The CIA defines a covert operation as one that prevents the American public from discovering what it as doing in other countries.
President Barack Obama said on Monday, visiting CIA headquarters, “. What makes the United States special, and what makes (the CIA) special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals”.
How could Obama have been serious about that?
When the public learns something detestable about the agency — recently Chinese-style torture — they get angry, forcing the President to sign some document or make a statement, in this case one preventing further torture, to appease them or suffer a slump in approval ratings.
The best way to avoid this uncomfortable situation is to just keep the public in the dark about its underworkings.
For example, is Obama aware of the 50-year history of CIA coups against other democracies? More importantly, are you?
The most recent of which was the overthrow of democratically elected President Aristide of Haiti in 2004.
You might remember this: Aristide, the “slum priest” who “cracked down on political dissent,” according to The New York Times, was overthrown by freedom-fighting rebels. Our Marines were later sent in to quell the violence and demand his resignation.
But there’s another version of the story you aren’t supposed to know about.
Following popular uprisings in 1986, former Haitian dictator Duvalier was ousted and replaced in 1990 by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who won the general election against 11 candidates with a two-thirds majority.
One year later, rebels led by Emmanuel “Toto” Constant overthrew his government. Toto received funding from the CIA, according to Amnesty International.
In 1994, Aristide was reinstated as president with U.S. support. Two years later, Haiti was forced to adopt numerous economic reforms including a $1.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and was forced to end tariffs on U.S. goods.
Cheap U.S. products flooded their market, further damaging Haiti’s struggling economy. Businesses like Alpha Industries were allowed to build factories in “free trade zones” but without the constraints of labor laws, according to the National Labor Committee. The businesses exploiting Haitian labor are linked to the International Republican Institute, a congressionally and privately funding body that contributed to political groups seeking to undermine Aristide’s legitimacy.
By 2001, Haiti grew weary of being under America’s tyrannical, economic influence and made trade deals with Cuba and Venezuela, including the much more affordable purchase of Venezuelan oil in 2001.
This upset America’s hegemonic trade in the region and months later we and our European allies severed numerous credit ties to Haiti.
Now, declassified records make it clear that the CIA and other U.S. groups helped to create and fund a paramilitary group called FRAPH located in the neighboring Dominican Republic. It was led by known human rights violator Guy Philippe and received more than $1 million and 20,000 M-16 rifles between 2001 and 2004, according to Ira Kurzman, Aristide’s attorney, in a March 2004 interview with John Gibson on Fox News.
While the Haitian press began widely circulating knowledge of the groups’ intent to overthrow the government, and after five of its members were caught, President Bush in 2003 refused to denounce FRAPH as terrorists, and instead readied the American military on the Dominican Republic border. Why?
In 2004, when Philippe finally struck, our Marines supposedly rushed in to save the day, “escorting” Aristide into exile in the Central African Republic. There, he was only allowed one phone call to his mother.
Later, using a cell phone smuggled to him, he desperately called Congresswoman Maxine Waters to recount this version of history.
By that time, sadly, Americans lost interest. Barely any of us bother to connect the dots of the CIA. Have we forgotten who put Saddam Hussein in power, who funded and armed Osama Bin Laden?
Does it still sound like the CIA is “upholding American values and ideals” to you?
Alex Stephens is a senior political science major. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.