Saturday, February 6, 2010
The Immaculate Invasion by Bob Shacochis
I must say that the dialogue found in Amazon and other reviews of this book is decidedly more interesting than the story itself. This is a book that has generated some small degree of controversy amongst Haitian cogniscenti as well as the military personnel that participated in Operation Uphold Democracy (9.19.94 - 3.31.95). Aristide was the first democratically elected President in Haiti on Feb 7, 1991. In September, he was ousted in a coup d'etat. The military leader, Cedras, made a deal with the U.S. (UN brokered at New York's Governors Island in 1994) to peacefully hand over control back to Aristide.
Bob Shacochis (now professor at Florida State Univ.) was an embedded journalist for 18 months within a Special Forces ("SF") commando detachment. In fact his detailed coverage of military organization and protocols, filled with opaque acronyms makes for a distracting read for the uninformed. SF guys who were in Haiti complain that the author's characterization of Haiti as incapable of self-governance is racist. Other comments contend that the Haitian people were complicit in obstructing the restoration of democacy, a theme that Shacochis misses.
In one instance, Shacochis was literally saved by ODA 311 (SF unit) when he was caught in the crossfire in a Limbe casern. One reviewer feels that this shaded his attitude on reporting about the SF behavior. One observer says that the fundamental role of the U.S. was to protect class privilege by stopping a revolution, not a coup d'etat.
The U.S. goal was to restore Aristide, then hold elections to remove him, and go home. It didn't work out that way. Let's hope that our post earthquake presence is more successful.