PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- If the Rev. Jesse Jackso controlled U.S. foreign policy, he says he would leaflet the island of Haiti and offer the military government eight days to return power to the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide. If it refused, he would seriously consider military action.
"Haiti's military is not a formidable opponent," Mr. Jackson said during a weekend visit to this desperately poor country. "But I don't think it will come to that.
"If real pressure is applied, if the gas that is used by Haiti's military stops flowing, and the U.S. and the U.N. express their resolve unequivocally, then I think changes can be made without military intervention. The current [Haitian] government doesn't have legal or moral ground to stand on."
Mr. Jackson spent the weekend in Haiti on what he called a humanitarian and fact-finding mission. He planned to visit hospitals, churches, a mass grave site and a beach where waves of refugees have started their dangerous journey to the United States.
In several news conferences held during the first day of his visit, Mr. Jackson repeated his support for the restoration of democracy and the return of Father Aristide to the presidency.
Though the political turmoil in Haiti is complex, Mr. Jackson said, it is not nearly as complicated as the crises in the Persian Gulf, Somalia or Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"This could be the Clinton administration's first foreign policy victory," he said. "And we also have an obligation to go beyond restoring democracy and Father Aristide. We have an obligation to provide some basic aid because democracy without development, without education, without food and medicine is like inheriting the hole of a doughnut -- it's tasteless."
Mr. Jackson said Haiti's military, accused of ruthless violence against its own people, would quickly bow out of any confrontation with the United States. This army, he said, is strong only against people who have no weapons.
But yesterday in a meeting with the head of Haiti's military, Gen. Raoul Cedras, Mr. Jackson was more diplomatic and said that Father Aristide must also make it clear that once returned to power, he would actively forbid revenge against the military or its supporters.
"A major impediment to the restoration of democracy is fear," Mr. Jackson said. "The military fears retribution from Aristide's followers. They fear necklacing."
Necklacing is a form of killing in which a gasoline-filled tire is placed around a victim's shoulders and set aflame, burning the victim to death.
Signs of the fear Mr. Jackson referred to surfaced last night when officers arrested Antoine Izmery, a leading human rights advocate and the chief coordinator of Mr. Jackson's visit. Mr. Izmery was taken into custody on charges that he was driving without his license, a violation that rarely results in imprisonment. It was unclear last night when Mr. Izmery, whose brother was gunned down six months ago, would be released.
Mr. Jackson emerged from the meeting with General Cedras, which took place on the patio of an American diplomat, with no assurances that the military was ready to accept the return of Father Aristide. And a stern-faced General Cedras refused to answer questions.
Nevertheless, Mr. Jackson said he felt sure that the military leader is ready and willing to reopen dialogue with United Nations officials.