Turmoil in Haiti

HIGHLIGHT: Analysts discuss the situation in Haiti, how and why the sanctions have failed and what must be done to affect change. They talk about the ambivalence the U.S. has shown, and Clinton's about-face on policy.


CHARLIE ROSE, Host: Welcome to our broadcast. Tonight, four observers of American policy on Haiti, a look at censorship in America with authors Ken Follett, Judy Blume, and Rita Mae Brown. And we'll have the man who just received the Grand Master Lifetime Achievement award from the Mystery Writers of America, Lawrence Block. Update on Haiti

CHARLIE ROSE: We begin with Haiti. The U.S. ambassador has been dismissed. Members of Congress are in dissent, opting for a rest. A high-profile activist is in his twenty-second day of a hunger strike, and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide remains exiled in Washington, sheltered from the political chaos of his war-torn homeland. This plethora of embarrassments has the Clinton Administration, once again, questioning what to do with Haiti. This week the United Nations will weigh the effectiveness of tougher sanctions to force Aristide's opponents out of Haiti, while the White House considers the option of military force as a resort. Joining me now, Joneat [sic] McCalla, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees; Mark Danner, staff writer for The New Yorker, who has covered Haiti and Latin America; and from Washington, Charles Kernaghan, Executive Director of the National Labor Committee, and Thomas Carothers, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Welcome to each of you, and I hope that those in Washington who can't see us, but we can see you, will jump in as we begin this conversation. Since Mark Danner sits to my left here, let me just begin to say, 'What is our policy-'

MARK DANNER, 'The New Yorker': Well, it's a-

CHARLIE ROSE: '-with regards to Haiti, and is it about to change?'

MARK DANNER: It's a good question, and the fact that it is a good question is an indication of in how much trouble our policy is at the moment. Our policy, our stated policy is to pressure for the return of the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was expelled in a coup d'etat from Haiti in Septe-, at the end of September, 1991. Now, the question of what our real policy is is rather more complicated. We've gone back and forth between very strong words, strong statements, imposing an embargo on the country, but an embargo that has not been very effective in stopping oil and other goods from entering Haiti.

At the moment, there seems to be some interest in changing the policy. It's become a high-profile issue again, and I think in general the vacillations back and forth of the policy show the problem you have when there is no strong view in the White House or even at the top of the State Department about what exactly our goals are in Haiti. We would, on the one hand, like to stand for democracy; on the other hand, we fear the chaos that might come if the elected president is returned. Many parts of the United States government are very ambivalent about Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as we've seen at various times over the last couple of years.

CHARLIE ROSE: And the ambivalence seems to have grown.

MARK DANNER: I think that's true. The ambivalence has grown, but, you know, we talk- we're very accustomed to talk about the administration and the government as if it is one thing. It isn't one thing. It's a group of very large bureaucracies that have differing interests and differing goals, and if you do not have someone at the top whose interest it is, or whose goal it is to lash all of these groups together and make them go- follow the same sheet of music, as it were, you have vacillation, you have changes, and you have, when you're trying to show- send a signal to the Haitian government, you fail to send that signal because it all is obscured by the smoke and the dissension within the government. We've seen that to some degree in Bosnia. We've seen it to some degree in Somalia. But Haiti, as far as I'm concerned is the prime example of that.

CHARLIE ROSE: Okay. Let me move around. Go ahead.

JOCELYN McCALLA, National Coalition for Haitian Refugees: Yeah, let me jump in at this point and say that the only consistent element in U.S. policy toward Haiti has been to try to prevent an outflow of Haitian refugees into Florida, and that is one consistent element. Anything else besides that has become to a certain extent irrelevant to the administration, whether that be now the Clinton Administration or the Bush Administration or the administration before it. And to that- to a certain extent, that is why we are now in a crisis situation. The administration is now groping for solutions, but solutions that will help it fill the gaping holes in this policy toward Haiti. It has been, it has been criticized by the Congressional Black Caucus, by a number of civil rights leaders, as you mentioned, Randall Robinson is on a hunger strike now and is vowing not to end it until the repatriation policy is ended. And suddenly, President Clinton does not want to see ill come out of this situation.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me just make a couple of points. One, President Clinton campaigned across the country before he was elected, saying that he would change the policy of Haiti- the Haitian refugees-


CHARLIE ROSE: -and then when he got in power, said that he had changed the policy, and the reason he gave was that he did not want to encourage Haitians to get on boats and leave Haiti because too many of them were drowning and he thought that if the policy wasn't change, it would still encourage them, leading to certain death. I want to go to Washington now and raise this question: Are we about to see a change of policy because those people who want to see a change in policy - Randall Robinson being one, and others, members of the Black Congressional Caucus - are rick- are dialing up the pressure on the President, and therefore, he can't withstand that pressure and will do something. Tom Carothers, is that what's happening as we speak?

THOMAS CAROTHERS, Carnegie Foundation for International Peace: Yes, I think it is, and I, I think it's unfortunate in the sense that I think President Clinton is changing- looking for a new policy, but he's really responding to domestic criticism, rather than to events in Haiti. And in looking for a new policy, he's really looking for a way to get his critics, in a sense, off his back. And I think the idea of stepping up sanctions, which is what he is currently exploring, is really a policy that will buy time more than get, get the United States a solution in Haiti.

CHARLIE ROSE: Buy time for what to happen?

THOMAS CAROTHERS: Well, it will buy time and in a sense get the critics off his back for now so that he can say he's doing something. But I think the unfortunate fact is, is the following, is that there has been a policy in Haiti; it has been not very well applied and not very consistently applied. But the attempt to pressure the military out through economic means has, as yet, not worked. And the debate is has it not worked because it has not been consistently applied, or has it not worked because the military simply does not respond to economic pressure. And that's the question that I think the Clinton Administration is agonizing over and has yet to be answered.

CHARLIE ROSE: There are some who think it will never work, no matter how successful it is applied, and that the military thinks that it can withstand that pressure. Do you agree with that? THOMAS CAROTHERS: I think the military- Look at it this way. For a lot of people in the military, they fear President Aristide, and they fear that the choice that they're facing-

CHARLIE ROSE: More than they fear President Clinton?

THOMAS CAROTHERS: Well, that may be, but they feel that the choice that they're facing is on the one hand between a necklace - which is a Haitian popular instrument for popular justice of putting a tire around someone's head and then burning them to death - they fear that their choice is between a necklace or between an embargo. And given that choice, they'd prefer to try to live with the embargo and hold on. And so I think the problem is is that the tool that we've been applying in Haiti is not up to the task, and that you can't force someone to give up their power, give up their livelihood, and possibly their life simply by hurting their pocketbook.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me bring Mr. Kernaghan in. What do you say to this, Mr. Kernaghan, in terms of- as I- Are you having, your organization having a press conference in Washington?

CHARLES KERNAGHAN, National Labor Committee: We had one this morning-


CHARLES KERNAGHAN: -with Randall Robinson, and we pushed on the sanctions issue because our position is that the United States has turned the sanctions and the embargo on Haiti into a cruel hoax because we've never had any sanctions on Haiti. Most people in this country are unaware of the fact that in 1992, we imported $107 million worth of goods from Haiti. We have 87 U.S. companies producing goods in Haiti and exporting to the U.S. In 1993, U.S., the U.S. imported $154 million worth of goods which were assembled in Haiti, which was a 44 percent increase. So we're going in the opposite direction from the rest of the world. We're not, by any means, adhering to the spirit or to the intent of the OAS embargo; in fact, we're undermining it. So the notion that we're going to go to the United Nations, and we're going to pressure the United Nations to impose stiffer sanctions to penalize the military and the coup supporters in the business elite in Haiti, it really is a bit of a sham because the United States is the country which is violating the embargo. And-

CHARLIE ROSE: What is it you want the United States to do?

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: Well, we're calling for a total commercial embargo of Haiti. I have some products with me here. Thi- These goods are all coming into the United States: children's clothing. We took in $98.7 million worth of apparel last year from Haiti. Baseballs and softballs. Haiti still accounts for, for, for over 20 percent of all the U.S. softballs which are imported, softballs imported to the U.S. worldwide. Now these goods are coming into the United States duty free. So what we're saying is that we need to apply the sanctions, real sanctions.

CHARLIE ROSE: Do you believe that the sanctions will force the military-


CHARLIE ROSE: -to their knees?

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: That in relationship with closing the border with the Dominican Republic. I mean, the United States has a very close relationship with the Dominican Republic, where the oil is coming from. We've given the Dominican Republic $840 million of aid over the last decade. If President Clinton wanted to close the border to the Dominican Republic, he could. So what we are saying is that these different actions that we could take - We could cut off aid to the Dominican Republic if it continues to violate the embargo, or we could-

CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me bring a lot, let me bring some other people around the table. First, you, Mr. McCalla.

JOSEPH McCALLA: Well, let me say something about the sanctions, and we have to look at them in perspective. Right after President Aristide was ousted from office, the OAS, together with the U.N., jumped to the rescue of the deposed president and vowing to return him, they decided they were going to impose sanctions. The fact is that at the time, the thought was that if you hold sanctions for a couple of days, the military would then get the, get the understanding that its coup d'etat was not going to be tolerated and it would quickly get down to its knees. The problem with the sanctions now, it has been two and a half years since the president was deposed. The international community has imposed sanctions, made it worldwide sanctions, but has really never imposed sanctions on where it matters, and where it matters is really on the wealthy elite in Haiti that is protected by the Haitian military. So to a certain extent if you close trade with Haiti you are not going to be hurting the elite. You are going to be simply hurting the poor in Haiti.


MARK DANNER: I agree with that completely. You know, sanctions have become a key instrument in the post-cold war world when we don't want to intervene militaritiv- militarily, everyone says, 'Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions.' It's an idea that goes back to, to Wilson and his idea of boycott, an internationalist idea. You can alter the behavior of states without actually- without military force. The problem is that they're a very blunt instrument, and [in] Haiti you see this proved very very clearly. It seems to me if sanctions were going to be effective - and there is an argument that you brought up a moment ago about whether, indeed, they could have ever been effective - but if they were going to be effective, they had to be applied in a very limited fashion, in a shock fashion. That is, you had to stop the oil from entering Haiti in the first couple of months after the coup. Otherwise, what has happened was going to happen. It was very clear. They were going to hurt the poor, hurt the people who you're supposedly trying to affect- excuse me, protect. And at the same time, they were going to strengthen forces in Haiti that the United States traditionally has been trying to hurt, or to reduce in importance. I'm talking about the businessmen who surrounded Duvalier, who have gained an enormous amount of power over the last couple of years because they've been in a position to take advantage of the contraband market. Whereas the businessmen in the assembly sector, which U.S. policy has traditionally thought- these are the people Mr. Kernaghan was talking about, who make baseballs and who have factories to employ low, low-cost labor, those people are the ones we think of as the liberal people who are going to help democracy in the country.

CHARLIE ROSE: I want to flesh out more about sanc-, sanctions in a second, but let me just go to the option that's being at least talked about in Washington, which is an invasion and called for by some members of Congress. Is that a feasible idea, and can the President of the United States go to the American people and make a case that it's in our national interest to send troops to Haiti in order to make sure that a democratically elected president can assume office?

MARK DANNER: I don't, I don't think it is feasible. I don't think it'll happen. I don't think this administration believes that they should do it. I think they're raising it as a sort of red flag to try to influence the leadership in Haiti-


MARK DANNER: -and try to give the impression, domestically, that the policy is not dead, that they're thinking of new things. I think it would probably be a disaster.

CHARLIE ROSE: Okay. Mr. Carothers.

THOMAS CAROTHERS: Yeah. I disagree with that analysis in the sense that I think it's true that the administration right now does not intend to invade and is raising it to try to scare the military, but what I think the administration may not properly realize is that if they go to full sanctions with the U.N., they have removed their last intermediate option between either a full scale intervention or backing down and accepting a humiliating political defeat at home. But I think-

CHARLIE ROSE: So if they go to full-scale sanctions, they have- they're left with only two options: either backing out-

THOMAS CAROTHERS: That's right. The-

CHARLIE ROSE: -or invading.

THOMAS CAROTHERS: president may not rationally want to invade, but when the time comes when a President is being defied by some tin pot strong men in a small country not far from our border, Presidents snap and send in the Marines, just like President Bush did in late 1989 when he couldn't take General Noriega defying the United States any more. That's what drives an invasion, and given President Clinton's weakness on foreign policy and his perception of weakness with the military, that time could easily come within the next six months.

MARK DANNER: I think there it's true that there's some irony in this.

CHARLIE ROSE: Charlie. Yeah, yeah one-

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: If I may, I think it's important to point out that people in Haiti - President Aristide, the unions, the peasant groups - we meet with on a constant basis are very much opposed to military intervention, and we're talking with these groups as we design the idea of sanctions. And this is what they're asking for. So it's one thing to sit in New York and Washington and talk about this, but the people in Haiti have told us they are willing to endure greater suffering, just like their brothers and sisters did in South Africa, to end tyranny and to end apartheid. This is what they're willing to endure. They will not endure sanctions that the United States undermines, and in fact, allows U.S. companies to go to Haiti to access 14-cent wages and then ship the goods back to the United States duty free. All we're doing is lining the pockets of many of the business people who supported the coup in the first place, and in fact, we're allowing them to export to the U.S. duty free, and the Clinton Administration is virtually purchasing these softballs, which are made in Haiti, with workers who are paid two cents per ball - this is a U.S. company called Home of Champions - and the U.S. government for the Pentagon, for the U.S. military is purchasing these softballs.

CHARLIE ROSE: I understand- I-

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: Now, this is the wrong message to be sending to Haiti.

CHARLIE ROSE: I understand your point, but do you believe - Put yourself in the mindset of those people who brought about the coup and who fear Aristide coming back. What will, what do they fear will cause them to lose power?

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: Well, it has to be several different diplomatic moves to ratchet up the pressure. I mean, there are, there are a great amount of drugs, for example, being shipped out of Haiti coming into the United States. We're not putting any pressure on the military. We're not releasing any information. The Haitian military sends 26,000 pounds of cocaine a year to the U.S. That translates into like $1.7 billion of crack on the streets of New York. Well, if we started a few investigations to stop the flow of drugs, if we were stiffer and tougher with the Dominican Republic, if we shut down the, the trade. I mean, there are- and froze the assets of the military, stop the commercial flights, the non-regularly scheduled flights where they are bringing their goods back and forth. There are ways that we can put pressure on the, on Haiti, prior to discussing a military intervention.

CHARLIE ROSE: I don't- I want to jump in and get more opinions here, but I- and I want to focus more on the future and what the options are than the past, but some have been critical of president Aristide in terms of how fast he was willing to move to move the process along early on.

JOSEPH McCALLA: The democratic process.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. The proc-, yes. Right.

JOSEPH McCALLA: Could you elaborate a little bit more?

CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, well the criticism has been that, that in terms of calling for sanctions and emphasizing sanctions, that he has not been out front with as much passion and force as they-


CHARLIE ROSE: -expected him to be.

JOSEPH McCALLA: Yeah. Okay, now I understand. I mean, in fact, I wanted to comment on that.

CHARLIE ROSE: I'm just basically saying that the argument is made on some sides, you know, that the administration and President Aristide and other people share some of the blame for the situation we find ourselves in now.

JOSEPH McCALLA: But that has nothing to do with the sanction issue itself. It has to do with how they define Haiti and the parameters under which they were going to, to work on Haiti. President Aristide certainly did not have the same concern as the Clinton Administration or the Bush Administration before it. And to a certain extent, going back to what I said earlier, the, the U.S. interest really is into stopping the Haitian refugee flow. Therefore, as long as somebody in Haiti could deliver that, they were willing to cooperate with those, the people in power: in other words, even the military leadership in Haiti. The military leadership for example has never objected to the repatriation of Haitian refugees, but it did object, for example, to the deployment of military troops in Haiti. That's one thing. The second thing I would say is the sanctions- with respect to the sanctions idea itself, I mean, we're not dealing- I mean, the Haiti situation is, is far removed from the situation in South Africa. In South Africa, you had major foreign investment and major national investment. In Haiti, there is absolutely no national investment. Everybody who makes money out of Haiti takes it out and puts it in, in stock markets and foreign bank accounts. 

CHARLIE ROSE: And therefore, your conclusion is what about policy options facing the United States?

JOSEPH McCALLA: Well, the policy option is the following. One, there certainly are going to be negotiations that has to be done, but one important factor is to create a political space in which the democratic forces in Haiti can really begin to operate there.

CHARLIE ROSE: And how do you create that space?

JOSEPH McCALLA: How do you create that space is the following. One, you insist on the redeployment, for example, of the international civilian mission together with a military component. That is one, one way you can do it.

CHARLIE ROSE: A U., a U.N. military presence in-

JOSEPH McCALLA: Absolutely.

CHARLIE ROSE: -Haiti. Let me- Talk about Randall Robinson for a second. I, I want to ask you to do this also, Mr. Kernaghan. It is: can the President afford to see, with all the visible attention Randall Robinson, weaken and weaken and weaken and weaken?

MARK DANNER: Well, I think it's going to be very difficult for him to do that, obviously, but I think, as I said at the beginning, one of the problems here is that the policy toward Haiti seems only to be given the kind of intense consideration it supposedly is given now when someone like Robinson or Joe Kennedy in Congress brings it-

CHARLIE ROSE: Are willing to be arrested. Right.

MARK DANNER: -to public attention.


MARK DANNER: And the problem with it throughout has been that it has vacillated, and there has been an ambivalence within the American government about what it exactly would like to achieve in Haiti. Our stated goal is to bring Aristide back. There is a great deal of bel- ambivalence about Aristide within the government. At the same time, there is an enormous fear, particularly in the Pentagon, that some of these diplomatic options will ineluctably bring the need to deploy American troops-


MARK DANNER: -as Mr. Carothers stated a moment ago. And I think that is, I think that certainly is a danger. By the same token, once you - you know, we're starting rather arbitrarily with the moment when he was expelled. There's an entire history here, and a history that involves not sanctions but cutting off aid. I mean, this has been going on since 1986, and the Haitians have become very good at looking at American leaders, judging their psychology, trying to figure out whether or not they are serious. And in this case, they don't believe they're serious. Can I go back a moment-


MARK DANNER: -to what you were asking about President Aristide. President Aristide is a fascinating man, extremely talented man. His like has really not been seen in Haiti before. He is wildly popular. At various points throughout this process, since he was expelled, we've had these explosions of criticism of him. Your viewers may remember about a year ago - not actually, not that long ago - there was, there were all these news stories saying he was a psychopath.

CHARLIE ROSE: Supposedly coming from the CIA.

MARK DANNER: Supposedly coming from the CIA, from a psychological profile, quote-unquote, that the CIA put out. All of the- Journalists who have covered Haiti know that right after his expulsion, right after the coup d'etat, the military, the Haitian military was purveying this stuff, very well-organized in a looseleaf binder with a clear cover, you know, Aristide's mental history and so on. They have been very effective - I mean, I- Aristide is a complicated man and I think difficult to work with. But the military has been very effective in smearing him during the time he has been abroad. By the same token, he has had policy differences with this administration. The administration came in-

CHARLIE ROSE: Primarily about reparations of, of-

MARK DANNER: Well, about the-

CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, not reparations, but about the refugee issue.

MARK DANNER: About the whole policy. I mean, essentially, at the beginning of this administration, the Clinton Administration, a grand bargain was struck. The Administration said, 'Look. We've got all these refugees.' Clinton made these statements during the campaign. You know, 'I hate Bush's policy. It's appalling. It's cruel. We're going to change it.' Well, not surprisingly, a lot of refugees started to build- a lot of Haitians started to build boats. The State Department saw, 'My God, there's going-' and the state of Florida saw, 'My God, there's going to be this enormous exodus.' Clinton made a speech saying, 'Don't come. We're going to bring'- you know, 'we're going to help your president come back. Don't come.' They made a deal with Aristide and his associates saying, 'Look. Don't criticize us on refugees, and we will act diplomatically. We will put our full force behind an effort to get you back.' Aristide held to that deal. The effort to bring him back, event- resulted in the Governor's Island accord-


MARK DANNER: -which was last summer, which turned out to be a terrible failure, and eventually Aristide started criticizing the policy rather heavily, which has led to, partly led to the current publicity about it.

CHARLIE ROSE: But Aristide is the only, the only leader that they, the administration can possibly support. No? No?

MARK DANNER: Well, no. I'm not, I'm not trying to disagree with that. I mean, he is the legally-

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly. And so they-

MARK DANNER: He is the legally elected leader.

CHARLIE ROSE: -that they had no option.


CHARLIE ROSE: Notwithstanding whatever the policy differences are, the administration has no, no option-


CHARLIE ROSE: I don't want to say something like, 'no other horse to back.'

MARK DANNER: What are we saying, but what are we talking about? We're talking about the stated policy or the real policy?

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, the real policy is to find somebody else, or as an alternative?

MARK DANNER: No, no. It's just, you know, you can say publicly we're supporting him, but that doesn't mean you're going to go all the way to get him back. I mean, this is an extremely difficult problem, and to get him back-


MARK DANNER: -after he was expelled- If I could just finish this thought from the beginning.

CHARLIE ROSE: I have 30 seconds, and so that's it.

MARK DANNER: 20 I'm sorry. I was just going to say there had to be a willingness to use military force, probably, a willingness.

CHARLIE ROSE: And you're not sure that's there.

MARK DANNER: No. It's not there.

CHARLIE ROSE: And Mr. Carothers, you're not either, are you?

THOMAS CAROTHERS: No, I'm not, and I think in the remaining time we should focus on-

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, it's about ten seconds so-

THOMAS CAROTHERS: Right. Basically you're standing teetering on a ladder. Either get up and climb onto the roof, which means go all the way, or get down and stop hurting Haitian people.

CHARLIE ROSE: All right.

CHARLES KERNAGHAN: You also are going to see a wave of demonstrations and civil disobedience and boycotting of the products which are coming in from Haiti. This is what we discussed today with Randall Robinson.

CHARLIE ROSE: I thank all of you for coming and sharing in this conversation. Clearly, it has moved up on the President's agenda.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.

Mark Danner in conversation with Jocelyn McCalla, Thomas Carothers and Charles Kernaghan, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS, New York

Return to the Speaking Page

© 2022 Mark Danner