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The unprecedented achievement of Toussaint, Christophe, Dessalines

and the others has been devalued by historians who have seized on

the extravagances of Christophe and others  to smear a glorious revolution



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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“Imagine! Niggers Speaking French!!!”

By John Maxwell


Just eleven months ago, in his celebrated oration documenting the awesome details of  Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made sure that he would not address the UN General Assembly against the background of Picasso’s Guernica. Guernica is Picasso’s celebrated protest in paint against superpower terrorism. The  mural was hidden from sight on General Powell’s orders, as he documented the compelling reasons for a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, to keep the world safe from terrorism.

Guernica memorializes the attack by Fascist German and Italian dive-bombers against the Spanish town of Guernica, an assault on the civilian population which helped doom the legitimate, socialist government of Spain and introduce nearly half a century of dictatorship.

The world considered the dive-bombing of Guernica an atrocity. Unfortunately for us, the world did not know of another Guernica, in Haiti, nearly 20 years earlier, when American dive bombers obliterated peasants, men and women armed with machetes fighting for the freedom of their country.

The Haitians are celebrating two centuries of freedom, two centuries since their slave ancestors rose in revolt to throw the French colonisers out of Haiti. They had to do it twice, when Napoleon newly installed in France, tried to recapture the richest colony in the world for France. The Haitians threw out a British army too, but neither of these extraordinary and heroic feats is reflected in our history books.

The unprecedented achievement of Toussaint, Christophe, Dessalines and the others has been devalued by historians who have seized on the extravagances of Christophe and others  to smear a glorious revolution. Since the revolution the history of Haiti like the history of most of the Americas, has been a history of war, violence, and exploitation financed and directed by foreigners, mainly Americans.

It is hardly known here that at the height of the US’ expansionist 'Manifest Destiny'  period an attempt was made on Jamaica, after the 1907 earthquake. The Americans at that time, used all sorts of pretexts to intervene – humanitarian reasons or to quell disorder or to restore financial stability or whatever. In the case of Jamaica the then governor, Alexander Swettenham, ordered the express withdrawal of an American warship and its marines who had landed in Kingston, so they said, to restore order.

Swettenham lost his job, but those Jamaicans who were looking for an American godfather had to wait another 90 years.

‘If We Must Die . . .’

In an editorial a few days ago, the Jamaica Observer said, inter alia that CARICOM should  have “made it clear to the Haitian opposition that the bicentenary celebrations of the achievement of black slaves was of monumental importance to black people across the world and transcended the immediate domestic politics. Mr Mbeki of South Africa understood this. Unfortunately, Mr Patterson didn't.”

I remember more than 30 years ago being attacked for publishing the speech made by Nelson Mandela in his defence against treason charges in South Africa. The paper I then edited, Public Opinion and the London Observer were probably the only two newspapers in the world with the courage to publish that speech. When Nelson Mandela came to Jamaica and Thabo Mbeki goes to Haiti, it is because they, like some others of us, understand the sovereign duty of black people to take their place in the world courtesy of no sponsor or approval from anyone.  

Claude McKay said,

If we must die,

O let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honour us though dead!

The artificial instabilities of the 19th century in Latin America had their real genesis in the Monroe Doctrine, which decreed that  countries in the Americas, except those controlled by the European powers were subject to US hegemony. George Canning, then Britain’s Foreign Secretary, chortled: “I have called a New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.”

It would be another 130 years before  Mexico and Cuba asserted their independence.

France, the old colonial landlord of Haiti, had been so scared by the success of the Haitian revolution that it sold off the Louisiana territories to the United Sates, more than doubling the size of that country. But after Napoleon, France had second thoughts and finally managed, during another period of Haitian instability, to extort an ‘agreement ‘  that condemned Haiti to pay a substantial annual  indemnity to France for the success of the revolution. This criminal burden was faithfully respected by the Haitians, though it caused them no end of grief. 

With  much of their revenue  exported  to France there was little left to develop Haiti. The Americans lent  money to ‘help’ them repay the French. Finally, just like today, the accumulated debt became impossible to pay and the American marines stepped in.

The first US  marine general, Caperton, was a diplomat. He was able to set up a puppet regime of collaborators and secured a legal basis for the occupation in the Haitian-American Treaty of 1915.  His successor, General Littleton Waller was different:

These people are niggers in spite of the thin varnish of education and refinement, …Down in their hearts they are just the same happy, idle, irresponsible people we know of."

Not surprisingly, Waller’s regime provoked resistance, mainly led by a man called Charlemagne  Peralte. The puppet government had been forced to agree to changing the constitution to allow foreigners to own land and American capital  poured in, destroying forests to plant coffee and citrus. The US next introduced forced labour, under an old Haitian law which commanded the people to give an occasional  free day to build the country. In the American regime, the cuveé was transformed into something indistinguishable from slavery.

Charlemagne Peralte was murdered by American troops in what would now be called a ‘Targeted assassination”.  His people were bombed and otherwise massacred.

Haiti was safe for American democracy. One of those who made it so was American Marine General Smedley Butler, who, after he retired, had second thoughts:

I helped make Mexico . . . safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.

After speaking about his pacification work in the Dominican Republic, China and elsewhere, Butler said:

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure  of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought  of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical … in the military service.

In his memoirs, Butler compared himself unfavourably to Al Capone. His racketeering made Capone look like a piker, Butler said.

Floating barracoons in Kingston Harbour

The utter futility of  the present government of Jamaica was never better expressed than 1994, when the cabinet, stooging for the Americans, allowed the mooring of  American ‘floating barracoons’ in Kingston harbour. On these ships Haitians fleeing the successors to Duvalier were ‘processed’ – most of them sent back to the country in which they were in danger of having their ‘faces chopped off’ according to no less than President Clinton.

This unprincipled and barbarous betrayal of  fellow human beings, our brothers, made me want to vomit. It still does. Because that stooging prepared the way for what now happens in Haiti, where forces antagonistic to every principle of the original revolution are determined, at long last, to make Haiti submit, to tie her down for eternal rape.

People will tell you that Haitians are the authors of their own misery. As other people say, people who don’t remember their history are doomed to repeat it.

The dismemberment and strip mining of Haiti’s economy, social, politician and intellectual life was under regimes tolerated or sponsored by the United States. To this day the United States protects some of the face-choppers, people who formed the US sponsored FRAPH, supposedly a force to rebuild Haiti according to democratic free market principles.

Today elements of the same forces provide the opposition to President Aristide, defecating on their own history with a little help from their friends.

“The Haiti Democracy Project was officially launched Tuesday, November 19, 2002 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. The inaugural brought together over 120 guests and participants from the Haitian-American community of the Washington area, New York and Miami, along with members of the US academic and foreign-policy communities.” This according to the Haiti Democracy project (HPD) website

Even the assistant secretary general of the OAS, Luigi Einaudi was there, . . . 

Einaudi opened the talks with dire predictions that Haiti was fast approaching a point where diplomatic means would no longer contribute to solve the crisis. According to Einaudi, those concerned about Haiti should at this time be gathering for a “wake" ( HDP).

For an OAS official to take part in such a ceremony and say what he said, seems to me to be grossly improper, at the very least.

In June the HDP  exhorted  the OAS to disbar Haiti from membership and to intervene to remove President Aristide from office.

… let us trust… , that the General Assembly is finally ready to say yes …   Yes to the awesome responsibility of temporarily impairing the sovereignty of a state in the name of its people.  Yes to the daunting challenge of accompanying and assisting that people as it seeks to emerge from this debilitating national crisis and to reapply itself to the construction of a democratic polity and a developing nation.

HDP and others blame Aristide for everything that is wrong with Haiti. After his re-election less than four years ago the multilateral agencies, at the urging of the United States, withheld all aid from Haiti until they were satisfied that Haiti had made itself into a democracy recognisable as such by Americans. The pivot of this blackmail  was the fact that there were irregularities in the elections of a few Senators, a fact of much slighter significance than the irregularities in the election of President Bush. In Haiti, there was no question of who the people wanted.

In the case of Haiti these irregularities now assume major importance, and are cause for the world to condemn Haiti to starve in obscene misery. Without the money, Haiti’s debt, incurred by Duvalier and those before him, cannot be serviced if the people of Haiti are to eat and go to school.

William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State to president Woodrow Wilson, eighty years ago expressed the contempt in which the Haitians are held by the Anglo-Saxon power structure:

Imagine!” Bryan said , "Niggers speaking French!!!

Perhaps it would be to our advantage if Mr Patterson might learn the language, like the Haitian hero, Bouckman, who was a Jamaican.  In the US today, niggers speaking French rank slightly higher than whose language is English. Unless, of course, they a happen to be Colin Powell – another Jamaican,  or the Secretary general of the UN, Kofi Annan, whose holiday was more important than freedom from slavery.

Copyright ©2004 John Maxwell

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update 18 May 2012




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