Now that the U.N. Security Council has authorized us to invade Haiti, it's time to take another long, hard look at the man we may be going to war for.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a priest but not a man of peace. He is a popularly elected president but not a democrat. And he has a long history of abusing his pulpit, violating the teachings of the Catholic Church, demonizing the United States and inciting mob violence in his already violent homeland.A former Salesian monk, Aristide took up the cause of liberation theology during the Duvalier dictatorship - and blamed Washington for propping it up. The man the Clinton administration has chosen to champion used to refer to Americans as "those cold imperialists to the north."
The Duvaliers were no angels. For 29 years Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and later his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, looted the impoverished Caribbean nation and terrorized their political opponents with goons known as Tontons Macoute.
The military troika that deposed Aristide also has little to recommend it. Army Gen. Raoul Cedras, his chief of staff Gen. Philippe Biamby and Col. Michel Francois, the police chief, are responsible for what deputy national security adviser Sandy Berger calls "a reign of terror, murders, killings, kidnappings and mutilations."
But Aristide is cut from the same cloth.
He was expelled from the Salesian Order in 1988 for "incitement to hate and violence and the exaltation of class struggle." Specifically, he provided liturgical justification for rampages - known in Creole as a "dechoukajes" or "uprootings" - in which people are beaten to death, stoned or burned.
During his election campaign in 1990, Aristide publicly endorsed Pere Lebrun, a Haitian lynching method akin to South Africa's "necklacing," in which a gasoline-soaked tire is placed around a victim's neck and set on fire. It won him 70 percent of the vote.
After he became president in February 1991, Aristide used mob violence to intimidate political opponents, once getting his supporters to lay siege to Haiti's elected parliament. The State Department's Human Rights Report for 1992 says he also hired an army officer to kill one of his enemies.
Although he has not been defrocked, the Vatican is so distasteful of Aristide it became the only foreign state to recognize the military regime that overthrew him eight months into his presidency.
Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez, head of the Dominican Republic's church and president of the Latin American Episcopal Council, told the United Nations last year it would be "a grave blunder" to reinstate Aristide because "things may get worse."
CIA psychiatrists once prepared a report saying Aristide is "clinically psychotic," meaning he often loses touch with reality and fails to behave rationally. On their advice, the Bush administration kept the ousted Haitian president at arm's length.
But the Clinton administration seems to feel that Aristide's mental stability is less important than the fact that he was Haiti's first democratically elected leader, and thus worthy of reinstatement.