If the circumstances weren't so calamitous, the US-orchestrated removal of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti would be farcical. According to Mr. Aristide, US officials in Port-au-Prince told him that rebels were on the way to the presidential residence and that he and his family were unlikely to survive unless they immediately boarded an American-chartered plane standing by to take them to exile. The US made it clear, he said, that it would provide no protection for him at the official residence, despite the ease with which this could have been arranged.
Indeed, says Aristide's lawyer, the US blocked reinforcement of Aristide's own security detail and refused him entry to the airplane until he signed a letter of resignation.
Then Aristide was denied access to a phone for nearly 24 hours and knew nothing of his destination until he was summarily deposited in the Central African Republic. But this Keystone Kops coup has apparently not worked entirely according to plan: Aristide used a cellphone to notify the world that he was forcibly removed from Haiti. The US dismisses Aristide's charges as ridiculous. Secretary of State Colin Powell's official version of the events is a blanket denial based on the government's word alone. In essence, Washington is telling us not to look back, only forward. This stonewalling brings to mind Groucho Marx's old line, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
There are several tragedies in this surrealistic episode. The first is the apparent incapacity of the US to speak honestly about such matters as toppling governments. Instead, it brushes aside crucial questions: Did the US summarily deny military protection to Aristide? Did the US supply weapons to the rebels, who showed up in Haiti last month with sophisticated equipment that last year reportedly had been taken by the US military to the Dominican Republic, next door to Haiti? Why did the US abandon the call of European and Caribbean leaders for a political compromise, a compromise that Aristide had already accepted? Most important, did the US bankroll a coup in Haiti, a scenario that, based on the evidence, seems likely?