March 10, 2002
Narco News '02
Us Not Talk
US and Colombia
By Ron Jacobs
suspension of peace talks and resumption
of military action in the former FARC safe haven by the Colombian
government has the potential to involve U.S. forces directly
in a civil conflict that can only truly be resolved when the
rich no longer rob the poor.
This recent turn of events seems closely
linked not only to a renewed confidence in the ranks of the Colombian
military, thanks to the funding provided it by Plan Colombia,
but also to increased warmongering in Washington. For years,
the Colombian military, its paramilitary allies and certain sectors
of the U.S. national security apparatus have wanted to destroy
Colombia's revolutionary groups. They now believe their time
The Colombian military and the ruling
oligarchy are seeking an escalation of the conflict in order
to justify direct U.S. intervention in the civil war. Currently
in Colombia, U.S. military forces can only operate as advisors
and must leave direct involvement in the conflict to Colombians
and the various mercenary forces contracted by the CIA and the
State Department. Should the military conflict spiral further
out of control, there will be no room for those committed to
bringing social and economic justice to Colombia via non-military
means. Already, these non-violent forces are taking a back seat
to the armed actors, much to the dismay of many progressive Colombians.
For many years the Colombian government's
dirty work against popular movements has been undertaken by the
various paramilitary organizations. These organizations are similar
to the right-wing death squads that ran rampant in El Salvador
during the 1980s and the "counterterror" teams that
killed thousands in southern Vietnam during the U.S. war there.
Although they receive surreptitious funding from various U.S.
and Colombian government agencies, these groups are not officially
part of any government-sponsored military. This arrangement allows
the Colombian military to keep its hands relatively clean by
leaving the massacres of farmers, labor leaders and potential
reformists to the paramilitaries.
The denial of links between Colombia's
armed forces and the paramilitaries has been made possible by
Washington's willingness to conspire with Bogotá under
the pretense that there is no coordination between the Colombian
military and paramilitary groups. In reality, such coordination
is part of the government's battle plans. But isn't the government
fighting the paramilitaries as well as the guerrillas? The answer
clearly is no. An exploration of the history of paramilitary
fighters reveals that many of them are former soldiers. Indeed,
many paramilitaries are still members of the Colombian military;
much like some Klansmen in the United States are off-duty police
the military action on the ground escalates,
increasing numbers of noncombatants will find themselves under
fire. These victims of the violence will include indigenous communities,
labor union members, human rights and social workers, and many
innocent Colombians struggling to make a living in a country
where more than 50 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Many rural Colombians have already seen their crops destroyed,
their bodies poisoned and their land made barren by the aerial
fumigation campaign being conducted under the guise of the "war
Meanwhile, the FARC has been repeatedly
portrayed as a bunch of warmongers because of its continuation
of military activities during peace negotiations. What is not
apparent to the U.S. public, however--primarily because the U.S.
mainstream media ignores the issue--is that the government and
paramilitary forces never stopped attacking and killing guerrillas
and civilians who lived outside the rebel safe-haven. So, when
we heard of a military action by the guerrillas, it was often
in response to an offensive by U.S.-supported military or paramilitary
forces that had not been reported by the U.S. media.
As a friend of mine recently observed:
The United States' attack on Afghanistan provides justification
for any Washington ally to forgo diplomacy in order to wage war
as long as the attacking government says they are fighting terrorism.
It is even handier if they can throw in a phrase or two that
speaks of defending democracy. To further this perception in
the hopes of obtaining even more US military assistance, the
Colombian government recently issued international arrest warrants
for the members of FARC's leadership, while in Washington, DC,
the Congress passed a non-binding resolution urging the White
House to do whatever it takes to preserve Colombia's "democracy".
President George W. Bush recently requested $98 million for
the training of Colombian troops to protect U.S. oil pipelines.
By no longer distinguishing between its counternarcotics, counterterrorism
and counterinsurgency efforts in Colombia, Washington has removed
the mask that concealed its true intentions in the region.
Many people in the United States are opposed
to U.S. intervention in Colombia and are demanding a cessation
of all U.S. military, CIA and DEA meddling in the Andean region,
regardless of whether it is being conducted under the guise of
fighting drugs, the guerrillas, or defending oil pipelines. Several
groups are campaigning to raise public consciousness about the
U.S. role in Colombia's civil war and an upcoming event in April
week of protest and lobbying in Washington, DC. Now that
the peace talks have been suspended and Colombia faces all-out
war, these efforts to shed light on the truth are certain to
Ron Jacobs lives in Burlington,
Vermont and has been involved in antiwar activism since Vietnam.
He is the author of The
Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Verso 1997).
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