Black mischief continues to bubble in the Caribbean, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (Democrat, New York), the American Bar Association, the Church World Service, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights have demanded that the Bush administration grant temporary political asylum to the 14,000 Haitian refugees taken off small boats by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Haitians are fleeing what the administration identifies as the economic crisis resulting from the embargo imposed by the Organization of American States pending the reinstatement of the deposed president. Father Aristide, and what the Reverend Jackson perceives as “political persecution.”
The federal judiciary had until recently blocked large-scale repatriation of the refugees and forced the U.S. government to investigate claims for political asylum on a case-by-case basis. To date, about two thousand Haitians have been granted the favor. “There’s no question,” Rangel has charged, “if they were not poor, if they were not black, that we would find some compassion to let these people in,” while Jackson has emphasized what he sees as a want of consistency in Washington’s policies. “If we can restore the emir to his throne in Kuwait,” he insists, “we can restore democracy in our own hemisphere.”
It is ironic that the United States, which is regarded by so much of the world and indeed by a vocal minority of its own citizens as a historically wicked society, should be almost universally expected, on account of its “idealistic” tradition, to assume a charitable and self-sacrificing role in every international situation. Set aside, for the moment, the suspicion that had President Bush responded instantly to the coup in Haiti by dispatching U.S. Marines to liberate that island, as President Reagan did in the case of Grenada in 1983, the Reverend Jesse Jackson would have been the first to denounce the racist, imperialist action by the American government. The truth is that the United States was paid, by the Kuwaitis and others, to expel the Iraqi invaders; that the United States has real interests, both economic and strategic, in Kuwait, as do its Western allies; and that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons with which to blackmail the rest of the Middle East and perhaps the world. But what interests does the United States—or anyone else other than the Haitians themselves—have in the constitutional crisis in Haiti, an entirely insignificant country whose history since the days of Toussaint L’Ouverture has been one of fecklessness and barbarism?
Yes, there is violence in Haiti, as the Reverend Jackson claims. There has always been violence in Haiti, and there has never been anything properly describable as democracy. The island has had seven governments, including the present one, since 1986 when the Duvalier dictatorship was overthrown after 29 years in power. From 1804, when the country became the first black-led republic in the world, until 1957 its history has been chiefly a record of chaos and bloodshed. The line between economic refugees and political ones is not always clear, but it is safe to say that if Haitians today are victims of political persecution, then they have always been such. And not only Haitians, but most of the rest of the Third World peoples. Is it the duty of the United States therefore to welcome all of these onto its soil? Again, it is strange how a history of good deeds, much more than bad ones, is perceived in the end to create still further obligation on the part of the benefactor.
Jackson argues that the refugees not only should, but ought to be, repatriated as soon as democracy is restored to Haiti. When will that be? The year 3004? And who will make them go there if they do not wish to do so? Surely not the Reverend Jackson. Nor does recent history suggest this eventuality. The Nicaraguan “political” refugees did not return home following the defeat at the polls of Daniel Ortega; the Salvadoran “politicals” show no sign of wanting to leave the United States, although the political situation has improved markedly in El Salvador since their coming here; and it is a safe bet that only the most upper class among the Cuban refugees will say farewell to Miami when Castro’s day is done. Granting asylum in this country to everyone who demands it will result principally in making the United States an asylum in quite another sense of the word.
As the racist demagoguery of the Reverend Jackson and Representative Rangel perhaps adumbrates, it used to be the American Jews who were accused of harboring “divided loyalties.” Today, racial and ethnic groups all over the United States are constantly harangued by self-appointed “leaders” to identify themselves with African tribes, Mexican paisanos, Muslim fellahin, Iranian terrorists, and to act accordingly—with violence if necessary. So much for the promised benefits of a “multicultural” America. For now, however, what I want to know is this: if the Haitian immigrants in Miami and New York City are such great patriots and lovers of the democratic homeland, why aren’t they back there fighting the junta that has killed their democracy, instead of up here rioting for U.S. soldiers to do the job for them?