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Deforestation was accelerated by a campaign by the Church to reject the Haitian

living tradition of Vodun which is a blend of African spiritual systems for good

community governance, interaction and for elevating the sacred.

Trees were sacred things in Haitian/African culture.

 

 

Petition to President elect Obama‏

Advocates for Justice in Haiti

 

Three weeks ago we circulated a proposed petition to the President-elect of the United States, Barack Obama. We asked then for comments and critiques of the  petition. Two  of the first responses suggested that the letter was too long, others suggested that we should present the President-elect with  a list of things we would like him to do.

However, since then, the prevailing sentiment is that the letter is not too long and that it does what it is intended to do .I believe we have now collected all the comments we can reasonably expect.

The reasoning has been

1    It is presumptuous to present Mr Obama with a list of proposed actions because we cannot speak for the Haitians although we my speak on their behalf, as advocates for justice in Haiti. We would expect that if he takes notice of our petition he will find ways of informing himself about what needs to be done to promote justice for the Haitians and proper respect for their history and culture.

2    The purpose of the petition is not simply to inform Mr Obama about the present situation in Haiti; it is rather to document how and why the situation there has developed as it has.

If I may be permitted to extrapolate from what I have been told I would say the following:
The petition is a political document intended to be a kind of brief providing the historical, political, economic and social reasons for any action which the President may take;
and explaining why so many of us believe that Haiti deserves better treatment at the hands of the outside world and particularly of the United States of America

Haiti has been libelled for two centuries by people and nations who wish to diminish the respect  and honour Haiti should enjoy because of her contributions to civilisation. The injustices visited upon Haiti are not accidental, but  direct responses to her exemplary leadership role in the long struggle for freedom, Liberty and universal human rights and against slavery, racism, neo-colonialism and  great power exploitation.

These facts are not generally known and documenting them in the petition is to explain the overwhelming justification for the petition. We are not simply arguing for programme relief for just another highly indebted poor country, we are making the case that there must be redress for the long lasting and continuing mistreatment Haiti has received in return for the heroic achievements of her people.

The judgment of the majority is that we should send the petition as originally drafted, taking in some omissions and correcting some errors.

I hope we all concur in this position.

If you do, please circulate the petition immediately to people who will join us in signing it. Those who wish their names to be added should email me attaching their names, titles/positions and postal addresses. There is no need to send the petition back to me.

I believe we should conclude this exercise as quickly as possible, so that the petition will be delivered to the President-elect before the end of the year.

I would be grateful if you would point out any errors that may still remain in the text, so that the final version will be as fault-free as possible.

You will then be informed about the mode of transmission and delivery to the President-elect. We have been offered delivery by someone who knows the president-elect well and is in harmony with our views.

Peace and Love, John

John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

Tue 12/09/08

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Barack Obama, Esq.

President-elect

The United States of America

 

The history of Haiti will break your heart. Knowing it, the weak will despair, but the caring will strive to break the chains of tragedy  – Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General, the United States of America

 

Dear President Obama

Today, and for nearly two hundred years, the Haitian people are demanding justice, freedom from external oppression and an end to the denial of the human rights of their nation and people.

We, the undersigned, are a group of people of many nations, of all classes and callings moved by what we consider an overwhelming moral imperative to seek assistance for Haiti in breaking a vicious circle of defamation, economic oppression, external political and military interference that has unjustly constrained for nearly two centuries, the exercise of Haiti’s hard-won independence, freedom and liberty.

Because of these malign factors the Haitian people have been reduced to penury, most are unemployed, many are starving and their land and environment degraded by decades of over-exploitation. A proud people whose forefathers once produced enough to make other peoples wealthy and powerful, are now prevented from exercising their own free will and genius in deciding their own destiny.

Because of these factors the Haitian people are among the poorest, most malnourished, unfree and frustrated people in the world. They are oppressed by repayments for debt largely incurred by corrupt dictators.

Despite these factors the Haitian spirit remains free, undaunted and optimistic. The Haitians want to be freeto be themselves, to employ their own genius and strength as they did in their unique struggle for independence, defeating powers mightier than themselves to abolish slavery  and to assert their independence and freedom

Now, as they languish prisoners in their own land, justice and humanity demand that the Haitian people should be able to reclaim the dignity and respect they have earned by centuries of their struggle for human rights and dignity for themselves and  for other nations and peoples.

The circumstances surrounding this demand are so important and so extraordinary that we believe it is important to set them out in some detail.

Abolishing Slavery, Establishing Universal Human Rights

In 1893, Frederick Douglas, himself an emancipated slave, in an address to open the  the Chicago World’s Fair, said:

Until Haiti struck for freedom, the conscience of the Christian world slept profoundly over slavery. . . . Until she spoke no Christian nation had abolished negro slavery. Until she spoke no Christian nation had given to the world an organized effort to abolish slavery. Until she spoke the slave ship, followed by hungry sharks, greedy to devour the dead and dying slaves flung overboard to feed them, ploughed in peace the South Atlantic painting the sea with the Negro's blood. Until she spoke, the slave trade was sanctioned by all the Christian nations of the world, and our land of liberty and light included.

You are aware that two hundred and four years ago the people of Haiti, having defeated the armies of France (twice) and of  Britain and Spain,  the greatest powers of that time, declared their independence and simultaneously abolished slavery. The Haitians were the first and only people in the world to abolish the evil system that enslaved them.

Their struggle effectively destroyed the Slave Trade and accelerated freedom for those enslaved in the British and other empires.

The Haitians did more: the Haitian Revolution  invented the concept of universal emancipation, guaranteeing the freedom of any enslaved person who set foot on Haitian soil.

The Haitians  went even further: Haiti was the first, and for a long time, the only state in the world to recognise the universal equality of rights for all human beings regardless of sex, economic condition or any other consideration. It was the first state to implement human rights universally and unconditionally at a time when the only free men in other modern states were white adult male property owners.

Human freedom was then and is now, of transcendental  importance to the Haitians.

Haitian soldiers formed a large part of the French military assistance to the United States in its own war of Independence from Britain;  Haitian soldiers were crucial in the Battles of Yorktown and Savannah, Georgia.

A few years later, Haiti made an even more important though  indirect contribution to the development of the fledgling United States. The Haitian War of Independence so weakened France that Napoleon felt compelled to shed his country’s enormous territories in North America. Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana territorynearly a million square milesdoubled the size of the United States. It added all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, large portions of 9 other U.S. states and the city of New Orleans  an area which today comprises almost a quarter (23%)  of the total area of the United States.

 In 1816with their  economy still in ruins after a twelve year war of independence,  while  blockaded by greater powers and prevented from international trade, the Haitians made an heroic and decisive contribution to the independence of  six major countries in Spanish South America.  Haiti gave the then penniless and friendless liberator Simon Bolivar soldiers, ships, arms,, ammunition and provisions to prosecute the liberation of South America. The Haitians asked in return only one thing from Bolivar: that whenever he liberated a country he should also liberate the slaves.

It was the Haitian support of Bolivar in his liberation of South America which made possible the Monroe Doctrine by which the US forbade European attempts to re-colonise South America.

Clearly, Haiti has made enormous contributions to the cause of  human freedom and the world owes her an unpayable debt..

The world has not been as kind to Haiti.

At the first conference of free American states in 1824, Haiti, the seminal influence, was not invited.

American & French Hostility

Haitian Emancipation and the offer of freedom to slaves from any other country had  provoked the hostility of the United States, with its own economy still rooted in slavery. France resented the loss of the richest economy outside of Europe and, with Britain, feared the contagion of freedom on the remaining West Indian colonies of both empires. Haiti was barred from international trade by the great powers and suffered considerably since it was  unable to earn its way to development.

To survive, Haiti had to be able to sell its products, mainly sugar. After 20 years of Haiti’s independence and a blockaded and deteriorating economy, Haiti was told that France would recognise Haitian independence only if Haiti paid an indemnity of 150,000,000 gold francs – nearly three times the cost of the Louisiana Purchase. The Americans refused to recognise Haitian independence unless France did. 

The Haitians were in no position to bargain, weakened by the trade embargo and by internal conflict.

The French demand to Haiti was delivered by a fleet of ten warships armed with 500 cannons. Haiti agreed to pay the ransom which was equivalent to the value of France’s total national budget or ten years of all Haitian exports. In 2004 it was worth an estimated 21 billion US dollars.

Haiti borrowed the first installments from a French bank and over the next 122 yearsuntil 1947struggled honorably and sometimes unsuccessfully to pay for the right to be free.

No other country in known history has been so penalised.

The consequence was the continuing deformation of Haiti’s economy and  the stunting of its  development by the continuing transfer of a substantial proportion of Haiti’s national product to its former slave-master, which had already grown rich and powerful on three centuries of   exploitation of Haiti’s land and slave labour.

American Interventions

When the Haitians faltered in their payments because of natural disasters such as drought, flood or hurricane, American bankers undertook to lend the money to pay the French. When the Haitians fell behind on their payments to the US, a series of armed interventions ensued, in protection it was said of American lives and property. These  culminated in the seizure of the Haitian banking system and its tax collection system in the most drastic intervention of all,  in 1915. That lasted 19 years and involved the bloody suppression of two attempts by the Haitians to regain their sovereignty by armed struggle.

The intervention was notable for introducing the Jim Crow system of racial discrimination into Haiti, the strengthening of class and colour  antagonisms and the installation of a brutal and corrupt army modeled on the Jim Crow occupation force. It was also notable for the first use of dive-bombing against civilian targets and the introduction of forced labour.

Additionally, the Haitians lost their constitution when the occupiers imposed a Constitution which repealed certain guarantees  including that forbidding foreign ownership of  land and imposed a one term limit on Presidents.

The result was a flood of foreign investment and as the second world war loomed  the frantic clearing of land for rubber and sisal plantations. Thus  began  the deforestation of Haiti.

Deforestation was accelerated by a campaign by the Church to reject the Haitian living tradition of Vodun which is a blend of African spiritual systems for good community governance, interaction and for elevating the sacred. Trees were sacred things in Haitian/African culture, looked upon as living energies that provided strength to the people. Cutting down trees was relatively taboo. But these core African values  were uprooted during the anti-Vodun ‘Rejete’ campaigns (1940-41) as  the Catholic Church attempted to get rid of Vodun as its rival religion and philosophy in Haiti. A century and a half before, the Haitians had been described by Europeans and Americans as devil worshippers and cannibals.  The 18th century  libels were resurrected in the Vodun ‘Rejete’ campaign and they were again resurrected in the first decade of the twenty-first century to justify the decapitation of democracy in Haiti .

From Duvalier to Aristide

After the official end of the Occupation in 1935, the Haitian Army continued the campaign against Haitian democracy and self determination. Heads of stateselected by the elite and endorsed by the armyfunctioned at their pleasure. In the disputed ‘election’ of 1960 the Haitian army met its match in a Haitian physician with sociological credentialsFrancois Duvalier. Quietly and without fanfare he built up an army of barefoot thugs whose unquestioning personal obedience shielded Duvalier and enabled him to control the Army and to anoint his playboy son as his successor.

The history of the last decade and a half of the 20th century and of Haiti’s brief taste of democracy do not need  retelling in detail.

A brief recital of the salient facts is, however, in order.

The Duvalier era ended when massive public protests drove the young dictator, Jean Claude Duvalier from office in 1986. The hero of these protests and the spokesman for the people was a young parish priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide who was the target of many murderous assaults by the Duvalierists and their allies. 

Duvalier’s departure was succeeded by a period of confusion which ended in 1991 with the election of a new President of Haiti under a new Constitution which limited heads of state to one four year term at a time.

The new President’s aims were simple: that all Haitians be treated justly as God’s children, that all have food and shelter, and that all take pride in heir own Kreyol language and culture. He said he wanted “to build Utopia on the dungheap” left behind by the dictators

Elements of the Duvalier army, backed by elements of the business and elite classes promoted a coup which ended with the attempted assassination and departure into exile of he lawfully elected President Aristide after only six months in office.

Mr Patrick Robinson, a distinguished Jamaican  jurist ( now President of the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague) went to Haiti on behalf of the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission in 1994. He reported

The people in Haiti have the same emotions and aspirations as the citizens of any other state in the organisation. They have within themselves an enormous capacity for warmth and love and friendship and endurance and a great yearning for peace, justice and democracy. But a people do not endure the hardships, the deprivation, the violence, the victimisation and the enormous disappointments that the Haitians have experienced over the past 32 months without their faith in humanity and their expectations of decency and justice being challenged in a serious way .…[We] received information of severely mutilated bodies deposited on the streets, and a member of the delegation actually saw one such body. The purpose of these acts is to terrorise the population. Human corpses are being eaten by animals. Numerous reports of arbitrary detentions routinely accompanied by torture and brutal beatings. . . . The Commission received reports of rape and sexual abuse of the wives and relatives of men who are active supporters of President Aristide; women are also raped, not only because of their relationship to men who support President Aristide, but because they also support President Aristide; thus, sexual abuse is used as an instrument of repression and political persecution.

After years of official terrorism against his  supporters, the United States negotiated the restoration of President Aristide who served out the few remaining months of his term. The international community which had promised Haiti help in restoring order, in developing a trustworthy police force and assistance to build Haiti’s infrastructure, reneged on almost every promise. Even commitments by the IDB to lend money to build sanitary water supplies were sabotaged by order of the US Treasury.

A new president, Preval, was elected and he served out his term, the first Haitian President to do so.

In 2001  former President Aristide was again inaugurated as President after another overwhelming electoral victory.  A  campaign, led by the same elements responsible for the first coup but this time directed and openly  supported by various agencies of the US and Canadian  governments, including the CIA, the State Department, the International Republican Institute, USAID and the Canadian International  Development Agency (CIDA), promoted the formation of a small and divided Opposition formed by an  assemblage of Haitian NGOs  and supported by elements of the corrupt army dissolved by President Aristide.

This opposition, on the basis of a few disputed election results unconnected to the election of the President and before he took office,  refused to work or even speak to President Aristide to resolve political problems. The opposition, which at all times represented a small minority of the Haitian people, was supported by non-Haitian elementsAmerican, Canadian and Frenchin their demand that President Aristide must leave office.

No substantive reason has ever been presented to support this demand.

Decapitating Democracy

In the early morning of February 28,  2004 the US Ambassador arrived at Haiti’s Presidential Palace and left with the President and Mme. Aristide in a heavily guarded motorcade to the airport where the Aristides were placed on a plane to Africa, manifested as cargo.

The unmarked aircraft was later identified as one that had previously been used in the illegal rendition of suspected terrorists. This plane sat on the tarmac in Antigua while arrangements were apparently being made for the delivery of President and Mme Aristide to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, whose President had apparently agreed to accept the Aristide on terms that have never been disclosed.

A worldwide wave of disapproval of this apparent kidnapping placed the blame squarely at the door of the United States.

A delegation led by Randall Robinson of TransAfrica and Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California together with  Sharon Hay Webster, a Jamaican member of Parliament and aide to Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica, travelled to Bangui by chartered plane to rescue the Aristides and bring them back to the Caribbean, to asylum in Jamaica.

The government of Jamaica, threatened by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, accepted the Aristides until they could arrange permanent asylum. They were received by President Thabo Mbeki to South Africa where they remain to this day.

The United States, Canada and France, operating through the UN Security Council, then imposed upon the Haitian people a government headed by a Haitian businessman who had lived outside of Haiti for most of his adult life.

Under this unelected regime,  a so-called ‘peacekeeping” force of American Marines and later, of soldiers from other countries, provided the armed state power to maintain law and order.

However, this force in collusion with remnants of the discredited Haitian Army and police,  (according to credible journalistic and other  investigators) presided over a reign of terror in Haiti, where convicted mass murderers and other known criminals held the real authority. They behaved as they had after the 1991 coup, employing widespread  torture, systematic rape, horribly mutilated bodies left in the streets, women and children slaughtered in random assaults on the habitations of the poorest.

On one notorious occasion, various foreign diplomats including the Canadian representative of the OAS, attended a celebration at which  the criminal gangsters were saluted by the “President” as “freedom fighters”.

More than ten thousand supporters of the legitimate government have been murdered or are missing presumed dead, many more have been arrested or went into hiding to avoid arrest, torture including rape, or murder.

The former Prime Minister was arrested and imprisoned without cause or due process as were other prominent Aristide supporters including Anne Auguste, Haiti’s leading folklorist, Fr Gerard Jean-Juste, a nationally prominent Catholic priest, and others who were considered threats to the illegal regime. They were all treated inhumanely and with total disrespect.

The consequences of the destruction of popular democracy in Haiti have been catastrophic, The national disaster preparedness system became non-functional and thousands of Haitians have died in weather-related events that they may otherwise have survived.

Last year, millions of Haitianssupporters of the legitimate regimestood in long lines in the heat of the Haitian sun for hours to vote, as they said, for the return of President Aristide. 

Despite their overwhelming support for one candidate, one of the other candidates threatened to go to court to try to annul the election in which his votes were less than a third of the winning candidate. Nothing can better illustrate the intransigence of those who oppose the unlawfully deposed president of Haiti.

Terror is still abroad in Haiti. Two prominent supporters of the Lavalas movement, Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and Marlyse Narcisse  were kidnapped last year. Mme Narcisse  has been restored to her family after a worldwide outcry. Pierre Antoine is still missing and the government has done nothing to investigate his disappearance.

All over Haiti poor people have been reduced to eating earth to stave off hunger. The women mix clay, salt and a little fat to produce patties which are baked in the sun before being eaten. Women, too malnourished to breastfeed their newborns, watch them die in their arms.

What Haiti needs

Haiti needs, first of all, reconciliation, a period of peace and order and negotiation to reclaim its democracy and to develop among all its citizens, a true respect for the universal  human rights implemented in Haiti, for the first time on the planet, two centuries ago.

Haiti needs peace and order to build the institutions, facilities and infrastructure which it has been unable to build because of foreign interference and exploitation

Haiti needs a programme of long-term development, designed and implemented by the Haitians themselves without interference from outside.

Haiti is hungry and its farmlands and forests have been depleted, degraded and destroyed as a result of the fatal interventions from abroad. Haiti needs assistance to feed its people and to restore the population to acceptable standards of nutrition.

Haiti needs to resume and accelerate  its programme of building schools and universities and training people to prevail against the threat of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Haiti needs roads and water supplies and a governmental apparatus that will design and implement them.

Haiti should be able to expect, as of right,  justice and fair treatment from the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and the Multilateral Financial Institutions. Haiti has suffered and is suffering from unfair  treatment by many of these organisations of which she was a founding member.

Finally, President Obama, we who sign this letter do not presume to speak for Haiti. We believe that you will want to hear from the Haitian people themselves.  They have spoken eloquently over the centuries in which they have built the economies of other countries, in which they have fought for and won their own freedom and have accelerated the freedom of others. But we believe we speak on behalf of humanity, being moved by the unbearable suffering of a people who have contributed so much to human freedom and dignity.

We believe that achieving justice for Haiti is an undertaking important to the history and integrity  of our civilisation  and to the cause of the human rights of all people, everywhere.

We believe that you are uniquely qualified  by history by temperament and by your  office to make the decisive intervention that will cure  centuries old injustices and free your country and Haiti from an entanglement which devalues and in some ways, delegitimizes humanity’s constant struggle for the secure establishment of the inalienable rights of mankind.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, humanity cannot be half slave and half-free.

If Haiti is not free, none of us is free.

It is long past time for outsiders to stop their deadly interference in Haiti’s affairs and time for any who can come to Haiti’s assistance to do so, on Haiti’s terms. Haiti need a new relationship with the United States, a partnership that promotes human rights, debt relief, reciprocal trade, sustainable development, Haiti's domestic agriculture, an  end to foreign occupation and  justice for the victims of official terror.

 This is a long letter, but as one of our signatories has noted, for Haiti, the suffering has not simply been long, but apparently endless.

We are confident that you will see the justice of the Haitian case.

Millions of people in the United States and in the  Caribbean and Latin America and in Africa owe a debt of freedom to Haiti. It is a debt that is long past due.

We are

(signatories)

posted 8 December 2008

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

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Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

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By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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