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Haiti as Empire’s Laboratory

As the United States and its allies push renewed foreign intervention, the uses and abuses of the first Black republic as a testing ground of imperialism offer stark warnings. Haiti still struggles to be free.

NACLA 

August 30, 2023

By Jemima Pierre

 

 

In December 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R.2116, also known as the Global Fragility Act (GFA). Although this act was developed by the conservative United States Institute of Peace, it was introduced to Congress by Democratic Representative Eliot L. Engel, then chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives, including, significantly, Democrat Karen Bass. The GFA presents new strategies for deploying U.S. hard and soft power in a changing world. It focuses U.S. foreign policy on the idea that there are so-called “fragile states,” countries prone to instability, extremism, conflict, and extreme poverty, which are presumably threats to U.S. security.

Though not explicitly stated, analysts argue that the GFA is intended to prevent unnecessary and increasingly ineffective U.S. military interventions abroad. The stated goal is for the United States to invest in “its ability to prevent and mitigate violent conflict” by funding projects that mandate “an interagency approach among the key players, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Departments of State, Defense, and the Treasury” amid collaboration with “international allies and partners.”

In April 2022, the Biden-Harris administration affirmed its commitment to the GFA by outlining a strategy for its implementation. As detailed in the strategy’s prologue, the U.S. government’s new foreign policy approach depends on “willing partners to address common challenges, [and] share costs.” “Ultimately,” the document continues, “no U.S. or international intervention will be successful without the buy-in and mutual ownership of trusted regional, national and local partners.” The Biden administration has also stressed that the GFA will use the United Nations and “other multilateral organizations” to carry out its missions. The prologue outlines a 10-year plan for the GFA that, according to the U.S. Institute of Peace, will “allow for the integration and sequencing of U.S. diplomatic, development, and military-related efforts.” Among five trial countries for GFA implementation, Haiti is the first target.

Hailed by development experts as “landmark” legislation and, as Foreign Policy reported, a “potential game-changer in the world of U.S. foreign aid,” the act seems to offer a reset of U.S. foreign policy in ways that shift tactics while maintaining the objectives and strategies of U.S. global domination. The act and its prologue clearly articulate that the main goals are to advance “U.S. national security and interests” and to “manage rival powers,” presumably Russia and China. In this sense, especially for governments and societies in the Western Hemisphere, the GFA can be seen as a revamping of the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 U.S. foreign policy position that established the entire region as its recognized sphere of influence, shaping U.S. imperialism. The GFA deploys cunning language—tackling the “drivers” of violence, promoting stability in “conflict-prone regions,” supporting “locally-driven political solutions”—that hides the legislation’s real intent: to rebrand U.S. imperialism.

In their deliberations on the Global Fragilities Act, U.S. officials labeled Haiti as one of the world’s most “fragile” states. Yet this supposed fragility has been caused by more than a century of U.S. interference and a consistent push to deny Haitian sovereignty. Throughout a long history and complex—though blatant—imperialism, Haiti has been and continues to be the main laboratory for U.S. imperial machinations in the region and throughout the world. It is no surprise, therefore, that Haiti is the first object in the United States’ latest rearticulation of a policy for maintaining global hegemony.

In fact, a review of the actions of the United States and the so-called “international community” in Haiti from 2004 to the present demonstrates how Haiti has served as the testing ground—the laboratory—for much of what is encapsulated in the Global Fragilities Act. The GFA, in other words, is not so much a new policy as it is a formal expression of de facto U.S. policy toward Haiti and Haitian people over the past two decades. Without recognizing these uses and abuses of Haiti, the site of the longest and most brutal neocolonial experiment in the modern world, we cannot fully understand the workings of U.S. (and Western) hegemony. And if we cannot understand U.S. hegemony, then we cannot defeat it. And Haiti will never be free.

Sovereignty Again Denied

Since 2004, Haiti has been under renewed foreign occupation and lacks sovereignty. This is not hyperbole. Take, for example, a series of events and actions following the July 7, 2021 assassination of Haiti’s arguably illegitimate but still sitting president, Jovenel Moïse. The day after the assassination, Helen La Lime, head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), declared that interim prime minister Claude Joseph would lead the Haitian government until elections were scheduled. Because of Joseph’s interim status, however, the line of succession was unclear. Days before his killing, Moïse had named neurosurgeon and political ally Ariel Henry as prime minister to replace Joseph, but he had not yet been sworn in.

A few days after Moïse’s assassination, the Biden administration sent a delegation to Haiti to meet with both Joseph and Henry, as well as with Joseph Lambert, who had been chosen by Haiti’s 10 remaining senators—the only elected officials in the country at the time—to stand in as president pending new elections. Despite these competing claims to power, Washington chose a side. The U.S. delegation sidelined Lambert, convinced Joseph and Henry to come to an agreement over Haiti’s governance, and urged Joseph to stand down.

A week later, on July 17, BINUH and the Core Group—an organization of mostly Western foreign powers dictating politics in Haiti—issued a statement. They called for the formation of a “consensual and inclusive government,” directing Henry, as the designated prime minister named by Moïse, “to continue the mission entrusted to him.” Two days later, on July 19, Joseph announced he would step aside, allowing Henry to assume the mantle of prime minister on July 20. The “new”—and completely unelected—government and cabinet was composed mostly of members of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), the neo-Duvalierist political party of Moïse and his predecessor Michel Martelly. In the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake, the PHTK, with Martelly at the helm, was put in place by the United States and other Western powers without the support of the Haitian masses.

After the U.S. Embassy, the Core Group, and the Organization of American States (OAS) released similar statements applauding the formation of a new “consensus” government, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed support for the unelected leaders. “The United States welcomes efforts by Haiti’s political leadership to come together in choosing an interim prime minister and a unity cabinet,” he said in a statement. In effect, Haiti’s true power brokers—or what I have called the “white rulers of Haiti”—determined the Haitian government’s replacement through a press release.

Meanwhile, the international community ’s decision-making process completely left out Haiti’s civil society organizations, which had been meeting since early 2021 to find a way to resolve the country’s political crisis as Moïse, already ruling by decree, was poised to overstay his constitutional mandate. These groups adamantly rejected the foreign-imposed interim government and have criticized the international community’s actions as blatantly colonial.

Who and what are the entities making decisions for Haiti and the Haitian people, and how did they claim such prominent roles in controlling Haitian politics? Haitians are not members of the BINUH, OAS, or Core Group. But also central is the question of the country’s sovereignty—or lack thereof. Haiti has been under foreign military and political control for almost 20 years. But this is not the first time, of course, that Haiti has been under occupation.

Legacies of Foreign Control and Occupation

In the summer of 1915, U.S. Marines landed in Port-au-Prince and initiated a 19-year period of military rule that sought to snuff the sovereignty of the modern world’s first Black republic. During this first occupation, as I have written elsewhere with Peter James Hudson, “the US rewrote the Haitian constitution and installed a puppet president [who signed treaties that turned over control of the Haitian state’s finances to the U.S. government], imposed press censorship and martial law, and brought Jim Crow policies and forced labor to the island.” In line with its racist view that Black people do not have the capacity for civilization or self-government, Washington rationalized that it was necessary to teach Haitians the arts of self-government—a view that continues today.

But the most pronounced labor of the U.S. Marines was counterinsurgency. They waged a “pacification” campaign throughout the countryside to suppress a peasant uprising against the occupation, using aerial bombardment techniques for the first time. Dropping bombs from planes onto Haitian villages, the pacification campaigns left more than 15,000 dead and countless others maimed. Those who survived and continued to resist were tortured and forced into labor camps.

The United States finally left the country in 1934 after massive grassroots protests by the Haitian people. But one of the most consequential results was the establishment and training during the occupation of a local police force, the Gendarmerie d’Haïti. For years, this police force and its successors were used to terrorize the Haitian people, a legacy that continues today.

In the years after the 1915-1934 occupation, the United States continued to intervene politically and economically in Haitian affairs. The most notorious of these engagements was the U.S. support for the brutal dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. In the first democratic elections after the fall of the Duvalier regime, the United States unsuccessfully tried to prevent the ascension of the popular candidate, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. However, nine months after his January 1991 election, Aristide was deposed in a CIA-bankrolled coup d’état. The coup was not consolidated, though, because of continuous resistance from the Haitian people. By 1994, U.S. president Bill Clinton’s administration was forced to bring Aristide back to Haiti after three years in exile—with more than 20,000 U.S. troops in tow. Aristide was now a hostage to U.S. neoliberal policy. The troops remained until 2000.

Haiti officially lost its nominal sovereignty again in late February 2004. The Western governments, as well as the powerful Haitian elite, never supported the Aristide government, presumably because of its “populist and anti-market economy” positions, as former U.S. ambassador Janet Sanderson later alluded in a leaked 2008 diplomatic cable calling for continued foreign intervention. Thus, when Aristide won a second term in the 2000 elections, just months after his Fanmi Lavalas party gained control of a majority of seats in the parliament, the U.S. and its Western partners worked to discredit the administration. The French ambassador to Haiti at the time, Thierry Burkhard, later admitted that France was concerned about Aristide demanding financial restitution for the immoral indemnity—or what The New York Times has called “The Ransome”—that Haiti was forced to pay for its independence.

The plans for the 2004 intervention and occupation were hatched the previous year at a meeting in Canada dubbed the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti.” Aristide had been back in power for two years. Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and his Liberal Party government organized a two-day conference from January 31 to February 1, 2003 at Meech Lake, a government resort near Ottawa, that brought together top officials from the United States, European Union, and OAS to decide the future of Haiti’s governance. There were no representatives from Haiti in attendance. Canadian journalist Michel Vastel, who got wind of this secret meeting, reported that the discussion in Ottawa included the possible removal of Aristide with a potential Western-led trusteeship over Haiti.

On February 29, 2004, President Aristide was deposed, bundled onto a flight by U.S. Marines, and flown to the Central African Republic. Almost immediately, U.S. President George W. Bush sent 200 U.S. troops to Port-au-Prince to “help stabilize the country.” By the evening of Aristide’s expulsion, 2,000 U.S., French, and Canadian soldiers were on the ground.

In the meantime, at the behest of permanent members the United States and France, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed a resolution that authorized “the immediate deployment of a Multinational Interim Force for a period of three months to help to secure and stabilize the capital, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere in the country.” In other words, the UN voted to send a “peacekeeping” mission to Haiti. Significantly, Resolution 1529 was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which, unlike a Chapter VI resolution, authorizes UN forces to take military action through land, air, and sea without requiring the consent of the parties in conflict. That is, the resolution empowered the multinational force to “take all necessary measures to fulfill its mandate.”

The UN mission to Haiti raises four important points. First, Haiti was the only country not engulfed in civil war to receive a Chapter VII UN military deployment. There were certainly local protests during the passage of the resolution, but these were of Haitians demonstrating against the removal of their democratically elected president. The situation in Haiti, in other words, could not be considered a civil war, in the normal sense of the word, that merited a Chapter VII deployment (if such deployment can ever be merited). Rather, through the deployment, the same characters who initiated and consolidated the coup suppressed a people’s protest.

Second, key players in backing and aiding Aristide’s removal were also permanent members of the UNSC, the only body with the power to deploy a multinational “peacekeeping” mission. From the Ottawa Initiative, it was clear that the United States, France, and Canada had conspired to remove Aristide and destroy the Haitian state. Third, and relatedly, to justify the foreign intervention and subsequent occupation, the United States and France concocted a narrative that Aristide had abdicated the presidency. Indeed, UN security documents and resolutions about Haiti during this time, as well as Western media reports, pointed to Aristide’s presumed “resignation” as the reason for the deployment of UN military forces.

On March 1, 2004, the morning after Aristide’s ouster, Democracy Now! broadcasted a remarkable live program during which U.S. congresswoman and chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Maxine Waters, called in to say that she had spoken to President Aristide. “He said that he was kidnapped,” Waters reported. “He said that he was forced to leave Haiti?…?that the American Embassy sent the diplomats?…?and they ordered him to leave.” In the weeks following, Aristide spoke to Democracy Now! about the kidnapping. “When you have militaries coming from abroad surrounding your house, taking control of the airport, surrounding the national palace, being in the streets, and [they] take you from your house to put you in the plane,” he said, “?…?it was using force to take an elected president out of his country.”

Fourth, and perhaps most egregiously, the UNSC claimed that the so-called interim government set up in the wake of Aristide’s ouster had asked for the stabilization force. But that government was illegitimate. In his 2012 book Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, Jeb Sprague recounts that in the early morning after the Aristides were escorted to the airport, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, James Foley, picked up Haitian Supreme Court Justice Boniface Alexandre and took him to the “prime minister’s office for consultations in preparation for his ascension to power.” Haiti’s prime minister, Yvon Neptune, later reported that he did not have a say—nor did he participate, as dictated by Haitian law—in the swearing-in of Haiti’s U.S.-installed interim president. Alexandre’s first act as interim president was, on the order of the U.S. ambassador, to submit an official request to the UNSC for multinational military forces to restore law and order. The UNSC immediately authorized the deployment.

Taken together, these realities demonstrate how the entire UN deployment and occupation—based on a coup d’état sponsored by two permanent members of the UNSC, claims that the president had resigned, and the illegal swearing-in of an illegitimate head of state—were fraudulent. At the same time, protests from the Haitian people were dismissed by Western governments and media as “gang violence” and the action of “bandits.” Such characterizations not only tapped into age-old racist stereotypes of Haitians as always already violent, but also gave more pretext for the Chapter VII deployment. To add insult to injury, most of the UN resolutions referred to securing Haiti’s “sovereignty,” as if this sovereignty could coexist with foreign political control and military occupation.

The illegal 2004 coup d’état was both perpetrated and cleaned up with UN sanction. On June 1, 2004, the UN officially took over from U.S. forces and set up the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) under the guise of establishing peace and security. A multibillion-dollar operation, MINUSTAH had, at any given time, between 6,000 and 13,000 troops and police stationed in Haiti alongside thousands of bureaucrats, technical staff, and civilian personnel. In a horrific parallel to the first U.S. occupation of Haiti, MINUSTAH soldiers committed numerous acts of violence against the Haitian people, including shootings and rapes. MINUSTAH soldiers were also responsible for bringing cholera into the country, a disease that officially killed as many as 30,000 and infected almost a million people.

A protest commenorates the 100th anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Haiti and the launch of the people’s tribunal, Port-au-Prince, July 2015. (MARK SCHULLER)

But what most solidified this occupation was the creation and operationalization of the Core Group. An international coalition of self-proclaimed and non-Black “friends” of Haiti, the Core Group was established as part of the 2004 UN resolution that brought foreign soldiers and technocrats to the country. While the group’s membership has fluctuated since its initial formation, it currently has nine members: Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, European Union, OAS, and United Nations Organization. Significantly, the group has never had a Haitian representative. The Core Group’s stated goal is to oversee Haiti’s governance through the coordination of the various branches and elements of the United Nations mission in Haiti. But in practice, the Core Group represents an insidious example of (neo) colonialism driven by white supremacy.

Imperial Punishment

While there was a formal drawdown of the MINUSTAH mission in 2017, the UN has remained in Haiti through a set of new offices, culminating in the establishment of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) in 2019. Despite protests in Haiti against ongoing UN presence, the UNSC continues to renew BINUH’s mandate each year. The latest renewal was on July 14, 2023. BINUH has had an outsized, public role in Haitian internal political affairs and is often the mouthpiece of the Core Group.

The overwhelming power of the Core Group is blatantly public. At a special session on Haiti at the UNSC on April 26, 2023, the newly appointed head of BINUH, María Isabel Salvador of Ecuador, took the lead in presenting Haiti in typical racist terms— as a basket case of unthinking and violent gangs. Unelected and unaccountable to the Haitian people, the Core Group is the arbiter of colonial direct rule of Haiti.

Western imperialism in Haiti is a hierarchical structure established through the power of the United States, which then outsources colonial control of Haiti to others. In a confidential 2008 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, then U.S. ambassador Sanderson called MINUSTAH “a remarkable product and symbol of hemispheric cooperation in a country with little going for it.” She continued: “There is no feasible substitute for this UN presence. It is a financial and regional security bargain for the [U.S. government]?…?We must work to preserve MINUSTAH by continuing to partner with it at all levels?…?That partnering will also help counter perceptions in Latin contributing countries that Haitians see their presence in Haiti as unwanted.”

Brazil, for example, home to the largest Black population outside of Africa, oversaw the military wing of the occupation since its inception. The nominally leftist administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spent more than $750 million to fund this operation. As I have written elsewhere, Haiti was Brazil’s “imperial ground zero.” But there was also buy-in from other marginalized governments from the Caribbean and Latin America. At one point, MINUSTAH’s leadership included a representative from Trinidad and Tobago and an African American attorney and diplomat. And this leadership was accompanied by a multinational military force made up of troops from several South American, Caribbean, and African countries, including Argentina, Colombia, Grenada, Bolivia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Cameroon, Niger, and Mali.

In addition to Brazil, other neighboring countries’ neocolonial governments have been similarly recruited by the United States to aid in its undermining of Haitian sovereignty. The Dominican Republic, for instance, funded and housed the ragtag paramilitary troops that terrorized Haiti from 2000 to 2004. More recently, in the fall of 2022, Mexico joined the United States last year in advocating before the UNSC for renewed foreign military intervention in Haiti. Washington has urged Canada to take the lead, and in June 2023, Ottawa announced plans to coordinate international security assistance to Haiti, including police training, from the Dominican Republic.

Since Moïse’s 2021 assassination, Haitians have protested foreign support for the illegitimate and corrupt de facto government, rising inflation and fuel prices, illegal weapons dumping, and a dizzying rise in violence. In response, the United States and its allies have continued to push for foreign military intervention in the country. In January 2023, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) supported the call for a foreign force. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries convinced the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to reverse its initial course affirming Haitian sovereignty to now call for intervention. At the time of writing, the United States was poised to introduce a UNSC resolution after Kenya expressed willingness to lead a multinational armed mission. It must be noted that it is Haiti’s Core Group-installed Prime Minister Henry who, along with the UN office in Haiti, is insisting on this violent solution to the crisis in the country—a crisis they themselves helped to create.

The Haitian community’s continued protests against foreign troops and Western meddling are a testament to their unwavering courage.

The denial of Haitian sovereignty seems to be, as Sprague has described, “a synchronized effort by cooperating states and institutions bolstered by a global elite’s consensus against popular democracy.” The Global Fragilities Act, then, not only lays out a plan that has already been implemented in Haiti over the last 20 years, but also directly emerges out of U.S. experiences in the Haitian (neo)colonial laboratory. We need to recognize Haiti’s critical place as a testing ground for U.S. and Western imperialism.

But Haiti is also the site of one of the longest struggles in the world for both Black liberation and anticolonial independence. This explains the U.S. empire’s constant reactionary onslaught against the people of Haiti, punishing their repeated attempts at sovereignty with decades of instability designed to secure and expand U.S. hegemony. For two centuries, imperial counterinsurgency against Haiti has aimed to terminate the most ambitious revolutionary experiment in the modern world. The tactics deployed to attack Haitian sovereignty have been consistent and persistent. We ignore how these tactics may be used on the rest of the region at our peril.

 

[Jemima Pierre is Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at UCLA and a research associate at the Center for the Study of Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg. She is the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race and numerous academic and public articles about Haiti.]

Occupied Haiti: White Intervention with Black Face

Millennials Are Killing Capitalism 

Streamed live on October 29, 2023

 

The United Nations serves as an arm of Western Imperialism and U.S. foreign policy.

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, meets with Kenya’s President William Ruto, left, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, Pool)JASON DECROW

Millennials Are Killing Capitalism:We will talk to Dr. Jemima Pierre about the UN Security Council approved so-called “intervention” in Haiti, resonances between the struggle of Palestinians with the struggle of Haitians today, the role of neo-colonial “independent” countries in the continued suppression of Haitian sovereignty, and understanding attacks on Haitian sovereignty and self-determination as another key anti-imperialist struggles for people in the West to take up in this moment of heightened imperial aggression. We will also talk about the political work of branding someone a “terrorist” or a “gang member” in the wake of the war on terror and the war on drugs.”

 

[Dr. Jemima Pierre is Professor of Global Race in the Institute of Race, Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ) at the University of British Columbia and a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg. Dr. Pierre is also a member of Black Alliance for Peace and the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race.]

STATEMENT – The Gaza Resolution [October 28, 2023]

Progressive International

October 28, 2023

 

 

Popular movements, parties, and unions across the world issue a pledge to stand for Palestinian liberation and sever ties of complicity with the State of Israel.

We, the undersigned:

(1) Grieve the lives claimed in the renewed cycle of violence, brutality, and destruction unleashed by the ongoing occupation of Palestine;

(2) Consider that the Zionist project is colonial in nature, built on stolen land, and sustained by the systematic exclusion, exploitation, and extermination of the Palestinian people;

(3) Recognize Zionism’s use as a weapon of Western imperialism and the Israeli state as an instrument to suppress sovereignty and unity in the Arab world — and advance violent reaction far beyond it;

(4) Consider that the Zionist regime has demonstrated its genocidal nature both in intent and in effect;

(5) Understand that the fascist violence against the Palestinian people today foreshadows the violence of Western imperialism towards all the world’s workers and oppressed peoples tomorrow because this is the historical tendency of capitalism in decay;

(6) Acknowledge that the Palestinian people face a national struggle, a class struggle, and a feminist struggle; affirm that the national struggle must be won for the other struggles to advance; and reject the weaponization of “colonial feminism” to obscure the primary contradictions of colonialism and imperialism and distract from the patriarchal and sexual violence inherent in them;

(7) Recognize that as a colonial project and imperial outpost, the Israeli state stands against the tendency of history to advance toward liberation, and that the liberation of the Palestinian people will therefore represent not only a severe blow to imperialism everywhere but also a progressive leap for all humanity;

(8) Reject the false equivalence of colonizer and colonized, recognize that the violence of the oppressed is a response to the original condition of their oppression, and uphold the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to resist, enshrined in UN Resolution 2625, as “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination, apartheid and foreign occupation by all available means”;

(9) Denounce the disinformation being spread by the Israeli state and advanced by imperialist powers and their allies, which dehumanizes the Palestinian people, fuels the genocidal war against them, and whitewashes the crimes of their oppressors;

(10) Condemn the silence or equivocation of the non-governmental organizations and movements that weaponize human rights to transform our individual and collective entitlements to assistance, protection, dignity, and solidarity into an arsenal aimed at adversaries of the imperial order;

(11) Support the self-determination and sovereignty of front-line states and regional anti-systemic movements, whose democratic aspirations are constrained both by Israeli military aggression and US pressures to normalize relations with the Israeli state;

(12) Hear the urgent calls for solidarity from the Palestinian people, who demand, in the short-term:

  • an immediate end to the genocide,
  • the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the restoration of water, food, fuel and medical supplies to its people,
  • a military embargo against the Israeli state,
  • an investigation into the crimes against humanity perpetrated by representatives of the Israeli regime and their accomplices around the world,
  • the removal of Palestinian political parties from the US Treasury’s OFAC terrorism sanctions program,
  • the release of all political prisoners, and
  • determined political action at all levels to advance these goals;

(13) Recognize that these immediate aims remain insufficient and commit to supporting the long-standing aspirations of the Palestinian people by:

  • dismantling the mechanisms of corporate, institutional, and state complicity that sustain the Israeli apartheid state and its military machine, including through strikes and direct actions targeting the producers and suppliers of weapons, digital services, informational services, and related products;
  • upholding the truth and combatting the spread of lies and disinformation advanced by the Zionist regime and its imperialist backers, including by exposing their crimes against humanity and advancing popular education on the long struggle for Palestine’s national liberation;
  • advancing the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggle around the world, including by taking on Western militarism on all continents;

(14) Knowing that our collective struggles for liberation converge in Palestine, commit to responding to these calls for solidarity; consent for our actions to be measured against the seriousness of their aspirations; and vow to choke the arteries of complicity that sustain the Zionist oppression of the Palestinian people militarily, financially, technologically, and culturally.

Signatories:

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa – NUMSA (South Africa) • Palestinian Youth Movement (International) • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan – MKSS (India) • DiEM25 (Europe) • The Red Nation (International) • Potere al Popolo (Italy) • Women’s International Democratic Federation – WIDF (International) • Black Alliance for Peace (United States) • DSA International Committee (United States) • Black Lives Matter UK (United Kingdom) • Communard Union (Venezuela) • Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (South Africa) • Telar: Territorios Latinoamericanos en Resistencia (International) • Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores – MPA (Brazil) • Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Teto – MTST (Brazil) • Ukamau (Chile) • Frente Popular Darío Santillán (Argentina) • Congreso de los Pueblos (Colombia) • Palestine Action US (United States) • Haqooq-e-Khalq Party (Pakistan) • Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network (International) • Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania – MVIWATA (Tanzania) • Women’s Democratic Front (Pakistan) • Palestinian Feminist Collective (International) • Communist Party of Kenya (Kenya) • Kuwaiti Progressive Movement (Kuwait) • WAELE Africa (International) • Coalition for Revolution – CORE (Nigeria) • Madaar Sorkh (Iran) • Borotba (Ukraine) • Danesh va Mardom (Iran) • House of Latin America (Iran) • Solidarity Iran (Iran) • Izquierda Libertaria (Chile) • Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo – USO (Colombia) • Akcja Socjalistyczna (Poland) • El Maizal Commune (Venezuela) • Vencedores de Carorita Commune (Venezuela) • El Movimiento Democratico de Mujeres (Spain) • The International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism (International) • Instituto Simón Bolívar (Venezuela)  • Cage (United Kingdom).

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Nosotros, los abajo firmantes

(1) Lamentamos las vidas segadas en el renovado ciclo de violencia, brutalidad y destrucción desatado por la actual ocupación de Palestina;

(2) Consideramos que el proyecto sionista es de naturaleza colonial, está construido sobre tierras robadas y se sustenta en la exclusión, explotación y exterminio sistemáticos del pueblo palestino;

(3) Reconocemos la utilización del sionismo como arma del imperialismo occidental y del Estado israelí como instrumento para suprimir la soberanía y la unidad en el mundo árabe, y fomentar la reacción violenta más allá de éste;

(4) Consideramos que el régimen sionista ha demostrado su naturaleza genocida tanto en intención como en efecto;

(5) Comprendemos que la violencia fascista ejercida hoy contra el pueblo palestino es un presagio de la violencia que el imperialismo occidental ejercerá mañana contra todos los trabajadores y pueblos oprimidos del mundo, porque ésta es la tendencia histórica del capitalismo en decadencia;

(6) Reconocemos que el pueblo palestino se enfrenta a una lucha nacional, a una lucha de clases y a una lucha feminista; afirmamos que la lucha nacional debe ganarse para que avancen las demás luchas; y rechazamos la militarización del “feminismo colonial” para ocultar las contradicciones primarias del colonialismo y el imperialismo y distraer la atención de la violencia patriarcal y sexual inherente a ellos;

(7) Reconocemos que, como proyecto colonial y avanzada imperial, el Estado israelí se opone a la tendencia de la historia a avanzar hacia la liberación, y que la liberación del pueblo palestino representará, por tanto, no sólo un duro golpe al imperialismo en todas partes, sino también un salto progresivo para toda la humanidad;

(8) Rechazamos la falsa equivalencia entre colonizador y colonizado, reconocemos que la violencia de los oprimidos es una respuesta a la condición original de su opresión, y defendemos el derecho inalienable del pueblo palestino a resistir, consagrado en la Resolución 2625 de la ONU, como “la legitimidad de la lucha de los pueblos por la independencia, la integridad territorial, la unidad nacional y la liberación de la dominación colonial, el apartheid y la ocupación extranjera por todos los medios disponibles”;

(9) Denunciamos la desinformación difundida por el Estado israelí y promovida por sus partidarios en la dirección política y los medios de comunicación imperialistas, que deshumaniza al pueblo palestino, alimenta la guerra genocida contra él y blanquea los crímenes de sus opresores;

(10) Condenamos el silencio o el equívoco de las organizaciones y movimientos no gubernamentales que instrumentalizan los derechos humanos para transformar nuestros derechos individuales y colectivos a la asistencia, la protección, la dignidad y la solidaridad en un arsenal dirigido contra los adversarios del orden imperial;

(11) Apoyamos la autodeterminación y la soberanía de los Estados en primera línea y de los movimientos regionales antisistémicos, cuyas aspiraciones democráticas se ven limitadas tanto por la agresión militar israelí como por las presiones de los Estados Unidos para normalizar las relaciones con el Estado israelí;

(12) Escuchamos los urgentes llamados a la solidaridad del pueblo palestino, que exige, a corto plazo:

  • el fin inmediato del genocidio
  • la entrega inmediata de ayuda humanitaria a Gaza y el restablecimiento del suministro de agua, alimentos, combustible y medicamentos a su población,
  • un embargo militar contra el estado israelí,
  • una investigación de los crímenes contra la humanidad perpetrados por los representantes del régimen israelí y sus cómplices en todo el mundo,
  • la retirada de los partidos políticos palestinos del programa de sanciones por terrorismo de la OFAC del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos,
  • la liberación de todos los presos políticos, y
  • una acción política decidida a todos los niveles para avanzar hacia estos objetivos;

(13) Reconocemos que estos objetivos inmediatos siguen siendo insuficientes y nos comprometemos a apoyar las aspiraciones a largo plazo del pueblo palestino mediante

  • el desmantelamiento de los mecanismos de complicidad empresarial, institucional y estatal que sostienen el Estado de apartheid israelí y su maquinaria militar, incluso mediante huelgas y acciones directas dirigidas contra los productores y proveedores de armas, servicios digitales, servicios de información y productos relacionados;
  • la defensa de la verdad y la lucha contra la difusión de mentiras y la desinformación promovidas por el régimen sionista y sus patrocinadores imperialistas, entre otras cosas denunciando sus crímenes contra la humanidad y promoviendo la educación popular sobre la larga lucha por la liberación nacional de Palestina;
  • el fomento de la lucha antiimperialista y anticolonialista en todo el mundo, incluso enfrentándonos al militarismo occidental en todos los continentes;

(14) Conscientes de que nuestras luchas colectivas por la liberación convergen en Palestina, comprometernos a responder a estos llamados de solidaridad; consentir que nuestras acciones se midan con la seriedad de sus aspiraciones; y comprometernos a sofocar las redes de complicidad que sostienen militar, financiera, tecnológica y culturalmente la opresión sionista del pueblo palestino.

Firmantes:

Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Metalúrgicos de Sudáfrica – NUMSA (Sudáfrica) • Movimiento de la Juventud Palestina (Internacional) • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (India) • DiEM25 (Europa), The Red Nation (Internacional) • Potere al Popolo (Italia) • DSA International Committee (Estados Unidos) • Federación Democrática Internacional de Mujeres (Internacional) • Telar: Territorios Latinoamericanos en Resistencia (Internacional) • Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores – MPA (Brasil) • Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem Teto – MTST (Brasil) • Ukamau (Chile) • Frente Popular Darío Santillán (Argentina) • Congreso de los Pueblos (Colombia) • Alianza Negra por la Paz (Estados Unidos) • Black Lives Matter UK (Reino Unido) • Unión Comunera (Venezuela) • Partido Socialista Revolutionario de los Trabajadores (Sudáfrica) • Palestine Action US (Estados Unidos) • Partido Haqooq-e-Khalq (Pakistán) • Red de Solidaridad con los Presos Palestinos Samidoun (Internacional) • Frente Democrático de Mujeres (Pakistán) • Colectivo Feminista Palestino (Internacional) • Partido Comunista de Kenia (Kenia) • Codepink (Estados Unidos) • Mathare Social Justice Center (Kenia) • Movimiento Progresista Kuwaití (Kuwait) • WAELE Africa (Internacional) • Coalición para la Revolución – CORE (Nigeria) • Madaar Sorkh (Irán) • Borotba (Ucrania) • Akcja Socjalistyczna (Polonia) • Danesh va Mardom (Irán) • Casa de América Latina (Irán) • Solidaridad Irán (Irán) • Comuna el Maizal (Venezuela) • Comuna Vencedores de Carorita (Venezuela) • El Movimiento Democratico de Mujeres (España) • Izquierda Libertaria (Chile) • Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo – USO (Colombia) • The International People’s Tribunal on U.S. Imperialism (Internacional) • Instituto Simón Bolívar (Venezuela) • Cage (Reino Unido).

 

Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

 

Verso

By Sohail Daulatzai21

December 2016


“The Battle of Algiers, a 1966 film that poetically captures Algerian resistance to French colonial occupation, is widely considered one of the greatest political films of all time. With an artistic defiance that matched the boldness of the anticolonial struggles of the time, it was embraced across the political spectrum—from leftist groups like the Black Panther Party and the Palestine Liberation Organization to right-wing juntas in the 1970s and later, the Pentagon in 2003. With a philosophical nod to Frantz Fanon, Sohail Daulatzai demonstrates that tracing the film’s afterlife reveals a larger story about how dreams of freedom were shared and crushed in the fifty years since its release. As the War on Terror expands and the “threat” of the Muslim looms, The Battle of Algiers is more than an artifact of the past—it’s a prophetic testament to the present and a cautionary tale of an imperial future, as perpetual war has been declared on permanent unrest.”

 

This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai’s Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

In many ways, the “War on Terror” has used the pretense of “antiterrorism” and the haunting figure of the Muslim to garner public support and generate political will to usher in new repressive measures on a global scale. Occupying what Fanon called a “zone of non-being,” the figure of the Muslim has authorized permanent war abroad and repression at home, the expansion of police powers and the deepening of the surveillance state, the undermining of women’s liberation and the criminalization of migrants, indefinite detention and the legitimacy of torture, the silencing of speech, and the disciplining of dissent. But the screening of the film at the Pentagon and its use as a training tool in the “War on Terror” have — through appropriation and revisionism — sought to control the memory of The Battle of Algiers and have also deflected and undermined many of the urgent questions and concerns that decolonization and the Third World Project sought to address. Despite this, the Battle of Algiers in many ways resists this kind of imperial containment, and in nuanced and sophisticated ways, the film provides an opportunity to probe more deeply into the contemporary moment, as many of its central themes still resonate today.

Terror

In a moment of profound cinematic reversal, and one that had prophetic echoes across the Tricontinental and the landscape of Bandung, is the scene from The Battle of Algiers when Ben H’midi, the leader of the FLN, is captured and paraded as a spectacle in front of a preening press. Asked about his use of guerrilla war and the FLN’s targeting of civilians, Ben H’midi replied, “Isn’t it even more cowardly to attack defenseless villages with napalm bombs that kill thousands more? Obviously planes would make things easier for us. Give us your bombers and you can have our baskets.”

Ben H’midi’s and, by extension, the film’s sympathetic portrayal of guerrilla warfare targeting colonial occupying forces and settler-civilians resonated across the Third World and shook the colonial and imperial foundations of international law. From France to Israel, South Africa to Brazil, the film was banned precisely because of its ethical endorsement of guerrilla war against occupying forces and repressive, Western-backed dictatorships. In profound ways, this has arguably been the central and enduring legacy of the film, inaugurating a debate within the United Nations and among political theorists and policy makers about what constitutes “terrorism” and legitimate resistance, conventional war and asymmetric guerrilla warfare.

The Battle of Algiers gave ethical sanction to armed struggle and popular resistance to colonial occupation and imperial power. But in the current “War on Terror,” the ruling paradigm of “counter-terrorism” and the language and logic of “terror/- ism/- ist” have created a security logic that not only has served to delegitimize and criminalize armed struggle but also has had a profound chilling effect on speech, dissent, and other forms of political activity. In fact, in an era of the “post-racial,” the language of “terrorism” has been used as a language of racecraft that is a twenty-first-century way of saying “savage,” of rekindling in somewhat stark terms the colonial discourse of “civilization” and “savagery.” As dog whistle terminology for invoking race and Otherness, the logic of “terror” (like “savage” before it) determines who is human (read: White) and who is not by excluding particular ideas, bodies, regions, and collectives from the political community of rights. As subjects who exist outside the law, Muslims, then, are not only not due protection by the law; they are also subject to the full force of the “law” and all manner of “extralegal” force (torture, invasion, warfare, drones, indefinite detention, incarceration, etc.) to protect the rights of those deemed human. By ushering in a new architecture of control, the “War on Terror” has marked “terrorism” as illegitimate speech and activity, creating a legal framework for prosecuting it, policing powers to manage it, and a military response for executing it.

This framing of Muslim being, agency, and resistance outside the bounds of the human and what is deemed legitimate political activity is central to understanding the rewriting of the film and its legacy in the post-9/11 context. The embrace of the film during its release by a broad and diverse group of radicals and revolutionaries — from the IRA to the PLO, Baader-Meinhoff to the Black Panthers, Marxists to nationalists — speaks to its universal appeal. Yes, the film stood for militancy and revolutionary action writ large, one that was only nominally about Muslims per se — as Third World decolonization and international solidarity gave The Battle of Algiers a more universal appeal that was so vital at the time.

But in the post- 9/11 context, with the decimation of the Third World Project and also the viability and visibility of a coherent global Left, this kind of radical universality that was the film’s appeal has been replaced by a more troubling and particularist reading that The Battle of Algiers isn’t simply a film about Muslims resisting the occupation of their lands by the West (in this case, the French); it is a film that sympathetically portrays that resistance. But in a post- 9/11 context, armed struggle — let alone resistance of any kind — by Muslims is seen as dangerous, as worthy of death, and is targeted by the state through legal, political, and military regimes of violence.

During decolonization, the film provided a space for the ways in which the Muslims of Algeria were an entrée into a larger panorama of anticolonial resistance. But in the lingua franca of imperial culture today, the Muslim now stands in for the limits and poverty of armed struggle and radical activity writ large. This overdetermined framing lends itself to a reading of the film where not only is the past rewritten — as Algerian resistance to French colonialism is delegitimized through the contemporary “War on Terror” — but so too is the current project of empire coded as innocent, one where there is a historical continuity between the French of yesterday and the Americans of today.

According to the Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict in charge of the screening of The Battle of Algiers at the Pentagon in 2003, “showing the film offers historical insight into the conduct of French operations in Algeria, and was intended to prompt informative discussion of the challenges faced by the French.” The Pentagon’s screening signaled an attempt by the military establishment to reframe the film not as text about decolonization and anti-imperialism but instead as a manual for “how to do counterinsurgency,” not only stripping the film of its radical impulses but also erasing the violent history of colonialism as the determining force for Algerian resistance. This reversal and act of appropriation not only purified the colonial past; it was also an attempt to sanitize and strip away the current moment of U.S. empire and frame contemporary Muslim struggles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and elsewhere within the ruling paradigm of “terrorism” that has to be crushed. But this revisionism is only possible because the ideological space available to understand Muslim agency, Muslim subjectivity, and Muslim being has eroded and withered away in the post- 9/11 moment, so that the very thing that made the film so groundbreaking — its ability to dignify Algerian struggles and elicit sympathy from viewers for their cause — is almost unimaginable today: a move that situates French colonialism as just, and the current U.S. imperial footprint as necessary.

Torture

The opening scene of The Battle of Algiers plunges the viewer into a kind of complicity. Having just finished torturing Sedek, the French now know where the last cell, which includes the elusive Ali La Pointe — is located. As the viewer, we don’t witness the torture firsthand, but we know it happened. We are left instead with the aftermath. Much like with the torture-porn of Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantánamo, and other “black sites,” we are also witnesses, carrying the burden of knowing.

By opening with a scene of torture, The Battle of Algiers presents the stark violence that has been at the heart of the colonial encounter: not just the violence of the act of torture itself — the electrical shock, the fists, the waterboarding, and the death — but also the violent conditions of colonialism that made a rebellion necessary in the first place. In fact, as Fanon has argued, violence structures the colonial encounter and the relationship between the empire and its Others, and this is brilliantly mirrored in the way the film’s narrative is in fact structured by torture and colonial violence.

The film brilliantly shows Fanon’s ideas about the segregation of colonial space, between “white” Algiers and the Casbah (where the Algerians were confined). Through the film, we see the barricades and the barbed wire, the checkpoints and the surveillance cameras — a space of violence where the police and the military are the enforcers of colonial authority. There is also the prison where Ali La Pointe is radicalized into political consciousness — à la Malcolm X — his eyes peering through the prison bars as a rebel is walked to the guillotine. The blade is dropped but an awareness is raised as chants of “Long Live Algeria!” and “Allah U Akbar!” echo through the prison walls. And there is the torture, shown in almost operatic and elegiac ways that, though brutal, still didn’t reveal the extent of the French torture program, which included the rape and torture of Algerian women, sometimes in their own homes.

But in terms of what it does show, the sense of realism the film conveyed made it seem shocking and unbelievable. To the deniers of empire and apologists of colonialism, The Battle of Algiers was too real, shattering a world of white invincibility and colonial authority that Algerians and the larger Third World had so desperately sought to tear down. Maybe the film was shocking to so many because resistance to colonialism is real and because colonial authority and popular discourse around empire have sanitized and presented a Eurocentric world so bloodlessly, one where the flags of empires — British, French, Dutch, Italian, U.S. — fly so benevolently. The shock, then, shouldn’t have been directed at the means the Algerians used to usurp and throw off the shackles of white colonial power but rather at the centuries-long violence that has been used to keep Algerians, and the larger Global South, subjugated for so long.

Despite the guerrilla actions by the Algerians in the film, the overwhelming violence throughout the history of colonialism in Algeria (1830– 1962) and during the Algerian War of Independence (1954– 62) was committed by the French. To establish their presence in Algeria, the French ushered in policies where mass displacement of Algerians took place as well as dispossession of the land, including the pacification of the country that led to the violent crushing of nationalist uprisings against French rule and death by famine, war, and disease. Robert Stam cites the writer Victor Hugo, who, in his book Choses Vues, discusses a conversation he had with a French general two decades after French colonization of Algeria began. Hugo reports that at that October 16, 1852, meeting, the general told him, “It was not rare, during the French attacks, to see soldiers throwing Algerian children out of the window onto the waiting bayonets of their fellow soldiers. They would rip the earrings off the women, along with the ears, and cut off their hands and fingers to get the rings.

During the War of Independence, the French executed more than three thousand prisoners, and during which time estimates claim that twenty thousand French soldiers and upward of 1.5 million Algerians were killed. The French used helicopters, tanks, and planes; airstrikes on civilians; and advanced rifles and grenades as well as the creation of internment camps and the destruction of thousands of villages, not to mention systematic and routinized forms of torture. But we have to understand violence in more systemic forms as well that don’t include only the bomb, the gun, or the tool of torture. Violence is also the exploitation of the country, the seizing of land and its resources, the legal and political codes that enforced the destruction of Algerian social life, and the wealth accumulation that structured the asymmetries of political, diplomatic, and military power. And then there is the epistemic violence that imposed French history and language within schools, and other institutions of the country that marginalized the varieties of Algerian social and cultural lives to be expressed and to flourish. Colonialism is indeed a violent phenomenon, and we have to be attuned to the myriad forms this violence takes and through which it is routinized and normalized within the everyday functioning of empire. If we do, then we cannot create a moral or ethical equivalence between French violence to crush the national liberation struggle and Algerian resistance to French colonialism. To do so is not just ahistorical; it’s unethical.

On the question of torture, many scholars have pointed out that for the colonial and imperial powers, torture is not an aberration but rather is central to the foundation and maintenance of modern liberal democracy. In France during the Algerian War of Independence, the specter of torture marked the French empire. Two books, Henri Alleg’s The Question (1958) and The Gangrene (1959), were banned by the French government. Alleg was a French Communist, and counter to the official French Communist Party position, which backed colonial control of Algeria, Alleg advocated through his journalism for Algerian independence. His memoir — The Question — was based on his arrest and torture by the French and became a best seller, though it was soon censored by the French government as the Algerian independence struggle intensified. Another searing indictment was the book The Gangrene, which struck a deep chord and was immediately censored, as the French government confiscated all copies by pulling them from the shelves and storming the publishing house. The book told the true story of four Algerians living in Paris who were arrested and brutally tortured by French police for their suspected ties to the Algerian independence struggle. The book revealed the widespread use of torture against Algerians taking place in France, although no French official was ever held responsible. And then, of course, there are the cases of two Algerian women, Djamila Bouhired and Djamila Boupacha. Bouhired, who was captured and tortured by the French, was depicted in The Battle of Algiers as one of the three women bombers, while also being the subject of the 1958 Youssef Chahine film Jamila, the Algerian. Boupacha’s case became a cause célèbre among the intellectual and artistic Left, as figures such as Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Alleg, and Pablo Picasso rallied to her support after her torture and rape while in prison brought attention to the widespread systematic use of sexual violence by the French.

In the film, when he is asked about torture at the press conference, Matthieu claims that “the word torture does not appear in our orders,” a claim that was eerily echoed by U.S. president George W. Bush when the Abu Ghraib tortures were revealed, saying “we do not torture” and instead preferring the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Like Bush, Matthieu also said that he had to “interrogate,” but he went on to say, “And that’s where we find ourselves hindered by a conspiracy of laws and regulations that continue to operate as if Algiers were a holiday resort and not a battleground. . . . Should we remain in Algeria? If you answer yes, then you must accept all the necessary consequences.”

This sentiment was echoed by a U.S. solider when the tortures at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were first revealed: “It’s a little like the French colonel in The Battle of Algiers. You’re all complaining about the tactics I’m using to win the war, but that’s what I’m doing, winning the war.” Not surprisingly, it’s no coincidence that the blueprint for U.S. counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan — the Petraeus Doctrine — is deeply influenced by and borrows heavily from the work of French military specialist David Galula, whose Counterinsurgency Warfare and Pacification in Algeria are central to U.S. policy in the “War on Terror.”

But despite its glorification in films like Zero Dark Thirty (2012), in the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, and in the self- righteous “debate” that ensued between those who claimed that “to torture is un-American and betrays our values” and that “torture is a necessary evil to stop an imminent attack,” torture is normalized as an expedient means by which Western democracies constitute and imagine themselves. In fact, torture has been central to U.S. national security, including its use against Black prisoners domestically as a means of social control. According to historian Alfred McCoy, “at the deepest level, the abuse[s] at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Kabul are manifestations of a long history of a distinctive U.S. covert warfare doctrine developed since World War II.” McCoy continues by claiming that the U.S. “torture paradigm can be seen in the recurrence of the same techniques used by American and allied security agencies in Vietnam during the 1960’s, Central America in the 1980’s and Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Across the span of three continents and four decades, there is a striking similarity in U.S. torture techniques — from the C.I.A.’s original Kubark interrogation manual, to the agency’s 1983 Honduras training book, all the way to Ricardo Sanchez’s 2003 orders for interrogation in Iraq.”

In The Battle of Algiers, Matthieu is not presented as evil. Instead, his dispassionate persona and rational, matter-of-fact style suggest that the violence from colonialism and empire is not simply the product of evil men with bad morals and intentions but the product of the workings of a system in which many are complicit. Hanna Arendt referred to this as the “banality of evil” in reference to Nazi Germany, and Matthieu’s comments at his impromptu press conference regarding the need to accept “all necessary consequences” can be seen in a similar light, as he points out the hypocrisies of even the liberal establishment, which criticized the means and methods of war. Matthieu unwittingly held up a mirror to both the Left and the Right of French society, and his comments can also be read as a cautionary tale to future empires, like the United States today, where a series of similar ethical questions might be posed: “If you and your citizens want that lifestyle of comfort, of excess and pleasure, then just know what it takes to get it, and don’t complain or rely on liberal platitudes about how ‘America has lost its way.’ That oil? Those cell phones and laptops? The clothes on your backs? Or even the land you live on? If you value this lifestyle, then don’t complain about the methods needed to maintain it.” The implications are stunning and disturbing, penetrating, and indicting.

Gender

Central to the structuring of the Muslim outside the category of the human is the role of gender. In a powerful scene, The Battle of Algiers challenges the racial and gendered logics of colonialism by subverting the “discourse of the veil.” The film’s portrayal of Zohra, Hassiba, and Djamila, three women who “looked” as though they had embraced European values of modernity — only to pass through a checkpoint without being searched and then successfully plant bombs among French settler-civilians — revealed the veil, and, more important, Western feminist values, to be overdetermined and, ultimately, a ruse.

Deeply reflective of what has been called feminist Orientalism, or imperial feminism, First Lady Laura Bush addressed the nation soon after the invasion of Afghanistan, saying, “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.” Her comments about the connections between women’s rights and war are a contemporary expression of a centuries-long project of Western colonialism and intervention that privileges not just white feminism but also Western models of liberation. But as Leila Ahmed, Lila Abu-Lughod, and others have pointed out, contemporary debates about women’s rights, freedom, and equality can be traced back to earlier colonial and missionary ideas and rhetorics about Muslim women.

In the current post-9/11 context, the figure of the Muslim woman has been used to make claims about Islam and Muslim societies as the sole and exclusive sites of patriarchy and misogyny, as the question of women’s rights has become the legitimizing discourse for the claims that Islam and Muslim societies are fundamentally illiberal and antimodern. In fact, the figure of the Muslim woman has been central to expanding the logic of the “War on Terror” by further racializing Muslim communities and marshaling support from both feminists and conservatives, liberals and leftists, for military expansion, imperial war, and nation building. As scholar Sherene Razack has argued, the imperiled Muslim woman has become an archetype, one who must be rescued from genital mutilation, forced marriage, and the veil and saved in the West, becoming “a rationale for engaging in the surveillance and disciplining of the Muslim man and of Muslim communities.”

Echoing Fanon’s famous — and controversial — essay “Algeria Unveiled,” the film suggests that the conventional Western logic that the veil is a sign of repression and that its removal means freedom is troubled. In the film, scenes depicted Muslim women with the veil as “dangerous,” for they could hide weapons beneath their clothes. But in the scene where the women “de-veil,” the film suggests that Muslim women without the veil, looking “Western,” are potentially even more dangerous, for they passed as “civilized” and “modern,” no longer enslaved by their traditions and their men, as the colonial logic would dictate. Muslim women now had agency, could speak, and could act on their own accord. And in the turning point of the film, the Muslim woman expresses her “agency” — limited though it is — but not as the French would have liked. Instead, it is her resemblance to the French, or her “aspirations” to be “modern,” that grants her access to “choice.” And because she looks that way, still appealing to the (white) male gaze, she is able to pass through the checkpoint and plant the bombs in the cafés and airport terminals. In this radical moment of subversion, the film suggests the poverty in the “discourse of the veil” and the colonial logic of “saving Muslim women.” For to de-veil and to “look” European or modern is a ruse, for it can seemingly suggest that an embrace of European or Western values about feminism is where “freedom” resides. But as numerous feminist scholars and the film itself suggest, it’s the subjectivities and the embodiment of them that ultimately provide value and meaning and that must be understood in a wider social and political context.

These claims about the veil as oppressive not only present the West as egalitarian and free from patriarchy but also ignore the work of Muslim women both in the West and in Muslim societies struggling and fighting against the structural forces that shape women’s inequality. In doing so, imperial feminism conveniently masks how patriarchy is actually operating and rooted throughout the world, including in the West. For it is often the case that when the patriarchy and misogyny of Muslims is brought up, the women of the West, and their male accomplices, turn away from domination at home, ignoring the structures that subjugate women in the West, while also ignoring how patriarchy in Muslim societies, and the Global South more broadly, is rooted and maintained by institutions and state-building initiatives that are tied to larger political and economic questions about IMF and neoliberal policy, war, and poverty, that are a direct product of the legacies of colonialism and the violent continuation of Western intervention. As Charles Hirschkind and Saba Mahmood ask, “why were conditions of war, militarization, and starvation considered to be less injurious to women than the lack of education, employment, and, most notably, Western dress styles?

It is this continued legacy of colonialism today and the unfinished project of decolonization that continue to haunt the present and make The Battle of Algiers an urgent and prescient film. Though The Battle of Algiers captured the demand for national liberation, one of the more striking moments in the film was the rooftop scene between Ali La Pointe and FLN leader Ben H’midi, who tells the younger Ali, “It’s hard enough to start a revolution, even harder to sustain it, and hardest of all to win it. But it’s only afterwards, once we’ve won, that the real difficulties begin.” Filmed in 1965 just after the military overthrow of Ahmed Ben Bella that brought Houari Boumediene to power and placed Ben Bella under house arrest, this scene is not only a reflection of the internecine fighting of the FLN three years after the end of the war but also a larger cautionary tale about the difficulties of nation building in the postindependence period for the broader Global South. Fanon warned us about this in The Wretched of the Earth, where he expressed a deep skepticism of nationalist elites whom he felt, after independence, would betray the popular will and the project of liberation by continuing to do Europe’s bidding by proxy.

This is why the film is significant today: not because it seemingly captures “terrorists at work,” and thereby provides a kind of voyeurism or even “teaching tool” in the post- 9/11 climate, but because it helps to reveal the continuities between the era of decolonization and the present. That is, the “War on Terror” is not a rupture per se but is rather another chapter in an ongoing campaign of counterinsurgency against the Global South, one that of course started centuries ago with colonialism proper, continued with neocolonial control through Bretton Woods, the IMF, and Third World debt, extended with the Cold War, deepened with “globalization” and neoliberalism, and continues today under the rubric of the “War on Terror.” The Battle of Algiers, then, is relevant precisely because the very issues the film raised about self-determination have yet to be fully contended with.

[Sohail Daulatzai is the author of Fifty Years of “The Battle of Algiers”: Past as Prologue, as well as Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom beyond America and co-editor of Born to Use Mics, a literary remix of Nas’s album Illmatic. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies, the Department of African American Studies, and the Program in Global Middle East Studies at the University of California, Irvine. More of his work can be found at openedveins.com.]

 

Assailants Abduct, Murder Indigenous Environmental Activist in Honduras

TeleSUR

 July 7, 2016
  • COPINH represents Lenca indigenous people in resistance in the western provinces of Honduras, the traditional territories of the Lenca.

    COPINH represents Lenca indigenous people in resistance in the western provinces of Honduras, the traditional territories of the Lenca. | Photo: COPINH

 

Another Indigenous activist has been murdered in Honduras, with local activists reporting Wednesday night that a woman identified as Yaneth Urquia Urquia was found dead near a garbage dump with severe head trauma.

Urquia was a member of The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, the group founded by Berta Caceres, who was assassinated in March. According to La Voz Lenca, the communications arm of COPINH, Urquia was an active member of the activist group and fought against the building of hydroelectric power plants on Indigenous land.

“The comrade was killed with a knife,” the group said on its Facebook page, adding that she had been “abducted by unknown persons.”

Urquia’s body was found Wednesday near the municipal garbage dump in Marcala, in the western department of La Paz, according to Via Campesina Honduras, a local social movement. Her body has been sent to the Forensic Medical unit of the Public Ministry for an autopsy, it said.

 

The news comes four months after Berta Caceres, the founder of COPINH, was assassinated in her home. Caceres, an environmental activist, had been leading protests against the building of hydroelectric dams on Indigenous land. Four people have been arrested in connection with her murder, including both former and active members of the Honduras military.

Another leader of COPINH, Tomas Garcia, was shot dead at a peaceful protest in 2013.

Honduras has been wracked by violence since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup against its elected center-left government, experiencing one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Murder in Honduras

Intercontinental Cry

November 20, 2015

by Jay Taber

Honduras

March, 2015: “…the International Airport Toncontin, located in the country´s capital is going to close, and that a new international airport is going to be built inside the United States military base of Palmerola. Palmerola is the United States biggest military base in Central America, and permanently has 600 US troops. It is the main headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command. The base was used during the Cold War to plan and execute attacks against Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and many countries in the Caribbean. When former President Zelaya, ousted in a 2010 military coup, proposed taking control of the military base in 2008 and removing the the United States soldiers, he was strongly attacked by the national and international media. In contrast, Juan Orlando Hernandez has presented the same plan, but with the participation of the United State’s Army South Command, and the initiative is presented as a tool for development.” [Source]

+++ 

 

Murder of indigenous activists in Honduras has prompted the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz*, to issue a warning about state-sponsored ethnic cleansing there, where, since 2010, 44 indigenous activists have been killed to facilitate free market development.

Unfortunately, Corpuz fails to mention the US role in this atrocity. Having supported the 2009 coup, President Obama made sure the new Honduran government had the ways and means to terrorize activists and journalists.

REMILITARIZING CENTRAL AMERICA

TIGRES Commandos conduct bounding over watch exercises during training with Green Berets from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Junglas from the Columbian National Police Tegucigalpa, Honduras., May. 08, 2014. 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets and Junglas from the Columbian National conduct daily physical training with TIGRES (Toma Integral Gubermental de Repuesta Especial de Seguridad) commandos to condition their bodies for the physical challenges they may encounter. The TIGRES will be the force of choice for the Honduran government with seeking to capture high value targets such as narcotraffiking and criminal leadership.(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven K. Young/Released)

Honduran commandos conduct unit leapfrogging exercises during training with U.S. soldiers and Colombian national policemen in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 8, 2014. | Source: U.S. Department of Defense

TIGRES Graduation

Honduran commandos demonstrate a river crossing before their graduation ceremony in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 19, 2014. U.S. 7th Special Forces soldiers and Colombian national policemen trained the commandos to be the force of choice for the Honduran Government. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven K. Young

War on the Poor in Honduras by Dawn Paley exposes the U.S. role in remilitarizing Central America. Taking a page from his idol Ronald Reagan, President Obama — who supported the 2009 military coup in Honduras — has established his credentials as a servant of the American Empire. While not yet a full-fledged fascist like his predecessor in the Oval Office, Obama is well on his way to institutionalizing a fascist, neoliberal agenda.

As Paley reports, the war on the poor by armed gangs — often working in collusion with the police, private security and soldiers in politically-motivated attacks on leftist party activists and journalists — has left residents of Honduras terrorized into silence by the Honduran elite. This elite of mafia-like families that control factories, banking and media, also control the government.

All of which has the U.S. military and the Obama White House to thank for ongoing support under the guise of the War on Drugs.

SWEATSHOP STATES

It turns out there was a logic to the U.S. coup in Honduras: maquiladoras in the form of city-states. What better way to advance the U.S. neoliberal agenda in Latin America than militarized sweatshop states exempt from national and international law? Barack and Hillary must be proud of their junior achievers.

EXPORTING VIOLENCE

When the US abandoned any pretense at pursuing democratic values, opting instead for an economy based solely on exporting violence and fraud, the window of opportunity for democratic reform in Latin America rapidly closed. As Upside Down World reports, the 2009 US-backed coup in Honduras has set in motion a replay of President Reagan’s murderous meddling in Central America, while Plan Colombia and the reintroduction of U.S. military bases in Chile and Argentina preclude even neoliberal independence in South America. As President Obama seeks to emulate and maybe even surpass the ruthlessness of his mentor President Reagan, democracies and democratic movements in the Western hemisphere are no more immune to U.S. military aggression and economic subversion than are Central Asia or the Middle East.

NO ONE LISTENING

The American aristocracy has always lived well off the theft of land and labor, but in the 21st Century, the game has changed. Dissatisfied with merely profiting handsomely from investing their inherited wealth in productive enterprise, the aristocracy today uses their publicly-funded privileges to gut American enterprise. Through hostile takeovers using private equity trading firms, they buy profitable corporations, sell off the assets, pocket the cash, and close them down. When that doesn’t work, they get bailouts from the U.S. Treasury.

The growing numbers of unemployed, hungry and homeless in the United States is testimony to the success of the largely unregulated private equity trading in securing the aristocracy’s power and influence into the future. As owners of the media, as well as the financiers of most federal political candidates, the aristocracy pretty much rules unopposed.

As for civil society NGOs and academic institutions, they have mostly succumbed to the aristocratic paternalism of philanthropic foundations, now functioning for the large part as public relations agents for privatization. Some might want to lay all this at the feet of a genuine American aristocrat by the name of George W. Bush, but it was Barack Obama who announced to us eight years ago that his ideological idol was Ronald Reagan, the epitome of American fascism. Was no one listening?

 

 

*Victoria Tauli Corpus is the Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy and Research Education). Corpus is also is a board-member of Conservation International. Both Corpus and the NGO she oversees, that of Tebtebba, work closely with the United Nations (UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) and have been instrumental in pushing the false solution of REDD forward. From Feb 2002 to present Corpus has been a Member of National Selection Committee of the Ford Foundation who has invested heavily in advancing the REDD agenda. As well, Corpus has served as board member of the pre-COP15 corporate creation TckTckTck. TckTckTck was  initiated by the United Nations working with one of the largest marketing agencies in the world (Havas), while partnering with many of the most powerful corporations on the planet, in a united effort to “to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” [courtesy Wrong Kind of Green]

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

WATCH: Canadian Aid to Haiti Tied to Mining Interests

 

January 13, 2013

Real News

 

Yves Engler: Strategic objectives of Canadian aid are to strengthen a pro-elite police and advance Canadian commercial interests.

Watch full multipart The Ugly Canadian

THE SLOW AND SILENT GENOCIDE THE US IS CONDUCTING IN HAITI

Posted on July 19, 2012 by

Libya 360

This writing reviews, in two parts, the consequences of US investment in Haiti. It looks at the New York Times investigation into the Caracol industrial park, its anchor tenant, the South Korea’s Sae-A Trading, giving Haiti context with the Bitter Cane documentary on industrial parks in Haiti 40-years ago. The piece illustrates that Washington’s bait and switch use of donation dollars and US taxpayer aid for private profit is a colonial blueprint in Haiti. US intervention is not intended, even when called “Haiti reconstruction” to provide sustainable jobs and infrastructure for Haitians. Caracol itself is window dressing covering the infrastructure the US is building for the mineral and vast oil reserves the US occupies Haiti to exploit.

Ezili Dantò

PART I

July 2012 – A Factory Grows in Haiti
***
The showcase project for Haiti’s earthquake reconstruction is being built far outside the disaster zone, in a location that could jeopardize the country’s key conservation effort.
***
Haiti: Bitter Cane Documentary

Haiti, 35, 40years ago:
“Notice how long ago it’s been since Haitians knew there was gold in Haiti. It’s the same for Haiti’s vast oil, which the US strategically denies. But now that the one-percenters have de-legitimized elections and lined up their puppet government, perhaps sometime soon the New York Times shall suddenly “discover” Haiti oil reserves and what Ezili HLLN has been pointing out for a decade now. Haiti’s mineral riches and oil in Haiti are the economic reasons the US took down Haiti’s democratically elected government in 2004, installed the US occupation behind UN guns with the humanitarian invasion.”

– Ezili Dantò

The constant US bait and switch in Haiti: A Historical Perspective

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The uninformed, reading the New York times on Haiti two years ago, not the New York Times of Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken (July 5, 2012), vilified and marginalized Ezili’s HLLN, said we exaggerated when we pointed out that Western foreign investment in Haiti has mostly meant more Haiti suffering, death, pain and inhuman tribulations. (See, Bitter Cane pt. 6/7.)

The Deborah Sontag’s New York Times investigative report maintains that in the rush to show reconstruction progress the international stakeholders and US State Department building the Caracol industrial park have ignored labor and environmental concerns.

But Haitians who die a thousand deaths for Haiti renewal know there is a hidden war of attrition going on against the Haiti masses. The tyranny is not inadvertent. (US justice for the Haiti cholera victims would be collectively awarding $40million to Paul Farmer pharmaceuticals for cholera vaccines.)

Historically for Haiti, what is called foreign “investment” has always meant the unscrupulous extraction of profits without regards to its consequences on the people or environment and leaving no useful gain in Haiti whatsoever. More malicious, the conditions for US-style (one-percenter) investment requires the Haiti government not to subsidize its own people’s critical public service needs but to leave this to the so-called free market.

Hurting the peasant and poor Haitian to the point of collapse so to force these masses to accept any wage, any pie-in-the sky-promise of jobs and infrastructure, any political condition imposed by the humanitarian invasion is the central focus of US policy in Haiti, not a corrosive side effect, unintended, haphazard, incidental or misguided as the critics of the Caracol industrial project seem to diplomatically say. The failure of US foreign aid in Haiti is structural and ugly. Racism and paranoia inexorably reigns. In the mindless fury the corporatocracy views Haiti as a time bomb which must be defused immediately.

Foreign investment has thus equaled more Haiti suffering – that is, the taking of Haiti peasant lands for building factories, foreign compounds, for mining, other resource extractions and agribusiness that pollutes, contaminates water supplies, crops, and fails to bring sufficient local economic benefits. (More than 15% of Haiti’s territory is under license to North American mining firms and their partners.)

Foreign investment doesn’t ignite ?Haiti development when all capital is flown overseas, the companies pay no taxes and there’s no living wage.

BITTER CANE

Songtag writes:

“the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.”

Sontag explains that the Caracol site contains Haiti’s:

“most extensive mangrove reserve and a large strip of coral reef. Before the earthquake, the bay had been picked from 1,100 miles of coastline to become the first marine protected area in Haiti, the only Caribbean country without one. “The fact of having chosen this site, I’d call it heresy,” said Arnaud Dupuy, head of Haiti’s Audubon Society.”

Assembly plant factories caused great damage to Haiti back 40years ago when Papa Doc Duvalier, before his death, allowed their entry. That damage created the slum of Site Soley (although slum hotbeds started with the first US occupation), the primary “unstable” Haiti area given as a pretext for the endless 2004 UN MINUSTAH mission into Haiti. So what troop surge, Blackwater-like private military security or additional military deployment is the US searching a pretext for in the oil and gold-rich North of Haiti?

See-A closed flagship Guatemalan factory against backdrop of antiunion repression, rape, worker abuse, goes to ?Haiti. Having laid the eugenics groundwork, there is no way the United States is not fully aware of the labor and environmental damage projects like the Caracol industrial park will cause. And, combine with the $2obillion worth in gold mining activities also in that area -the tipping point impact, deadly ruptures, further economic and social quakes to come.

Deborah Sontag writes that before “the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider.” Her report explains how Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials:

“The A.F.L.-C.I.O. summarized what it called Sae-A’s “worst labor and criminal law violations” in Guatemala, accusing Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions and said a local union suspected company officials of involvement in a union leader’s rape never investigated by Guatemalan authorities…labor advocates worry, too, that Caracol will undermine the nearby Codevi industrial park, the only unionized garment operation in the country. Fernando Capellán, the owner of Codevi, said, “They’re going to destroy my jobs to create cheaper jobs in Caracol.”

With this toxic cocktail of conflicts and intentional malice, the only question is: why wouldn’t US officials expect the coming ?bloody showdown and Haiti? battle to clear this Charlemagne Peralte area of foreign dominance?

This Caracol “foreign investment/development” and “opening Haiti for business” US spiel is a REPEAT of the sugar plantation failures and foreign capital promises used to pillage Haiti, exploit, make foreigners rich. Failed sweatshops zones being sold as “development” is too transparent an idiocy for the supporters of the Caracol park to couch and excuse their lack of a moral compass, greed, cluelessness or sheer malevolence with protestations about “a rush to make reconstruction progress!” Wasting millions on ineffective cholera vaccines, instead of  immediately spending the donation dollars on permanent clean water and sanitation infrastructure, was also justified by Washington as “a rush to make progress!”

The damage and death of the old industrial parks are well documented in the Bitter Cane documentary film made clandestinely under the Duvalier dictatorship.

For Ezili’s HLLN, the indigenous revolutionary model and lexicon to end despotism, dependency, the humanitarian invasion and US occupation in Haiti was set long ago by the African Ancestors at the beginning of the Haiti revolution with the Bwa Kayiman call: “stop the imperialist, their Black collaborator and all their evil forces.”

Haitians peasants have no problem with private property ownership, the lakou/konbit and a mix-economy with public controls exercised on critical sectors to the common good, like infrastructure, clean water, sanitation, roads, health care, basic education, food production, adequate housing not being subject to profit as the sole barometer for these  basic needs to sustain life, not luxuries. The documentary uses a Marxist lexicon which may not resonate for this age.  Nevertheless Bitter Cane is a worthy reference point. It provides direct historical context, illustrates the Haiti struggle and how such US industrial parks, racist and neoliberal economic policies in Haiti meant more suffering for Haiti’s masses.

Haïti: Les ONG sont-elles un outil de domination néocoloniale? | Un État faible face à une invasion d’ONG

Colloque international sur le rôle des ONG en Haïti

par Julie Lévesque

Mondialisation.ca, Le 17 juin 2012

Ceci est la première partie d’une série sur le colloque du 15 juin qui s’est tenu à Montréal, Les ONG en Haïti: entre le bien et le mal.

Paternalisme, néocolonialisme, outil de domination de l’ordre mondial, voilà seulement quelques-uns des attributs et concepts accolés aux organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) lors du colloque sur le rôle controversé des ONG en Haïti, lequel a soulevé des passions le 15 juin à Montréal. L’organisatrice Nancy Roc d’Incas Productions, a admis que ce colloque intitulé « Les ONG en Haïti : entre le bien et le mal », est « un colloque qui dérange ». Elle a salué la présence de plusieurs ministres haïtiens : « Ce sont eux qu’on accuse mais ils sont là aujourd’hui, ils nous prennent au sérieux », dit-elle avant de déplorer l’absence d’un grand nombre d’ONG québécoises.


Nancy Roc au colloque « Les ONG en Haïti : entre le bien et le mal » 15 juin 2012.

« Les Québécois ont été les plus généreux donateurs et ils sont en droit de se demander où sont les fonds. J’ai contacté toutes les ONG, l’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI), et la plupart n’ont même pas pris la peine de me répondre. J’ai appris la semaine dernière que l’AQOCI tenait son assemblée générale aujourd’hui même. J’étais prête à payer pour que le programme du colloque soit affiché sur le site de l’AQOCI. On m’a répondu que ce n’était pas possible pour le technicien web…

 « Lorsqu’une étude a été menée auprès des ONG par le Disaster Accountability Project (États-Unis), 80% des ONG ont refusé de rendre des comptes. On accuse souvent le gouvernement haïtien mais seulement 1% de l’aide s’est rendue au gouvernement. Pour chaque dollar canadien donné à Haïti, 6 sous seulement sont allés aux Haïtiens. Voici la vérité qu’on ne vous dit pas.

 « La plupart des rôles de l’État ont été refilés aux ONG, les fonds sont dirigés vers d’autres gouvernements, vers des compagnies privées étrangères. Comment s’étonner que l’on qualifie Haïti de Far West des ONG! Il s’est développé en Haïti une forme de colonialisme humanitaire. Depuis 1986, Haïti est le pays qui a reçu le plus d’aide mais s’est appauvri. Et on accuse les victimes! Par ailleurs, les ONG haïtiennes ne reçoivent pas d’aide et pourtant ce sont elles qui connaissent le pays et les besoins de la situation. »

Mme Roc se défend de vouloir faire le procès des ONG. Le but de ce colloque est de « chercher des solutions et mettre en œuvre une coordination entre les acteurs, d’amorcer un dialogue, un nouveau virage ».

La faiblesse de l’État haïtien et la propagande voulant qu’il soit trop corrompu pour se voir allouer des fonds profite grandement aux ONG étrangères qui récoltent l’aide financière qui autrement irait à l’État. Ce dernier est davantage affaibli par cette pratique et les intervenants ont dans une grande majorité mis l’accent sur la nécessité du renforcement de l’État. S’il faut avoir les moyens de ses ambitions, le renforcement de l’État haïtien passe d’abord et avant tout par les moyens financiers.

« Est-ce la faiblesse de l’État qui a causé cette invasion d’ONG dans les compétences gouvernementales ou l’invasion d’ONG qui a contribué à affaiblir l’État? » Sans amener de réponse à la question que plusieurs se posent, le directeur exécutif de l’Observatoire canadien sur les crises et l’aide humanitaire, François Audet, conclut qu’il « faut revoir les paradigmes de l’intervention en Haïti ».

Daniel Supplice, ministre des Haïtiens vivant à l’étranger accuse plutôt l’instabilité politique d’être responsable de la faiblesse de l’État. Il n’a toutefois pas mentionné le rôle prépondérant des pays donateurs dans l’instabilité politique haïtienne.

Ce rôle antidémocratique des grandes puissances est également passé sous silence dans les grands médias qui n’osent même pas parler du coup d’État concocté par le Canada, les États-Unis et la France contre Jean-Bertrand Aristide en 2004 et préfèrent le qualifier de « départ » du président. Ce dernier, élu démocratiquement avec un pourcentage des suffrages à faire rougir n’importe quel dirigeant des pays qui l’ont chassé du pouvoir, faisait face à une insurrection armée et financée entre autres par le CIA. Quant à l’opposition politique, le gouvernement canadien a largement contribué à son financement :

Le gouvernement canadien a été fortement impliqué sur tous les plans dans le coup d’État. Le Canada, l’Union européenne et les États-Unis avaient supprimé toute aide au gouvernement Fanmi Lavalas tout en finançant ses opposants. Pire, le Canada a participé à la planification et à l’exécution du renversement du gouvernement et au kidnapping d’Aristide. La nuit du coup, 125 troupes canadiennes étaient sur le terrain à Port-au-Prince, assurant la sécurité de l’aéroport à partir duquel les soldats étasuniens forceraient Aristide à prendre un avion pour l’exil. Le Canada a aidé à installer le nouveau régime non élu et lui a fourni des millions de dollars d’aide. L’aspect probablement le plus honteux est que les troupes canadiennes et les policiers envoyés en Haïti ont activement appuyé la répression. (Nikolas Barry-Shaw, Dru Oja Jay, Paved with Good Intentions, 2012, p. xi. Traduction libre.)