We speak with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark Clark about the overthrow of the democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide. During the 1991 coup, Clark traveled to Haiti several times in an effort to restore him to power. [Includes transcript]
It has been 2 days since President George W Bush stepped onto the White House lawn and announced to the world that Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had resigned. But now the truth is coming out. In a series of phone calls from the Central African Republic to US Congressmembers, the Haitian president has attempted to tell the world that he was forced from power in what he called a US coup; that he was threatened by what he called "white Americans, white military men." Aristide says he was kidnapped, along with his wife Mildred-who is an American citizen-and taken by force to Africa. Last night, Aristide called CNN and said, "Again and again, I am telling the truth. I call it a coup d’etat in a modern way to have modern kidnapping."
Democracy Now! first broke the story yesterday morning when Congressmember Maxine Waters said on our program that she had just received a call from Aristide at 9am EST. Waters told us "He’s surrounded by military. It’s like he is in jail, he said. He says he was kidnapped.
Waters said Aristide had been threatened by what he called US diplomats. According to Waters, the diplomats reportedly told the Haitian president that if he did not leave Haiti, paramilitary leader Guy Philippe a former police chief who was trained by US Special forces in Ecuador would storm the palace and Aristide would be killed. According to Waters, Aristide was told by the US that they were withdrawing Aristide’s US security.
TransAfrica founder and close Aristide family friend Randall Robinson also received a call from the Haitian president early this morning and confirmed Waters account. Robinson told us that Aristide "emphatically" denied that he had resigned.
"He did not resign," Robinson said. "He was abducted by the United States in the commission of a coup."
The story began to spread rapidly around the world. And as the press briefings began at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, the administration was forced on the defensive.
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to questions by reporters saying, "The idea that someone was abducted is just totally inconsistent with everything I heard or saw or am aware of. So I think that–I do not believe he is saying what you say–are saying he is saying."
At a press conference with European foreign ministers, Colin Powell said, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force on the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly and that’s the truth."
Over at the White House, the controversy dominated Scott McClellan’s press briefing. McClellan repeatedly called the statements made by Waters and Robinson "nonsense."
- Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide says he was kidnapped, that he was forced out of Haiti in a U.S.-backed coup d’etat at that time, as he put it. We’re joined on the telephone right now by Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General. He might have been able to join us in the studio, but had — was hit by a car this weekend and broke his foot, ankle, and nose. We’re sorry about what’s happened to you, Ramsey Clark. How are you doing?
RAMSEY CLARK: I’m doing fine. Never looked better. Nose out of place, and stitches.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you sound good, at least. I don’t know how much you have been able to pay attention to the world outside of yours right now, but if you could respond to what has happened to Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the last few days.
RAMSEY CLARK: Well, I have been able to keep up. I was on the phone nearly all day yesterday from home talking to many people about it, John Conyers and Randall Robinson and others. Sometimes you get embedded in details, and if you back off and look at it, this is as clear a demonstration of U.S. regime change, and by armed aggression, as you’ll find. Have you heard President Bush or Colin Powell say a good thing about President Aristide? Have you heard them say repeatedly recently, he ought to leave, and earlier, that he ought to hold new elections? Is there a better-known enemy of Aristide than Roger Noriega? You see how puffed up he was when he walked into that meeting? Why did they cut off humanitarian aid to the poorest country in the hemisphere when they knew how desperate people were getting? Why’d they maintain an embargo? How do you think, you know, the same elements, the old military frap, gangs, got into Haiti with m-16’s and m-60’s from the Dominican Republic, with which President Bush personally has a close relationship and presence there, except the United States? Why did we tell Aristide, after they got in, that he should leave? Did we ever tell these gunman who were killing people — half of the casualties that were counted were police officers. Imagine that. People coming in and shooting up the police in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, talking about who is now, if you could call it, "in control" of Haiti. Go ahead, Ramsey Clark. Ramsey Clark, joining us on the phone. You were saying–sorry. We’re talking to Ramsey Clark, who is the former U.S. Attorney General, talking about the situation. It is important to point out Guy Philippe has come into Port-au-Prince, the former Cap Haitian Police Chief as well. Yesterday Jodel Chamblain, in the capital of Haiti. Jodel Chamblain, who was convicted in absentia of the killing of the former Justice Minister, Guy Mallory, during the coup of 1991 to 1994, among other crimes. Go ahead, Ramsey Clark.
RAMSEY CLARK: You know, you can’t say that Powell is lying, because Powell isn’t informed of the facts. He wasn’t there. But he’s misstating facts and he’s misstating intentions. If he would honestly face the truth, the United States acted in every way to get Aristide out. As we used to say in organized crime, he made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. If that’s not coercing and kidnapping, if that’s not–it was really by armed aggression, which is the supreme international crime, because we have these gangs with guns, our guns, come in, against police with sidearms and .38 caliber pistols and things, and shoot them up and threaten the President and thousands of other people in Haiti. It was typical. So, for the regime change, what do we get? We get the old regime. You have got the aristocracy that supported Duvalier during 30 years. And the idea that we’re going to make a beautiful democracy there and help them economically, how well did they fare during the period from 1915 to 1934 when we occupied the place? What happened after our military occupation in 1994, after we had held Aristide–I have always said he was kidnapped then–for three years of his Presidency here in the United States and sent him back for one year, under the promise that he would not seek to amend the law so he could run again for the next term? Of course it was regime change. It was to go back to the old days, to [ ] and that crowd, literally. They’re kind of creaky now, but they’re still around. They’re FRAPH. We know what kind of characters they are. It will be interesting to see whether Constant, who was given refuge here all of these years, will go back down anytime soon. It’s a coup d’etat and regime change by the United States. It’s another intervention in the western hemisphere. It’s one of the most shameful of all and it’s one of a patchwork of lies to deceive the American people into thinking that this President, who had said time and time again he would not leave, who had said he was not afraid to die, he would give his life, and I believe him, and he was serving a constitutional government, and he was democratically elected. If you go back to the election in 1990, we did everything that we could to prevent him from being elected. We financed a man named Mark Bazan, who we knew and liked, and who was from Haiti and spent a little time there actually, but a lot more time here and at the world bank and places like that. We gave him millions to run against Aristide. Aristide got 67% of the vote. Bazan got 14% of the vote. You know who the first Prime Minister was after Aristide was forced to leave? Mark Bazan. Our man. We put him in right after the military coup that forced him to leave. And how did Baby Doc leave, when he left? He left in a U.S. Air Force plane. He had a fortune of wealth from the sweat of slave labor’s brow in Haiti, and he was taken to the Riveria where he has lived happily ever after. When the coup against Aristide happened in September of 1981, the U.S. didn’t lend a hand. He would have been killed right there if the French Ambassador and the President of Venezuela had not sent a plane. The Ambassador of France provided the wheels and got him out of the palace, and President of Venezuela provided the plane that got him out. These people have wanted to overthrow this government for a long time. It’s interesting that it wouldn’t have happened if Aristide had not abolished the army. I happen to favor abolishing armies. I think we need to cut our military expenditures by 75% at least, and until we do, there’s a dynamic there that makes it impossible for us not to be a militaristic nation that’s causing trouble all over the world and trying to dominate people all over the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Why does the U.S. want Haiti to have an army?
RAMSEY CLARK: Part of it is ideological. For a guy like Noriega it’s ideological. He doesn’t want–you know, remember when we went into Grenada, we sent 9,000 troops and shot the place up, killed more Grenadians in a few days than the U.S. lost on all fronts in World War II. Ronald Reagan said we’re going to roll back communism. The dominoes are going to fall the other way. Why did we break up Yugoslavia? Because it was a socialist government that was strong. It was progressive. It was going to come through the collapse of the eastern bloc, and we didn’t want that to happen. We don’t want liberation theologies because both some religions and liberations threaten us. Particularly when you see what’s happening all over Latin America. You’ve got Lula, you’ve got Chavez, you’ve got Gutierrez, and so on who want to serve thei own people and not U.S. interests. You have to get every stumbling block out. We just have to see if we can protect Cuba and Venezuela, and Ecuador, and Peru again and Brazil from–and, perhaps, the way things are going, Argentina, from new U.S. interventions. I think a major principle that the people of the United States must insist upon is no more U.S. interventions.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, thank you for being with us, and I hope you heal quickly.
RAMSEY CLARK: Bye-bye.