Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Haiti Probably Wishes it Had Oil

The Haitian rebels may have stopped for the time being, as they wait to see if Aristide will step down, but prospects look bleak for the Haitian people either way. Aristide has many opponents both within and without of his government and international observers noted voting irregularities in the 2000 elections. Popular sentiment has definitely assisted the rebels because they captured Haiti's second largest city Cap-Haitien with only a few thousand troops.

This is making things very difficult for the Haitian police force. They aren't equipped to handle armed rebels and no countries have stepped forward to assist in thwarting the insurgent movement led by Guy Philippe.

The United States has refused to send in any troops until a political entente was reached. This is sort of like a reverse Iraq War, because that involved the US sending troops into a country who's leadership and people didn't want them to invade and now they are keeping troops on the ground until a political entente is reached (ie. a provisional government that will draft a constitution, provided it doesn't base itself on Sharia law).

If Haiti had oil, would the US be more interested in lending a battalion? According to the CIA World Factbook, Haiti has no oil reserves. They aren't sitting on any Texas tea, unlike faraway Iraq. Of course, we went into Iraq to promote democracy, right? And when we sent troops to guard the oil wells and pipelines but ignored guarding the museums and schools, that was also a democratic decision made by the highest levels of the American government.

For now, Haiti will wait for someone brave enough to protect the innocent. I admit that I was caught on the wrong side of the fence a couple of weeks ago, misled by conflicting media reports that depicted Aristide as a monster. Upon further research, I discovered that much of the leadership of the insurgency was involved in human rights violations and previous coup attempts. Aristide and his thugs or Philippe and his thugs? Out of the frying pan and into the flames.

Canada is sending a squad of troops or so to secure our embassy and get out our nationals but we're not leaping to the defense of the Aristide government either. Then again, we don't spend $396.1 billion USD per year on our defense department, and we're already tied up with remnants of the Taliban in Kabul.

This is a perfect example of where the Peacekeepers of the United Nations should be sent. I hope that Kofi Annan sends in the troops, to prevent further bloodshed.

Ralph Nader and the Two-Party System

In two days, Ralph Nader is going to celebrate his 70th birthday. He will spend this occasion on the campaign trail because he is running for President of the United States. Since the Green Party hasn't decided yet whether they will field a national candidate, Nader will be running as an independent. In the 2000 election, he received 2.74 percent of the popular vote across America while his opponents from the two major parties got the other 97.26 percent. Democrats have beat up on Ralph, calling him a "spoiler" and blaming him for "stealing" crucial swing votes in Florida. They say that without Nader in the picture, Al Gore would be sitting in the Whitehouse right now and George W. Bush would be roping steers in Texas.

This view is overly simplistic and ignores many of the facts. According to the "Elect Nader" website, "...a Democratic exit poll showed that Ralph’s votes came 25% from Republicans, 38% from Democrats, and the rest were nonvoters who would have only voted for Ralph." Although some Democrats were obviously wooed by the Green Party, the large majority were either undecided voters or card-carrying Republicans disenchanted with the two-party chokehold on American politics.

Also, we cannot forget that the United States constitution makes no mention of political parties at all. The idea of two opposing mega-parties is a fairly modern idea and doesn't reflect the true spirit of democracy that the Founding Fathers would have held dear.

Ralph Nader isn't the antichrist, no matter what they tell you. America has always been for healthy competition because it enlivens the debate and allows us to choose what we think is best. Having a third party in the mix is a healthy thing for American politics.

Since there are millions of Americans that don't even vote, the Democrats should be focusing on convincing them to get involved. Howard Dean called on the Democratic Party to "enlarge the tent" and he had the right idea. With Dennis Kucinich promoting the Democratic cause, many of the leftist voters may decide not to back Nader this time. Ralph won't pose a threat to the Democrats unless they let him.

Besides, George W. Bush is painting himself into a corner on his own. His latest tactic (pandering to the Religious Right by banning gay marriage constitutionally) will only serve to galvanize opposition against him.

We cannot forget about the elderly and the large voting block that they represent. Alan Greenspan wants to cut their social security and to slash medicare so that he can pay for Bush's tax cuts from the past four years. Since most of the tax cuts impacted the wealthy, people approaching retirement who don't own the Texas Rangers should help to put Bush's furniture on the curb.

Sometimes, you have to listen for silence to get the whole story. The Republicans are holding their tongues because they feel that Nader will only help to sink the Democratic ship. They are obviously hoping that everyone focuses their fury on Ralph because this will gloss over the Bush Administration's record, a jaw-dropping series of gaffes and errors that will take years to correct. As long as Democrats are taking aim at a non-factor like Nader, the Republicans will sleep better at night.

Let's take the debate back to where it belongs instead of crucifying a marginal third-party candidate for his original sin.