Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Are Taxpayers Willing to Pay Price of Making Haiti an American Ward?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Are Taxpayers Willing to Pay Price of Making Haiti an American Ward?

Article excerpt

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and it seems that Bill Clinton will not rest until he can show that he, like every president worth his salt, knows how to use American military power good and hard. Burned in Somalia, constrained in Bosnia, frustrated by North Korea, he finds a tempting opportunity in Haiti.

For the moment, the administration hopes a tightening of economic sanctions will persuade Haiti's military rulers to accept the return of the democratically elected president they evicted in 1991. But Clinton made a point of noting last week that his patience has "run out" and that he would not "discount the possibility of a military option."

Coming from Clinton, such threats can normally be understood as a way to keep his jaws limber. But Haiti may be the rare case where he actually means what he says.

When Lawrence Pezullo was recently fired as special envoy to Haiti, he warned Secretary of State Warren Christopher that "we are heading irrevocably down a path toward unilateral military intervention." The Los Angeles Times reported that the president has decided to send at least 600 troops to "purge" the Haitian army - a report the administration denied, but not too vigorously.

Haiti has been a self-made embarrassment to Clinton. Having criticized George Bush during the campaign for his "cruel" and "illegal" policy of forcibly returning refugees intercepted at sea, Clinton then affirmed the practice as soon as he took office. He sent a shipload of lightly armed troops to perform humanitarian works in Haiti, only to bring the ship home when an armed mob in Port-au-Prince threatened to make trouble.

Clinton's aides have alternated between saying exiled president Jean-Bertrand Aristide needs to compromise and saying he doesn't. A month ago, they conceded that he would probably never be restored to power. Now they apparently are preparing Americans for a military invasion to assure that he is. In Haiti, as in other parts of the world, inconsistency has been the only consistent feature of Clinton's approach.

The question is not whether the U.S. military could occupy Haiti and depose the thugs who now run it. …

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