Saturday, March 27, 2004

Fact-checking on Haiti arms

Following the recent departure of Aristide, it seems to have become something of a quasi-fact in certain progressive quarters that the U.S. supplied weapons to the rebels--that's right, those cash-starved, drug-trafficking thugs who still haven't been convinced to disarm. The best evidence so far was admittedly circumstantial, and provided by Aristide's lawyer, Ira Kurzban. To give just one example, here's the way the Toronto Star reported it:

"There's a lot of circumstantial evidence that the U.S.A. might have had a hand in it," Kuzban says.

He notes, for example, that the U.S. announced late last year that it was providing some 20,000 M16 rifles to the armed forces of the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

He speculates that some of these weapons may have found their way to Haitian exiles based on the Dominican side of border, the very exiles who marched across the border last month to join a violent uprising in central Haiti.

Armed in many cases with M-16s, they quickly outgunned the country's ill-equipped police and soon controlled much of central and northern Haiti.

Within a couple of weeks, they were poised to invade the capital."

The logic of this sounds plausible, right? Well, except for one inconvenient fact: "The M-16s have yet to arrive," according to Rachel Stohl, senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington. Stohl does nevertheless warn against the potential diversion of these arms to Haiti, and says that "at the very least, the gun transfer to the Dominican Republic should be delayed, if not canceled entirely."

That's a reasonable idea, and based on solid information. As for Aristide's lawyer, I wonder what other assumptions he's gotten wrong?

NOTE: Here's a moderately hopeful story on Haiti by Jane Regan, who's writing regularly for Interpress Service. Hope in Haiti means a return to normalcy, which is not saying much...

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