I’m just back from Haiti, where I reported on the mass pro-democracy movement that has just blocked the US effort to force Haitians to accept rigged presidential elections. I saw thousands of demonstrators chant “Down with Obama” and wave “Obama Terrorist” banners — an astonishing change in a country that back in 2008 had been ecstatic over his election victory. My full article is up at The Nation.
Daily militant demonstrations forced President Michel Martelly’s government to cancel the second round of the fraudulent elections. The US has wasted $33 million on the process, and heads should roll at the State Department for the dishonest and disastrous policy, which many of us predicted months ago was doomed to fail.
Haitians have several explanations for the US failure, and I outline their views in my report. But it’s hard to believe that Barack Obama himself would have been stupid enough to approve this policy if he had known the facts.
One possible part of an explanation is that Obama has only limited time to devote to foreign affairs. He has had to dissipate his energies on coddling Israel (and the Israel lobby), and on fighting for an Iran nuclear deal that was so clearly in the American interest that Congress should have approved it unanimously. So Obama has less time for other parts of the world. “There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently,” Obama said of the Israeli Prime Minister last November, after their make-up meeting on the heels of the Iran deal.
A few statistics: Israel has 8 million people. Haiti has 10.5 million people, and is only a 4-hour plane trip from New York. There are 42 million African Americans, many of whom are deeply concerned about Haitian people. And not just African Americans; the veteran Haiti-watcher Jonathan M. Katz reports that a survey after the 2010 killer earthquake found that more than half of all American registered voters had donated to Haiti, for a total of $1.4 billion in private donations.
But I would be surprised if over the past year the US State Department spent more than a couple of hours in total briefing Obama about Haiti. After the president sat through the endless discussions on Israel, there just wasn’t enough time.