A Shameful Occupation
Jude Wanniski
September 20, 1994


The constitutional grounds for President Clinton invading and occupying Haiti before the Haitian generals came to terms with the Carter-Powell-Nunn mission were shaky enough. Still, it was an enormous relief to see the mission avoid the bloodshed that would have accompanied invasion. Nonetheless, there can now be absolutely no question that constitutional grounds for an occupation of Haiti do not exist. What is the purpose of the occupation? To protect the Aristide forces from the anti-Aristide forces? Or vice versa? It doesn't matter that our armed forces are incapable of policing the political impulses of seven million Haitians -- and will become hated by all sides as they attempt to do so. The real point is that the President clearly did not have authority to insist on deployment of 15,000 troops in Haiti as one of the conditions for not invading that sorry land. Yet it is already becoming conventional wisdom that the troops will now remain indefinitely, not because the American people or their representatives in Congress want them there, but because the President and the United Nations have decided to do so.

Even The Wall Street Journal this morning seems to accept the President's authority to do whatever he wishes as commander-in-chief, unencumbered by constitutional constraints. Its editorial, "Better Than Plan A," is nothing less than a blueprint for colonialism, as the Journal's editors have been sucked along by the duplicity of this administration: "The terms of the deal worked out Sunday in Port-au-Prince give the U.S. greater control over the shape of Haiti's near-term political future." And, "Our goal should be to see that Haiti's political leaders continue to derive authority from the democratically determined will of the Haitian people," which tells us the Journal believes we must stick around until the Haitians do it the way we want them to do it.

If the Constitution means anything, though, it means protection against the kind of president who will say or do anything he thinks he has to in order to maintain power for himself and his friends, in short, Bill Clinton. In watching the events in Haiti unfold, we get the sickening sense that this President is steadily persuading our political establishment to accommodate and adjust to his corrupt style of governance. Certainly everyone in Washington knew Clinton was racing the clock to get those troops committed before Monday morning, when the Congress would debate the wisdom of invasion and almost certainly vote against it. The mindset of this President and his team is absolute and elitist. Whether he and Hillary are designing a brave new health-care world with 500 experts, in secret, or racing to deploy the world's greatest military machine before Congress gets back to town, the Clintons represent a European style of governance built around blood and kinship -- not of the people, by the people and for the people. This is why the debate over Haiti has profound implications for the nation's future in this New World Order, and why we have spent so much time fussing about it.

The President's decision Friday to send the Jimmy Carter-Colin Powell-Sam Nunn mission to Haiti was forced on him by the inescapable fact that his Thursday night speech failed to rally support for invasion, with the polls showing the public insisting he consult Congress -- which was set to vote him down. Only a handful of votes in the Congressional Black Caucus and the Kennedy family wished him to proceed. Yet he desperately needed to act in order to stop the hemorrhaging of his credibility. He could not proceed, however, without making a last-minute gesture via the Carter mission, which his advisors believed would, in failing, enable them to send the troops in Sunday night to prevent the Congress on Monday from voting against intervention -- which would be seen even by small children as the end of the Clinton presidency.

On Friday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole issued a statement, "HAITI DIPLOMACY," in which he disputed Clinton's assertion that all options had been pursued and exhausted. Dole noted that since Oct. 20, 1993 he had been urging a fact-finding mission, and suggesting that the President postpone the invasion and "dispatch a high-level emissary to Haiti, an emissary not with an ultimatum but with a mandate -- a mandate to seek a peaceful solution to Haiti's tragedy. This individual should have impeccable credentials and wide bipartisan respect, someone such as retired General Colin Powell." Two hours later, the President announced the mission, which he supposedly decided upon after he delivered his address the night before.

What would such a mission find? Dole pointed out in his statement that: "Prior to the October 30, 1993 deadline in the 10-point Governor's Island Accord, numerous actions were to have occurred, including a general amnesty, and the naming and confirmation of a new Prime Minister. Virtually all comments have centered only on the point requiring the retirement of General Cedras." I learned of the mission a few minutes before I appeared on CNBC's "Business Insiders" show late Friday afternoon and was jubilant. "I will tell you one thing that Jimmy Carter is sure to find," I said. "He will find that the generals did not violate the Governor's Island accord."

This is what the Carter mission discovered and was all it needed to fashion the agreement that short-circuited the invasion. He could have easily reached the same agreement without the troops and warships hovering off the coast. And he could have done this six months ago. Everyone in Washington knows this, including the members of the Black Caucus. Sen. Richard Lugar [R-Ind] has been saying so, backing up Dole. But so has Rep. Robert Torricelli [D-NJ], who surfaced, along with Sen. Moynihan of New York, as an intelligent liberal Democrat who refuses to lie for the Clintons. It is even dawning on the Washington press corps, as it finally began to sniff around the Governor's Island accord and find that the Haitian generals really did promise to leave when the 10-point agreement was achieved in sequence -- and that it was President Aristide who made sure that it did not happen.

The New York Times, which has been aggressively arguing the case against invasion for weeks, should get much of the credit for pushing Clinton into the Carter mission, by holding the Democrats to their own standards. The White House must be in anguish this morning to read the Times lead editorial, "Haiti: Relief, Not Victory," which observes that "Mr. Clinton was released from his self-built policy prison by adopting Senator Bob Dole's useful suggestion to send intermediaries." The Times also stands in marked contrast to the Journal's neo-colonialist position: "American troops will do well to prevent this stew from boiling over. They cannot bring democracy to Haiti. Only the Haitian people can. That is why foreign military force was never an appropriate answer to Haiti's crisis."

That the U.S. occupation is a prescription for disaster is underscored today by the chilly reception of Aristide and his cohorts to the Carter agreement. Aristide himself has avoided direct public comment, speaking only vaguely of a "a new beginning" for Haiti. Instead, he is leaving it to aides to stir the pot, making clear Aristide's "severe problems" with the accord, most notably its failure to ensure Cedras's ultimate removal from the scene. Continuing this sort of brinkmanship at the most critical moment in his nation's history is another indication of Aristide's inability to conceive of the kind of reconciliation effort that will be required to prevent an all-out civil war pitting villager against villager, brother against brother. The idea that the U.S. Military has a constructive role to play in mediating this blood feud is sheer folly.

The Congress will now have an opportunity to regain some control, through the appropriation process. The troops are ensconced and will be supported by Congress. But there is no reason at all for them to remain once Cedras is out and Aristide has returned. Congress must insist on a cut-off date. The only reason to extend a cut-off date is if the democratically elected Haitian parliament requests a continued occupation, which of course it would never do. It's a shameful occupation, but it happened, and we must now learn its lessons.