22 June 2005

Haiti, 1993: After Watching Somalia on CNN

The U.S. chargé d'affaires goes to the docks to greet the American soldiers and their landing ship, the USS Harlan County. The chargé's car is kicked and rocked by a gang of drunken macoutes with crude weapons. "Haiti, Somalia! Haiti, Somalia!" they shout. "Aidid, Aidid!" Their eyes are wide and bloodshot and gleeful. Goliath is wounded and confused. Democracy in Haiti is no longer worth American blood.

So President Clinton orders the American soldiers and their ship to withdraw from the docks and from Haiti. It's too dangerous.

But it isn't. The American military could crush the macoutes in an afternoon's training exercise. They know it, and the macoutes know it.

The problem is not military; it's psychological. Fear ripples from Somalia through Washington to Haiti. A few punks with small guns and big mouths and the world's only superpower is in retreat.

Far up the hill at the Hotel Montana, the UN's special representative for Haiti is on TV assuring the world that the USS Harlan County will soon dock and American soldiers will disembark before dark. Someone forgot to tell him that they've withdrawn and that the whole city is watching as the ship grows smaller and smaller and disappears over the horizon, past Cuba, toward Miami.

It's a lonely and demoralizing sight. The chargé d'affaires is almost in tears on TV as it dawns on her how badly she's been betrayed by her superiors. She denounces the macoutes as gangsters who don't want the future of Haiti to arrive. But it's her ship that didn't arrive. Last week it required eighteen fallen Rangers in Somalia to get Clinton running scared. This week a group of loudmouthed thugs did it.

How in hell is he ever going to face down the Bosnian Serbs, who, unlike their Somali and Haitian brothers, have a real army?
SOURCE: Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson (Miramax Books, 2004), pp. 170-171

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