To most sentient observers, Aristide is an obvious Marxist crook and thug. To John Kerry, he is "Father Aristide." That's what Kerry quaintly called the brutal strongman in a 1994 New York Times op-ed, even though Aristide had been sacked from the Salesian order several years earlier after the Vatican grew weary of his preaching in favor of Marxist violence.
In that 1994 op-ed, Kerry played the apologist for Aristide. "Father Aristide may not be perfect (what elected leader is?), but we have never discarded whole democracies because of an individual leader," Kerry wrote. "Moreover, he has already demonstrated his willingness to compromise, agreeing to share power with a broad-based coalition with safeguards for everyone's rights."
Here Kerry was trying to pass off a thug as a conciliatory priest. Aristide was a known inciter of "necklacing," the practice of throwing flaming tires around opponents' heads. He had compiled a voluminous record as an abuser of human rights. Kerry, nevertheless, had a weakness for the defrocked priest.
A dissenting Catholic himself, Kerry sympathized with Aristide's attempts to turn Catholicism into communism under the guise of "liberation theology." Which explains why Kerry even to this day whines about conservative criticism of Aristide's liberation theology. Last week Kerry accused the Bush administration of "a theological and ideological hatred" of Aristide. "It goes back to the liberation theology that he preached earlier in his career," Kerry said. "It's part of the right's attitude about Aristide."
Joseph Kennedy, another dissenting Catholic with a soft spot for liberation theologians, invited Aristide to his 1993 wedding in Massachusetts. Kerry was at the wedding too. Kennedy, then a Congressman, must also have regarded Aristide as still "Father Aristide," as he had the exiled thug deliver one of the wedding readings, according to the Boston Globe.
How did these Democrats manage to overlook Aristide's abuses? In part, because they were too busy looking at his skin color. Kerry ever so subtly played the race card in Aristide's favor in his New York Times op-ed by writing of "deep-seated hatreds between the small, wealthy ruling mulatto elite, which is in league with the military, and the poor, largely uneducated, which make up 90 percent of the population." In other words: Aristide isn't part of that odious "ruling mulatto elite" but a champion of the black underclass, so America has a duty to restore him to power.
Kerry, with great urgency, wrote about the need to restore Aristide to power through U.S. military might -- a stance that appears ludicrous in light of his go-slow diplomacy over the last few years. Was he pandering to the vocal Haitian-American community in Boston? For whatever reason Kerry was in rush-to-war mode on behalf of Aristide, writing that "nothing has worked -- not diplomacy, not tighter sanctions, not a partial naval embargo." Kerry wasn't going to stand for "Haiti's military thugs," who "continue to thumb their noses at the United States." He worried that "our credibility as a world leader is at stake."
Haiti's military leaders, Kerry wrote, "must now be put on notice that we're prepared to take all steps necessary to restore democracy and prove to all renegade elements that we mean what we say." He waived away objections by saying that diplomacy without force is feckless: "Failure to threaten to use force now would significantly increase the probability that diplomacy will fail. In the end, we'd wind up where we are today: unprepared and with a weak hand." He even fended off the "prospect of a Vietnam-like quagmire" by suggesting that after propping up Aristide Haiti wouldn't be America's problem anymore. The international community would nurse Haiti along: "The presence of a neutral, civilized power will allow Haiti to rebuild its political institutions, its schools and its health system, and provide some cooling-off time."
"Father Aristide," no pacifist himself, must have been pleased with this advocacy, especially since Kerry, along with every other Senator briefed by the CIA, knew of his established reputation as a near-demented rabble-rouser. Even as Kerry was writing about "military thugs" in need of an American beating, the CIA (as news reports from that period show) was providing the Senate with evidence that Aristide was a thug himself who, if returned to power, would wreak havoc on Haiti again.
With typical gall, Kerry now blames a crisis he helped create with his pro-Aristide advocacy on Bush. Did Bush call for the restoration of a known inciter of necklacing to power in Haiti? No, Kerry did.