24 January 2006

Pity the poor New York Timesstruggling to cover foreign affairs as best it can absent serious discussion of class and religion. The latest example is “Fear and Death Ensnare U.N. Soldiers in Haiti,” by Ginger Thompson. There’s not much question in the piece that while the bullets come from the slums, the “fear and death” are the products of the ruling elite installed two years ago by the U.S.

When that occurred, U.S. conservatives cooed in the pages of The Wall Street Journal that former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster marked the final renunciation of “liberation theology,” the radical Catholicism that took all that business about the poor in the Bible very seriously. Evangelical missionaries rode into Port-Au-Prince on the trucks of the coup plotters, thrilled that the new regime would make a break with Aristide’s support for Haiti’s Vodoun-practicing population (he’d recognized Vodoun marriage. What would be next?!? Gays?). American evangelical conservatives celebrated. In place of the priest Aristide, these champions of God and democracy installed the Times‘ idea of a “protest movement”: “led by people like the businessman Mr. Apaid, a revolt by former soldiers and police officers and American pressure.”

Now, Washington wonders what happened to Haiti’s “transition to democracy” as the Timescalls it, puzzled by the current disaster in Haiti but unquestioning of the good intentions of the rich men, disgruntled soldiers, “American pressure” — and its missionary champions — that brought it to this pass.