The Murder of Cassey
Cassey Auguste was a twenty-year-old American citizen. His mother had moved back to her home country of Haiti after working for paltry wages for over twenty years in the United States. Her dream was to run a successful family business in the country that she loves. That dream came to a crashing halt on the morning of March 3rd when her son, who had come to Haiti to help her, was gunned down in cold blood and had his mutilated body dumped over a ravine by men who were members of U.S.-supported death squads. Will the White House vow to bring Auguste's killers to justice, just as it has vowed to bring those who beheaded Nick Berg in Iraq to justice?
According to his sister, Natasha Michaud, Cassey and a friend were sitting outside his mother's business in Pont Sonde when four cars full of armed men showed up. Casey immediately put up his hands and said, "I am an American. I have nothing to do with politics." His father rushed inside to retrieve Cassey's passport, hoping that proof of Cassey's American citizenship would dissuade the men from causing any harm. By that time it was too late. Cassey and his friend were mowed down by machine guns while his mother's cries for mercy fell on deaf ears. When the family eventually found the bodies they didn't give them a proper burial, saying they "feared that these people may find out about the funeral and do some more damage to our lives."
The reason for this atrocity? The killers alleged that the family used to serve Lavalas at their business. Their hatred of the political party of deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide indicates that these men are likely members of the so-called "rebels" that overran the country under the leadership of Guy Philippe. Michaud said the men "had something like a gun that shot out water and cleaned the blood." That makes sense. If pictures of bodies and pools of blood started showing up in the news it might cause an outrage. Is this what the New York Times was referring to when they noted the "media savvy" of Guy Philippe and his thugs?
Marguerite Laurent of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network has written to U.S. Ambassador James Foley requesting an investigation into the incident. Thus far, it has received no media coverage. If the major media's coverage of Haiti thus far is any indication, Cassey's murder will go virtually unnoticed. He is not by any means alone. The "rebel" forces, with the active support of the Bush administration, have unleashed a campaign of terror on the Haitian people, particularly supporters of Lavalas. Some estimates have the body count as high as 3,000. One report from the National Lawyer's Guild found that over a thousand bodies were dumped in a mass grave by the state morgue in March, which is more than ten times the usual number of bodies.
None of this has received any coverage in the mainstream media. Compare their utter silence on the wholesale massacres currently being carried out to the widespread coverage given to the rare attacks against Aristide's detractors. A few days after Cassey's murder the former opposition to President Aristide held a rally celebrating the coup. Five of the demonstrators were shot by alleged Aristide militants. The New York Times put the story on the front page and devoted over a thousand words worth of column space, complete with grizzly descriptions of the dead bodies and victims' wounds.
Cassey probably also won't be helped by the fact that he is black. While the media is quick to respond with tons of coverage and outrage when something bad happens to a white American, they tend to be less enthusiastic when the shoe is on the darker foot. For example, in 2002 the national media gave heavy coverage to the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart while paying scant attention to Alexis Patterson, a young black girl who was also missing at the same time.
The so-called "progressive" media is also guilty in this regard. Rachel Corrie, an activist for the International Solidarity Movement, was brutally crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza last year. Her death justifiably sparked outrage and activism that even caught the attention of Congress. On the other hand, hardly anyone knows about Suraida Saleh. Saleh, like Corrie, was a young woman, an American citizen, and was brutally killed by the IDF. She was shot in the face and chest while holding her 9-month-old baby in her lap. Where was the outrage over her murder? Could it be that activists thought they could get more political mileage out of the killing of a girl named Rachel than they could out of the killing of a girl named Suraida?
One has to wonder whether or not Cassey Auguste's murder would not already be front page news if he were an American citizen of the lighter-skinned variety. At any rate, if the story his family tells is true, it deserves to be investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to justice. It's the least this government could do after arming, training, and giving a wink and a nod to the thugs who viciously robbed him and his family of their future together.
Justin Felux is a writer and activist based in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Justin Felux
Bush's Love of Brown-Skinned People