 20. I was there. Visit www.haitiaction.net for more information or www.flashpoints.net.

The Bay View doesn't want to discredit the U.S. military; however, peace is not what the occupation is all about. It's about crippling a country that was lame, yet beginning to take giant steps toward democratic leadership and rule -rule of law, which is something the Marines in Haiti and elsewhere seem to have forgotten.

Now, you can give me your side of the story, but if the protest was as large as witnesses say, then how can you be certain that what was reported is factual? Were you there? Do you have pictures? We do.

Congressmembers Barbara Lee and John Conyers' House Bill 3919, The Responsibility to Uncover the Truth about Haiti (TRUTH) Commission Act, an investigation into the events that led to President Aristide's kidnapping by U.S. Marines, the installation of new leadership, namely Prime Minister Gerald Latortue, and these peacekeeping forces – U.S., French, Canadian, etc., what the Haitians call "occupying forces," the Group 184, Andre Apaid, war criminals such as Guy Philippe, etc. - is necessary to find out why American forces are in Haiti in the first place and what this occupation means.

No one here at home can figure out why the U.S. is so interested in Haiti. There's no oil there. It's a democracy.

Is it simply as Bush is quoted as saying the other day that a Black nation can't rule itself, the same sort of comment another president made about the Philippines?

Is this what fuels this antagonistic relationship that goes back over 100 years - racism, bigotry? I'm certain the brave men and women who volunteer to serve their country do not support such foolishness.

Haitians helped America become an independent and free nation, and this is how our country shows its thanks, by undermining its progress every step of the way, supporting coup after coup, including instigating and carrying out one itself, on Feb. 29 of this year?

Either you are extremely naive or blind, Lt. Col. Lapan.

CARICOM refuses to recognize the current government. OAS had a vote yesterday (Thursday), despite U.S. disapproval of the call to investigate Aristide's removal.

Why is the U.S. military there? Why have soldiers displaced medical students and set up camp in the medical school? Why are convicted war criminals in positions of authority and allowed to terrorize those who testified against them? These men were in prison; now they control the prisons. Children are being killed, shot point blank just because their parents believe in justice and democracy - what America supposedly stands for.

How can you say that the situation is getting better? Hasn't U.S. presence made the situation worse? There is a direct parallel between what is going on in Haiti and what is happening in Iraq regarding the U.S. military. The only difference is that in Haiti, most if not all the casualties are on the Haitian side.

Wanda Sabir is arts editor for the Bay View. Email her at wsab1@aol.com.

Our presence has made a positive difference

by Lt. Col. Dave Lapan

Ms Sabir: I have no desire to get into a debate with you over the political situation in Haiti; that is not my place as a military spokesman. I would like to address a few of the points you have made with regards to the military presence here.

First, you say Marines have done no good since they have been in Haiti. The attached fact sheet, which has been provided to the Haitian media as well, lists just a few of the successes we have had since we arrived. This is just a tip of the iceberg.

Second, as I said in my first letter, Marines have neither fired into crowds nor stood by while Haitian police did. We have not arrested or tortured anyone. If you have proof of such, I would be interested in seeing it, and not simply "eyewitness" reports from those with an agenda. Talking to selected individuals, especially if all are members of the same group, may not present an accurate picture of events. As a journalist, you know to seek the opinions of many people in order to corroborate stories. I have not been contacted by any journalists who claim to be eyewitnesses to what you have reported. Nor was I contacted by your organization to ask about the allegations before simply printing them. What pictures do you have, other than those of bodies? How do you know how those people in the photos were killed or injured? In Haiti (as in San Francisco and any other population center) people die but how they died is not always knowable. For all the accusations of Marines firing into crowds or standing by while others did, I have seen no photos to support those claims.

All of the military forces here, including the Marines that you disparage, adhere strictly to the rules of engagement, UN Chapter 7 (under which this force operates) and international law. If there are violations, we take action to correct them and hold those accountable for violating them. But that hasn't been the case.

To answer your question, the U.S. military is here as part of a four-nation Multinational Interim Force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1529 (passed unanimously on Feb. 29). We are here because the commander-in-chief of the armed forces ordered us here. And we have accomplished much in the two months we have been here. We have our headquarters at a former medical university because the government of Haiti authorized us to be here. When we arrived, there were no students here and the buildings of the university had been heavily damaged and looted. Our force has spent more than one-half million dollars to repair and refurbish this complex. We have provided water from the wells here to the local community. Ask those people, who had to walk miles each day for water if they object to our presence. Because of the destruction, were we not here, I doubt any classes would be in session. And rather than focusing on the 200 or so students who once attended classes here, why not focus on the thousands of students across Haiti who can once again attend classes because we are here. Before the arrival of the Multinational Interim Force, schools were closed, businesses were closed, people stayed in their homes day and night for fear of being killed. Those conditions no longer exist.

Are there Haitians who think we are occupiers? I'm sure there are. Are there some who wish we would leave? Yes. But I think MOST Haitians recognize that our presence has brought them back from the chaos that existed during February. We can't solve all the problems that face this country or her people but our presence has made a positive difference in the lives of many.

As for your hints of racism, I'd be happy to have you converse with the many soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen of color who are part of our force - to include a number of Haitian-Americans - and I know you'll hear differently. In fact, in my job, I'm paid to be diplomatic. I can't guarantee that they'd respond in the same fashion.

Finally, other than the presence of U.S. military forces, there is nothing connecting Iraq and Haiti. They are completely different situations and circumstances.

Read the powerful responses to Lt. Col. Lapan by two Haitian-American lawyers, Lionel Jean-Baptiste, a well-know reparations activist in Chicago, and Francois-Marie Michel, a popular radio host in New York, at www.sfbayview.com.

http://www.sfbayview.com/052604/marinesdispute052604.shtml

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http://www.sfbayview.com/052604/haitianlawyersrespond052604.shtml

Haitian lawyers respond to Marine spokesman

You are there to win - but the Haitian masses will not let you

by Lionel Jean-Baptiste

Dear Lt. Col. Lapan:

On May 18, 2004, I heard a direct report over internet radio on the demonstration organized by the Haitian people to celebrate Haitian Flag day. The demonstrators on the scene were constantly dispersed, harassed and terrorized with the expressed purpose of defeating their will so that they would not provide an example of resistance to the illegal occupation and the illegal coup led by the U.S. The report put together by attorney Marguerite Laurent reflected the report I heard, a direct feed of live coverage from a reporter on the scene in Haiti to the radio station. I now have a copy of the tape of that broadcast.

Your characterization of attorney Laurent's report as inflammatory and fictitious is quite consistent with your very purpose as the spokesman for the Multinational Interim Force in Haiti. You and the other troops currently illegally occupying Haiti are carrying out the policy of the Franco-American-Haitian Comprador Bourgeoisie of uprooting the Lavalas movement.

Your bosses first fomented, funded and armed an opposition to a legitimate, democratically elected government. But not only that, you invaded the country, kidnapped President Aristide and expelled him from this hemisphere.

Not only that, you gathered the remaining leadership of the Lavalas movement and imprisoned them. Not only that, you further engaged in a campaign to terrorize the mass base of the Lavalas movement through killings, believing that if you did this, then the Haitian people would not dare resist en masse.

So when the masses of people did dare to take to the streets on May 18, 2004, it must have appeared an illusion to you because you and those you serve never imagined that this could still happen in the face of all your terror. Why do you now apologize for breaking up the demonstration and preventing people from exercising this "democracy" that you allegedly went to Haiti to protect?

Why did your people seek to break up the demonstration in the first place? Who do you expect to believe that your soldiers did not forcibly break up the demonstration up to and including killing nine people in the process?

You talk about press accounts of the demonstration in Haiti, and that is exactly what I heard: unfiltered accounts from the demonstrators direct from Haiti. "Your press," though - and I say yours because the rebels, former soldiers and opposition groups to the constitutional government you protect and legitimize have terrorized the dissenting press in Haiti - is and has been filtered since the invasion.

I am not even going to engage you around the arrest of Annette August. You have painted her arrest as legitimate because it was executed pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by the illegitimate LaTortue government. Come on. Her arrest was part and parcel of the Uprooting Policy. You know it and I know it. Do you think she was born yesterday?

Your purpose as spokesman is to control and mediate all forms of information that leave Haiti and to best fit the "truth" to the aims of your mission. You are performing the function for which you were appointed.

But your insistence that we believe your word over eyewitness accounts, photographic evidence, the sentiments of innumerable Haitians, and the lessons of world history is more than comical - it presumes a basic naivete and unfamiliarity with U.S. notions of truth on our part and is a sign of your obvious disrespect for the intelligence of the Haitian community.

You are there to win. But the Haitian masses will not let you.

Attorney Lionel Jean-Baptiste is the founding partner of the law firm Jean-Baptiste & Associates, a founding member of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network and a well-known reparations activist in Chicago. Email him at lioneljb@aol.com.

How can you pretend that, being criminal in essence, the occupation is doing a fine job in Haiti?

by François-Marie Michel

To Lt. Col. Lapan, spokesperson for the occupying forces in Haiti:

In reference to your correspondences to SF Bay View, I am trying to figure out whether or not you understand that this occupation of Haiti has been in the making for a whole decade by U.S. policy. I concede that the United States are not the only one to blame. I certainly blame also Haitians, whether from the Lavalas Party or its opposition, for that.

However, both the conception and the execution of the plan bear the print of a dirty trick called "Low Intensity Warfare" that has been put in place by the United States policy makers. Therefore, I am simply laughing at your assertion that makes believe the occupation has even some semblance of legality.

Your reference to the United Nations simply does not add up, because you certainly know that overthrowing an elected government is simply unlawful. If you have the slightest doubt about it, please turn the situation around and try to find out who in the world would even think of correcting the selection of your commander in chief - as you call the tenant of the White House - in their wildest dreams, let alone in deed.

The colonel you are cannot either plead ignorance of the fact that your embassy played the role of a pro-consulate in Haiti, tampering with both international treaties and the very Constitution of the land. How can you, then, being "paid to be diplomatic" as you confirmed - whatever diplomatic means - pretend that, being criminal in essence, the occupation is doing a fine job in Haiti?

Who is going to swallow this pill, no matter the sugar coating on it? Can a criminal act become lawful? In what circumstances other than Machiavellan theories? Have you ever questioned or at least second-guessed - it's your right and duty, as a free human being - the passing of Resolution 1529 on Feb. 29, the same day the elected president of Haiti was kidnapped by your ambassador?

How can you reconcile the timing of such resolution and the filibustering practice - by the same Security Council the United States can veto or "unveto," blackmail or bypass - that has frustrated for so long the elected government's effort to negotiate a better plan than your attached fact sheet could ever accomplish in favor of the people of Haiti? Who would want your Marines there, anyway?

You are not going to pull up on me that the elected president was asking for help, are you? Help and occupation are two different issues, Colonel, aren't they? One pursues an indigenous objective, the other one can't care less about it; in fact, it simply undermines it, starting with a kidnapping, for example? At any rate, if you sincerely think that your Marines are doing any good to the people of Haiti, please review all the reports about the embargo against the government for forged reasons, but no reasons other than being imperialistic.

What a pity, Colonel! How cynical it is that you dare comparing the situation between the time of the chaos your embassy concocted to destabilize the elected government and this time of occupation when "plim ne gouy" (your chance to learn some Kreyòl?). Did you forget that your agents were the ones who wanted to shut down schools?

Did you know or did you simply forget about the mammoth protests by mothers and students against the same shutting of the schools you are referring to, as it was not part of the plan to reverse the will of the majority? Again by the same people your embassy was manipulating?

Or do you have in mind to confuse intelligent people while shoving the dirt of obscurantism on the same government that made a point to build more schools in a decade than have ever been built in two centuries? The blatant truth we know and want to become the law, even retroactively, is that no school should be destroyed and replaced with barracks.

Is it the rule in LIW that you don't need proof, or would you intend to make the citizens of Haiti oblivious to the fact that the elected government your embassy overthrew made it easier for children to attend school and for adults to learn how to read and write? Or oblivious that on the other hand your government had been condoning illiteracy in Haiti for ages (denpi ke denpi)? Again some Kreyòl!

What can this joke mean, then, of hiding behind the looting of a well-equipped university hospital to transform it into barracks? No excuse that your man from Boca Raton gave it to you, Colonel, because it cannot be that all of a sudden you, his master, are following his order.

I feel ashamed by this double-sworded assertion, Colonel. I am Haitian, after all, and, volens-nolens, he is also Haitian. Naturalization here is irrelevant. I cannot let myself dwell on considerations like this.

It remains that since the first U.S. occupation, we Haitians learn at school that it was a disgrace to be called "collabos," meaning those who agreed to work with the occupiers. I have to keep on questioning your argument, Colonel.

When did the looting happen, anyway? Who let the University be looted in comparison to all the protection of the likes of Cedras and Avril's mansions? Who is in charge of the circus number in Haiti? The puppet or the clown?

And who or what gave you the right to choose against Haitians who think that 250 students soon to become doctors would be useful in a country that can provide no more than seven physicians per 100,000 citizens? Aren't those some of the statistics that the so-called mainstream media never failed to pull out to show how backward Haiti is?

Isn't it the right of Haitians to choose for themselves? How is it then your business - and, incidentally, that of the man you exhumed from Boca Raton and faxed (some say emailed) to Haiti - to decide that shutting down a university is good for Haiti?

Then you pull out on us some numbers to prove your point. I can't stress enough that it's YOUR point, that of your man, maybe - who knows his real thought? - and, for sure, that of your ambassador. Should I, then, interpret all the numbers you are throwing at us as a tactic aimed at confusing us into settling for less?

You can give up on this, Colonel. The blatant truth we know and want to become the law, even retroactively, is that no school should be destroyed and replaced by barracks. Such option of yours begs for an explanation. Let alone the killing you are supervising as an occupier.

I see you also claiming innocence because "Marines have neither fired into crowds nor stood by while Haitian police did" the job. "We have not arrested or tortured anyone."

You should say, then: Neither had President Aristide at the time he was bombarded by propaganda condoned or inflamed by Ambassador Foley.

Don't you know, Colonel, that your commander-in-chief and his secretary of state, through the media they embedded, held Aristide responsible for every wrongdoing imaginable that took place in Haiti? Ask them why? They would serve you this cliché: that he was the president. Triumph of double standard, isn't it?

It's my turn, Colonel, to throw to you that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The occupiers dictating the rules in Haiti today are responsible under the same logic they applied to President Aristide then. Unless they agree to the contrary for President Aristide, the occupiers, both French and Americans, are the ones behind every wrongdoing in Haiti.

Nevertheless, saying this, I feel corrupted by disingenuousness and no better than those who had been elevating lies and cynicism as a political virtue in Haiti. By your standard, those in charge must be held accountable for things they don't even know. As simplistic as that. Let alone when they have been turning their back to the wrongdoing.

By the way, Colonel, you cannot plead the Marines were not part of the operation of May 18. In an occupied country, who can decide to do anything with impunity, without the blessing of the occupier? If your embassy spent its time twisting the arms of an elected government, why would it be different with your own puppet?

At any rate, I am glad, Colonel, that you are aware of journalism's deontology. I read you complaining: "I have not been contacted by any journalists who claim to be eyewitnesses to what you have reported. Nor was I contacted by your organization to ask about the allegations before simply printing them." It remains for you to ask the like of Otto Reich and Noriega to be as rigorous in their notorious fabrications against elected officials they don't like.

Moreover, Colonel, you proved yourself to be excellent in casting doubt on "assumptions" or punching holes in them. Reading on: "What pictures do you have, other than those of bodies? How do you know how those people in the photos were killed or injured? In Haiti (as in San Francisco and any other population center) people die but how they died is not always knowable."

You are even defiant and sarcastic: "If you have proof of such, I would be interested in seeing it, and not simply "eyewitness" reports from those with an agenda. Talking to selected individuals, especially if all are members of the same group, may not present an accurate picture of events."

I commend you, Colonel on this way of doing your job.

All the reporter can do is to serve the public with the film of the event. And let you, Colonel, find another way of defending yourself, after you have apologized for backing up the police on this tragic day of May 18, 2004.

My regards, Colonel.

Attorney François-Marie Michel is a member of the Haitian bar and a popular radio host in New York. Email him at sanba@juno.com.

********* Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership ******

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