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January 25, 2010

Haiti, 1915: …Or, I Have Often Walked Down These Streets Before

US Haiti occupation Corbis.jpg

Given America’s 20 year occupation of Haiti starting in 1915; it’s hand (not so publicized these past two weeks) — during Bush I, Clinton and Bush II — in ushering in and out the various dictatorial, military as well as democratically-elected regimes; and the push now to take a defining role in reshaping Haiti (rationalized by many in order to prevent a mass exodus of immigrants), I keep coming back to this photo published last week in TIME’s Haiti “History of Misery” slideshow.

The caption:

America’s Backyard: Citing the Monroe Doctrine, President Woodrow Wilson orders U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti in 1915. They favor the biracial élite over black Haitians, deepening long-standing tensions. The U.S. withdraws in 1934.

Of course, scenes of American troops among the bodies in the streets these past two weeks have an opposite resonance to the picture above. But then, the prospects globalization and imperialism hold out to supposedly helpless and incapable third world societies can hurt in far less obvious ways.

Juan Cole: Milne: Haiti’s poverty is treated as some baffling quirk of history…when in reality it is the direct consequence of ” . . . colonial exploitation

(photo: Bettmann / Corbis)

  • gmoke

    Smedley Butler, a Marine who won the second of his Congressional Medals of Honor in action in Haiti:
    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

  • jtfromBC

    Good old Smedly,
    “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”

  • tinwoman

    That man with the gun looks like he’s on safari, not a soldier. Who is he? He’s not a Marine, even in 1915.
    Anybody know?

  • Sue J

    tinwoman, I was thinking that very same thing — he looks like he should be standing over a dead elephant …

  • jtfromBC

    It is unfortunate that [TIME's Haiti "History of Misery" slideshow] did not include a brief context.
    This article does that and also evaluates Anderson Coopers performance.
    Great Television Makes Bad Journalism: Media Failures in Haiti Coverage .

  • Erik

    A great man, that is needed to end the violence and savagery of blacks

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