Caribbean Project: Benign Imperialism, US Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934

In 1920, a US marine whips a troop of Haitian soldiers into shape

In 1920, a US marine whips a troop of Haitian soldiers into shape

Haiti

At the suggestion of OD commentator Michael, I bought a copy of Philippe Gerard’s Haiti: The Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation, which is by far the most impressive book that I have read so far about Haiti’s national decline.

Here’s an excerpt about the US occupation of Haiti which includes some statistics about the infrastructure that was built under American supervision which are usually omitted in accounts by Laurent Dubois and other liberal historians:

“Highways jumped from 3 miles to 470 in 1918, in which year the road between the capitol and Cap-Haïtien reopened.”  (Philippe Gerard, Haiti: The Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation, p.86)

This should ring a bell.

In my review of Laurent Dubois’ Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, we learned that Haiti only had 37 km of railway in 1900 compared to 2,250 km of railway in Cuba and 300 km of railway in Jamaica. By 1900, Jamaica also had 6,000 km of all-weather roads compared to the 3 miles of highway in Haiti in 1915.

Even before the US occupation, recall that Haitians had fiercely resisted the construction of railroads. The unpopular use of corvée labor to build roads and infrastructure in Haiti would later provoke a guerilla war led by Charlemange Péralte.

Treaty officials could have easily used their prominent role to exploit Haiti economically, but they decided against it. American officials rejected investments by the Sinclair Oil corporation and the United Fruit Company because these U.S. companies expected economic concessions deemed too onerous for the Haitian government. U.S. authorities even refused to endorse special privileges that previous Haitian presidents had granted to the Haitian-American Sugar Company (HASCO), the largest U.S. investor in Haiti. So called American imperialists proved less submissive to the forces of international capital than their local predecessors.

Another innovation brought by the U.S. occupation was that absolute power, for once, served to benefit Haitians. Customs fees no longer financed revolutions and acquaintances of the president. Instead, they paid for public works and sanitation facilities, two of the five “treaty services” granted the United States under the 1915 treaty. Corruption had been so common among Haitian bureaucrats that it had become a standard prerequisite of public service (much like retirement benefits or health plan today); strict accounting virtually eliminated it. Political stability also strengthened Haitian credit abroad. When the public debt was consolidated in 1922, National City Bank floated it at a record 92.1 par and 7.9 percent yield on the assumption that the U.S. controlled treasury would pay back Haiti’s debts. The Haitian debt to the United States was repaid entirely ahead of schedule. Debt payments represented 80 percent of the Haitian budget before 1915, so the reduced load freed up funds for much-needed infrastructure projects.

The results were nothing short of spectacular. By the late 1920s, 210 bridges and 1,000 miles of all-weather roads crisscrossed Haiti. Ports were modernized, lighthouses introduced, and a weekly steamer stopped in Haiti on its way to Panama. Nine major airfields appeared, along with the first airplanes to fly in Haiti. In 1929, a clipper introduced the first regular air service from Haiti to Miami. Telephone lines, already existing but unusable because of poor maintenance, were repaired. A new presidential palace replaced the one that was blown up in 1912. The first radio station opened in 1926. The network of irrigation canals created by the French was renovated and expanded, which allowed renewed exports of cotton and sugar, along with a newcomer, sisal. An agricultural school opened. Running water and 11 modern hospitals considerably improved public health.

What was most damning to veteran Haitian politicians was that every single one of these projects was financed with Haitian taxes, not foreign aid. Americans only brought stability and technical expertise, proving that bad leadership, not lack of funds, had been the sole source of Haiti’s previous troubles.” (Philippe Gerard, Haiti: The Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation, pp.89-90)

What happened to the roads and bridges that were built by Americans?

“Unskilled Haitians inherited the infrastructures built by Americans and neglected to maintain them properly. Within two decades, most roads and bridges were a potholed mess impassible during the rainy season and accessible only with all-wheel drive vehicles the rest of the year. Dictator François Duvalier later sneered that “foreigners don’t know how to build roads in Haiti.” “Foreigners don’t know how to train Haitians to build and maintain their own roads” would have been more accurate.” (Philippe Gerard, Haiti: The Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation, p.95)

Like the garbage infested slums in Port-au-Prince and Kinshasa which look almost identical, we have seen here before that there was a similar decline in the infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

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  • Stephen E Dalton

    While it’s nice to know we improved things in Haiti without exploiting the natives, contrary to the liberal myth of the greedy, exploitive white man, Haiti will never improve until it shakes off the Voodoo cult. It is, IMO, the biggest thing that keeps this nation from making any progress. Read Isaiah Oke’s “Blood Secrets” about JuJu African parent of Voodoo to understand why.

  • DixieGirl

    Today’s “americans” could not do that, not now. So it is really as much a commentary on the demographic changes done to the u.s. by instruments s/a Hart-Celler, as it is a commentary on Haiti. Now some say we just continuously bomb and rebuild the same overseas sites, (lol).

  • Micheal

    Glad to see you liked the book, Hunter. It impressed me to, both for the facts it contained as the tone of the author. Not very apologetic.

    By the way, I assume you are familiar with the documentary ‘Ghosts of the Cité Soleil’ which was made a couple of years ago. It´s about a notorious (even by Haititan standards) slum. For the benefit of those who haven´t seen it, it´s available here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW5FdyL7Lbo

  • Mosin Nagant

    Someone might take from this article that THE MISSING KEY INGREDIENT IS GOOD GOVERNANCE — that can make any non-white population, even a 100% Black population ‘prosper’ and ‘create immense wealth’ as well as any 100% white population could do (maybe even better from the point of view of the Elite, since whites are too intelligent and independent-minded to take strict direction) — and isn’t that just what ‘They’ are counting on, as they mix and blend and darken the population of North American and Europe?

    Re: ‘Haiti will never improve until it shakes off the Voodoo’:

    Improvement requires strict direction by Jesuits, then?

  • Stephen E Dalton

    Mosin, your paranoid obsession with Jesuits is amazing beyond words. You never offer anything constructive. All you do is criticize everybody else who is trying to do something in the real world. If you can’t come up with workable solutions to advance our cause, you really have no business being here. Start your own blog were you can bitch to your hearts delight about your idiotic obsessions, so the rest of us can get on with fighting for our kith and kin.

  • Mosin Nagant

    Once again you suggest censorship or removal of any who call attention to your subtle propaganda effort on this blog, and other blogs. But thanks to the ongoing Latin invasion, the blue ‘stain of death’ on the first map here http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/12/religion-in-americas-states-and-counties-in-6-maps/ is already overwhelming and destroying our indigenous white population enough that YOUR added assistance is not really required.

    Re: ‘If you can’t come up with workable solutions to advance our cause, you really have no business being here’:

    The only solutions that your ‘Mainstreaming’ movement will consider are those that ignore and distract everyone from the real enemies, and do NOTHING to advance the right cause.

  • Stephen E Dalton

    Mosin, old boy, you’re totally out of touch with reality. “Subtle propaganda efforts?” Oh foo, I’m as “subtle” as a brick thrown through a window! “Censorship?’ I think anyone like you constantly demeans the good works and words of Ryan, Wallace, and others, and who never offers any constructive ideas of his own, should be told to STHU, and told to go elsewhere.

    The “real enemies” we have are the members of the liberal establishment that originated in New England. Your “real enemies” are merely people who are used as associates of that group of people in achieving their goals. Without their support, your “real enemies” would be dead in the water, with no power.

    Your bitching about the Latin’s is your prejudice at it’s worst. It was the same establishment that let them, and the other Non-Christian, Non-European minorities come in in the first place. Yep, Mosin, the real enemy is that species of white called Yankee.

  • Mosin Nagant

    Re: ‘Your “real enemies” are merely people who are used as associates of that group of people in achieving their goals’:

    Yes, according to your Mainstreaming ‘WN’ theory, White Anglo Saxon Protestants from north of the Line are the REAL real enemies, and Talmudists are merely some of the tools used by the evil White Anglo Saxon Protestants (‘Yankees’) to achieve their evil goals!

    ‘Your bitching about the Latins is your prejudice at it’s worst’:

    It’s not bigotry at all, but commonsensical, to observe that this land CANNOT belong to BOTH White Northwest European Freemen AND to your people and their ‘Latin’ and darker allies and slaves — and that one side or the other will finally prevail.

    ‘anyone like you constantly demeans the good works and words of Ryan, Wallace, and others, and who never offers any constructive ideas of his own, should be told to STHU’:

    The only ‘constructive solution’ you offer is to ban/silence anyone who disagrees with the Mainstreaming ‘WN’ thesis, and who exposes the nature of your influence.