September 11, 2004
A war Kerry wantedBy Steve Gilbert
On the anniversary of 9/11 it is useful to remember that John Kerry has not always been against the unilateral use of American force. It would seem he only opposes such use of American force when it is a matter of our interests or our national security.
For when it came to restoring to power a de—frocked Catholic priest, who is also a Communist, to a country in which we have no vital interest, Kerry was more than willing to pay any price and bear any burden—including the loss of the lives of US troops.
This is an editorial* John F. Kerry wrote that appeared in the New York Times on May 16, 1994 in which he laid out why it was so important for us to invade Haiti:
[Editor's note: because we cannot find a copy this editorial on the web, we take the liberty of quoting it fully, rather than linking to it as we would prefer.]
Haiti's military rulers continue to thumb their noses at the United States and the rest of the world. Since the ouster of President Jean—Bertrande Aristide in September 1991, the international community has consistently tried to pressure the junta to step aside, but nothing has worked ——not diplomacy, not tighter sanctions, not a partial naval embargo. By tolerating their defiance and unrelenting brutality, we have empowered Haiti's military thugs.
As a result, our credibility as a world leader is at stake. Haiti's military leaders must now be put on notice that we're prepared to take all steps necessary to restore democracy and prove to all renegade elements that we mean what we say. We need to pursue an aggressive diplomatic course, to escalate sanctions and to impose a total naval blockade if necessary. But if those don't work, we must be willing to seek international approval to use military force.
My clear first choice is to pursue an aggressive diplomatic course of multilateral negotiations aimed at forcing the military leaders out within a short time. But precisely because there was no believable threat of force, our efforts have failed.
Opponents argue that President Aristide is so flawed that he does not deserve our help, that an invasion would be bloody and costly and could involve us in a long—term military quagmire. But the issue is not simply the return of an individual. It is the restoration of the democratic process in Haiti. Father Aristide may not be perfect (what elected leader is?), but we have never discarded whole democracies because of an individual leader. Moreover, he has already demonstrated his willingness to compromise, agreeing to share power with a broad—based coalition with safeguards for everyone's rights. Those assurances could be bolstered by international peacekeepers.
There is every reason to think an international invasion would succeed. Haiti's 7,000—man military is hardly a formidable opponent. It is an undisciplined collection of gun—wielding bullies with little training or experience other than terrorizing poor, unarmed civilians. In Iraq, we decimated the world's fifth—largest army in a couple of months. In Grenada and Panama, outlaw regimes were ousted in a matter of days. A show of determined resolve from a U.S.—led international force of professional soldiers, backed up with sufficient air power, could quickly subdue the Haitian military.
Haitian history is filled with coups and civil wars. There are deep—seated hatreds between the small, wealthy, ruling mulatto elite, which is in league with the military, and the poor, largely uneducated masses, which make up 90 percent of the population. That enmity is born of decades of repressive rule and irresponsible social policy.
The division is complicated by the presence of 'attach�s,' the plainclothes military thugs who have replaced the hated Tonton Macoutes of the Duvalier regime. These attach�s come from the masses but do the bidding of the elite. In a culture where revenge and retribution have played such prominent roles, healing the hatreds will not come easily.
But the prospect of a Vietnam—like quagmire can be avoided by guaranteeing at the outset that military action will under no circumstances lead to a U.S. occupation of Haiti. Any intervention should be followed with the immediate insertion of a large international peacekeeping force. The presence of a neutral, civilized power will allow Haiti to rebuild its political institutions, its schools and its health system, and provide some cooling—off time. This could be accomplished along the lines contemplated in the July 1993 accord at Governor's Island, which was supposed to have led to the return of Father Aristide.
Some argue that intervening in Haiti is not worth the loss of an American life. We should remember that American soldiers were at risk when we intervened in Grenada, Panama and Iraq. Those who supported Presidents Bush and Reagan ought to ask themselves why the Haitian situation is different. Is it simply that the President is of a different political party? What other facts are different?
Every individual reason given for those previous interventions is present in the plural in Haiti —— to protect innocent lives, to end chaos, to restore order, to root out drug traffickers. Most important, in Haiti, we would be restoring a stolen democracy, human dignity and hope to a country's brutalized masses.
In the absence of clear and present danger, the United States should not use force unilaterally. If ultimately needed, the force should be similar to the international one used in the Persian Gulf. It should consist of troops from the 'four friends' —— the United States, France, Canada and Venezuela —— and from other nations in the region. The military power should be massive, to minimize casualties, and the intervention should be short. Granted, it will take leadership and persuasive power to build the coalition. But the United States succeeded in both regards in Grenada, Panama and Iraq, and there's no reason it can't accomplish the same for Haiti.
Some of those governments have expressed reluctance to commit to a military solution before the current diplomatic strategy has time to mature. They miss the point. Failure to threaten the use of force now would significantly increase the probability that diplomacy will fail. In the end, we'd wind up where we are today: unprepared and with a weak hand.
No one should ever casually entertain the use of military power. Certainly I do not; it is a most serious proposition. But it is imperative that we and other nations in the hemisphere put the option on the table now. It is the best means to avoid a unilateral response under emergency conditions later on. It's also the best means of putting teeth in our diplomacy now.
The people of Haiti cannot restore democracy —— cannot overthrow a drug—running, gun—wielding military regime —— by themselves. They need our help. If our stated goal of restoring democracy is real, if our concern for the Haitian people is genuine, if our credibility as a world leader is important, then we must confront the crisis in Haiti with the will to act.
*Editorial Article 1 —— No Title By John Kerry New York Times (1857—Current file); May 16, 1994; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times pg. A17