A brilliant account of the 1994 US invasion and occupation of Haiti. In 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the first democratically elected president of Haiti. No sooner had he taken office when he was overthrown by a gang of murderous thugs known by the acronym FRAPH, and Aristide went into exile in the US. In 1994, however, the US launched “Operation Uphold Democracy,” an invasion of Haiti whose purpose was to restore democracy there. Invasion is not quite the right word, as at the last minute the head thugs of FRAPH decided to let US forces peacefully occupy the country. In vivid detail and stunning prose, award-winning novelist Shacochis (Swimming in the Volcano, 1993, etc.) tells the story of this occupation. It’s a story of confusion, frustration, and, above all, unremitting violence. Shacochis centers his report on a team of Special Forces commandos with whom he lived for 18 months. Once on shore they have no idea what they are supposed to do; no one else does either. Generals and State Department officials squabble. For some, Aristide is a little too radical, a little too concerned for the poor. One day FRAPH is the —bad guy” to be rounded up and disarmed, the next day it’s the “loyal opposition,” a counterweight to Aristide. One day the US forces are there to rebuild Haitian society, the next they are merely keeping minimal order. All the while the violence that has been endemic to Haiti for generations continues. A jail is found in which prisoners stand in six inches of their own feces. The poor begin to exact a terrible, and predictable, vengeance. And nobody known just what the US forces are supposed to do, although Aristide is in fact eventually restored to power. Shacochis’s narrative and character development weave together a stunning comedy of terrors. When reading this, one wants to laugh, cry, and take a shower all at the same time.