A fiery, disorganized and somewhat repetitive exposé of longstanding injustices toward Haiti perpetrated by a long list of colonial powers including France and, most recently, the United States.
On Feb. 29, 2004, an American convoy escorted twice-elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince and removed him for good from his country. Did he resign, as the official U.S. version maintains, or was he rather deposed by an American-backed coup d’état? Robinson (The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe Each Other, 2002, etc.) vehemently lays out evidence of a coup. Haiti has long been isolated and resented by the Caribbean’s colonial powers. Thanks to the military genius of former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture, the French colony known as Saint-Domingue staged the only successful slave revolt in the Americas in 1803 and became an independent nation, expelling its brutal French masters and ending Napoleon’s dreams of world empire. The United States, France and other powers (including the Vatican) punished Haiti with embargos and crushing reparations that had devastating consequences for decades to come. Dictators such as the Duvaliers were puppets of American business interests, while former priest Aristide, elected democratically in 1990, enacted social reforms that helped level discrepancies between rich and poor and destroy the status quo. Hence, Robinson asserts, American resentment against Haiti’s intransigence is deeply rooted; Haitians are considered proud and “unmanipulable.” The Bush administration helped destabilize the government by arming Duvalierist rebels led by Guy Philippe, a CIA-trained former police precinct captain, to threaten order and bring down Aristide. Robinson’s Christ-like portrait of Aristide is a bit over-the-top, and his single-note argument is rather erratically presented. It is nonetheless deeply persuasive, as brisk chapters move urgently between past and present.
Robinson eloquently urges the white world to accord the constitutions and laws of black countries the same sanctity it accords its own.