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Of the Harboring of Terrorists

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“If you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist.” –George W. Bush, Oct. 26, 2001

Carla and Ron Bluntschli stayed on in Haiti after their Mennonite Central Committee term ended in 1993. After the military ousted Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in 1991, they watched in horror as thousands of people, including personal friends, were tortured and murdered over the next few years by the military and FRAPH, a paramilitary organization backed by the CIA and headed by Emmanuel Constant, who now lives in the New York City area.

Constitutional government returned to Haiti on Oct. 15, 2001. In honor of that occasion, and to commemorate the 5,000 Haitians who died during the coup d’etat, Carla Bluntschli wrote the following reflection connecting their deaths with those who died in the United States on Sept. 11, and those who have died in the war in Afghanistan. (It was written as a poem but would take up too much space in its original format.)

“Maybe it’s because it took more than . . . an hour for over 5,000 people to be killed (three years as well as the untold crippled, raped, torn apart by sharks or starved and sickened to a slow death). Or maybe it’s because they were the color of those never forgiven for their freedom … Or because their dreams of self-sufficiency neglected American multinational businesses and banks. Or maybe because they believed in participatory rather than representative democracy. Or maybe because they had the audacity to vote for someone other than the American candidate. Or because they decided not to take up arms …

“In those milliseconds of three years while the people of Haiti were dying of suffocation in the smoldering ashes of their dreams, not many cried. Not many came. Not many sang great songs broad-cast to the international media. Not many great leaders sent condolences. No coalitions were created to prevent this from happening again. No heroes were exalted. No families were awarded with medals of honor for their courage or for their lost loved ones.

“Then one day, Oct. 15, 1994, over 10,000 U.S. military came back with [Aristide, whom the Haitians] audaciously yet democratically and overwhelmingly voted for Dec. 16, 1990. . . .

“[Emmanuel Constant], head of the well-known terrorist organization, FRAPH, . . . has already been tried and condemned in absentia as [being] responsible for many of these deaths. . . . The United States government is currently harboring [him] in Queens, N.Y., refusing to extradite this condemned terrorist. . . . Should Haiti bombard Queens, N.Y.?”

As her poem continues, Bluntschli asks whether Haitians should declare war on France, Portugal and Spain for slaughtering, over a period of 16 years, all of the approximately 3 million Tainos who originally inhabited Hispaniola, the island comprising Haiti and the Dominican Republic, so the Europeans could enrich themselves with the abundant natural resources. She wonders whether the Afghan people and other inhabitants of the region may suffer the same fate so that the wealthy nations will be able to control the oil produced there.

As I write, the U.S. military is still looking for Osama bin Laden, who is responsible for the deaths of thousands. They wouldn’t have to search for Emmanuel Constant, who is also responsible for the deaths of thousands.

But they won’t, and Haiti will not bomb Queens. Only empires get to decide who can be bombed or arrested for terrorism.

Thank God for the biblical witness, which tells us that God may favor small nations above mighty empires, and the conquered above their conquerors.

Kathleen Kern, of Webster, N.Y., serves with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Used with permission from the Mennonite Weekly Review, Jan. 8.