For the record, my case for the restoration of Aristide is not due to my belief that the man is flawless. I'm quite sure that he might have gone power-mad, or turned corrupt, just as I'm also quite sure that he might have remained an admirable character to the end of his time in power, trying to make the best of an impossible situation.
My case for the restoration of Aristide is partially based on the really indisputable fact that the regime we installed there immediately after the coup was far worse than his, but it's more due to the fact that Canada, France, and the United States have no business, absolutely no business whatsoever, financing and arming rebels against democratically elected governments. Especially ones that are relatively benign. Especially when we install ones that are relatively far worse.
One of the things I was told to look at to establish the irrelevant argument that Aristide wasn't perfect though, was the amount of money Aristide's government spent on the services of lawyer Ira Kurzban of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). The issue being: how can anyone justify the president of a desperately poor country paying enormous sums to one individual? One source I was told to check out was Michael Diebert. Well, I googled "Ira Kurzban" and "IJDH" and found an article by Michael Diebert, including the quote:
In a similar vein, when Mr. Kurzban writes that Haiti’s 2004-2006 interim government paid a U.S. law firm $250,000 a month retainer solely to bring against Aristide a civil suit that was ultimately dismissed, he errs in that the case was in fact withdrawn with an option to refile, not dismissed. When it comes to the subject of expenditures, Mr. Kurzban declines to reveal that, according to US Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings, his own law firm received an astonishing $4,648,964 from the Aristide government of behalf of its lobbying efforts alone between 2001 and 2004 , and that Mr. Kurzban still serves as Mr. Aristide’s attorney in the United States.
I don't know what planet Mr. Diebert lives on, but here on earth, while it seems extraordinary at first, four-and-a-half million dollars over 3 years for a US law firm's work providing lobbying for an entire country (that within the world's super-power, the governments of which have always had a hate-on for you) really isn't too surprising.
Contrast this with paying a law-firm $250,000 a month (which works out to one million dollars every four months, three million a year, passing Kurzban's entire bill in less than half the time) to pursue one case, one part of one vendetta against a single man, ... and you wonder why Diebert had the temerity to introduce the subject in the first place!
But who is this Michael Deibert anyway? I decided to do some looking and found this Znet Exchange between him and Justin Podur. I'd actually read this a couple of years ago, but had forgotten about it.
It's pretty obvious that Deibert knows a lot of details about Haiti. His arguments aren't very strong however. Two cases in point are 1.) His bizarre condemnation of Kurzban's $4.6 million bill for 3 years of general work for the government of Haiti, and his indifference to the $250,000 per month (which would $9 million charged for three years, on one case that was withdrawn), and 2.) His inability to see that it is senseless to justify the overthrow of Aristide for his crimes when Aristide was replaced by a government that was far worse by any comparison.
What else can we say about Deibert? Besides the fact that his mountain of details, gained from ten years' knowledge of Haitian politics appears to have overburdened his ability to reason? Well, this telling segment of Podur's final reply to Deibert gives one cause to wonder if those details of ten years' work that have so unhinged Deibert might even have been hallucinations:
Some of Deibert’s book is first-hand reporting, and as such is difficult for the reader to verify. I did have a rare opportunity to verify one of Deibert’s claims. I met Haitian activist Patrick Elie (who I found, from a brief interaction, to be a very courageous and brilliant individual) in Port au Prince in September 2005. When I saw him mentioned in Deibert’s book, I wrote to him (on January 2, 2006):
I am going through Deibert's book the second time today and reached the part where he describes you. It's page 285. December 3, 2002, at the memorial of journalist Brignol Lindor, he describes "chimere" who showed up and chanted for Aristide under the direction of Hermione Leonard."I stood on the steps and watched as journalists who had been honoring Lindor began to come out and the chimere advanced to the cathedral steps, flinging Aristide pictures at them, shrieking 'git mama w, blan' and about how they worked for 'colon blan'. As Michele Montas descended the stairs, one stood screaming 'Aristide a vie' about five feet away from her... Patrick Elie, the head of the Eko Vwa Jean Dominique organization that had strung those damning banners around Port au Prince on the second anniversary of Dominique's death, shook his head and looked disgusted."
Patrick replied immediately:
Justin, I never attended any religious ceremony for Lindor and have not set foot in the cathedral since February 7, 1991, the day of Aristide's first inauguration, when I was in charge of his security. Deibert sure has a creative writing style, which is a nice way to say that he is a goddamn liar.
Such a definitive reply from a subject of one of Deibert’s eyewitness tells us something about the credibility of his reporting. Most of Deibert’s replies to me rely on his reporting and his supposed decade of experience in Haiti. Some of his principal sources, like Labanye and Billy, are now dead or missing, and so, unlike Elie, can’t say whether he’s misrepresented them. Deibert presents himself as the voice of Haiti’s poor. I suppose one way of putting it is that he’s a voice of the voiceless. Another way of putting it is that he speaks about those who can’t defend themselves.