US Flexes Military Might at Haiti New Clinton Policy of Not Letting Boat People into US Could Bring Pressure for Intervention

Article excerpt

AS the Clinton administration struggles to control a boat-borne flood of Haitian refugees, pressure from within the United States to oust Haiti's military rulers via an invasion continues to rise.

By deciding to send refugees to safe havens in Panama and other nations in the region, the administration may have started a countdown ticking. If the havens fill up in six months while Haitians continue to take to the sea, what happens then?

Will an invasion of Haiti by the US 82nd Airborne look like the easiest solution?

Randall Robinson, president of the private group TransAfrica and a prominent voice pushing for stronger action, judges that at current rates the new safe havens could fill up as early as the end of July.

"Sanctions will not work in time to resolve this problem," Mr. Robinson said Wednesday. "We now have no option but to undertake a hemispheric intervention under the aegis of the United Nations."

Robinson said he had "reason to believe" that the administration is seriously considering such an action. Indeed, US swords continue to rattle loudly: The dispatch of 2,000 Marines to float off Haiti's coast only days after they had returned from a Mediterranean tour is a foreboding event, considering that the Navy has worked hard to limit the time Marine troops spend at sea. US Army Rangers and Navy Seals have reportedly been practicing airfield seizure to make sure they are ready for a possible attempt to take the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

But military action is far from a foregone conclusion. Clinton's special adviser on Haiti, William Gray, says simply that he does not expect the Haitian junta to still be in power in six months. While the Congressional Black Caucus and its allies call for stronger action, other political voices within the US overtly oppose reinstalling ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the point of US bayonets. Dole's bitter remarks

Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R) of Kansas, in a bitter statement, accused Clinton of "beating war drums" for intervention in Haiti and said invasion would be a "grave mistake." If there is a Haitian refugee crisis, said Mr. Dole, it is one of the US's own making. "By chartering cruise ships for immigration processing and tightening economic sanctions, US policy has made fleeing by sea an attractive policy for Haitians," said Dole. …