Colombia: Man Without a Plan 

  Colombia: Man Without a Plan 

Posted by FoM on September 09, 2001 at 08:30:30 PT
By Michael Isikoff, Newsweek International 
Source: Newsweek International 

Fred Ayres, once an unlikely linchpin for U.S. policy in Colombia, has now become a perfect symbol of Washington’s failures there. The owner of a foundering Georgia-based aviation firm, Ayres had just filed for protection under bankruptcy laws last year when the State Department awarded him a $22 million contract to supply nine Turbo-Thrush airplanes badly needed for counternarcotics missions.    Ayres's armor-plated planes were supposed to be used to spray chemical herbicides over Colombia’s burgeoning coca and opium crops. But they won’t be getting off the ground any time soon—if ever. 
A few weeks ago, just when the first planes were to be delivered, Ayres’s chief creditor foreclosed. Now, says Ayres, his half-built planes “are just sitting there on the assembly line” gathering dust. “I feel terrible about this.”      Not as bad as some U.S. drug warriors. Many of them fear that Plan Colombia, the $1.3 billion program to combat drug traffic from the Andean nation, may be as bankrupt as Ayres’s company. The plane snafu, in fact, is among the lesser setbacks—compared with, say, the unending war with leftist guerrillas or the growing role of right-wing paramilitaries in the Colombian drug trade. The plan’s shortcomings will give Secretary of State Colin Powell plenty to talk about this week on his first visit to the disintegrating nation. A State Department official told reporters Powell wants a “frank” talk with President Andres Pastrana about “what has worked and what hasn’t.” The answer, many U.S. officials fear, is that precious little has. Says one congressional staffer: “What’s happening down there is a catastrophe.”    Plan Colombia was overwhelmingly approved as an “emergency” response by Congress more than a year ago and vigorously pushed by President Clinton. Bush-administration officials, pursuing the new president’s keen interest in developing hemispheric ties, signed off on the program in their first weeks in office and even endorsed an $880 million “Andean regional initiative” that expanded key elements to neighboring countries. But the United States has been spraying chemical herbicides in Colombia for years—to virtually no effect. In fact, State Department officials acknowledge, coca production since the mid-1990s has soared 250 percent while Colombia’s opium-poppy crop, which barely existed five years ago, is now the source of 50 percent of the heroin seized in the United States.       The growth is largely attributed to the strength of the biggest leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The guerrillas protect peasants growing the drug crops and take a large chunk of the profits. As part of a peace overture, Pastrana has ceded a large area in southern Colombia to the FARC that was to be a demilitarized zone. But U.S. officials fear the zone has simply become a “safe haven” for terrorists and drug traffickers—a message Powell intends to deliver to Pastrana this week. Meanwhile, equally ruthless right-wing paramilitaries are getting into the game, as they take over prime coca-growing turf.    As if that weren’t bad enough, the campaign to douse large parts of the country with herbicides—ineffective as it may be against drugs—is being attacked for its environmental impact. This month the Colombian comptroller general called for an immediate suspension of spraying, citing what he called “irreversible damage.” Even Pastrana may have second thoughts. He told reporters last week that a new “evaluation” of the fumigation program was needed.    American officials insist those concerns are overwrought. Officially, the State Department remains bullish. (Last week it hailed Colombians for extraditing notorious trafficker Fabio Ochoa to face U.S. charges.) Officials also point to a U.S.-backed offensive in the guerrilla-controlled Putumayo region earlier this year that eliminated 25,000 hectares of coca growth.      “It’s sort of like establishing a beachhead in an amphibious operation,” says a U.S. official. “We’ve secured the beach—and the first reports from the field are promising.” A question Powell must ask himself is whether such officials are right—or have their heads in the sand.    With Joseph Contreras in Miami, and Donatella Lorch and Roy Gutman in Washington, D.C.Note:  Colin Powell travels to Bogota but has no quick fixes for what some are calling a $1.3 billion ‘catastrophe’  Source: Newsweek InternationalAuthor: Michael Isikoff, Newsweek InternationalPublished: September 17, 2001 Copyright: 2001 Newsweek, Inc.Contact: Editors newsweek.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Plans Reassurances Over US Aid on Drug Crop is Delayed Articles - Glyphosate 

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Comment #7 posted by dddd on September 10, 2001 at 10:02:01 PT
Exactly right Sudaca
..Powells mission is to get Plan Colombia,and the Andes Iniativeback on track,,,he's being sent down as military celebrity pointman,,and his instructions are to do or say anything necessaryto maintain justification,and encourage public support.....ColinPowell is a long way from the honorable picture that has beenpainted by the media.....the guy is a creep,,,who does what he'stold........dddd
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Comment #6 posted by Sudaca on September 10, 2001 at 09:39:15 PT
Sr. Powell
Is going down to stop the backsliding from the fumigation process. This guy would like to be the next president some day. And he's not going to be the one who "lost" Colombia to the communists. So don't expect miracles from the war "hero". Fine, raze Colombia and invade South America ; plenty of room to start planting Coca and Opium somewhere else; including your own backyard. When MJ interdiction at the border became a problem, the domestic Cannabis production became a way of life.
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Comment #5 posted by dddd on September 09, 2001 at 15:18:13 PT

ground troops's highly unlikely that we would ever send ground troopsdown there,,,nope,,,there's no need to,,,with all the cashflying around,,we will just hire ground troops...a millionbucks can easily pay for private armies of seasoned,hungrysoldiers from around the globe....heck,,Occidental petroleumwould gladly cut 'em a check...dddd
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Comment #4 posted by bruce42 on September 09, 2001 at 15:03:49 PT

Well said. I personally do not think the US is prepared to fight guerilla warfare. We never really have been truly successful at it. I will agree though that Colin can make war when he has to, but I feel that this arena will not suit our machine dependant military. If Colin decides that military action is needed, I fear for the lives of the ground troups we will be forced to send.
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Comment #3 posted by letsgetfree on September 09, 2001 at 12:44:33 PT

don't hold your breath
I don't expect anything new to come from this visit. But I'll be happily surprised if it does.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on September 09, 2001 at 12:44:14 PT

party line puppet
.....Powells assessment of Colombia,,,will be the classicmilquetoast,ass smoochin' comments that he always makes.Powell is a parlor poodle of the party line,,,he's a party animal.His scripted comments will begin with tales of how we need tokeep Plan Colombia,and the Andes initiative in full gear,,,he'llsay we have made great progress in fighting the murderous FARCrebels,and that crop eradication has been an excellent tool in theeradication of "crops",,{("man that roundup sure does work good!)},,,,.....Does anyone remember Colin Powell ever making any waves thatwere contrary to his handlers agenda??????Powell is a team player,He will back up the party line,,,,,,His speech will be previewed byoil company executives,and the new czar......In his speech,there willbe the usual nebulous tidbits of hinting critism,,,but I woudnt expectto hear anything contraversial from this fake war hero......dddd
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Comment #1 posted by Patrick on September 09, 2001 at 09:35:33 PT

I am anxious to hear Colin Powell's assessment of Columbia. Having been a military man all his life, you can bet he is no fan of illegal drugs or their use. On the same vein, his attitudes toward war have thus far been sound. That being, you must have a clearly defined and obtainable goal and the leeway/authorization to take the steps to achieve that goal as quickly as possible with the least amount of causalities. I served in the cold war military machine immediately following Nam and prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Powell was climbing the ranks during this era and obviously wasn't running the entire US military show back then. When it came to committing troops to the Gulf War, his version of warfare made the US look utterly unstoppable by any organized military on the planet. Whether one agrees with war or not, the Gulf action clearly demonstrated to the world how the US can make war when it wants to. I feel some politicians have taken those results to imply that they/US can bully their/our way around the globe. After all, who is prepared to stop the US military machine once it gets rolling.Perhaps after visiting Columbia, Colin Powell will realize two things:1. Drug eradication while a simple and "clearly defined" goal, is completely unattainable.2. If the goal is unattainable, then commitment to warfare will only create an abundance of fresh body bags and wailing mothers and wives.I am crossing my fingers that Colin will retain his intelligence and sanity and not simply tow the party line for the sake of kissing the Oval Office gluteus maximus. If he can come back to the US with an honest assessment of the futility of getting involved in Columbia militarily, then he will retain the respect I have for him. However, if he suggests that we become more involved militarily, then I will agree with those of you who see Colin as the token "black guy" and then I'll tuck my tail between my legs and go weep in my corner again.
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