Posted by: r.m. | March 31, 2010

what does an apology mean?

A few days ago, at the Rural Poverty Workshop hosted by the Issam Fares Institute at the AUB, many of the participants there (myself included, naturally) raised the importance of contextualizing poverty, recognizing its regional and global causes. One question posed was that such contextualization may be ‘too political.’ We can use the case study of Haiti, I said, a country which has been changed from an exporter of rice to an importer of rice a country whose economy has been devastated, and such devastation cannot be separated from the economic structure imposed on Haiti. And, I continued, it would not be ‘too political’ to present this case study since a former US president himself has apologized for those economic policies.

From the excellent – left i on the news –

Nothing can be more irritating than belated, useless “apologies,” whether it’s Alan Greenspan “apologizing” for totally misunderstanding capitalism and helping to wreck the economy, or Colin Powell or many others “apologizing” for not making clear what they knew about the lies being told about Iraq at the time they were being told.

Latest in the long string of ruling class hacks apologizing for screwing up the world is Bill Clinton: Decades of inexpensive imports – especially rice from the U.S. – punctuated with abundant aid in various crises have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves.

While those policies have been criticized for years in aid worker circles, world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They’re led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton – now U.N. special envoy to Haiti – who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.

But of course he knew exactly what he was doing: “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake.”

And how’s this for the height of self-centeredness: “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.”

“Nobody else,” Bill? How about the starving people of Haiti? They not only had to “live” with the consequences of your actions, some of them had to die from the consequences.



  1. Who cares if Clinton will feel guilty? feeling guilty doesn’t prevent these people from dying or others from starving…. i just wonder if what happened is irreversible or there is anything that can be done so Haiti can again produce rice to export it…..?

  2. Sometimes apologies can fix a load of problems but in the examples used in the article and especially in the exanple about Bill Clinton and Haiti, apologies are meaningless since the harm is already done. What counts now is trying to come up with an applicable solution that can be put in motion as soon as possible to restore the rice production in Haiti.

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