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U.S. Elections Update: Clinton is using Canada to keep control of Haiti

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 31 to November 13, 1996

Canadian troops are not only on the frontline of peacekeeping in Haiti but also the frontline of U.S. foreign policy – a policy that is unravelling during the run-up to the November 5 presidential election. While the living standards of Haitians in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere continue to decline despite free elections, Canadian troops are charged with keeping the island nation peaceful. It’s a task that is proving more and more difficult as Haiti suffers a crime wave and violent political unrest. 

While American president Bill Clinton tries to snatch another victory from a grumpy U.S. electorate, his advisors are desperately trying to keep the lid on his foreign policy “victories” in Bosnia and Haiti. 

Things are so bad, Clinton sent his secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, and his national security advisor, Anthony Lake, to Haiti on August 30 in response to high-profile assassinations of right-wing leaders. 

“The administration are hoping, with fingers crossed, nothing will happen before November 5,” says Larry Birn of the Washington-based Centre for Hemispheric Affairs. “What the United States would like to do is cryogenically freeze all its foreign policy engagements so they don’t produce any problems. But we are losing very valuable time in Haiti because of Washington’s paralysis over negative developments occurring there. 

“Washington didn’t realize an economic success story had to be bred there in a couple of years. The USAID programme is a scandal waiting for an investigation.”

There is also another election-year factor: Republicans are not fond of anything that whiffs of a humanitarian approach to Haiti. Since they dominate Congress, this is also Clinton’s problem. 

Given the history of American support for dictatorships in Haiti, the Clinton administration has chosen a low-key approach. After the 1994 invasion, the Americans pulled out the vast majority of their troops within a year, handing over responsibility for internal security to a UN peacekeeping force. But the U.S. never fully cut itself off from interfering in Haiti, keeping a military base operating in the country’s only industrial park in Port-au-Prince. 

And Canada is key to U.S. plans because of that sour legacy. Canadians are seen as free from the burden of colonialism, and as a plus, our 700 mostly French-speaking troops can communicate better with the local population. 

This policy has gone as far as hiring a Canadian public relations company to promote structural adjustment programmes that are conditional upon Haiti receiving any foreign aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both based in Washington. 

Gilles Morin is co-ordinating manager for Montreal firm Gervais-Gagnon-Covington Associates, who won the contract. Morin says, while his company did win the contract, like many other things to do with Haiti, they have heard nothing since Fall 1995 because of disorganization.  

“On a personal basis there was a strong anti-American feeling among the population because of the past,” says Morin. “A lot of the financial institutions are based in Washington and they needed international support because banks in Washington are seen as American.”

But there is a risk that a switch in U.S. priorities during the heat of an election will endanger Canadian troops.

“If the president feels he has political risk in Haiti, he’s not going to take Canadian concerns into consideration,” warns Birns. “The UN mission gets caught up in the wake of U.S. efforts and it’s not able to define an independent course. Right now, the problem really is the USAID mission in Haiti is a total failure. The international donor function, you couldn’t exaggerate how disappointing it’s been in terms of almost no relief. The unemployment rate of 80 per cent is exactly what the unemployment rate was when the UN arrived.”

On August 28, American troops from the 82nd Airborne plopped down on the streets of Port-au-Prince to spend a week patrolling. Many observers questioned the motives for this intervention. Was it to say to Haitians the UN isn’t the real deal, and if they get out of line, the Americans will kick their butts? Why doesn’t Canada protest the U.S. undermining the credibility of our peacekeeping mission?

To Birn, sending in the 82nd was the foreign-policy equivalent of fast-food. “Sending in the 82nd Airborne merely aimed at getting a one-day headline,” he says. “The administration’s position has been staked on the fact there has been a number of foreign policy wins. But each of these victories is held together by corn starch and could unravel at any moment.”

Birn sees an escalation in political violence just around the corner. He fears the current economic crisis will help the formation of a violent left-wing guerrilla movement to rival existing right-wing paramilitaries. 

“Without former president Jean Bertrand Aristide,” he explains, “there is growing apprehension that president Rene Preval will not be able to project a sufficient leadership to keep the average Haitian, who is sacrificing with no expectation of an improved standard of living, happy.”

While it has been almost two years since Haiti was the media’s darling, observers point out the cycle of violence has returned to the country’s streets despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and American troops. 

When id reported from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince in July (id July 11 to 24, Number 18), it was obvious no progress had been made to improve the standard of living or rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure. 

In an ironic twist, attempts to step up deportations of Haitian-Americans convicted of crimes in the U.S. has led to an increase in killings in Haiti according to the October 22 issue of New York weekly, The Village Voice

More and more, the UN troops are propping up an increasingly unpopular government. A government that is seen by many Haitians to be getting its orders from Washington, not Port-au-Prince. Canadian troops lead the UN mission in Haiti and make up 700 of the 1500 soldiers stationed there (the rest are from Pakistan and Bangladesh).

There is a serious danger Canadian troops will be caught in the crossfire of any uprising or coup attempt, since Canadian troops shadow president Rene Preval 24 hours a day and also guard the National Palace, which was attacked August 20, killing two Haitians.

“U.S. Elections Update: Clinton is using Canada to control Haiti”.

Read a 1996 report on the UN mission in Haiti here: State Of Decay: Haiti Turns To Free-Market Economics And The UN To Save Itself 

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Aid Organization Gives Overseas Hungry Diet Food: Diet Giant Slim-Fast Gets Tax Write-Off For Donating Products

By David South

Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), December 2-8, 1993

Doling out diet supplements to recipients of food aid may sound bizarre, but that’s what US diet giant Slim-Fast has been doing.

The company’s cans of powder have been distributed to the conflict-ridden former Soviet republic of Georgia and other parts of the collapsed Soviet Union by the aid agency Americares.

Critics say Slim-Fast is far from appropriate and is, at best, in bad taste. New York-based food-aid critic and writer Michael Maren says such contributions are simply the result of agencies being used as dumping grounds for tax write-offs.

As an example, he cites Somalia, where he recenly spent time researching an upcoming book critical of aid programs. Pharmaceutical firms, he charges, are dumping unnecessary drugs in that country.

“If you want to help people, give them what they need, not the crap we have around here. That a so-called aid agency would bring over Slim-Fast is absurd.

“The attitude that they should take any shit we give them – it’s arrogance,” says Maren, who believes many donors have a beggars-can’t-be-choosers attitude to people in need of help.

At Slim-Fast’s corporate headquarters in New York, Adena Pruzansky acknowledges that the donations are tax write-offs, but insists that their product is very nutritious. No one, she says, has complained about their contribution.

Powdered cure

“If you look at our powdered products, there is a lot of nutrition in there. Certainly for people who don’t have food, this is something that could be useful to them.”

A spokesperson for Connecticut-based Americares, which directs surpluses donated by 1,100 firms to relief operations in 80 countries, praises Slim-Fast.

“They are a fine group of humanitarians,” says Elizabeth Close.

“Americares was just written up in Money magazine as the most cost-effective nonprofit agency,” she says of the organization, whose donations consist of overstocked, discontinued or obsolete items.

“We only accept a product for donation when we know we have a home for it. So we are not giving something inappropriate,” she says.

Close provides no details, however, about Slim-Fast’s participation. “Without their permission, I’m not really supposed to go into any further description of what they donated,” she says.

But those who see the devastating effects of eating disorders on women say Americares exercises poor judgement when it accepts such diet supplements.

“I think it’s quite bizarre,” says Merryl Bear of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. “Many of these diet plans are starvation diets. In many of the diets, the caloric intake is less than or equivalent to what the Nazi concentration camps delivered.”

Slim-Fast’s chocolate drink powder, for instance, is made of skim milk powder, sugar, whey powder, cocoa, fibre, calcium caseinate, corn oil, fructose, lecithin, salt and carrageenan. It relies on mixing with milk to gets its nutrition.

Lynne Martin of the Toronto Hospital’s eating disorder clinic says Americares is encouraging dieting among starving people who need calories first.

“Women need a minimum of 1,800 to 2,100 calories per day – to meet that requirement with Slim-Fast, you would need eight glasses per day,” she says.

Low calories

Martin say the low calories available in the supplement become even lower if recipients don’t have access to milk and try to mix it with water.

“The protein level isn’t given without the milk, so you don’t know how much is in the powder, but certainly the calories would change if one were to mix it with water.”

At food relief agency CARE in Ottawa, program officer Ivan Connoir says what “the hungry need isn’t Slim-Fast but what is called a human daily ration (HDR).

“It is prepared in the United States especially for emergencies. It has no pork, so it can go to any country,” he says. “It is a kind of lentil stew and vegetable soup – just add water and it’s ready to eat. You even find bread in it. It can last for years.

“Of course the best thing is family food parcels that last one month.”

Now Magazine
Now Magazine (Toronto, Canada), December 2-8, 1993.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Pulling The Plug On Hate Rock | 1996

Publisher: Id Magazine

Date: June 13 to June 26 1996

Features Editor: David South

Investigative Reporter: Jayson MacLean

Cover: Gareth Lind

Illustrations: Charles George

White Noise: Musical Hatemongers Target the Mainstream

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2017 

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Redneck Renaissance: A Coterie Of Journalists Turn Cracker Culture Into A Leisure Lifestyle

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), August 22 to September 4, 1996 

What happens when rednecks pick up a lesson or two from the world of identity politics? Mostly ridiculed by smug urbanites, or just plain ignored by the general population at large as cultural fads come and go, angry rednecks are standing tall in these conservative times. 

Part Mark Twain-like satire, reverence and condescension, a cottage industry promoting the southern American redneck lifestyle is starting to resemble past struggles for cultural pride. 

Just think of the gay rights movement in the 70s and 80s, which turned the derogatory word queer into a touchstone of homosexual pride. 

In the 90s, dismissing rednecks as a bunch of dumb crackers can not only ensure free dental work in many an American bar, it can also be seen as an affront to white American values. But while some want to stereotype this culture as the heart and soul of white working-class American ideals, it is hard not to be disturbed by this phenomenon. Can God, beer, the American Constitution and guns weave together a stable lifestyle? 

Author, radio personality and Redneck Olympics MC Bo Whaley was interviewed in a phone booth across from the bomb site at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic park. During the interview Bo was kicked out of the phone booth by Atlanta police for talking too long. He picked up the interview from a truckstop near Dublin, Georgia. 

id: What is a redneck? 

Bo: A redneck to me is a lifestyle, that’s what it is. I relate rednecks to people who work hard, men of the soil. They look for the common things in life. They enjoy the outdoors, enjoy hunting and fishing. They aren’t too interested in status or setting the world on fire. They like to do their own thing. Real close to being what we call a good ole boy. They enjoy life – they work hard and they party hard. 

There is nothing put on by them. They are down to earth. I really enjoy them, they are on the level. If you ask them a question they will tell you the truth. They aren’t trying to impress anybody, just trying to be themselves. 

Go to the local bar and they are listening to the juke-box, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. We can make fun of ourselves down here, we enjoy it. We laugh at ourselves. Poke a lot of fun. I’m having fun with people who live on farms, live in small towns. Like to hunt, like to fish. They drink beer. I have lived in the south for 24 years. I try to look at people and write what I see. I also wrote The Field Guide to Southern Women

id: I heard the Redneck Olympics didn’t go down so well with the city council. 

The chamber of commerce was concerned about the image. We attract a lot of industry to the town, they were afraid what was going out was a negative image of the lifestyle that is going on in Dublin. 

We didn’t know it was going to catch on like it did. At the opening ceremony we were expecting maybe 250 maybe 350 people – and we had 4,000! The national and international media has got into it. 

id: Are rednecks all right-wing? 

On the right of the political spectrum, yeah. Happy with Newt Gingrich. I don’t think we take politics as seriously as up north. (Former U.S. president) Jimmy Carter is not very popular with the rural people here in Georgia. Well, I think when he went to Washington his values changed. I can name many, many people including me, who don’t like him. Right now I’m five minutes from the Carter Centre in Atlanta. I’ve never been to it. Not really interested in what Carter is doing. 

He is trying to solve all the problems of the world. He looks at himself as more of a missionary than an ex-president. He goes to Haiti, he goes to South Africa, Bosnia. He calls these peace conferences and by-passes the established government in the United States to try to do his own thing. It’s a self-serving thing. 

id: What do you think about the militia movement? 

I do not agree with them. Right now I’m standing across from Olympic park where they had the bomb go off. People that I talked to have no sympathy for the militia, they say let the established investigators handle it and they don’t have any use for (the militia) at all. 

id: Do you think the militias are a symbol of the frustration a lot of rednecks are feeling? 

I agree. But they do a lot more talking than they do acting. 

id: Why do they distrust the federal government and imagine black helicopters are helping the U.N. to set up a totalitarian state? 

I think what they feel is that they know more about handling a situation than the government does and they want to do it on their own. I don’t agree with that. The government’s not perfect here nor in Canada. As long as it is the government I’m going to support it. I was not a Clinton fan but once he was elected he became my president. I have to support him until he gets out. But I don’t support everything he does. 

id: Is the redneck style locked in the 70s? 

The redneck symbol is more popular than it has ever been. A lot of people in offices in stuffed shirts and ties who would love to get out and live this way but they can’t do it on account of losing their jobs. They like to get in a jeep or ride on a motorcycle and say “whee” and to the heck with it. Everybody in the world needs some quiet time, time to yourself to do what you want to do. 

id: Do you think rednecks are in danger of extinction in the age of the Internet? 

They are on the increase. They don’t know about high-tech stuff. They haven’t even got into electric typewriter yet – they are still on manual typewriter. 

id: Do they have any heroes or heroines? 

They are beer people, and if they have any drug they smoke marijuana. 

id: I mean heroes. 

Many are country music fans, like Garth Brooks and Hank Williams Jr. They are big on country music. Female rednecks admire shows like Designing Women

Oh lord, they love T-shirts. The T-shirts say “Opry land,” “Dollywood,” “Get your heart in America or get your ass out.” They don’t like plain T-shirts. 

id: Can you give an estimate of the number of rednecks in the U.S.? 

I travel more in the South Eastern states. In my hometown, in my home county, there are 37,000 people. Most of the people there, I’d say 75 per cent are working people, they either farm or work in factories. Out of those people, I’d say 20 to 25 per cent fall in the category of what I call redneck – they work hard all day and they play hard all night. Nationwide, I have no idea. I can tell you towns that have a lot of rednecks. Chattanooga, Tennessee – lot of rednecks. Columbus, Georgia, it’s a military town. In Montgomery, Alabama they work real hard at being rednecks. 

id: Is there a problem with blurring rednecks with more negative elements like the Ku Klux Klan? 

No, I really don’t see that. Most of the people I know can’t stand the Klan. They give country people a bad name. 

id: Some guy at the Redneck Olympics had a Klan T-shirt on. 

I’m not surprised by that. The main thing you are going to see them wearing if they have anything to do with a symbol of patriotism is a Confederate flag saying “God bless America” and “God bless the South.” 

id: What about the rebel flag? 

They do not want to give it up. There is some legislator in Atlanta who is trying to ban it, and this has to do with trying to appease a faction for their votes. But you get out into rural Georgia, rural Alabama, they want to keep that flag. To be truthful it has a lot to do with the civil rights movement.

id: That it means it’s an affront to the civil rights movement? 

Yeah. 

id: Are there yuppie rednecks? 

I know a neuro-surgeon living in Birmingham, Alabama, I met him through his wife while I was signing books. She came up and said “I’ve got to have one of those Redneck Handbooks,” and I said “Why?” She said, “Because my husband is a neuro-surgeon and he’s from Arkansas and all day long on in his office he’s got his blue buttoned-down shirt, his navy blue suit and his spit shine shoes and driving his Mercedes. When he gets home in the afternoon he puts on his blue jeans, and denim shirt gets the pick-up truck, the dog gets in back and he starts riding in the woods.” He’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type. I see a lot of that. They kind of let their hair down. It’s a release for them. 

id: Do you see the redneck lifestyle as a different kind of leisure lifestyle, a more working-class leisure lifestyle? 

I think so, David. They put on ragged jeans, say to the world “I am a redneck.” 

What they like to do is go fishing. They will go to the coast and go deep sea fishing. Especially they like to go to stock car races. Big stock car fans. The faster that car goes the better they like it, and the more wrecks they have the better they like it. 

© David South Consulting 2021