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Plunging into Haiti

Plunging into Haiti: Clinton, Aristide, and the Defeat of Diplomacy

Copyright Date: 2006
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    Plunging into Haiti
    Book Description:

    For much of the early 1990s, Haiti held the world's attention. A fiery populist priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was elected president and deposed a year later in a military coup. Soon thousands of desperately poor Haitians started to arrive in makeshift boats on the shores of Florida. In early 1993, the newly elected Clinton administration pledged to make the restoration of President Aristide one of the cornerstones of its foreign policy. But that fall the U.S. let supporters of Haiti's ruling military junta intimidate America into ordering the USS Harlan County and its cargo of UN peacekeeping troops to scotch plans and return to port. Less than a year later, for the first time in U.S. history, a deposed president of another country prevailed on the United States to use its military might to return him to office.

    These extraordinary events provide the backdrop forPlunging into Haiti: Clinton, Aristide, and the Defeat of Diplomacy-Ralph Pezzullo's detailed account of the international diplomatic effort to resolve the political crisis. Through his father, Lawrence Pezzullo, who served as the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, Ralph Pezzullo gained access to important players on all sides. He tells the story of talented, committed men and women from the United States, France, Argentina, and Haiti who dedicated themselves to creating an outcome that would benefit Haiti and the rest of the world. With the energy of a political thriller,Plunging into Haitifleshes out the central political struggle with threads of Haitian history and will engage readers with a general interest in Haiti as well as students of foreign policy. Using his unique perspective and access, Ralph Pezzullo covers the aftermath of the Clinton administration's diplomatic maneuvers to show an island still in turmoil.

    Ralph Pezzullo is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, novelist, poet, and journalist. He is the author of several books includingJawbreakerandAt the Fall of Somozaand has written articles for theWall Street Journal,Newsweek, theWashington Post,Sports Illustrated,Connoisseur,GQ,USA Weekend, theMiami Herald, and other publications.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-534-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)

    Since 1776, roughly 230 years ago, extraordinary men and women have represented the United States abroad under all kinds of circumstances. What they did and how and why they did it remain little known to their compatriots.

    In 1995 the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) and Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired (DACOR) created the Diplomats and Diplomacy book series to increase public knowledge and appreciation of the involvement of American diplomats in world history. The series seeks to demystify diplomacy by telling the story of those who have conducted our foreign relations, as they lived, influenced, and reported...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Clinton’s Pledge
    (pp. 3-15)

    It was a Saturday in March of 1993—March 13, 1993, to be exact—and the snow outside fell in a steady hiss. A solidly built gray-haired man in a cream-gold Acura cursed his bad luck. He could barely see five feet in front of him as he skidded from one side of I-95 to the other. Time seemed to be suspended in the magical white world beyond his windshield. He thanked God there was no one else on the road.

    But Lawrence Pezzullo had to get to Washington. After all, the sixty-seven-year-old career diplomat was on his way to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Welcome to Haiti
    (pp. 16-27)

    The sky outside was a calm, reassuring blue. Special Advisor Lawrence Pezzullo returned to the article in his lap and the words of a prominent Haitian psychiatrist: “You might find us resigned or unrealistic, but that may be because, as people of all social categories will tell you, this is not the real world.”

    “Not the real world?” he repeated to himself and sat up. He felt uneasy, being a man who prided himself on being rooted in reality. “Not the real world?”

    It was two days after the meeting between President Clinton and President Aristide at the White House...

  6. CHAPTER 3 From Slavery to Independence
    (pp. 28-36)

    “Things have got to change here,” said Pope John Paul II in hisAddress to the Haitian Nationin March 1983. He was referring to the fact that the western third of the isle of Hispaniola was (and continues to be) the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, few countries in the world can point to a present and future as alarmingly bleak as Haiti’s. Not only is the per capita GNP a mere $380 a year and the per capita annual government expenditure for health care $2, but its 6.5 million people live in frightening ecological desolation. According...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Working with the UN
    (pp. 37-51)

    On the afternoon of March 30, 1993, Special Advisor Lawrence Pezzullo entered the Situation Room of the White House. He had been back in Washington one week. Since his return from Port-au-Prince, Pezzullo had crisscrossed the capitol talking to congressmen, senators, and fellow diplomats from the Organization of American States (OAS). All had expressed optimism that the focused intent of the Clinton administration would yield a resolution to the crisis in Haiti.

    Gathered around the table in the oak-paneled Situation Room were Tony Lake, Sandy Berger, and Richard Feinberg of the NSC; Peter Tarnoff and Warren Christopher from the State...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Early U.S.-Haitian Relations
    (pp. 52-59)

    From their beginnings, the United States and Haiti have had an intense relationship defined by often-contradictory pushes and pulls. Like most relationships between people or peoples, it has had to navigate the magnetic fields of their respective expectations and fears. In the case of Haiti that fear has been foreign domination and dependency; in the case of the United States the central fear has been and continues to be concerns about race.

    At the end of the eighteenth century, the two colonies shared a yearning for independence, which they encouraged in each other with arms and even men. When the...

  9. CHAPTER 6 UN Sanctions
    (pp. 60-76)

    It’s safe to say that every foreign policymaker in the U.S. government was familiar with the phrase: Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it. But the past history of U.S.-Haitian relations was not something that seemed to interest them in early 1993. Instead, White House policymakers were hell-bent on scoring a quick foreign policy victory for their new president by restoring deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power and stemming the flow of Haitian refugees. They imagined they could accomplish this without taking into consideration the tangled, tortured political culture of the second-oldest independent country in hemisphere....

  10. CHAPTER 7 The First U.S. Occupation
    (pp. 77-85)

    “In the beginning we were glad to see the marines,” recalled Haitian teacher Franck Henniques years after the first U.S. occupation of Haiti ended in 1934. But that sentiment would soon change.¹ And, Jim Crow racism and U.S. insensitivity to Haitian culture would inspire a virulent black nationalism that would open the portals to the strange and macabre dictatorship of François (Papa Doc) Duvalier. “What they [the U.S.] had unwittingly inspired,” wrote the Haitian anthropologist Michel Rolph-Trouillot years later, “was a return to Africa.”²

    But on the first day of the occupation, July 28, 1915, no one seemed to anticipate...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Governors Island
    (pp. 86-106)

    The night of June 16, 1993, had been a turning point in the effort of the international community to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Hours after the United Nations Security Council passed a groundbreaking resolution imposing a tough economic embargo against the de facto military government of Haiti, UN/OAS envoy Leandro Despouy secured a commitment from FADH commander General Raoul Cédras to hold face-to-face talks with the president he had ousted back in 1991.

    One would have thought that policymakers at the White House would have been patting one another on the back. This time the second-guessing started after...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The Fall of Baby Doc
    (pp. 107-118)

    Ask a Haitian to explain the turbulent political climate in his or her country and chances are he or she will tell you that the country is still emerging from the creepy graveyard of Papa Doc Duvalier. “Think of us as a whole society suffering from battered-wife syndrome,” said the daughter of an army colonel who fled the country in the early sixties.¹ By the time Papa Doc’s moon-faced son inherited power in 1971 at least half a million Haitians were living in exile.

    Jean-Claude (or Baskethead, as he was called by his schoolmates) was the youngest president in the...

  13. CHAPTER 10 The New York Pact
    (pp. 119-131)

    The ink was barely dry when Aristide’s advisors started complaining that the Haitian president was “not at all comfortable” with the terms of the Governors Island Agreement.¹ They wanted the United States and the international community to forcibly remove the high command of the Forces Armées d’Haiti (FADH). The UN/OAS special envoy Dante Caputo called it “the immaculate conception” scenario. The international community was to simply erase the political problems of Haiti and guarantee President Aristide’s safety.

    Article Eight of the documents signed by General Cédras and President Aristide on July 3, 1993, read: “The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces...

  14. CHAPTER 11 The Rise and Fall of Aristide
    (pp. 132-148)

    The presidential campaign of 1990 was borne on the wings of the popular movement that had gathered steam in the late eighties. This loose federation of priests, students, political parties, peasant groups, and union activists had protested, rioted, and suffered imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom for the right to have a voice in their own political future. Finally, in March 1990 with the resignation of General Prosper Avril, a man controlled the army who believed that fair, honest elections were the best hope for Haiti.

    For years, as a professor at the Military Academy, General Hérard Abraham had preached that a...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Reconciliation
    (pp. 149-164)

    The New York Pact signed by forty-odd Haitian politicians at one o’clock on Saturday morning, July 17, 1993, called for “a political truce to guarantee a smooth and peaceful transition.” It was the first step toward implementing the Governors Island Agreement signed by President Aristide and General Raoul Cédras only two weeks earlier. It also marked an opportunity for the Haitian Parliament to take back some of the political initiative. Up until July 1993 the Parliament had been “pretty much of a vague unknown nonentity,” according to a U.S. embassy official. During President Aristide’s seven-month reign, it had been ignored...

  16. CHAPTER 13 Prime Minister Malval
    (pp. 165-180)

    Publisher Robert Malval was one of the first people to call President Aristide after he had been ousted in September 1991 and was living in exile in Venezuela. Malval urged his friend to mobilize the international community to restore him to office. But now as the international effort was bearing fruit in the form of an agreement signed by General Cédras to restore Aristide to office by October 30, 1993, the urbane publisher was growing disillusioned with the man he had agreed to serve.

    It didn’t help that the day after Malval was formally installed as prime minister—September 3,...

  17. CHAPTER 14 Steps toward Aristide’s Return
    (pp. 181-194)

    Throughout September 1993 and into the first days of October, U.S. special advisor to Haiti Lawrence Pezzullo spent most of his time shuttling between President Aristide and the Clinton administration, trying to get them both to complete the steps that had been agreed upon at Governors Island. Although this was ostensibly what both of them wanted, he encountered resistance from both sides.

    The United Nations, on the other hand, was completely cooperative. On September 23, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the deployment of approximately 567 police trainers/monitors and 700 military trainers and engineers. “These personnel will have...

  18. CHAPTER 15 The Harlan County Incident
    (pp. 195-208)

    “There are some important things that happened in Haiti that the Agency and the press never picked up,” said Mike Kozak. Two weeks before theHarlan Countywas scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince, Kozak, Despouy, and Caputo had a meeting with a group of Haitian senators that included Alliance senator Julio Larosiliere. “They told us that Colonel Michel François had proposed to stage a coup against the Malval government and block the whole process,” reported Kozak.¹

    General Cédras called the FADH general staff and all the commanders together and Colonel François presented his plan for a coup d’état. Cédras argued...

  19. CHAPTER 16 Dissension in Washington
    (pp. 209-220)

    “There is something peculiarly Roman in the air in Haiti,” wrote British novelist Graham Greene inThe Comedians. “Roman in its cruelty, in its corruption and its heroism.” In October 1993, the assassination of Guy Malary, the corruption of the Haitian military, and the heroism of its prime minister Robert Malval all seemed to fit.

    The retreat of theHarlan Countyon the afternoon of October 12 had people all over the world scratching their heads. “Americans could have docked that boat if they wanted to,” said a thirty-four-year-old electrician named Hervé standing in a shantytown in Port-au-Prince. “There is...

  20. CHAPTER 17 The Resignation of Malval
    (pp. 221-230)

    While Prime Minister Malval was at UN headquarters telling Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali that “the idea of a national conference has no meaning without President Aristide’s support,”¹ President Aristide and his advisors were huddled in the President’s Georgetown office thinking of ways to trip him up. According to Aristide advisor Bob White, the Haitian president and the people close to him had two concerns. First, was their perception that Robert Malval was stealing their thunder. “Watch out for Malval,” warned one of Aristide’s lobbyists, “he’s becoming more important than you.”²

    Second was their fear that a national conference would only revitalize the...

  21. CHAPTER 18 The Parliamentarians’ Plan
    (pp. 231-243)

    The Four Friends aide mémoire delivered to both President Aristide and General Cédras in mid-December stated categorically that if the military leaders in Haiti did not revive the process set out at Governors Island by January 15, a voluntary OAS economic embargo would be extended and made mandatory under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. But the Clinton administration, sensitive to press reports that children were dying of malnutrition, was getting cold feet. Meanwhile, Father Aristide—champion of the poor and downtrodden in Haiti—campaigned vociferously for a total embargo.

    On the humanitarian front, keeping the lines of supply open...

  22. CHAPTER 19 President Clinton Changes Policy
    (pp. 244-256)

    In late December, Ellen Cosgrove of the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince noticed that an old man who repaired rubber tires in her neighborhood had disappeared. A few months later, Cosgrove ran into his daughter and asked: “Where have you been? And what happened to your father?”¹

    The girl told a harrowing story of leaving by boat and of her father being thrown overboard by the organizer because he was too old and sick. Denied political asylum in the United States, the daughter wound up in Cuba and, later, chose to be repatriated.

    Scenes like these were repeated with increasing frequency...

  23. CHAPTER 20 Carter/Powell/Nunn
    (pp. 257-270)

    On April 27, 1994, President Clinton announced that he would ask the UN Security Council to adopt a tough package of economic sanctions against Haiti’s military rulers. In addition to calling for a curb on international travel, he said he would push for a freeze on the military leaders’ foreign assets and cancellation of their credit cards. “Tightening the sanctions on suffering Haiti is not likely to rescue the Clinton administration from the unwelcome choices ahead,” noted theWashington Post

    One of the unwelcome choices was what to do about the Haitian refugees, who were being intercepted at sea in...

  24. EPILOGUE. History Repeats Itself
    (pp. 271-272)

    Approximately three years after he was ousted from power, President Jean Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti. On October 15, 1994, as thousands of Haitians jammed the streets around the Presidential Palace, President Aristide alighted from a U.S. helicopter, greeted gathered dignitaries including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and acting prime minister Robert Malval, entered a bulletproof enclosure, and addressed his people with: “Today is the day when the sunshine of democracy rises forever!”

    A little less than ten years later, on February 29, 2004, he was once again forced into exile. Instead of political reconciliation, the...

  25. CONCLUSIONS. Lessons Learned
    (pp. 273-279)

    “He [President Clinton] is like a kid who jumps from a 7th-story window ledge into a fireman’s net,” wroteWashington Postcolumnist David S. Broder on September 20, 1994, the first day of the U.S. military intervention in Haiti. “After you know he’s not cracked his skull, you have to ask: ‘What the hell was he doing on the ledge?’ ”¹

    Broder went on to say that “the intervention defies almost every rule of political prudence that we thought our government had learned from the painful experience of the post-World War II world.”²

    One lesson supposedly learned from Vietnam was...

  26. NOTES
    (pp. 280-304)
  27. INDEX
    (pp. 305-312)