Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

He Didn't Make the Case

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

He Didn't Make the Case

Article excerpt

When a weary-looking President Bill Clinton went on television Thursday night to make his case for an invasion of Haiti, he had two distinct audiences. One was the American people, and Mr. Clinton pulled out all his rhetorical tricks. Still, despite his verbal prowess, he failed to make his case.

In a high-stakes gamble, though, the president was also directing his words to Haiti's military triumvirate. In effect, he was giving them a truly final ultimatum: Leave now or you will leave later.

The American people can only hope that this time the tough talk works and Gen. Raoul Cedras and his cronies decide that they prefer exile to Haitian justice. Otherwise, the president has backed himself into a corner from which an invasion is his only real exit. That is a profoundly tragic turn of events because the president's rationales ring hollow.

Mr. Clinton's argument was simple, deceptively simple in fact: "Now the United States must protect our interests, to stop the brutal atrocities that threaten tens of thousands of Haitians, to secure our borders, and to preserve stability and promote democracy in our hemisphere, and to uphold the reliability of the commitments we make and the commitments other make to us."

- "Protect our interests." Haiti is no threat to U.S. security in any conventional sense. Haiti could be governed by a thugocracy until doomsday, and that wouldn't have the slightest affect on the conduct of this country's political and economic affairs. That's why Mr. Clinton had to redefine the national interest so broadly that it becomes a nebulous imperative to do good.

- "To stop the brutal atrocities." The Haitian military and their paramilitary death squads are horribly repressive. There is no doubt about that, even though both the Bush and Clinton administrations downplayed the severity of human rights abuses when it suited them. …

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