Oldies at the Tonton Tavern


Boston. -- At the Tonton Tavern, a mythical watering hole in a part of Port-au-Prince where the embargo was fiction, we catch Haitian military leaders Raoul Cedras, Michel Francois and Philippe Biamby drinking wine, gorging on lobster and signing autographs for suburban children.

Cedras snapped his fingers. A flunkie kicked an oldies jukebox. The Rolling Stones sang: "Ti-i- i-ime is on my side, yes it is."

"What are you laughing about, Michel?" Cedras asked.

"Ti-i-i-ime, it's up, Raoul. Don't you remember? 'Your time is up. Leave now, or we will force you from power.' "

"Who said that?" asked Biamby.

"The leader of the world's last remaining superpower," said Cedras.

tTC "Hmmm, didn't we just have a visit over the weekend from a former president of that last remaining superpower?"

"Flunkie!" said Cedras. "Kick the jukebox!" It played, "Jimmy, Jimmy, oh Jimmy Mack, when are you comin' back?"

"I thought we had outdone ourselves just keeping American soldiers off our soil for three years after kicking out Aristide," Biamby said. "Now we're even FOBs."

"What's that?" Francois asked.

"In America, it means Friends Of Bill," Cedras said.

"Clinton told Americans, 'Cedras and his armed thugs have conducted a reign of terror,' " Biamby said. " 'Executing children. Raping women. Killing priests.' Then he sends the soldiers, we flash a couple of smiles, and Clinton says, 'Our troops are working with the full cooperation of the Haitian military.' "

"Sounds like Clinton is an FOB," Cedras said. "The Fool is Our Boy. Flunkie! Jukebox!" The air filled with Stevie Wonder's "All Day Sucker."

"But didn't American commander Shelton just drop by to tell us to knock off the beatings?" Biamby asked.

"Don't pay him any attention," Cedras said. "We've killed 5,000 people, and Clinton says that the 1,000 American military police are here to 'moderate the conduct of Haitian security forces without assuming their responsibilities.' Last week we were thugs. This week we're security forces. Translated, that means we get to keep our guns.

"At the Pentagon, Shalikashvili said U.S. military policy is 'non-engagement in Haitian-on-Haitian violence.' In America, black-on-black means no one does anything about it. In Haiti, everyone's black. Ain't that some rocket science? Flunkie! Jukebox!"

The dance floor rumbled with the James Brown band's "Doing It to Death."

"So what are we going to do, Raoul?" Francois asked. "We've got 16 days left in power. They gave Aristide a 21-gun salute in Washington. Are we fleeing Haiti?"

"Didn't you hear me on American television Wednesday night?" Cedras said. "We're staying. In fact, I suggest we give our brother-in-exile the red carpet treatment."

"Huh?" asked Biamby.

"He's only got a year left in his term," Cedras said. "Most of the U.S. soldiers will be screaming to go home by then. We'll let them disarm the unit that overthrew Aristide. It had only six armored vehicles to begin with. We still have plenty of guns up in the hills. We have millions of dollars stashed from creaming the profits off smuggled oil. We've decimated the top leadership below Aristide. Guns, money, carcasses, I'd say that's the making of a solid run for president."

"What if we lose?" Francois asked. "We can kill priests, but we can't kill 67 percent of the voters."

"No, but we can kill their spirit. We wait a few months, maybe another year, and then take over the country again. What's to stop us? Remember, gentlemen, the U.S. will not intervene in Haitian-on-Haitian violence."

On the tavern television, the newscast repeats Clinton's refrain, "Your time is up. Leave now . . ." "Flunkie! Jukebox!"

Cedras, Francois and Biamby laugh as Chicago asks: "Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?"

C7 Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist for Boston Globe.

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