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US Obligation in Haiti

HISTORY records many instances of rulers willing to sacrifice their people to satisfy their own greed and lust for power. In modern times, Haiti has long provided one of the most cruel examples of such misrule.

The military-dominated oligarchy and the gangster cohorts that currently rule Haiti appear to have stymied efforts to restore democracy to the country, using their own countrymen as hostages. With the deadline for turning over the reins of government to lawfully elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide having passed, some Haitians and friends of the tiny, supposedly democratic country are urging the United States, Canada, and other democracies to use overriding force to remove the Haitian generals and their civilian collaborators.

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Whatever the approach, each day's delay in resolving the standoff adds another measure of suffering for Haitians, including thousands of children, according to a just-released Harvard University report. It documents an alarming rise in child fatalities, many directly attributed to the political/military strife.

Haitian expatriates living in Canada recently added another ingredient to the brew, making clear their willingness to form a military contingent to help restore legitimate government in their homeland. Many more of the some 1 million Haitians now residing outside their country would be likely to join such an effort.

This is not a new idea, but it could provide new impetus to the the Governors Island Accord, brokered by the US and United Nations, which seems almost moribund now. Such a move also might stir action from more trustworthy elements in the Haitian military, if such elements exist.

For now, the US and UN should strongly defend Mr. Aristide's legitimacy as president. Central Intelligence Agency attempts to discredit him and Vatican doubts as to his Roman Catholic orthodoxy notwithstanding, the Haitian president has displayed determination that attests to his sincerity and leadership ability.

This is not the time for the White House to back away from its commitment to Aristide and the people who displayed considerable courage in electing him by a large margin in the face of despotic threats.

We do not pretend to know what the best strategy might be. But the US must see this crisis to a just conclusion, despite the cost in money, arms, and personnel.

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