It should come as no surprise to diplomatic communities that Wikileaks’ secret cables recently released about Haiti unveiled American obstructionism. After all, the sun rises due East; fascism is the engine of capitalism—the poor– its workhorse and the Haitian condition varies no less. Neither democracy or human rights stands a fighting chance to American corporate interests; much less Haitians’ losing battle with abject poverty. What surprised many people however, were the passionate pleas world leaders made on behalf of Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake while, at the same time, denying Haitians something resembling nothing of a better life.
“This morning,” proclaimed President Obama on Jan. 13, 2010, “I want to extend to the people of Haiti the deep condolences and unwavering support of the American people following yesterday’s terrible earthquake,” he said, adding, “We are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we’ve seen … are truly heart-wrenching.” Those statements resonated with a nation traumatized by nature’s apocalyptic shock and awe. However, harsh reality surfaced in some 1,918 Haiti-related diplomatic cables released by the whistle-blowing website, and it stank. “What emerges,” wrote the editors of the Nation, “is an extraordinary portrait of Washington’s aggressive management of Latin America’s first sovereign nation—and its bare-knuckled tactics on behalf of US corporate interests there,” insights sharply contrasting President Obama’s heartfelt sympathies and promises. The editors further noted:
“The cables also showed how Washington’s designs are met with fierce resistance from the Haitian people. And they revealed how Haiti was a key arena for North-South struggle and East-West intrigue. Washington squares off against Caracas and Havana, particularly over oil, while Beijing and Taipei engage in fierce diplomatic arm-wrestling that threatens to derail the UN military mission in Haiti.”
His right-hand man at his side, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient insisted, “I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives,” as horrors of a people trapped in its prehistoric caves leaped out of TV screens around the globe. “The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in an urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble,” Obama added. But, as many critics articulated, If the “rubble trapping Haitians” constituted slave wages imposed by America’s corporate bullies, forget about it Haiti. Rather than self-determination through progressive economic policies, the foreign aid economic model sustaining Haitian dependency, destroying national production and deepening chronic poverty suited the country. After all, desperation still works wonders; anything is better than nothing at all, especially what the Haitian government offer.”
“For a country and a people who is no stranger to hardship and suffering,” insisted the president, “This tragedy seems cruel and incomprehensible,” he stated. Yet, in Let them Live on $3 a day, the Nation explained that Haitian lawmakers’ passage of a law raising the minimum wage of 25,000 garment workers from 24 to 62 cents per hour infuriated contractors of Hanes and Levis Strauss managing the workers. The subsequent response from contractors ushered in big goons from the U.S. State Department who exposed the impotence of Haitian lawmakers, pressuring President Rene Preval and its gang to retract their revolutionary initiatives.
Protesting the 47 cents raise, totaling to $5 per day minimum, Deputy chief of mission, David Lindwall said, “it did not take economic reality into account” but was a populist measure aimed at appealing to “the unemployed and underpaid masses,” the Nation quoted. Such statement offered a chilling glimpse into the actualities of Haitian governance and the Obama administration’s complete disregard for any pragmatic approach to improving the lives of Haitians wrestling with poverty. Even when admitting to slave wages and massive unemployment inhibiting the country, Lindwall’s misplaced sensitivity defended contractors working for the corporate giants, rather than slaving workers. Meanwhile the agent of change saw no need to defend his professed ideals while his administration crushed the spirit of Haitian laws. Once again, corporate egotism trumped humanitarian ideals of Haitians seeking some relief for the poorest.
Even more egregious, the leaked cables exposed the country’s cyclical degenerative state, revealing Washington’s chilling effect on Haitian lawmakers, deterring populist evolutions that could remedy the country’s problems. Such sobering revelations should help Haitians understand that any presidents with leftist ideals would stand no chance against Haiti’s fascist machine and its big Washingtonian guns. Super majorities in the Haitian parliament that could improve existing laws would constitute a grave threat to corporate egotists, sucking sweet blood of the poor, widening the gap between the classes. While more than two centuries of arm-twisting tactics aligned Haitian policy-making with U.S. interests, the country’s leaders remained largely unpopular as the perceived engineers of the infernal environment decaying the nation’s progress.
American pressure persisted even when Preval “negotiated a deal with parliament to create a two-tiered minimum wage increase—one for the textile industry at about $3 per day and one for all other industrial and commercial sectors at about $5 per day,” explained the Nation. Instead, “the factory owners told the Haitian parliament that they were willing to give workers a 9-cents-per-hour pay increase to 31 cents per hour to make T-shirts, bras and underwear for US clothing giants like Dockers and Nautica.” Still, the president persisted: “This is the time we are reminded of the common humanity we all share,” he said, emphasizing the long history that binds Haiti and the U.S. together, a history carved by the “shock doctrine” theorized writer Naomi Klein.
In her international best seller, The Shock Doctrine, Klein argued that desperate times caused by political unrest or natural disasters facilitated the implementation of neoliberal capitalist economic policies that only served to enrich those already in power and foreign companies seeking cheap labor. “Around the world in Britain, the United States, Asia and the Middle East, there are people with power [the shock doctors] who are cashing in on chaos; exploiting bloodshed and catastrophe to brutally remake our world in their image,” she noted. Although accurate, Klein’s argument focused mainly on the causal relationship between political actors or natural disasters and corporate idealists, depicting corporatists as mere opportunists hoping and perhaps, even praying for natural disasters to strike to ring the cash register.
Borrowing from Klein’s logic, Shock Haitianism Doctrine particularly addresses Haiti’s conundrum, attributing the country’s perpetual regression to discriminating policies tailored for Latin America’s first sovereign nation. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods or leaders’ malfeasance did not initiate the country’s epic fall from grace. Like the infuriated French, Washington engineered its first foreign policy on Haiti to suffocate leaders of the newly born nation, its population with it. History corroborated such claim with a chronological sequence of extraordinary events, beginning, according to Tim Matthewson, with the adoption of congressman George Logan’s embargo bill in February 1806 until, as the cables revealed, the recent scandalous elections of March 20, 2011. Matthewson, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin catalogued the fears and inquietude that shaped U.S. policy making towards Haiti in “Abraham Bishop, “The Rights of Black Men,” and the American Reaction to the Haïtian Revolution,” The Journal of Negro History. Haiti’s massacre of French whites during the revolutionary period would be its mortal sin, explained Matthewson.
‘Shock Haitianism Doctrine’, hence, is a deliberately humiliating and destructive condition imposed on natives of Haiti by global super powers due to their massacre of French Whites as well as the domino effect their liberation movement had on colonialism, imperialists’ gold mine. The shock doctors, natural disasters and poor countries still exist with the addition of influential super powers creating and imposing favorable policies for the doctors through bare-knuckle tactics. Every policy designed to “help” the country by the champions of democracy has failed its people and perpetuated its tortuous hell. Meanwhile Haitian leaders that dared resist those super powers, even while handcuffed, get a special visit from mayhem.
Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published the story even when the Nation pulled it for later release. CJR calculated:
“If you paid each of them [garment worker] $2 a day more, it would cost their employers $50,000 per working day, or about $12.5 million a year.” Further calculations revealed, “As of last year, Hanes had 3,200 Haitians making t-shirts for it. Paying each of them two bucks a day more would cost it about $1.6 million a year. Hanesbrands Incorporated made $211 million on $4.3 billion in sales last year, and presumably it would pass on at least some of its higher labor costs to consumers.
The world crowned Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, yet expressed no outrage when, according to State Department cables, companies such as Hanes and Levis make sure Haitian assembly zone workers are the lowest-paid in the hemisphere. The math is rather simple and the relationship linear: lowest paid people = poorest nation. Granted, these companies only employ about 25,000 people and could not possibly solve all of Haiti’s problems with a 47-cents-per-day raise. However, with 80 percent unemployment, rising inflation and chronic poverty, it makes a huge difference, but wait, here come the South Korean shock doctors with their cash registers to subject more people to these wages.
Rather than a change, the reality Haitians believes in wakes them up everyday asking: what will you feed your family today? Never mind yourself. Shock Haitianism perpetuates, a people’s aspiration wanes, and its future with it, but you would not know it listening to captain change. “I pledge to the people of Haiti,” President Obama professed, “you will have a friend and a partner in the United States of America today and going forward,” he added.
- WikiLeaks Haiti from The Nation (repeatingislands.com)
- Haiti’s new president reaches out to emigrants (thegrio.com)
- WikiLeaks: US knowingly supported rigged Haitian election [Zahir shamsery] (ecademy.com)
- Haiti’s new president reaches out to emigrants (seattlepi.com)
- Haiti’s new president reaches out to emigrants (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Wikileaks: U.S. Intervened To Keep Haiti Slave Wages Low On Behalf Of Hanes, Levi Strauss (crooksandliars.com)
- Haitian Underwear Workers and Their Small Wages (reason.com)
- WikiLeaks Haiti: Let Them Live on $3 a Day (Plus Video of Hillary Speaking to Sweatshop Workers) (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- You: Haiti’s new president embraces diaspora but some are wary their interests won’t be protected (washingtonpost.com)
- Deducting Contributions to Haitian Earthquake Relief on Your 2009 Return (turbotax.intuit.com)
- Has the U.S. Intentionally Crippled Haiti’s Economic Progress? (subzinfo.wordpress.com)
- WikiLeaks Haiti: The Earthquake Cables (or Why Did the US Deploy 22,000 Troops to Haiti?) (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Wikileaks exposes how America still hates on Haiti (thegrio.com)
- WikiLeaks Haiti: The Nation Partners With Haïti Liberté on Release of Secret Haiti Cables (repeatingislands.com)
- Dual citizenship offers second chance to Haitians (thegrio.com)
- Haitian lawmakers vote to allow dual nationality (seattletimes.nwsource.com)