The Trial That Gave Vodou A Bad Name

Mike Dash on the “affaire de Bizoton”:

What all this means, I think, is that vodou became a fault line running through the very heart of Haitian society after 1804. For most citizens, and especially for the rural blacks who had borne the brunt both of slavery and the struggle for independence, it became a potent symbol of old dignities and new freedoms: a religion that, as Dubois notes, helped “carve out a place where the enslaved could temporarily escape the order that saw them only as chattel property” during colonial times, and went on to “create communities of trust that stretched between the different plantations and into the towns.” For the local elite, who tended to be of mixed race and were often French-educated, though, vodou was holding Haiti back. It was alien and frightening to those who did not understand it; it was associated with slave rebellion; and (after Soulouque’s rise), it was also the faith of the most brutal and backward of the country’s rulers.

These considerations combined to help make Haiti a pariah state throughout the 19th century. Dessalines and his successor, Henry Christophe—who had every reason to fear that the United States, France, Britain and Spain would overthrow their revolution and re-enslave the population, given the chance—tried to isolate the country, but even after economic necessity forced them to reopen the trade in sugar and coffee, the self-governing black republic of Haiti remained a dangerous abomination in the eyes of every white state involved in the slave trade. Like Soviet Russia in the 1920s, it was feared to be almost literally “infectious”: liable to inflame other blacks with the desire for liberty. Geffrard was not the only Haitian leader to look for ways to prove that his was a nation much like the great powers—Christian, and governed by the rule of law.

Full Story: The Trial That Gave Vodou A Bad Name

Haiti’s deals with devils

haiti church

Above: Haiti before the quake.

By now we’ve all heard about Pat Robertson’s implicitly racist and explicitly stupid remarks about Haiti’s deal with the devil. Here’s a piece on the history of Haiti from last May, which should give readers a better idea of who the real devils are in this story.

After a dramatic slave uprising that shook the western world, and 12 years of war, Haiti finally defeated Napoleon’s forces in 1804 and declared independence. But France demanded reparations: 150m francs, in gold.

For Haiti, this debt did not signify the beginning of freedom, but the end of hope. Even after it was reduced to 60m francs in the 1830s, it was still far more than the war-ravaged country could afford. Haiti was the only country in which the ex-slaves themselves were expected to pay a foreign government for their liberty. By 1900, it was spending 80% of its national budget on repayments. In order to manage the original reparations, further loans were taken out — mostly from the United States, Germany and France. Instead of developing its potential, this deformed state produced a parade of nefarious leaders, most of whom gave up the insurmountable task of trying to fix the country and looted it instead. In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. Doing so left it destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile. Haiti was trapped in a downward spiral, from which it is still impossible to escape. It remains hopelessly in debt to this day.

That’s right. The former slave owners demanded reparations.

What is to be done?

“There is only one solution to Haiti’s problems, and that’s mass emigration,” one senior American foreign-policy expert told me. “But nobody wants to talk about it.” So Haiti remains in debt, relieved for now, but not for ever. And the question of France repaying some or all of the compensation it extracted for Haitian independence is not even on the agenda.

Photo and quotes from Haiti: the land where children eat mud

See also: The Haiti Disaster and Superstition:

None of this explains why there was an earthquake in Haiti, which is a question for geologists, not political economists. But it does explain why a massive earthquake hits Haiti harder than it does most of the rest of the world. And it goes a long way toward explaining the rest of the more quotidien problems that effect Haiti.

War casualties under Clinton and Bush

I originally posted this at Klintron’s Brain but I’m posting it here to get more feedback/correction/additions. I’m working on an expanded version that goes back to Carter and is more comprehensive.

One of the arguments I frequently hear when debating whether Democrats are actually any better than Republicans, or whether Bush is really in worse than Clinton, is that Clinton waged many wars of his own. I decided to do a little digging to find out whose wars were most fatal, and based on what I’ve found: George W. Bush’s wars are by far more fatal, but my data on Clinton’s wars is incomplete. I’ve posted my findings below. Please let me know if you have additional information or corrections to this data.

It’s always terrible to make these things into a numbers game, but I still hope this is useful in evaluating the scale of warfare under Clinton as opposed to Bush.

US military deaths under Clinton and Bush:

While calculating civilian deaths is very difficult, getting numbers for US soldiers killed is easier. However, these numbers are total active duty deaths, including deaths from illness, so they might not be a good reflection of combat related deaths.

Clinton: 7500 (total military active duty military deaths from 1993-2000)

Bush: 8792 (total military active duty deaths from 2001-2006)

Source: Department of Defense report (PDF). Note: This doesn’t include this year or next year. Bush isn’t done yet.

Civilian deaths under Clinton:

Because there were several different small military actions ordered by Clinton, tallying everything is rather difficult. If I’ve forgotten anything here, or if you have sources with different numbers, let me know.

Battle of Mogadishu: “More than one thousand.”. I could only find info for this one particular battle, I don’t know how many more died during the Somalia missions.

Operation Uphold Democracy – I can’t find any statistics for this one. The Department of Defense only indicated 4 “non-hostile” deaths of a US military personnel in this operation, so it’s not completely inconceivable that no civilians were killed. (As always, more information is welcomed).

Operation Desert Strike – ???

Operation Desert Fox – 600-2000.

Note: My understanding is that there was ongoing bombing in Iraq throughout Clinton’s presidency, mostly over “no fly zones.” I don’t have any information on how many civilians deaths may have occurred and that’s where the numbers comparison really falls apart. Depending on how fatal these raids were, they may tip the scales towards Clinton being the more lethal president.

Update: Iraq claimed that 323 civilians were killed in between Desert Fox and February 2001. They also say the bombing was escalated during this time period. So 162 deaths per year from the no-fly bombing is would be a high estimate of total civilian casualties during these campaigns.

1998 missile strike against Afghanistan – 21.

1998 missile strike against Sudan – Unknown (So far as I can tell, Sudan never reported a number).

Kosovo War – Yugoslavia claimed that NATO attacks caused between 1,200 and 5,700 civilian casualties. NATO acknowledged killing at most 1,500 civilians. Human Rights Watch counted a minimum of 488 civilian deaths.

So here are some approximations:

Somalia: 1500
Haiti: 10
Iraq (Desert Fox): 2000
Iraq (Ongoing bombing): 1296
Afghanistan: 21
Sudan: 50
Yugoslavia: 5700

Total: 10,577

Civilian deaths under George W. Bush:

Afghanistan: 7,300-14,000.

Iraq: 74,689 – 81,394.

Total: 81,989 – 95,394

It would certainly take a lot of civilians deaths under Clinton’s bombing campaigns in Iraq to come close to Bush’s numbers.

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