Joe Emersberger's Letters to the Media

are well-researched and documented and put the journalists (who rarely answer him at all and when they do, answer wholly inadequately) he debates to shame. Because his letters are so frequent and so well done, we collect them here, as he writes them. We hope the letters, and the frequently outrageous responses from the journalists (as well as the much more frequent silences), are instructive.

Mar 11, 2004 to the Globe and Mail

Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004 23:10:24 EST
Subject: Associated Press on Haiti

Mr. Greenspon:

The AP is relentless in pushing the view that Aristide became unpopular. When will you stop spreading their lies?

The quote below from the article you ran ("Haiti's new PM tries to unite nation" March 11) is scandalously typical of what has appeared in the mainstream papers in Canada.

"A once popular slum priest, Mr. Aristide was elected on promises to the poor, but lost support as misery deepened in the country and Haitians accused his government of corruption and attacks against his political opponents.

As usual, no evidence for the assertion that Aristide is no longer popular is given. This isn't surprising becasue there is ample evidence that he remained by far the most popular politician in Haiti, and would easily have won free elections.

The opposition, with the complicity of Canada, refused to allow a political settlement that would have included internationally supervised elections against Aristide.[1]

A US commissioned poll in 2002 found that Aristide was by a wide margin Haiti's most popular politician. [2] The flaws in the 2000 election have been blown out of proportion. They involved several Senate seats and do not cast serious doubt on the immense popularity of Aristide and his party at the time.[3]

As usual the AP neglects to mention that Aristide's elite opponents were never popular. A US run poll found they had the support of about 8% of Haitians.[4]

Misinformation supplied by the AP and dutifully served up to the public by Canadian newspapers has allowed the Canadian government to get away with backing Haiti's latest coup.


Joe Emersbeger

[2] NYT op-ed by Tracy Kidder (Feb 26,2004)
[3] Economist; "Counted Out": June 22, 2000; "The inevitable president"; Nov
16, 2000
[4] Council on Hemispheric Affairs [COHA],"Unfair and Indecent Diplomacy:
Washington's Vendetta against Haiti's President Aristide," January 15, 2004.

March 10, 2004, to G & M

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 23:34:23 EST
Subject: Haiti was just left to drift

Mr. Knox:

You write "Answering Mr. Aristide's appeal for help, in the week before his departure, would have been a tough call. He was unwilling or unable to rein in his violent allies. "

Aristide could have been Mahatma Ghandi and his fate, and his country's, would have been much the same. Haiti's fate depended on journalists like yourself putting putting Aristide's failings in context and proportion, exposeing the US role in stifling democracy in Haiti right through the 1990's and into the present day. This was especially crucial in the last weeks of his regime. Instead you and the rest of the international media acted as a megaphone for Haiti's elite.

You suggest that Chirac's governmnet called for Aristide's resignation due to Aristide's call for reparations from France. Much more plausibly France, like Canada, sensed an opportunity to make amends to the US for failing to go along with them in Iraq. The media's coverage made kissing up to the US feasible. There was little risk of a major public backlash as was the case in Iraq. From mainstream reports (inclluding your own) it is hard to see a big difference between backing Aristide or the "rebels".

The following is the best paragraph you've written about Haiti in weeks:

"The United States has much to answer for in its conduct toward Haiti over the past two decades. It allowed Mr. Aristide to be overthrown in 1991 after winning a landslide election, and its agents were linked to organizers of death squads in the next few years. It restored him to power not out of principle but to stem an exodus of boat people. It refuses to extradite death-squad leader Emmanuel (Toto) Constant. We don't yet know how much U.S. officials knew about the plotting that was going on in the Dominican Republic over the past few years, but it's a good bet they were au courant."

But you leave out many important facts. The US insisted that Aritide serve out only the remaining year of his term as president even though he was in exile for most of it. The economic polices he adpoted were disasterous, opposite to what he was elected to implement, and forced on him by the US. It's great that you finally mention Emmanuel Constant. I'd wager you are the first mainstream journalist to do so, but the reasons for the US refusal to extradite him must be explored. The US seized documents relevant to Constant's case from Haiti during the intervention in 1994. They have refused to return them to Haiti unless the names of US citizens are deleted. These facts reveal quite clearly the double game the US has been playing for some time: pose as friends to Haitian democracy while ensuring the same tiny elite and their murderous protectors call the shots.

You note that "U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell then spent several days trying to convince the opposition to accept it. That's hardly the behaviour of people intent on deposing him at all costs."

Not "at all costs." Had journalists like yourself exposed the sordid motives that have driven US policy towards Haiti it is possible that Powell and Co. would have considered the costs of a public backlash too high to continue pandering to the opposition.They might have told the opposition to accept the settlement or accept being out of power. This administration can ingonre world opinion, tell the UN it is "irreelvant". It could have brushed aside a group of sweatshop owners and thugs with negligable public support if they wanted to.

In spite of the media's failings during the past weeks it is not too late to minimize the damage done by finally reporting facts that pressure the US, Canada and France to implement civilized policies. That means bringing up a lot of recent history they would rather bury. You do a little of that in your latest report, but not nearly enough.

Joe Emersberger

March 9, 2004, to Richard Gwyn, Toronto Star

Date: Tue, 9 Mar 2004 00:57:42 EST
Subject: haiti
Mr. Gwyn:

If journalists like yourself are serious about helping Haiti succeed you can do a great deal by throwing a spotlight on how cowardly and callous Canada's policy towards Haiti has been. Your March 7 piece about Haiti ("New Role Emerging for Canada in Haiti) completely fails to do this. Aristide was ousted because Canada, France, and most crucially, the US, were under very little public pressure to intervene on his behalf - more accurately on behalf of Haitian democracy. Canadian officials played enthusiastically along as the US stifled democracy in Haiti yet again. A sweatshop owner led opposition with negligible popular support tacitly (now openly) allied with proven killers succeeded overthrowing a president against whom they wouldn't have stood a chance in a fair election.

From the mainstream press, including your latest piece, it is impossible learn that this is what happened. It is very hard to learn about the key role the US and it allies played in making it happen. If mainstream media continue to bury unwanted facts and history our presence in Haiti will be useless at best.

Focus on US involvement in the coup that ousted Aristide in 1991; on their refusal to deport death squad leader Emmanual Constant, on the decades of US support for brutal dictatorships in Haiti; on pressure exerted by the US through the IMF on Haiti to adopt disastrous economic policies; on the exact nature of the frequently cited "flaws" in the elections of 2000 that were the pretext for economic sanctions against Haiti. Do all of that and you may well generate significant public opposition to Canadian complicity with US policy. It could even spill over the border and have a restraining effect on the US. That would help Haitians a great deal.

Joe Emersberger

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