The International Republican Institute, McCain, and the Coup in Haiti

[ As the “coalition” occupation of Iraq seems to spin out of control, it is easy to forget about U.S. interventions elsewhere in the world, for instance, in Haiti — which is very much an expression of U.S. hegemony in the region. While I would like to see more solid documentation of the claim in the article below that the International Republican Institute (IRI) trained and funded the violent, anti-democratic forces in Haiti, there are other reports that corroborate Jordan’s theory. Earlier this week, Dr. Luis Barrios, on DemocracyNow!, reported that on his recent fact-finding mission to the Dominican Republic, he discovered the IRI had there trained rebels prior to the rebels’ forceful overthrow of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Such reports are, of course, denied by the IRI. John McCain (chair of the IRI), tell us it’s not true! Your change of heart about the environment had some of us hoping … –doclalor ]


March 04, 2004, Arizona Independent Media Center [extension of the version appearing in The People’s Weekly World (3/11/04)]

by James Jordan

This article’s focus is on the strong connections between the John McCain chaired International Republican Institute and the coup in Haiti, as well as IRI destabilization around the world.

There can no longer be any doubt: the United States government, under the leadership of the Bush administration, is behind the current coup against Haiti and the kidnapping of that nation’s rightful President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Bush cadre are no longer content to simply use Jim Crow tactics to steal elections here at home (Florida, 2000); they have exported their racism by overthrowing the democratic president of a nation observing the bicentennial of its succesful revolt against slavery. Bush and his Republican cronies are certainly ready with their class oppression–but they ain’t got one shred of class.

One organization in particular has played a vital role in this illegal aggression: the International Republican Institute, chaired by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and including, on its board, rightist luminaries such as Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Lawrence Eagleburger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Brent Scowcroft. The IRI is the convener and one of the major funders of the Haitian opposition umbrella group, the Democratic Convergence.

As noted by Harvard Medical School Professor, Paul Farmer, in his book, Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor: “Although the Democratic Convergence has scant popular support within Haiti, it clearly has support in Washington. The Convergence is funded, at least in part, by the US International Republican Institute, which is associated,to no one’s surprise, with the US Republican Party and obtains funding from Congress through the National Endowment for Democracy…”

In the booklet, “Hidden in the Headlines: The US War Against Haiti”, printed by the Haiti Action Committee, authors Laura Flynn, Pierre Labossiere, and Robert Roth assert that “…the US has spent millions to fund the ‘Democratic Convergence’, an opposition group conceived and orchestrated by the International Republican Institute.” Indeed, the IRI has felt no reluctance to involve the most violent, criminal elements in this struggle to overthrow the rightful Haitian government. Among those participating in ‘Democratic Convergence’ planning sessions were Guy Philippe, Louis Jodel Chamblain, and other members of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). Guy Philippe, who describes Augustus Pinochet as his primary hero, led FRAPH forces in ransacking the Haitian capital and has declared himself in charge of the Haitian military. Chamblain was leader of the Duvalier death squads during the 1980s. Chamblain’s close associate, Emmanuel ‘Toto’ Constant, has spoken openly about CIA ties to FRAPH. Furthermore, the Center for Constitutional Rights has reviewed documents which reveal Chamblian as meeting with a US agent and other Haitian dissidents to plan the assassination of Guy Malary, an Aristide supporter and minister of justice, in 1993.

What do the Republicans and US ruling class so despise in Haiti? It seems of no import to them whatsoever the gains that have been made under Aristide on behalf of the Haitian people–and these despite the US sponsored embargo (begun under the Democrat Clinton, incidentally) and its ongoing campaign of subterfuge. No matter that Aristide has won, by a landslide each time, the first and third democratic elections in Haiti; no matter that under Aristide, the Haitian military was dismantled; no matter that more schools were built during his administration than in the entire previous century; no matter that the Haitian minimum wage was doubled. No matter….Democracy and the security and welfare of the Haitian people simply do not matter to Bush, McCain, the IRI, the Republicans,and the power hungry wealthy elite of the US.

Through groups like the International Republican Institute and other core grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy, the US ruling class carries out a global agenda in the shadows, despite taxpayer funding. The IRI represents the far right wing of these grantees.

The NED was initiated by the Reagan Administration and funded by an act of Congress, yet was designated a “private” institution. This means that it and its core groups carry out foreign policy initiatives with public funds, free of meaningful or official oversight. Allen Weinstein, the NED’s theoretical planner, noted in a September 22, 1991 Washington Post interview, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” The fact is, in many respects, NED and core group activities are even freer of Congressional monitoring then those of their CIA predecessors.

These organizations work in the shadows to support and direct assaults on democracy and people’s movements around the world. The IRI, for example, was effusive and self-congratulatory regarding its support of segments behind the failed coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. They actively fund and coordinate organizations working to destabilize the government of Cuba, even bragging about the increasing number of illegal disruptions they have supported on the island. They have provided resources to anti-democratic, extremist organizations throughout Eastern Europe. They aid and abet reactionary political movements in Ecuador, Brazil, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Baltics, ad nauseum. Wherever and whenever any nation or people’s movement stands in the way of right wing lust for profits and power, the IRI is there.

The political bent of this organization is reflected by the opening speech for the IRI coordinated Conference of the Central and Eastern European Centre Right Political Parties. Vaclav Klaus, of the Czech Civil Democratic Party, in his keynote address, identifies even the quests for human rights and environmental protection as perceived threats to be defeated. He states that: “We do not see, however, the end of socialism…. The last decade did not bring us its end. It brought us victory of socialdemocratism, of various alternatives of 3rd ways, of communitarism, of environmentalism, of political correctness, of humanrightism, of Europeanism, of corporatism, of NGOism. All of them can be described as new collectivisms.”

It is obvious and necessary that the IRI and other NED core grantees must be held accountable. Certainly, they should be abolished altogether. But, short of that, it is absolutely clear that we recognize the NED, the IRI, and their initiatives for what they are: right wing shadow foreign policy institutions funded by taxpayers, yet subject to no meaningful oversight whatsoever. We must demand that they be de-privatized and that their activities be made public and subject to Congressional review and investigation.

And we must demand that our Senators and Congress people join the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for an investigation into US involvement in the illegal coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Especially, we must investigate the role played by the Bush administration, the state department, and the IRI. And we must hold George W. Bush, John McCain, and other “shadow operatives” personally responsible for any wrongdoing by these anti-democratic thugs which they have created, organized, armed and funded. If a bloodbath of repression occurs in Haiti–these are the persons and the institutions behind it.

That should matter dearly to anyone who cares about democracy.

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