Citizens welcome firefight U.S. INTERVENTION IN HAITI

September 26, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The news traveled by radio and television and word of mouth.

The body count from the northern city of Cap-Haitien rose. The story of how the U.S. Marines killed 10 Haitians in a firefight became fully focused. And by sunset last night, tens of thousands of Haitian citizens circled the airport, chanting, cheering and waving.

They were overjoyed.

"The Haitian military that was killed deserved to die," said Jean Monsapa, 26. "They are criminals. They are murderers. They don't want democracy in Haiti. We are very happy over what happened. We feel we have been saved."

In a tumultuous demonstration that snaked around the airport for hours, Haitians honked horns, waved fists, sang songs and waved wildly at bewildered U.S. soldiers, kicking up dust and joy.

"I never thought I would see this," said DeSmite Pierre, a 74-year-old woman with thick glasses, four missing front teeth and a tattered dress. "All of our lives are insecure because of those military people. They asked for it. Whenever someone asks for it, they get it."

Meanwhile, inside the air-conditioned terminal, the soldiers from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division tried to comprehend the demonstration and come to grips with the first casualties of Operation Uphold Democracy.

"I think it's great," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Rovnan, 26, of Philadelphia. "The Haitians tried to get stupid, and the Marines knocked them right back in their place."

Sergeant Rovnan was among those who said that, in retrospect, it might have been better for the United States to have invaded Haiti by force to quickly rid the country of the military and police. He recalled that in Somalia the Americans soon found themselves caught in the middle of warfare between rival clans.

"If we had come in here as an invading force, those police and military would have been the people opposing us," he said. "Coming in full-power, we wouldn't have had to risk them attacking us later on."

Second Lt. Mark Manns, 23, of Erie, Pa., said a full invasion would have helped Haiti in the long run.

"I would have preferred an invasion that would have dismantled the police and military force," he said. "That way, you could start everything from the ground up."

But Teddy Simmons, 38, of Key West, Fla., said the peaceful invasion was really the way to go, all along.

"You've got some gung-ho people out there," he said. "But no bloodshed is better for me. I don't want to see people die."

Cpl. Andrew Galloway, 25, of Greenville, Tenn., agreed. "An invasion would have cost too many innocent lives," he said. "It's better this way."

The soldiers were not surprised by the first wave of casualties.

"I'm not toughened to the point where I don't have compassion for people," Chief Warrant Officer Dan Delamarten, 36, of Spring Arbor, Mich., said. "But these things happen. I won't lose any sleep over it."

The chief warrant officer was also dismayed by the treatment given to Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, who arrived at the airfield in a chauffeur-driven limousine before he flew off to Cap-Haitien.

"Don't you think he's getting a good bargain?" Warrant Officer Delamarten asked. "I guess it's part of the game. The guy will probably write a book. Or maybe they'll make a movie about him. But I guess you've got to do those kinds of things to come to an agreement, to make it as peaceful as possible. But it's still a pretty hard pill to swallow."

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