Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve Bombing?

I am sitting outside typing and in the distance, I hear the ominous rapid sound of automatic weapon fire and several loud booms that sound like they're inflicting damage and pain. The sounds are bouncing up, likely, from Cité Soleil, the slum by the sea. Amidst the firing, the 3:20 pm American Airlines flight to Miami soars just overhead, having departed about 20 minutes late. A Haitian has told us that the gangs possess hand held missile launchers and have attempted to shoot down the jets, whose flight pattern takes them over Soleil. Who knows, but this sounds like an urban legend.

We’ve been hearing a lot of gunfire lately. Eddie, one of the hotel waiters, pooh poohs my concerns when I mention it to him, “It’s just MINUSTAH (the U.N. troops) and chimeres (the gangs) fighting with each other. Nothing to worry about.”

Earlier this week, a Canadian U.N. soldier was killed near Soleil. He was driving another soldier to the airport, when their SUV was ambushed. He was shot in the leg and bled to death. A handful of U.N. soldiers have been killed since the U.N. has been stationed in Haiti: some Jordanians and Sri Lankans, but no one with skin as white as a Canadian.

There will be reprisals, and they will be severe. In fact, it may be the reprisals I'm hearing. The very unfortunate thing about the shooting expeditions into Soleil is that innocent people, who are also terrorized by the gangs, will likely be killed. Unavoidable “collateral damage” says interim Prime Minister Gerard LaTortue, in a favorite phrase of warring presidents.

Many of the U.N troops aren't exactly professional soldiers. I heard a Canadian observer say that she thought the U.N.'s lack of response when they've witnessed kidnappings could be due to anti-American sentiment. The Jordanian troops might not be big fans of Americans.

Who knows? In Haiti, truth is an elusive animal.

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