Quantcast

Web Letters | The Nation

Your piece inspired me to write the French ambassador.

Your piece inspired me to write the French ambassador:

Esteemed Ambassador Vimont,

In light of the tremendous need in Haiti for reconstruction funds after the worst disaster in modern world history, it seems that now would be an ideal time for France to recognize its historic obligation to Haiti. In an earlier era, before human rights were universally valued, when racism, slavery, and colonialism were the norm, the predecessors of the modern French state extracted a crushing tribute from Haiti as the price for her people's legitimate liberation from enslavement. Although these events may seem distant in the past, any student of capital will understand that wealth is created exponentially from existing wealth, and that while modern France enjoys the legacy of the wealth it received from Haiti multiplied many times over, Haiti's early indebtedness put it on a trajectory of continued poverty. Only in 1947, after over a century of Haitians' dedicating the vast majority of their productivity to paying the illegitimate debt, could Haiti start from zero.

According to research, the cumulative wealth that Haiti lost by acquiescing to the demands of 19th century France totals around US$22 billion. It is estimated that US$14 billion will be required merely to rebuild Haiti back to its miserable pre-earthquake conditions. A commitment by France to spend $22 billion over the next decade to bring its former colony out of misery would right a historic wrong and restore full humanity to the Haitian people. While no one can compel modern France to pay back $22 billion to powerless Haiti, the focus on that country since the quake has alerted the world to the original injustice that contributed to Haiti's standing as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and has imprinted in the world's opinion the principle that France owes a tremendous debt to Haiti. I urge the government of France to recognize and pay back its legitimate debt to the Haitian people at this time.

Phillip Fujiyoshi

Davis, CA

Feb 20 2010 - 7:11pm

Web Letter

The author makes a good point, but it's incomplete.

Yes, we can help Haiti now. The challenge is that even if the West cancels foreign debt, reconstruct the country and gives seed money for a new beginning, in thirty years Haiti will probably be back where they were before the earthquake because of corruption and mismanagement.

The West has historical and current responsibilities, but that does not absolve Haitians from being more socially and fiscally responsible.

The point is that love and compassion also require self-responsibility and wisdom.

To discuss only what the West owes Haiti, no matter how valid that point may be, does not empower Haitians.

Chris Alexander

Los Angeles, CA

Feb 16 2010 - 4:39pm

Web Letter

You mentioned US occupation in the initial list of reasons Haiti is owed a debt, but never expanded on that. Why?

Tim Saylor

Chicago, IL

Feb 16 2010 - 10:43am

Web Letter

From the introduction to Naomi Klein's article, I thought she was going to detail four ways in which the "developed" world owes Haiti. She only laid out three. Is this an editorial mistake?

Alex Greenberg

Durham, NC

Feb 16 2010 - 10:26am

Web Letter

Unless the rich acknowledge how the poor have been subsidizing their lifestyles in so many ways, rebuilding will always be incomplete, temporary and ultimately unavailing.

Bobbie Sta. Maria

Quezon City, Philippines

Feb 16 2010 - 2:20am

Web Letter

Perhaps the author didn't find it appropriate to their perspective and omitted just exactly what occurred during the United States occupation from 1915-1956? After all, "occupation" garners so much more guilt and a sense of indebtedness when you don't include facts like:

§ Infrastructure improvements: 1,700 km of roads were made usable; 189 bridges were built; many irrigation canals were rehabilitated.

§ Hospitals, schools and public buildings were constructed, and drinking water was brought to the main cities.

§ Sisal was introduced to Haiti, and sugar and cotton became significant exports once again.

These aforementioned items were funded by the US government after a multinational force landed in Haiti to protect them from themselves in 1914. The US has federally donated more than $2 billion in aid since 1990 to the country of Haiti.

I'd say we are continuing to do more than our federal fair share towards assisting the country of Haiti.

Russ Johnson

Columbus, OH

Feb 15 2010 - 11:54pm

Web Letter

Haiti was founded on principles of democracy and equality more modern, progressive and human than those of our white, male, slaveowning founding fathers.

Ethan Heitner

Brooklyn, NY

Feb 15 2010 - 10:54pm

Web Letter

Please leave Haiti alone. Why does the West want to torture honorable but simple people who have never been able to establish a society that meets Western standards? By all means, donate to help Haitians in this desperate time. Find a cost-effective charity at Charity Navigator, such as Catholic Relief Services. But do not expect this neolithic tribe to read or apply The Fedealist Papers.

jane glass

Agawam, MA

Feb 15 2010 - 2:07pm

Web Letter

Rather than belng allowed to "slide," Haiti needs to face up to the need to drastically reform its incredibly corrupt and dysfunctional society.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Feb 14 2010 - 10:23pm