For Rep. Mfume's stance on Haiti, take your choice

September 18, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- While some politicians stake out a position and defend it, other politicians stake out several positions so they never have to defend anything.

If there is an invasion of Haiti and it goes well, Kweisi Mfume will be able to say he was for it.

But if there is an invasion of Haiti and it goes poorly, Kweisi Mfume will be able to say he never was for it.

That's the advantage of being multi-faceted.

I have put together a list of Mfume's twists, turns, and leaps over the last 11 months:

Oct. 16, 1993: President Clinton, insisting there "are important American interests at stake," dispatches six U.S. warships toward Haiti in a move designed to force the collapse of the country's military government.

Mfume says: "I believe the president is prudent and wise in his decision and is acting responsibly."

Nov. 4, 1993: Mfume urges President Clinton "not to rule out any options" to restore deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. But Mfume also cautions that force shouldn't be used until "every avenue that's available is exhausted."

March 23, 1994: The Congressional Black Caucus sends a letter to Clinton saying that his policy toward Haiti is "ineffective, counterproductive and encourages the continued torture and murder of civilians."

According to the Associated Press: "Caucus Chairman Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., said Clinton cannot count on continued caucus support for his policies unless he moves more decisively to restore democracy. He noted opposition of the caucus could doom parts of the president's program."

May 5: "I think it's almost time to send in the military," Mfume says at a news conference. "There are not many things left to do."

May 21: "I certainly will wait and give these sanctions an opportunity to work, but I know the military there, being as dogmatic and as brutal as they are, will find a way to skirt round them," Mfume says. "I think military intervention has to be a last option. It ought to be the end of the course, but we are getting very close to running out of options, and part of the reason is that the president, in my estimation, has mishandled this whole situation for the past 16 months."

June 11: According to the Associated Press, Mfume says if sanctions fail, the only option left will be military invasion. Haiti "is not the world's greatest military power," Mfume says. "It is a ragtag band that has taken power, who rape, who maim. The only thing they understand is brute force."

July 8: Mfume holds a news conference to denounce the Clinton policy on Haiti as one of "anarchy" and says: "It also appears that with each new failure we move closer to direct military intervention. The worst kind of military intervention is the kind that was avoidable."

Mfume suggests the United States "look at surgical air strikes" in Haiti rather than an invasion because air strikes would "not put American life at risk."

Asked what targets he has in mind, Mfume replies: "Oh, I don't have any in mind."

Asked if he would support an invasion of Haiti by ground troops, Mfume says: "It would depend on the circumstances."

July 17: On "Meet the Press", Mfume says: "I've never advocated invasion of Haiti."

Asked what he wants the president to do, Mfume says: "I think he ought to begin today by being consistent."

Sept. 1: Mfume tells the New York Times "It [invasion] is no longer a question of whether or not it's inevitable. It's a larger question of whether or not we find ourselves with reasons as to why we should not invade."

Sept. 8: Mfume tells Sun reporter Michael Fletcher: "Apparently, all the public options have been played. Seemingly, we have crossed a threshold. But I don't want to say I'd be supportive of a military invasion until I have had a chance to be briefed so I'm convinced that all options have been expired."

Sept. 15: "Now that the president has made his decision," Mfume says, "members of Congress must put aside their partisanship and stand with our president."

So Mfume stands with our president. Apparently. Seemingly. Maybe. Sort of. For now.

But check back tomorrow. Because to Mfume a lot depends on whether the president stays consistent.

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