The Fire This Time in Haiti

Haiti, once again, is ablaze. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is widely blamed, and he may be toppled soon. Almost nobody, however, understands that today's chaos was made in Washington - deliberately, cynically, and steadfastly. History will bear this out. In the meantime, political, social, and economic chaos will deepen, and Haiti's impoverished people will suffer.

The Bush Administration has been pursuing policies likely to topple Aristide since 2001. The hatred began when Aristide, then a parish priest and democracy campaigner against Haiti's ruthless Duvalier dictatorship, preached liberation theology in the 1980's. Aristide's attacks led US conservatives to brand him as the next Fidel Castro.

They floated stories that Aristide was mentally deranged. Conservative disdain multiplied several-fold when President Bill Clinton took up Aristide's cause after he was blocked from electoral victory in 1991 by a military coup. Clinton put Aristide into power in 1994, and conservatives mocked Clinton for wasting America's efforts on "nation building" in Haiti. This is the same right wing that has squandered $160 billion on a far more violent and dubious effort at "nation building" in Iraq.

Attacks on Aristide began as soon as the Bush administration assumed office. I visited President Aristide in Port-au-Prince in early 2001. He impressed me as intelligent and intent on good relations with Haiti's private sector and the US. No firebrand, he sought advice on how to reform his economy and explained his realistic and prescient concerns that the American right would try to wreck his presidency.