Even after an officer from the international police force secured the criss-cross seatbelt around me, I didn’t feel safe. We were talking a helicopter to a town in the north of Haiti that I’d managed never to visit, although I’d been coming to Haiti, and sometimes living here, for eight years, and had been almost everywhere that was even remotely accessible. The roads were nearly impassable from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s captial, to where we were going that morning, and, as far as I knew, the little town that was our destination had nothing much to recommend it. It was the stuff in between that I wanted to see.
It was late October 1994. Ray Kelly was my guide on this jaunt to the north. The former New York City Police Commissioner had been deployed to help out with the latest U.S. military intervention in Haiti. Kelly was training a new police force in order to keep the Haitian Army in check and, ostensibly, to prevent them from once again overthrowing the elected president of the country, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the army had already tossed out once, and whom the United States had just returned to the presidential palace after three years in exile. The intervention to reimpose Aristide was called Operation Uphold Democracy. Offhand, I cannot recall another U.S. military deployment that performed regime change by reinstating an unseated leader, but Haiti is always singular, and so is America’s long, torrid relationship with it.
–by Amy WIlentz