Pace Defends Marine Actions in Haiti, Provides Update
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2004 U.S. Marines in Haiti who shot and killed an armed Haitian and wounded another in Port-au-Prince on March 8 operated "well within the rules of engagement," the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Pentagon reporters today.
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace said he received reports that a vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed toward the Marines near the presidential palace when they took aim.
Pace said the Marines responded appropriately in retaliating with deadly force, based on the established rules of engagement.
"Every service member in this case, a Marine has an absolute right to defend himself and those around him," Pace said. "And when someone threatens force as was done last night, they get dealt with as they were dealt with last night."
Pace said 1,600 U.S. service members are deployed to Haiti. About 1,500 of those are U.S. Marines, but Army, Navy and Air Force members also are involved.
The U.S. Coast Guard also has boosted its fleet of vessels patrolling the waters off Haiti. "The Coast Guard is doing great work," Pace said.
Pace said France, Chile and Canada are contributing 700 troops to the coalition a number he said could increase, particularly as other countries express interest in participating.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this force appears to be the right size for the job right now, and that he expects the commander on the ground to let him know if additional troops are needed.
Work already is under way for a United Nations-authorized "follow-on" force to arrive in Haiti within 90 days, Rumsfeld said. The United Nations will send an assessment team to Haiti to help determine the size that multinational force should be, he said.
Rumsfeld said the threat of mass migration appears to be diminishing.
"Clearly, a lot of people got killed trying to escape that country and get to better circumstances in their lives, and that is a tragic thing," he said. "But that is not happening. The Coast Guard has done a very fine job of returning those who have come out, and at the present time, there is no out-migration at all."
Rumsfeld said he also sees little indication of an impending humanitarian disaster. "There is ample food in the country, from everything we have been told," he said. "Maybe there are some distribution problems, but neither of those are currently an issue."