HAITI: WACO WRIT LARGE
President Clinton will address the nation tomorrow evening to explain why the mightiest power in the history of the world must invade the poorest and weakest nation in the hemisphere. There is no acceptable answer, which means that the Congress must somehow stop him from proceeding. This responsibility largely falls on the shoulders of Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, the leader of the Republican opposition, because the Democratic leaders are helpless, as it is their party leader -- the commander-in-chief -- who wishes to proceed with invasion. The grounds are that all other options have been exhausted and that U.S. credibility would suffer a terrible blow if, after having made these threats against demands for surrender by the existing government, nothing were done.
What we are witnessing is Waco writ large. The nation must hope and pray that, when the troops move in, the response of the Haitian military will be to lay down their arms without firing a shot. Instead, we are likely to again witness a horrible example of the unintended consequences of the ill-considered use of force. The military must always expect collateral damage when it throws its might against an enemy force. As in Waco, the source of Haiti's problem can easily be removed with massive firepower, but the civilian bloodshed may far exceed the alleged human rights violations being perpetrated by the military's targets. If the feeble Haitian defenders fire upon our troops, the firepower they get in return will not be surgical. In the suicidal response at Waco, the children supposedly being molested by the Branch Davidians -- then as now an excuse for invasion -- all went up in flames. We see in The New York Times today that the U.S. forces last weekend dropped 3 million leaflets on Haiti, warning the population of the imminent invasion, but that these were somehow blown out to sea.
Why is this happening? Is it because our young President wants to demonstrate to the world that he is not afraid to back up his threats with the use of force? Why then choose a cripple like Haiti? Rep. Robert Torrecelli [D-NJ] last night ridiculed the very idea that the United States must demonstrate its resolve to the world -- having spent the last half century spilling blood and expending treasure in the global competition with communism. Sen. Richard Lugar [R-Ind], in the same MacNeil-Lehrer interview, argued that the options have not been exhausted, that there has been no creativity shown by the President's diplomatic team and certainly no willingness to consult with the Republican leadership. As with almost everything else that has gotten Bill Clinton into trouble since he came to town with 43% of the vote, Haiti exemplifies the President's determination to govern as he did in one-party Arkansas.
Earlier this year, when Haiti was still on the crisis horizon, Dole publicly recommended that the President name a fact-finding commission that would go to Haiti to sort out the facts, which had been in short supply. He even recommended that Colin Powell be asked to head such a team, patterned after the mission headed by Henry Kissinger that Ronald Reagan sent to El Salvador. When asked about the idea on one of the Sunday talk shows at the time, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell dismissed it with a sneer -- reminding his interviewer that the President had his own Haiti policy and needed no advice from Senator Dole. The policy, then and now, was to tell General Raoul Cedras to "Come out with your hands up," which of course was also the creative diplomacy practiced in Waco. In July, when Dole proposed a bipartisan congressional fact-finding mission, he was stiff-armed by Mitchell in a party-line vote. Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY], who had originally encouraged Dole's idea of a fact-finding mission to Haiti, found that every time that the diplomatic option looked like the only one left, the White House would increase its bets on the military option.
There is so little support for invasion in this country or in Congress that Republicans are assuming there must be something going on behind the scenes -- some secret CIA mission to Haiti that is even now delivering a big bag of money to Cedras, with first class tickets to Paris. My sense of Cedras is that he could have done this anytime if he were that kind of man, but that he does have loyalty to the troops who serve under him -- which is why he insisted upon general amnesty. Cedras publicly welcomed the idea of a fact-finding mission when he was asked about it, although the American people would only know that if they watched CNN. According to Bob Novak, who has interviewed Cedras three times in the last year, his receptivity is genuine, and so is that of the Haitian business establishment, which would love to see Colin Powell arrive in pinstripes instead of U.S. 20,000 Marines. Neither The New York Times nor The Washington Post has ever mentioned Dole's proposal, as if it would embarrass our young President to suggest that he might need some more facts.
What fact would a fact-finding mission find that might make a difference? It would find, I think, confusion over the Governor's Island accord that last year supposedly solved the central problem. It was that accord with Cedras which was to have returned President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to his office. The Clinton Administration has repeatedly justified its tightened embargo on the breaking of that accord by Cedras, with the tightened embargo producing the refugees that have now led it to the brink of invasion. The essence of the accord, as far as Cedras was concerned, was its provisions of amnesty for the Haitian military. Once the parliament enacted legislation granting full amnesty to the 7000-man army for any acts committed during the civil upheaval, Cedras would step down and give the keys to the city to Aristide. Alas, this is not how Aristide interpreted the Governor's Island accord. As far as he was concerned, amnesty would follow after he was again ensconced in the president's office.
This "fact" alone is worth a fact-finding mission, since a new attempt at creative diplomacy could be constructed around it. If Richard Lugar were Secretary of State in a Dole Administration, we could be sure he would not leave this stone unturned. At the last minute, the only thing that could cause the administration to call off the invasion would be a credible Republican alternative of this kind. The President's address to the nation tomorrow night may or may not invite a vote in Congress next week. He may jump the gun and announce the invasion will proceed. Only Dole could force him to temporize by getting the nation's attention on a GOP alternative in the few days or hours left.
The White House is hoping to ease the passage of GATT in the remaining weeks of this Congress by jettisoning the "fast track" authority for future trade agreements. With the sticky issue of labor and environmental standards thus removed from this debate, the administration will attempt to capitalize on conventional interpretations that this "free trade" pact will lower tariffs and thereby significantly expand international commerce. What's wrong with that? In fact, the implementing legislation is loaded with favors to industries facing import competition, greatly diluting the potential benefits of the agreement for U.S. consumers. This has yet to register in public perceptions [See our "GATT: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?" July 14, 1994]. Sovereignty issues raised by creation of the new World Trade Organization are not enough to block GATT, but the legislation as it now stands would protect a small group of powerful corporate special interests much more than it would benefit everyone else. These are the red flags that have caused Senator Dole to recommend putting the issue off to 1995. The Democrat-Big Labor-Big Business coalition is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of enough House and Senate members to gain enactment before the November elections. Dole has essentially asked the White House to decide whether it wants to focus on health care or on GATT in the time remaining. It's become fairly clear that no health care legislation will be forthcoming, with Republicans now arguing behind the scenes on whether or not they should gloat. They shouldn't. The last gasp of this Congress may be over GATT, which like health care should merely be deferred into '95. In the new Congress, assuming strong Republican gains, the Uruguay Round can be implemented with a clean bill that actually promotes trade rather than protectionism.