Danticat: Iraqis should consider U.S. legacy in Haiti

Writer Edwidge Danticat, whose Haitian uncle died under mysterious circumstances in U.S. Homeland Security custody last November, argues in the Times-Union that the 19-year U.S. occupation of Haiti is a cautionary tale for Iraqis.

On July 28, 1915, U.S. forces invaded Haiti, launching an occupation that would last 19 years.

The invasion came in the wake of President Woodrow Wilson’s professed commitment to make the world safe for democracy. However, as soon as the Marines landed in Haiti, Wilson’s administration remapped the country into police departments, shut down the press, installed a lame-duck government, rewrote the constitution to give foreigners land-owning rights, took charge of Haiti’s banks and customs and instituted a system of compulsory labor for poor Haitians.

Those who resisted the occupation — among them a militant peasant-run group called Cacos — were crushed…. By the end of the occupation, more than 15,000 Haitians had lost their lives….

[W]hile Haiti tantalized the West at the beginning of the 20th century with an entryway to the Panama Canal and mineral, fruit, coffee and sugar resources, it seems to have little left to currently exploit except the desperation of a people, whose most basic needs have often been neglected by its own leaders…. Few Americans are aware their country once occupied ours, and for such a long time. This is not surprising, for as one Haitian proverb suggests, while those who give the blows can easily forget, the ones who carry the scar have no choice but to remember.

 

See also:

  • Danticat calls for an investigation into her uncle’s death.

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