Midweek update

Haiti, Gaza, and Senator Britt triples down

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It has been a hectic couple of weeks around here. Two of the big stories I’ve been covering have blown up into new crisis levels, and an unexpected third came along to dominate my (and, briefly, seemingly everyone else’s) time. Here’s a recap and a rundown on where things stand in Haiti, Gaza, and everyone’s favorite lying junior senator from Alabama.


As Racket readers were forewarned, Haiti’s de facto leader, Ariel Henry, resigned in humiliating fashion on March 12, after he was unable to return home. Henry, whose only shred of legitimacy was a 2021 press release from the ambassadors of the United States and its allies naming him as the country’s titular leader, had gone to Kenya in hopes of convincing the East African country’s government to dispatch a promised, U.S.-funded police contingent to provide him and his rump government with a modicum of security amid a roiling gang uprising.

The critical moment came in midair, when Henry got a message from the State Department, ordering him to appoint a new prime minister, form a transitional government, and resign. The government of the neighboring Dominican Republic, a pliant U.S. client state if there ever was one, refused to let Henry land there. He was diverted to Puerto Rico, where days later he announced his resignation. His current whereabouts are unknown, though in reality, they don’t matter much at this point. Talè, Anri.

Haiti’s current double-de-facto prime minister/president is Michel Boisvert, an economist who’d served as President Jovenel Moïse’s finance minister and managed to stick around following Moïse’s assassination and the shuffling that ended with Henry in the catbird seat. No one expects him to hold the position for long. The official (read: American) plan is for a transitional council drawn from various political parties and social sectors of Haiti, whose outlines were drawn up by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and representatives of various other Caribbean governments, to pick Haiti’s next leader, who would then be charged with holding new elections. (That was the idea behind appointing Henry, who didn’t manage to get there in three years.)

The requirements for getting a seat on the council are promising not to try to make yourself president, not being currently under sanctions or indictment (which disqualifies both the major paramilitary leaders in Port-au-Prince and former President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe). Members are also required to support the U.S. plan to send Kenyan police (or some other country’s troops, if Kenya keeps balking) to act as a praetorian guard.

That council announced itself into existence today, after eight of the nine parties announced their picks to sit on the council. The ninth, the party of perennial presidential contender Moïse Jean-Charles, refused to participate. Jean-Charles is allied with Guy Philippe, the paramilitary leader who led the armed charge that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004; he is presumably opposed to both foreign military intervention, sees himself (or possibly Philippe) as the ideal next leader, or both. My friends in Port-au-Prince tell me that life is currently operating under an uneasy calm, with a strategic truce between two of the major gang/paramilitary factions (Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier’s G9 Family and Jean Pierre “Ti” Gabriel’s G-Pèp), and everyone else waiting to see what this new U.S.-backed transitional council is going to do. Best of luck to all the contestants.


Meanwhile, the Biden administration is scrambling to figure out what to do about Israel’s war on Gaza. This follows the sudden epiphany on the part of senior Democrats that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a self-interested butcher whose only goal is not, in fact, rescuing hostages or achieving the imaginary two-state solution (note to Biden aides: read The Racket!), but rather keeping the war going as long as possible, and killing, displacing, and starving to death as many Palestinians as he can in the process. Over 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, over 73,000 injured. Over a million people in Gaza are already suffering from catastrophic hunger, with famine—the gravest possible designation—“imminent” in the strip’s two farthest north governates, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s statement that Netanyahu is, along with Hamas, one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East, prompted the expected freakout among Israeli leaders and their staunchest allies in the United States, who kept trying to outdo each other in degrees of hysteria. Mitch McConnell accused Schumer—one of the most adamant Zionists in American history—of “bowing to the anti-Israel radicals in the Democratic Party.” The Republican Jewish Coalition went for the Dolchstoßlegende, bellowing that “the most powerful Democrat in Congress knifed the Jewish state in the back.”

A demonstrator protests Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a rally calling for new elections and the release of hostages on March 16, 2024, in Tel Aviv. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The most hilarious reaction came from Elliott Abrams, who accused Schumer of trying to turn Israel into an “American colony” through “unconscionable interference in the internal politics of another democracy.” Abrams is best known for his role in illegally smuggling arms and money from Iran to the anti-democratic Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s, then lying about it to Congress. His other career highlights include aiding and defending the genocidal U.S. client dictatorships of Guatemala and El Salvador, selling the Iraq War and burying an Iranian peace proposal soon after the invasion, and backing multiple coups in Venezuela. He is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a full-time Israel booster, and a guest columnist for Tablet. He also is one of Biden’s nominees to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, pending Senate approval (that may never come).

Netanyahu on the other hand has effectively told Biden and Schumer to blow it out their assholes, reiterating in front of the Knesset yesterday that he still plans to launch a final offensive against Rafah, the last refuge of over a million Palestinians, despite Biden’s mealy-mouthed warnings against doing so. Afraid that Biden’s belated support for a ceasefire might be interpreted too strongly, the White House spent much of last week assuring reporters that Biden wasn’t drawing a red line, or saying anything, really. The White House is also floating “alternative” plans to a Rafah invasion, which according to Axios include evacuating civilians from Rafah back to Northern Gaza, and destroying tunnels from Rafah into Egypt. Netanyahu responded by saying Israel shares the U.S.’s desire to "facilitate an orderly exit of the population,” without saying where he’d “exit” them to: elsewhere in Gaza, or ethnically cleansed into Egypt, or beyond.

Mistake of the Union

And finally, closing the loop (for now) on Sen. Katie Britt’s disastrous response to the State of the Union address. First I did a round of media discussing my reporting on the Republican vice presidential hopeful’s lie about the border, in which she claimed a horrific story of sex trafficking in Mexico from 20 years ago had instead happened recently in the U.S. on Biden’s watch.

Here I am on CNN with Anderson Cooper:

And MSNBC with Jen Psaki:

I also followed up by listening to some of Britt’s podcast appearances, both before and after her exposure. Last October, Britt tested out an even more audacious version of her lie on “The Truth with Lisa Boothe,” claiming explicitly that the trauma had happened “in this journey” as a means of paying smugglers who were bringing her to the United States. (Again, it happened in Mexico’s interior and had nothing to do with immigration.)

More recently Britt went on Ted Cruz’s podcast, where she introduced a new lie into the mix. The Texas senator also then made everyone extremely uncomfortable, as only he can. You can watch it here:


Maybe fourth time’s the charm? #katiebritt #tedcruz #joebiden #donaldtrump #border #immigration #fyp

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