22 June 2005

Somalia, 1993: Watching Haiti on CNN

I check in with Heidi at India Base. She's watching CNN with the American Intel officer who's been hovering around her lately. Wonder what's up there. They're watching breaking news from Haiti. The Intel guy says the USS Harlan County arrived yesterday to deploy American and Canadian peacekeeping troops and a crowd of Haitians came to the dock to greet the ship, shot in the air, shouting "Aidid, Aidid," and the Harlan County was ordered to retreat. Turned tail. Withdrew.

From Haiti?

I look at the Intel guy. Are you shitting me? We retreated from Haiti? They barely have an army for fucksake. The macoutes will run riot now. Open season. They win. He looks back at me with a cold stare. I try to hold his gaze. There's an entire doctoral dissertation communicated in the three-second silence of that stare-down. It's the most coherent articulation of an American foreign policy critique I've ever heard in my life, and he didn't have to say a thing.

I'm ashamed in front of the officer. For being a civilian. Like I personally represent everything that's wrong with the policies we're all watching fall apart. Only civilians would imagine that you can keep the peace in a hot war without fighting.

This will never work now. It's over. I gave this idea everything I had, literally. Why am I taking this all so personally? It's not about me, I tell myself, even as I talk to myself. This is exactly why Heidi thinks Andrew and I are full of shit: it's always about us and our ideas, not about individual humans. But an idea died this week, just like a human dies. How many successful peacekeeping missions will never be sent now? How many lives we could have saved will be lost now? The question is palpable as India Base Somalia watches CNN Haiti.
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. 171-172

No comments: