Televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson blamed the earthquake on a pact the Haitians made with Satan in the 1790s. He also used their alleged alliance with The Devil of Hell to explain Haiti's multigenerational poverty and the "one thing after another" that has afflicted the country since Haitians overthrew their French slave masters. Blaming the victims right after a major disaster is nothing new for Robertson. He did the same thing after September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. But the statement on Haiti is especially evil, because not only does it wag the finger at the bleeding and dying victims, but it also tries to erase historical facts that are uncomfortable for conservatives. They are facts that might otherwise stir an even greater sense of responsibility for us to reach out and help our neighbors in Haiti. They are facts that might make us realize the causes of Haiti's sad history are neither peculiar to Haiti nor confined to history.
According to Robertson, Haiti's poverty is chiefly the result of a deal with Satan.
Never mind that for 300 years, Haiti was a slave colony of European empires--first Spain, then France. (That can't have anything to do with why they're poor, can it?)
Never mind that Haitians staged the world's first successful slave revolution in 1804 to overthrow their French masters and win independence. (Don't give them credit for that; give credit to Satan, just like the slave masters did.)
Never mind the crushing economic embargoes by the U.S. and France that followed Haitian independence. (The U.S. wanted Haiti to crumble so its own slaves wouldn't get any ideas.)
Never mind that France later forced Haiti to reimburse them for all those freed slaves.
Never mind that to pay "reparations" for freeing themselves, Haitians had to take out massive loans from U.S. and French banks--$20 billion in today's dollars.
Never mind that the U.S. occupied and ruled Haiti for two decades by force and for several more decades by propping up right-wing "anti-communist" dictators.
Never mind that U.S. and international financial institutions devastated Haitian agriculture by forcing the country to open up to unrestricted U.S. imports of sugar and rice.
Never mind the U.S.-sponsored coups against elected governments. (Come on, that happened everywhere!)
Never mind any of the stuff that actually--you know--happened. Because all of Haiti's problems go back to that damned deal with the devil in the 1790s. Or so Pat Robertson would have us believe.
It's fair to say that since Columbus first stepped foot on Hispaniola, the most powerful nations in the world have focused like lasers on extracting as much wealth as possible from Haiti. Over time, as Haitians organized and resisted, the colonial tactics changed. The tools of wealth extraction shifted from sugar plantations and slave drivers' whips to high-interest loans from international banks and "economic austerity" programs pushed by the World Bank. But all along the way, an independent, democratic, self-sustaining Haiti has been the enemy. It's a lot harder to suck wealth out of a country like that.
Anyway, Pat Robertson probably has a few screws loose. If he didn't still have a million daily TV viewers, there'd be no point in talking about him. The point is, the political movement he is a part of and the world view he preaches benefit dearly by dismissing Haiti's real history and replacing it with cartoon-like hocus pocus.
More to follow on other quite revealing American conservative reactions to the crisis in Haiti.