President Clinton should hang tough on Haiti. While many have difficulty finding U.S. national interests in Somalia and Bosnia, U.S. interests in Haiti are close to home. Haiti's tyranny, anarchy and poverty send waves of refugees to our shores. The U.S. harbors Haitian exiles and immigrants while the rich do business and banking and recreation here. The U.S. is Haiti's largest trading partner. Haitian thugs ship drugs here.
The worst interpretation that can be made of recent events is that Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and exiled pillars of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, emboldened by Mohamed Farah Aidid's defiance of U.S. might in Somalia, are pulling a Duvalierist coup under our eyes.
This would explain such phenomena as General Cedras' welshing on his commitment to retire on Oct. 30, the return of leading Duvalierists exiled since 1986, the assassination of such legitimist supporters as Antoine Izmery and Justice Minister Francois Guy Malary and the kidnapping of a legitimist legislator, Samuel Milord.
The most benign interpretation that can be made of these events would be that anarchy followed lack of communication, after General Cedras failed to win guarantees of amnesty from the legitimate president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The world supports the U.S. naval enforcement of the U.N. Security Council embargo on oil, weapons and supplies for the army and police. Canadian and British ships are on station. French, Dutch and Argentine ships are on the way. Humanitarian shipments of food must get through and, to insure that, it is incumbent on the shippers to make cargoes fully available for inspection.
The military bosses cannot long survive the shutdown of gasoline pumps. The transitional prime minister, Robert Malval, has shown tremendous courage remaining at his post and showing the flag of government, even while generals and goons hold the power. Freezing the assets of 41 of the latter, who have grown rich on the misery of their compatriots and parked their loot in the United States, also hits home.
Everyone knows that President Aristide, elected in 1990 and supported by most Haitians, is a priest but no saint. The leaking of CIA psycho-speculation about his personality, which was shared with selected congressmen, does a disservice to the U.S. and the CIA as well as to him. The possibility of transgressions by him in the future does not negate his legitimacy, is not beyond U.S. power to restrain and is no justification of the great human rights violations perpetrated by his enemies now.
General Cedras agreed at the Governors Island conference in New York on July 3 to retire and turn Haiti over to President Aristide on Oct. 30. He must be held to it. Nothing has happened to excuse reneging. A lot has happened to make the restoration of legitimacy more urgent.