Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 11:25:11 -0500 (CDT)
From: Ralph McGehee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Colombia's "Narcoterrorists"?
Organization: Institute for Global Communications
An introduction by Ralph McGee to an article in the Washington Post, 29 August 1999 A1
Introduction by Ralph McGee
Marxist rebels stormed a hydroelectric power plant in western Colombia and were holding 100 people to back the first day of a general strike by the country's main unions. The seizure of the power plant was the most serious in a wave of incidents that included the burning of buses driven by strike-breakers and clashes between demonstrators and police.
A minimum of 1.5 million union workers, together with thousands of members of peasant and grass-roots social organizations, struck to protest austerity measures and to demand a halt to free-market economic policies. Washington Post 91/99 A18.
The power plant, was stormed by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This long-running guerrilla war has cost the 35,000 lives in just ten years. Washington Times 9/1/99 A11.
An earlier article said two Marxist guerrilla groups -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with about 15,000 combatants, and the National Liberation Army (ELN), with about 5,000 -- control about 40 percent of territory and receive hundreds of millions of dollars from protecting drug trafficking routes, airstrips and laboratories. (Comment: These manpower and territory figures might have been plucked out of the air as was done by our intelligence community throughout the 25 years of the Vietnam War.)
An article in The Nation criticizes FARC and says pressure is mounting on President Pastrana to unleash the army...The single policy the United States has pursued throughout this Administration has failed. Despite two years of extensive drug-crop fumigation, net coca cultivation has increased 50 percent. And spraying herbicides has strengthened the FARC by driving young peasants out of the fields and into the guerrilla army.
So if the State Department is to give President Pastrana the support he needs, it must forge a partisan strategy with Congress that will permit U.S. officials to meet with FARC...without being slammed by House Republicans for conspiring with "narcoterrorists." Tiro Fijo, the 68-year-old FARC leader is said to inspire to be the Nelson Mandela of Latin America...Surely it is worth talking to him to find out. Nation September 6/13, 1999. (Comment - the Vietnam War was unnecessary, Ho Chi Minh made many and futile attempts to contact our leaders to place his country in a protective status under U.S. tutelage -- we never responded to those approaches.)
My experience was in Asia and I became fairly knowledgeable re Asian Communism. An undeniable truth was that those movements spent the majority of their formative years recruiting new adherents and convincing them that their futures lie only with the Communists. In Vietnam, our intelligence counted the insurgents in the thousands, when the Viet Cong recruited millions. These millions, to a large degree, committed their lives to the movement. The strength of the revolutionary forces was a constant puzzle to our policymakers who never could or would admit to that reality.
I fear that what confronts us in Colombia, is somewhat similar to Vietnam -- a committed, dedicated and organized mass of people who will fight, much as the Vietnamese fought. Do we want to begin another Vietnam here -- with all of the killing, the bombing, the napalming, the defoliating, the body bags, and other attendant horrors of that type of war? We misjudged Ho Chi Minh and his forces, are we not now doing the same with Tiro Fijo? Can we be so worried about drugs that we will begin anew this misguided effort? If we do, recent history tells us that drug usage and traffic will expand tremendously; while the outcome of the battle will remain uncertain.Ralph McGehee
Background -- from an earlier item.
The U.S. is to step up military and economic aid to Colombia [to fight] the drug-financed Marxist guerrillas there. U.S. officials warned President Andres Pastrana that he risks losing U.S. support if he makes further concessions to the insurgents to restart stalled peace negotiations. But White House drug policy director McCaffrey and State's Thomas Pickering, also told Pastrana the U.S. will increase aid if he develops a comprehensive plan to strengthen the military, halt the nation's economic free fall and fight drug trafficking. Security assistance already stands at $289 million this year. The U.S. [has already] resumed helping the army and expanded intelligence sharing and is training a 950-man Colombian army counternarcotics battalion. The U.S. is planning to fund at least two more such battalions. Colombia produces 80 percent of the world's cocaine and about 70 percent of the heroin sent to the U.S. Two Marxist guerrilla groups -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with about 15,000 combatants, and the National Liberation Army (ELN), with about 5,000 -- control about 40 percent of territory and receive hundreds of millions of dollars from protecting drug trafficking routes, airstrips and laboratories. 7,000 right-wing paramilitary troops, who also derive millions of dollars from cocaine trafficking, control about 15 percent of the territory. In a world with a lot of bad policy options toward Colombia, we are taking the worst one, said Winifred Tate of the Washington Office on Latin America. "By strengthening the military you are strengthening an abusive, corrupt institution that has resisted civil control and human rights reforms..." while U.S. aid should be focused on fighting drugs, the line between counternarcotics and counterinsurgency has blurred so much that it is almost meaningless. The immediate increase in military aid will focus on upgrading a sophisticated intelligence and listening post in Tres Esquinas, and U.S. training of new, special units in the Colombian army..