A Doomed Drug War? 

A Doomed Drug War? 
Posted by FoM on August 22, 2000 at 09:35:07 PT
Plan Colombia could become a U.S. nightmare
Source: Sacramento Bee
A $1.3 billion U.S. aid program to help the government of Colombia stamp out massive production of illegal drugs in rebel-controlled areas has barely begun, but already is running into predictable problems. Unfortunately, when President Clinton visits Colombia on Aug. 30 for a few hours, the picture of what is called Plan Colombia will be more rosy-hued than it deserves.
Most of the aid will pay for 60 U.S.-made helicopter gunships that will ferry two new Colombian army battalions -- trained by U.S. advisers and meant to be free of the taint of human rights abuse -- into coca- and poppy-growing areas. There, Colombian forces are to drive away guerrillas guarding the fields, clearing the way for aerial spraying that, it's hoped, will diminish the output of drugs that now flood U.S. streets. It's not that simple.U.S. policy is to provide equipment and training but to avoid involvement in the decades-old struggle between leftist guerrillas and government forces. Yet the guerrillas often work hand-in-hand with the narco-traffickers for mutual benefit. There also are right-wing militias allied with some elements of the Colombian military. How the new anti-narcotics battalions will avoid hostilities with the leftist guerrillas, who already have said they will target the U.S.-backed operation, is a mystery.Very soon, the administration must either certify that the Colombian units receiving U.S. aid are untainted by human rights abuses, or waive certification on national security grounds. Now that Clinton has so committed this country to this effort, it's hard to imagine him backing off now, whether or not Colombian forces observe the rules of engagement laid down by U.S. law. But perhaps he should.An example of how U.S. aid to Colombia could ultimately link this country to the horrors of that country's conflict is an incident last week in which six schoolchildren were shot to death and eight others wounded in circumstances not yet clear. Colombian officials say the children were killed by rebels operating in the area, but eyewitnesses say rebels were not in the area at the time but that government troops were. Even if the facts, if they become known, exonerate government forces, the likelihood of future incidents, including rebel attacks on American advisers, is bound to increase.Troubling as military prospects are in this seemingly unwinnable war, so is the political outlook. The U.S. public, which has not been fully informed about what's at stake, seems largely ignorant; neither major presidential candidate has had much of anything to say about this or most other foreign policy issues. Brazil has turned down a U.S. request to contribute to the effort in Colombia, and a coalition of 37 Colombia human rights and other nongovernmental groups refused to cooperate because they object to the overly heavy military content of the plan. Meanwhile, the drug problem in the United States grows because of the failure to commit greater resources to programs to treat and rehabilitate addicted people. In this context, Plan Colombia looks like a disaster waiting to happen.Bee EditorialPublished Aug. 22, 2000Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)Copyright: 2000 The Sacramento BeeContact: opinion sacbee.comAddress: P.O.Box 15779, Sacramento CA 95852Feedback: Articles:Extradited Drug Chief In Court Rebels: No Clinton Attacks a Legacy Of War in Colombia To Investigate Killing of 6 Children Control or Bio Warfare? CannabisNews Search - Colombia 
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