Washington Babylon — January 13, 2010, 2:35 pm

Haiti: A trip down memory lane

“In the wake of the devastating earthquake, American eyes are again turned toward Haiti—something that only seems to happen when yet another disaster strikes, and never during the daily chaos and misery that plague the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” James Ridgeway writes in a post at Mother Jones. “US interest in the country seemed to wane with the departure of American troops, and in the aftermath of September 11 and the Bush administration’s numerous adventures around the world, Haiti returned to its usual state of invisibility in Western eyes.”

America’s historic role in Haiti’s affairs is frequently invisible in media coverage as well. Ridgeway points to a great New York Times story from 2006, three years after “an accused death squad leader helped armed rebels topple the president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide”:

Haiti, never a model of stability, soon dissolved into a state so lawless it stunned even those who had pushed for the removal of Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who rose to power as the champion and hero of Haiti’s poor.

Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is virtually paralyzed by kidnappings, spreading panic among rich and poor alike. Corrupt police officers in uniform have assassinated people on the streets in the light of day. The chaos is so extreme and the interim government so dysfunctional that voting to elect a new one has already been delayed four times. The latest date is Feb. 7.

Yet even as Haiti prepares to pick its first elected president since the rebellion two years ago, questions linger about the circumstances of Mr. Aristide’s ouster — and especially why the Bush administration, which has made building democracy a centerpiece of its foreign policy in Iraq and around the world, did not do more to preserve it so close to its shores.

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