Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Clinton Apologizes For Helping Crush Haitian Farmers

I can hardly believe it, but Change.org is reporting the former President Clinton has apologized for his role in bringing (so-called) free trade to Haiti, helping lead to a situation of exacerbating poverty, where "six pounds of imported rice now costs at least a dollar less than a similar quantity of locally-grown rice. So how can a Haitian farmer compete? The past 15 years have shown they simply can't."

Ruth Messinger points out in the piece that
Prior to the era of so-called "free trade," Haiti could feed itself, importing only 19% of its food and actually exporting rice. Today, Haiti imports more than half of its food, including 80% of the rice eaten in the country. The result is that Haitians are particularly vulnerable to price spikes arising from global weather, political instability, rising fuel costs and natural disasters, such as earthquakes that register 7.0 on the Richter scale. In fact, since the January earthquake, imported rice prices are up 25%.
As was pointed out in a previous J-post on Haiti by J-friend K. McAfee
Like other networks and op ed pundits, CNN reporters refer to Haiti's extreme material poverty despite, they say, a history of US efforts to "help". None have any sense of whom was actually helped by the 1915-35 US occupation (US & French banks, agribusiness, and the small Haitian elite), US support of Duvalier and other dictators (same beneficiaries, plus sweat-shop owners), the US aid & trade policies that undermined staple food production and created dependence on US rice exports, or US-backed neoliberal "adjustment" loan conditions and deliberate, ongoing undermining of the imperfect but legitimate Aristide and Preval governments by the US government and the Clinton Foundation.
It's nice to see someone in our government admit to any of this, even if it's after they're out of office. Better than never after all! -- or -- the interesting example where Colin Powell expressed "regret"* at the US role in the Chilean coup of September 11, 1973 that the US most certainly helped instigate (with former SecState Henry Kissinger playing a key role in that particular 9/11 disaster that set a dictatorship into motion that would, among other things, claim over 3,000 lives, among his other adorable war-criminalistic-sheningans that have led him to having to consult a team of lawyers to figure out where he can travel that he may not be extradited to Chile!), but (as can be seen in the same article above) this was followed by the Administration coming out and "clarifying" Powell's regret, so as to give no hint of an admission of guilt, to re-obscure the open secret of our actions in Chile and elsewhere.

If you've read the J/Anekantavada before, you know this isn't the first time I've looked askance at US actions, to say the least. To see us looking back on any of our "mistakes" (which I put in scare quotes because they were often the intentional action of our leaders) and, if this is true about Clinton, apologizing, well... I can't say it gives me hope, or quite makes me particularly proud to be an American, or makes up for the then and continuing actions of American Empire, but... gosh darn it, admitting when we Fucked Someone Else for fun and profit is a step, and a rarely taken one, much less apologizing for it. So, 1.5 cheers I suppose.

*An excerpt of Powell's 2003 comments can be found here. The money shot, in reference to a question of how the US could be the "moral superior" looking to bring democracy to Iraq, after our actions against democracy and human rights with respect to supporting the Chilean dicatorship:
So it is the will of the international community that Iraq disarm, and not just the moral superior position, as you describe it, of the United States. We have no desire to impose upon the Iraqi people a leadership that is to our choosing, but to give them an opportunity to choose their own leadership.

With respect to your earlier comment about Chile in the 1970s and what happened with Mr. Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of. We now have a more accountable way of handling such matters and we have worked with Chile to help it put in place a responsible democracy.

One of the proudest moments of my life was going to Chile in the late '80s and speaking to all of the military officers in the Chilean armed forces, all the senior officers, and talking to them about democracy and elected representative government and how generals such as them and me -- I was a general at the time -- are accountable to civilian authority so that incidents of that kind or situations of that kind no longer arose.

There's quite an interesting implicit admission of wrong-doing here, considering the emphasis he puts on how things "of that kind" can't happen again, despite, of course, the fact that they happened
many times before and many times since...