MARK DAVIS: Ira Kurzban thanks for joining us.
We’re hearing reports from sources close to Aristide that he’s been kidnapped and was forced out of the country, can you confirm any of that information?
IRA KURZBAN, PRESIDENT ARISTIDE’S ATTORNEY: Yes. In fact the president was kidnapped. The United States Government, I believe, organised a coup against the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, used force, used threats and intimidation against him, then brought in a group of marines to escort him to a plane, put him on that plane and for the next 15 hours clearly kidnapped him to the extent that they would not allow him to make a telephone call, they would not allow him to get out of the plane when the plane stopped, they would not tell him where he was, they would not tell him where they were going and they insisted that he keep the shades down in the plane so he would not know where he was landing at any time.
MARK DAVIS: But you would have heard Donald Rumsfeld specifically denying this accusation?
IRA KURZBAN: Well, I’d like to see Donald Rumsfeld put on a plane and told he couldn’t make a telephone call and nobody would tell him where he is and fly him halfway around the world for 15 hours and he would take the position that he wasn’t kidnapped. It sure sounds like kidnapping to me.
MARK DAVIS: Well, kidnapping’s an extremely serious charge, of course, and according to Aristide he claims that he was threatened by US diplomats that he’d be killed if he didn’t leave. Now is that a threat or is it just good advice given that the mob was gathering at the gates of the capital?
IRA KURZBAN: Well, first of all the question is who was that mob and how were they organised and who paid for organised and developed a paramilitary unit that entered Haiti about three weeks before?
The leader of that organisation is a gentleman named Jodel Chamblain. Chamblain has been an asset of the Defence Intelligence Agency of the United States and of the Central Intelligence Agency since 1993. So there’s a really serious question here of who organised this paramilitary force that came into the country?
They are using M-16s, the United States Defence Department has already admitted that some of the M-16s they were using were in fact M-16s that the United States had given to the Dominican military. There were secret operations in the Dominican Republic during the previous year in 2003 leading up to this paramilitary organisation crossing over from the Dominican border and those paramilitary training sessions went on in the Dominican Republic. So the question is who financed them, who directed them and we believe very strongly that the United States had a direct hand in it, particularly through its intelligence agencies.
So first, we see the wolf at the door, this organised paramilitary unit. The next thing that happens is the president’s own security says to him that they’ve been told that they have to leave the country, it’s an American security team, and then they tell the president that the other security that I was trying to obtain for the president has been blocked by the United States and then the next thing that happens, and this is all in, of course, a matter of hours, the United States Embassy officials show up and they tell Aristide that he’s going to be killed, his wife’s going to be killed, all his followers will be killed and that the United States intends to do absolutely nothing about it.
He is then told if he writes a letter of resignation that they will put him on a plane and get him out of the country. The stories that President Aristide approached the United States are just flat out lies by US Government officials. He never approached the United States in this matter. They directly approached him at the 11th hour in the middle of the night, no pictures were taken of any of this. The president never had an opportunity to say anything to the Haitian people before he left.
MARK DAVIS: Perhaps the central question is though why would America want to support this coup? What’s in it for them?
IRA KURZBAN: Oh, I think there’s three things in it for them. First of all the United States Department of Defence has always wanted the return of the Haitian military. You know the United States created the Haitian army when it first occupied Haiti between 1914 and 1937. So the first principle is let’s create the new army. Aristide is an obstacle to that because Aristide abolished the army in 1994 upon his return.
The second thing is Aristide is a political giant in that country. The United States could never have its way, could never elect any people they wanted to and the United States, through the International Republican Institute spent literally millions and millions of dollars in the 2000 election to come up with zeros, basically, in their efforts to try and elect an opposition to Aristide’s party. So they needed to get Aristide out of the way in order to have a level playing field.
And then the third thing, of course, is just ending old scores. The first coup against President Aristide, the first military coup was done under the first Bush Administration when Colin Powell was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, When Dick Cheney was the head of the Defence Department, when some of the same bad actors were involved at that time. Now we have the second Bush Administration and they’re basically trying to even the old scores because their first coup never went through as a result of President Aristide being brought back to the country in 1994.
MARK DAVIS: Have you been in recent communication with Aristide or his close associates and what’s he saying most recently?
IRA KURZBAN: Well, I was in communication with President Aristide on Saturday before this coup happened, and there was no indication when I spoke to him that he was leaving the country, that he’d made any plans to leave the country, that he’d even thought about it. In fact, in our conversation he said he intended to fight and to continue the fight. So there was certainly no indication that he was going to leave that evening and that, I think, adds a great deal of credibility to his claim that in fact he was coerced and kidnapped.
MARK DAVIS: What’s his condition there now? I mean, is he a prisoner as we’re hearing or is he not as the government is very firmly saying that he’s not?
IRA KURZBAN: Well, he’s not free to leave. He’s under guard by French soldiers and soldiers of the Central African Republic. He’s not free to go out and speak. He’s not free to hold any press conferences. He’s basically been kept in this palace or what they call a palace of the renaissance since he’s arrived in the capital city of the CAR. So I would say every indication is surely he is a prisoner. If you’re not free to leave I think by definition you’re a prisoner.
MARK DAVIS: Has he resigned in your opinion, or in his opinion, has he resigned?
IRA KURZBAN: Absolutely not. He was very clear about it. They put the maximum pressure on Aristide, in effect, put a gun to his head by saying “The wolf was at the door and your security can no longer protect you and we the United States will not protect you.” And if there’s any doubt by the way that this was a coup, let’s just look at what the United States said. They said, “We would not send in the marines until there was a political solution.” Today there’s no political solution, yet the minute that Aristide left and flew out of Port-au-Prince, the President of the United States gave the direction to the Department of Defence to ask the United Nations to have US troops land. So obviously the United States idea of a political solution to the situation was to have a coup against the democratically elected president and that’s what happened.
MARK DAVIS: Ira Kurzban thanks again for joining us.
IRA KURZBAN: Thank you very much.