Doubts Over US-Colombia Policy

Doubts Over US-Colombia Policy
Posted by FoM on February 15, 2000 at 16:49:17 PT
By The Associated Press
Source: New York Times
Government officials told Congress Tuesday coca production in Colombia is up sharply but Democrats expressed skepticism about the administration's drug war strategy. Republicans wondered whether the administration's heart is really in the struggle. 
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the head of the White House drug control office, said that while overall Andean cocaine production was down, the crop in Colombia reached 520 tons last year compared with 435 tons in 1998 and 230 tons in 1995. ``We have a drug emergency in Colombia,'' McCaffrey told a hearing of a House Government Reform subcommittee which focuses on drug issues. The new data illustrates the urgency for congressional action in support of the administration's $1.6 billion aid package to Colombia, he said. ``Without additional U.S. assistance, Colombia is unlikely to experience the dramatic progress in the drug fight experienced by its Andean neighbors,'' he added. But some Democrats clearly were left uneasy by the emphasis on military aid in the package, and their comments recalled those of the 1960's when the United States was increasing its involvement in Vietnam. Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, said she was worried about the United States being drawn ``deeper and deeper'' into Colombia's civil war, in which guerrillas are using proceeds from drug sales to finance their struggle for power. Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., said the sizable increase in coca production despite eradication efforts demonstrates ``the failure of the militaristic approach'' to the drug issue. One problem with the deeper U.S. involvement in Colombia is the absence of an ``exit strategy,'' she said. Rather than devoting U.S. assistance to military hardware, including 63 helicopters, the money would be better spent on weaning Colombian farmers away from coca production and on treatment of addicts in the United States, she said. ``Treatment is 10 times more effective than drug interdiction schemes,'' she added. The administration rejects the notion of the United States becoming trapped in a bloody conflict in Colombia. In Bogota on Monday, Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering said Washington's role will be limited to providing equipment and training for Colombia's army. The United States won't be drawn into a ``terrible quagmire,'' Pickering said. About three-fourths of the aid package would pay for the helicopters and for training for two new army counter-drug battalions. The units will be tasked with retaking rebel-held southern jungles where cocaine production is rapidly expanding. Republicans generally have been more supportive of the administration's request than Democrats but at times that support has been grudging. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., a subcommittee member and also chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said signs that the administration is taking the issue seriously are a welcome change from its first seven years in office. He said the ``endless series of failures'' in getting sorely needed equipment to Colombia over the years is not reassuring. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the full Government Reform Committee, said there have been long delays in sending Blackhawk helicopters to Colombia. And once the choppers arrived, they could not be utilized because they lacked the proper armor, he said. There also have been delays in the delivery of ammunition. ``We have had screwup after screwup after screwup,'' he said. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said the normally outspoken Burton was understating the case. ``A better word than screwup is sabotage,'' he said, suggesting the mishaps were not the result of inadvertent errors but deliberate foot-dragging. Burton expressed admiration for the ``You fly, you die'' approach of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to the drug problem -- a reference to Peru's policy of shooting down planes carrying coca out of the country. Peruvian drug kingpins have responded by shifting their operations across the country's northern border into Colombia, resulting in a steady decline in coca production in Peru. An aggressive campaign in Bolivia against drug lords has had similar results. The bulk of the aid money has been ticketed for Colombia, and Bolivian officials are worried that their successes could be reversed if they are cut back too far. Bolivian Vice President Jorge Quiroga was in Washington last week telling legislators that the $48 million proposed by the administration for his country will meet less than half of Bolivia's needs. Ask questions, give answers and tell other readers what you know. Join Abuzz, a new knowledge network from The New York Times. Washington (AP)Published: February 15, 2000 Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company Related Articles:CIA: Colombia Cocaine Production Up Column: A School That Should Be Closed
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on February 16, 2000 at 17:12:23 PT
I only wish I did have insight
I used to work at a research facility. We had all kinds of genius types who couldn't tie their shoes, didn't look where they were going in heavy vehicular traffic areas, and would show up at the front door in their bathrobes because they had a brainstorm in the middle of the night and had to get to the labs. What my Brit friends used to refer to as 'boffins'. But they were mostly harmless, and some turned out to be real nice once you got to know them. But I wouldn't trust them with anything important. With their craniums in the clouds, they didn't seem able to deal with the 'real world'. I used to tell people that I never drank the water there. When asked why, my reply was that some of these peopole were normal when they were hired, and something had happened to them. The same kind of thing seems to happen to American politicians.Especially when it comes to our elected leaders. You don't have to be a history buff like me to see when a country is about to make a grievous error. It just takes a little (sadly, it seems, un-) common sense. Like not getting mixed up in-and getting wet from-someone else's peeing match.It never ceases to amaze me. The US government has access to enormously varied resources of information to draw on. Policymakers are surrounded by experts in just about every field. They can get their hands on the latest technology. And they still act as if, to use an expression someone else here coined, they have been beaten with the 'stoopid stick'. I just can't figure it. 
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Comment #3 posted by BCG on February 15, 2000 at 19:59:35 PT:
You consistantly amaze me with your insight and analysis. How I wish I lived in a country ruled by insightful leaders with perspective like yours...
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on February 15, 2000 at 19:06:58 PT
Somalia, anyone?
The Clinton administration' military perspicacity is hardly awe-inspiring. Look at the US involvement in Somalia.In all fairness, it was the Bush Administration that got us over there in the first place. But even before then, when you saw all those pictures of the poor starving Somalis being paraded past your TV screen on the nightly news, a State Department wonk named Thurstone warned about getting involved over there. Having been there, himself, he knew that it was a minefield. He knew that lawlessness was part of the reigning culture for the last 70 years. But he was drowned out by cries to help the Somalis, and was branded a racist for his reports. Then Clinton came to power. Again, Thurstone tried to warn the new Administration what a mess it had stepped into. Did Clinton listen? Noooo. And US soldiers were wounded and killed, by people we went to save. On what was originally a humanitarian mission, but because of no clear definition of limits, suffered from 'mission creep' and became a police action.Clinton and his cronies hardly inspire any confidence. They've been terribly wrong, and US soldiers paid the price. Now he wants to get us into Colombia? I've got a better idea: why doesn't he just hop a plane down there, put on a Colombian soldiers uniform (since he has such an aversion to wearing a US one) give him a rifle and let *him* fight the FARC. After all, as I learned from being a CAP cadet and an Army NCO, the best leaders lead by example.
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Comment #1 posted by Thomas on February 15, 2000 at 18:48:23 PT
The Balloon
Doesn't anyone think the supression of the FARC is simply going push them into neighboring countries? We've been pushing traffickers from Florida to Mexico and back again for decades. This is certainly not going to solve the problem. In fact it is likely to expidite the closer examination and changing of our current approach.
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