Haiti In the lead book review in yesterday’s New York Times, Adam Hochschild reviewed Laurence Dubois’ Haiti: the Aftershocks of History. In 1804, after almost 15 years of horrific guerilla warfare against France, Britain, Spain and the new nation to its north, Haiti became the second republic in the New World – and the first black-led republic anywhere. Only the United States was older. Yet the comparisons end there. The U.S. embarked on a journey to become the richest and most powerful country in the world, while Haiti has remained the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, wracked by poverty and disease, ruled by a series of vicious dictators, victimized by its history of natural disasters. Hochschild’s reading of Dubois places the blame firmly on the conditions of Haiti’s birth: the long, terrible years of Caribbean slavery on the earth’s richest agricultural island, where thousands of slaves were worked literally to death; the destruction of an infrastructure on which to build a nation; and the continuous violence that prevented democracy from establishing itself on that fertile and bloody land. The review underscores the question of America’s role in the world, which has become a critical litmus test of today’s politics. Are we the beacon of freedom – our statue of liberty literally (or metaphorically for the growing number of nativists) welcoming those who seek a better life? Or is American imperialism a powerful force for evil – one that has supported Haiti’a most vicious dictators and put American corporate interests ahead of Haitian human rights? Increasingly, there seems no middle ground.