U.S. Pilots in Colombia Say They're Not 'Rambo'

U.S. Pilots in Colombia Say They're Not 'Rambo'
Posted by FoM on August 19, 2001 at 11:37:53 PT
By Ibon Villelabeitia
Source: Reuters
They've been maligned as a gang of ``Godless Rambos.'' Rumors abound about their top-secret lives. Marxist guerrillas have dubbed them a ``front for U.S. imperialism'' and declared them military targets. But Bob, Mark, Keith and Thomas say they are just ordinary crop dusters -- whose target is the world's biggest cocaine industry.In rare interviews this week, a group of U.S. citizens working for State Department contractor DynCorp spoke to reporters about spraying the herbicide glyphosate on fields of coca -- the raw material for cocaine -- in war-torn Colombia.
The company, based in Reston, Va., plays a key role in the U.S.-funded ``Plan Colombia'' -- a carrot-and-stick strategy designed by President Andres Pastrana to wipe out drug crops in the South American nation and hit rebels economically.Citing security concerns, the men agreed to be interviewed on condition of not having their full names printed. The four -- all in their forties and with some gray hair -- wore T-shirts, sipped coffee and spoke about work, life and family.Mark, a stocky Southerner whose twin-engine plane has come under fire several times by guerrillas and drug traffickers, said flying was just another job.``It works for me. It's very difficult to find this job in the United States,'' said Mark, a four-year DynCorp veteran who worked as a crop duster back home before coming to Colombia.``Here it's a year-round aerial application. In the United States it is seasonal unless you travel around all the time. I get to be with my family when I'm not here,'' said Mark, who is married and has one child.Front Line of U.S.-Funded Drug War The United States is pouring $1 billion in mostly military aid into Colombia to support Pastrana's drug offensive.DynCorp has 335 employees here, including crop dusters, helicopter pilots, mechanics and paramedics. But with staffers on a rotating schedule, DynCorp has no more than 90 to 100 U.S. citizens working in Colombia at any one time, said Keith, DynCorp's manager in Colombia.Critics of the U.S. aid -- including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country's oldest and most powerful guerrilla army -- have dubbed the anti-cocaine plan a front for U.S. imperialism.Colombia, the world's No. 1 producer of cocaine, is gripped by a 37-year-old insurgency that has killed 40,000 people in the last decade.Under the aid -- which includes 16 Blackhawk troop-carrying choppers to protect spraying missions -- no more than 300 U.S. contractors are allowed in Colombia at any one time.But as drug fields expand -- fueling more war -- some U.S. officials are saying the ceiling might need to be raised.In Colombia, DynCorp's men are frequently portrayed by the local press as a gang of rowdy and out-of-control combat veterans who are supposed to spraying coca crops but who sometimes end up tangling with rebels.Last month, Colombia's leading newsmagazine Semana ran a cover story proclaiming the ``gringo mercenaries'' a ``band of Godless and lawless Rambos.''Lawless Image But Keith, who has worked as a crop duster since his teens spraying forests in Maine and in Virginia, dismissed all that press as ``false mysticism.'' He said they file meticulous reports to the State Department and the Colombian police about their missions and that most of their pilots have a civilian rather than a military background.DynCorp's pilots said they are all well paid, some earning up to $100,000 a year. Their schedule allows them to work two weeks and take two weeks off to spend time with their families back home.Thomas, a retired Army helicopter pilot who flies search and rescue missions for DynCorp, said he was working for the Postal Service when he got a call from a friend. ``He asked me if I was interested in coming down and I jumped at the chance.''Although they are issued pistols and have undergone survival classes, the men played down the danger of spraying herbicide from altitudes as low as 55 feet (16.5 meters) over fields protected by well-armed rebels and drug traffickers. A terrain of thick jungles and plunging ravines makes the job harder.Mark, who flies an OV-10 twin engine, recalls having an engine shot out two years ago while flying over FARC-strong Caqueta Province, in southern Colombia. ``The engine quit immediately. I had to fly 75 miles (120 km) back to the base with one engine,'' he said.Three U.S. DynCorp pilots have been killed flying in Colombia: two in a training crash in 1998 and one when he hit a tree during a spraying mission in 1997.``We don't do this because of the thrills. We are like any other corporation that works here,'' said Mark. Source: ReutersAuthor: Ibon VillelabeitiaPublished: August 18, 2001Copyright: 2001 ReutersRelated Articles & Web Sites:DynCorp Drug War News Pilots in Colombia Drug War Say Not Mercenaries Orange, All Over Again Critics of Plan Colombia Denounce Secret War 
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on August 20, 2001 at 06:46:30 PT:
There's a better way...Ibogaine
Why should we stoop so low - and let them off so easy - as termination?The reason why Ibogaine works so well in causing addicts to drop their addictions is that it forces introspection on the life choices they've made. Effective chemical psycho-analysis in a few days, rather than 20 years.Let them ponder what they've done to so many others, with their precious DrugWar. Over and over and over, without respite, without any self-blinding rationalizations. Let them see, stripped of all masks of self-delusion, what they've become, and in the process, what they've really done to this country in the name of their damnable DrugWar.Only when they emerge from their chambers, weeping uncontrollably from experiencing guilt for causing so much suffering, would I be inclined to forgive them for what they've done.
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Comment #8 posted by lookinside on August 19, 2001 at 18:02:22 PT:
LOL...i'll agree with one "special"prisons for these guys...they must go in with the violentcriminals, sodomists, rapists, etc...their life expectancieswould be about the the same time, we have a problem...not enough currentlyincarcerated, murderous thugs to go around for all the drugwarriors...hmmm...i think the french had it right the firsttime...
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Comment #7 posted by dddd on August 19, 2001 at 17:24:26 PT
...I'm a dead giveaway when it comes to hillbilly trivia,,althoughI did have to do some research to verify Ebs' name...I dont think that your,"off with their heads" campaign is the rightsolution.It's not cruel and unusual enough,,I kinda like the idea of lockin' emdown for life in the same brutal institutions they caused so many othersto serve time in.If your head gets cut off,it's almost more humane thanthe electric chair,....the extended grisly nightmare of life behind barswould give them time to think about what they did to so many thousandsof other peoples lives............ dddd
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Comment #6 posted by lookinside on August 19, 2001 at 17:03:15 PT:
that is hilarious, 'ceptin it says tooo much about how youspent yer time in the 70s...LOL!!!(don't get me wrong...dyncorp executives are war criminalsand need the gentle ministrations of a gallows as treatment,just like their masters...)
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Comment #5 posted by dddd on August 19, 2001 at 16:24:06 PT
You're right again Professor Lehder
...I think the present federal government in the US,is verymuch like a type of's pseudo-legal organized crime.dddd
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Comment #4 posted by Lehder on August 19, 2001 at 16:07:16 PT
George Bush, Plan Colombia, Harken Energy
George Bush's bankrupt Spectrum Oil was rescued from bankruptcy in 1986 when it was purchased by Harken Energy. He received 600,000 shares in Harken and other compensation as reward for managing a failed business., "Harken's Middle American operating segmentrelates to its current exploration, development, productionand acquisition efforts[emphasis mine -cl] in Colombia and Costa Rica, as well as potential future operations elsewhere in Central America and the northern part of South America." see another reference to Bush and Harken.The United States is no longer a country. It is a gigantic crime organization. Those of us within its belly are either helpless against its omnipotence or else too ignorant, by design, to know or care. I think that it must be brought under control by foreign efforts. I think this will be accomplished politically and economically, but... it happens*.*probably wise to omit my mad musings on nuclear war with Europe.
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Comment #3 posted by Patrick on August 19, 2001 at 13:54:46 PT
lol dddd
...and next week. Stay Tuned for The Beverly Hillbillies followed by I Dream of Jeanie."Critics of the U.S. aid -- including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country's oldest and most powerful guerrilla army -- have dubbed the anti-cocaine plan a front for U.S. imperialism." No bleepin bleepin it!
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on August 19, 2001 at 13:18:57 PT
yup,,I can see it now some episode of Green Acres...there's Oliver Douglaslooking up as Eb flies over in a cropduster,showering Oliverwith Roundup,,,,,after landing,Eb says "that the plane didnt work right",,at which time Mr Haney is called in,because he sold them theplane,,,Mr Haney explains that they will need better planes,and more money to eradicate the coca,,then Mrs Douglas comesout and asks Oliver what all those blotches are on his face,andmentions his bloody stools,,,,,,Mr Haney suggests calling Hank Kimballto see what the problem is,a few hours later,Hank Kimball arrivesand insists that "this Roundup stuff is as safe as water","that'swhat Sam Drucker told me",,,,,,,at which point Fred Ziffel pulls up,and tells everyone that Arnold is sick,,and has a big rash all over his back.....dddd
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Comment #1 posted by MDG on August 19, 2001 at 12:51:37 PT
Regular crop-dusters...
Yeah, I'll bet they're wearing brown Carhart overalls and a straw hat to match the straw sticking out of their teeth.Give me a break.
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