WASHINGTON -- An embarrassed Clinton administration broadened U.S. troops' security role in Haiti yesterday to prevent Haitian police from beating civilians and undermining the drive to rebuild that nation's shattered democracy.
In the face of mounting criticism from supporters and opponents of the Haiti mission, the administration and exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide struggled yesterday to get on the same wavelength.
The United States dispatched 1,000 military police to oversee the way the Haitians keep order, and the U.S. military commander in Haiti, Lt. Gen. Henry Hugh Shelton, warned the commander of Haitian forces against clamping down violently on civilian demonstrations.
While the "rules of engagement" weren't changed, U.S. commanders in Haiti took pains yesterday to explain to troops where the rules are flexible.
"If a soldier were clearly there present watching a civilian being beaten, he would intervene," said Maj. Gen. Jared Bates, vice director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And President Aristide, flanked at the Pentagon by Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the first time declared his gratitude for the presence of U.S. soldiers to open the way for his return to Haiti "within 24 days."
Twice in two days after U.S. forces started coming ashore Monday, U.S. troops stood by as Haitian police clubbed pro-democracy demonstrators. One demonstrator was reported to have been killed.
"Such violence cannot and will not be tolerated," Mr. Clinton said.
The military police, who completed their arrival yesterday, will "lead by example" in patrols that will include Haitian police, international police monitors and translators, Pentagon officials
While the Pentagon clung to its insistence that routine police work was the job of the Haitian military, the arrival of the MPs meant a broadening of the U.S. mission.
"They will have the specific function of overseeing and monitoring the functioning of the Haiti police force to ensure that they do not use unreasonable restraint in trying to deal with crowd-control problems," Mr. Perry said of the MPs.
'Reverting to form'
In clubbing the demonstrators, the Haitian police were "reverting to form," as one Pentagon official put it.
The administration also pressed Father Aristide to urge his followers not to hold the kinds of demonstrations likely to provoke police crackdowns and thus undermine the process of stabilizing the country enough for the exiled president to return.
He complied obliquely in a statement delivered at the Pentagon, saying: "People of Haiti, continue to uphold democracy, be vigilant and guard against provocation."
Father Aristide's "thank you" followed two days of disapproving silence from him about the deal struck Sunday by former President Jimmy Carter that delayed the removal of Haiti's dictators for almost a month while allowing U.S. troops to occupy the country without firing a shot.
Father Aristide was greeted at the Pentagon with a 21-gun salute and all the fanfare due a head of state. The pomp was aimed at showing that, despite cooperation between the U.S. commander Haiti, General Shelton, and Haiti's military commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the United States recognizes only Father Aristide as the legitimate authority.
The Haitian-U.S. military cooperation had caused concern among Aristide supporters that it would leave the Haitian military establishment virtually intact and curb Father Aristide's independence even after General Cedras and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, step aside by Oct. 15. That concern was prompted in part by the past close relationship between U.S. and Haitian military institutions.
In the past two days, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, William Swing, has been sidelined as General Shelton took over, and it looked as though Father Aristide would be held firmly in check once he returned.
In fact, signs increased yesterday that the Clinton administration viewed General Shelton's partnership with General Cedras only as a convenience to allow smooth deployment of troops throughout the country and was starting to inch away from the Carter accord.
An adviser to Father Aristide, former Maryland Rep. Michael D. Barnes, said the administration had committed itself to work with the exiled president's defense minister, Gen. Jean Beliotte, whom Father Aristide named to head a transition team. Father Aristide plans to dispatch an advance team to Haiti that the United States will transport, and be obligated to protect, in a few days, he said.
The administration also plans to transport exiled members of Haiti's Parliament to allow them to participate in voting on the amnesty for the military called for in the Carter pact. That could result in a narrower amnesty than General Cedras had anticipated and prod him to leave.
However, General Cedras said last night that he would not leave Haiti after stepping down from power, Reuters reported. In an interview on CBS television, the general said that the question of his going into exile never arose during the talks.
Father Aristide seemed to push the transition faster by declaring that local and national officials elected during his brief tenure in 1991 should return to offices now occupied by appointees of the military dictators. If they act on his call, this may increase security concerns for U.S. forces.
On Capitol Hill, several senators warned that Tuesday's violence in Haiti demonstrated the predicament in which U.S. troops have been placed. The Senate voted 94-5 in favor of a resolution calling for their "prompt and orderly withdrawal."
"We are placing our military people basically and fundamentally in an untenable position," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who is a leading opponent of the military intervention. He likened the nature of the U.S. troops' mission in Haiti to the vague assignment given to the 241 U.S. Marines who were killed when their barracks was bombed in Lebanon in 1983.
Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas noted that "Haitian-on-Haitian violence has led to calls for greater U.S. involvement. But before we disarm the Haitian military and police, we would do well to remember the lessons of Somalia," where U.S. troops on a humanitarian mission were attacked by warlords.
The resolution, which commended Mr. Clinton for pursuing a negotiated entrance into Haiti instead of an invasion, garnered an overwhelming bipartisan majority.
Black Caucus to speak
Members of the 40-member congressional Black Caucus, which has pushed the Clinton administration to be more aggressive in restoring democracy to Haiti, said the caucus plans to issue a formal statement on the U.S. occupation today.
"I think that in order for democracy to move in there, the Haitian military must be disarmed, and there needs to be a reorganization, downsizing and retraining of the army and the Port-au-Prince police," said one member, Rep. Donald M. Payne, a New Jersey Democrat.
"There has to be something done about disarming them and having a recommissioning of a new police force. You can't have the same people who have been creating the terror remain on as the protectors now. That has to change."