Columbia and Mexico are being devastated by the American so called war on drugs. Afghanistan warlords thrive and the Taliban are back. The military fights on in the deserts and jungles of the world to defend the American way of business. And what is that way? It is the provision of resources for the multinational corporations, the international bankers, Wall Street investors and their support mechanisms in the United States and around the world. But these corporations are merely the mechanisms by which the true ruling class dominates the world. Some of the sons of wealth go into the power structure such as the Gores, Kennedy’s, and Bushes, others prefer to be captains of industry, and still others prefer to sit back and simply allow others to manage their wealth while they simply enjoy and dabble in art and other leisure activities of the wealthy, such as academia, and non profits.
Fort Sam Assists with Reintegration of Freed Hostages
By Minnie Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 11, 2008 – Years of preparation by U.S. Army South, Brooke Army Medical Center, Northrop Grumman Corp. and family members finally came to fruition on the night of July 2 when three American civilian contractors set foot in San Antonio.
Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, who were held captive for five and half years in a Colombian jungle, were escorted to Brooke Army Medical Center here to begin their recovery through a process known as reintegration.
“The purpose [of reintegration] is to provide a transition back to normal life after the strains of captivity,” Army Maj. Gen. Keith Huber, commander of U.S. Army South, said. “U.S. Army South is honored to be the Department of Defense’s designated agent on behalf of the U.S. Southern Command to conduct this process — a process that we have trained, that we have rehearsed, and prepared to perform.”
Gonsalves, Howes and Stansell worked as government contractors for Northrop Grumman, and while conducting a counter narcotics mission over a southern Colombian jungle in February 2003, their drug surveillance aircraft crashed. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla group known by its Spanish acronym FARC, captured the crew, killing two and taking the three contractors hostage.
The three Americans, Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 11 Colombian national police and military members also held hostage by the FARC were flown to safety after being rescued in a Colombian military operation.
In a written public message issued July 3 by the three contractors, they specifically thanked “General Huber of United States Army South, General (James) Gilman of the Brooke Army Medical Center, Colonel (Wendy) Martinson of Garrison Fort Sam Houston and their staffs for the warm hospitality they’ve provided us and our families.”
I could go on, but this is Army issue propaganda. Notice there is no analysis of why they were in the jungles of southern Columbia in Guerrilla controlled territory. If this was a simple drug interdiction flight why were these specialists held by the FARC for so many years without asking for a ransom. If they were so evil why did they not torture their prisoners like the Americans do? Also if they were being held for ransom, why wouldn’t the US government rescue them, or come up with the ransom? 5 years is a long time to be held away from your family. If this was a simple drug situation as the US government states, why wouldn’t these guys be a little upset? Civilians, private contractors and they are simply thankful? No anger, no resentment, nothing but happiness with the USA. Gee what perfect patriots. I wonder what they would say to a real reporter?
Below is the text of an online chat with a former US ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay with his reasons why the Clinton and later Bush plans for massive US military aid to Columbia was misguided. This was conducted by the Washington Post.
“U.S. Aid to Colombia, text of an online chat with CIP President Robert E. White, from washingtonpost.com, February 16, 2000
U.S. Aid to Colombia
With Robert E. White
Wednesday, February 16, 2000, 1 p.m. EST
Robert E. White, president of the Center for International Policy and former U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay and El Salvador, was online Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. discussing the Clinton administration’s proposal to send $1.6 billion in aid to Colombia to combat drug trafficking and the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who are supported by drug profits.
Congress will begin discussion on the Clinton administration’s proposal, one of the largest of its kind, next week. Supporters of the program, including The Washington Post editorial page, contend the anti-drug rationale is sufficient to support this billion dollar aid package. Critics like Robert E. White say that such a proposal “amounts to intervention in another country’s civil war.” In a Feb. 8 Washington Post column, White argues that “neither the president nor the secretary of state has given the American people any coherent explanation of what is at stake in Colombia or of how massive military assistance can do anything but make matters worse.”
During his 25-year Foreign Service career, White specialized in Latin American affairs with particular emphasis on Central America. In his early career he served in Honduras and Nicaragua. Among other posts he held were Latin American Director of the Peace Corps, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, Ambassador to Paraguay and El Salvador. In 1977 and 1978, White served as the President’s Special Representative to the Inter-American Conference on Education, Science and Culture.
After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1981, White served as a Senior Associate for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. White is currently the president of the Center for International Policy.
Read the transcript below.
QUITO, ECUADOR: With more involvement by the US government, isn’t there a fear of “VIETNAMIZATION” of this problem. Also with more US government involvement, isn’t there a possibility of drawing Columbia’s neighbors into the conflict.
Robert E. White: In Vietnam we had no defined objectives, we had no strategy to know when we achieved victory. It is the same in Colombia.
Glassboro, NJ: What is the source of the FARC income and what is its relation to the American people?
Robert E. White: The FARC receives its income from kidnapping and ransom, and taxing the growing of coca leaves within the zones they control.
They say they are friends of the American people. They claim they are willing to be helpful to ending coca production. And it is true they have begun a United Nations sponsored program of crop substitution within the zone that they control.
New York, NY: How does this aid package differ from previous military aid packages? It seems that it is just a continuation of the same failed policies of the past; the US continues to focus on the supply side aspects of the drug trade while doing virtually nothing to address our domestic demand? In study after study it has been reported that drug treatment and prevention programs are much less costly and much more affective than the militarized approach that focuses on eradication and interdiction, with that known why isn’t more being done to address the demand?
Robert E. White: You have made an excellent point. All of the evidence that we have is that drug interdiction does not work. Yet we are spending billions of dollars on this failed policy. At the same time in this country addicts are turned away because there are not enough drug treatment centers.
Richmond, VA: I have confidence in your ‘take’ on the situation in Colombia as expressed in the Washington Post. In my experience, Latin American attitudes are a mixture, even in one person, of a sentiment that the U.S. should mind its own business while at the same time criticizing the U.S. for not helping to solve their problems. Which attitude seems to you to be prevalent among the Colombians right now? Have there been any pleas among Colombians living in the U.S. for military aid?
Robert E. White: You are right about the ambivalence with which Colombians and other South Americans regard the US.
Colombia has been at war for almost a half century. The last thing Colombia needs is an intensification of that war. We should be working for a cease fire, a support for Pastrana’s peace process, and we should put most of our resources into economic and social projects designed to help the 60% of Colombians who live in absolute poverty.
Andres Torres, Bogotá, Colombia: Ambassador White,
Do you believe Congress will pass the proposed aid? Are the Republican’s generally supportive of it? To what extent does there exist bipartisan support?
Do you believe that and extensive alternative crop substitution program along with substantial economic development programs could be more effective than military aid?
Thank you very much,
U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Bogotá COLOMBIA
(Edited for space)
Robert E. White: All the indications are that the congress will pass this bill. There may however be substantial amendments. There is great concern that military aid will harm the Colombian people and drag the United States into that civil war. There is a substantial group in congress that are skeptical about military involvement and would like to emphasize economic development and alternative programs.
Arlington, Virginia: Why do you call this a civil war? There is nothing civil about the 15,000 bandits that are attacking the 35 million Colombians who do not support them nor share their criminal ways.
The U.S. has had a tradition of intervening in foreign wars, both actively and passively -sending equipment and training-, and the world is a better place because of this -WWII, Iraq, etc.- and is thankful for it. Colombia is not asking for the U.S. intervention, but only an aid that would level the playing field against narcoguerrillas that have better equipment than the army’s thanks to the drug money that ironically comes from the U.S. So, is it O.K. for the U.S. to supply the narcoguerrillas with state-of-the-art arms but not O.K. to help the army that is doing the work for the U.S.?
Robert E. White: You make an important point: that is American consumption fuels the guerilla movement. But it is a civil war because it is confined within the boundaries of Colombia. Moreover, it is unrealistic to put all of the blame on one group of guerillas. 80% of the human rights violations are committed by the paramilitary forces in conjunction with local military commanders.
I strongly support President Pastrana’s peace process.
New York City, New York: The Washington Post’s editorial claimed that the aid would help the negotiations and accused those who disagree with that analysis of “falling for the FARC’s bluff.”
If you disagree with this view, could you tell us please what’s wrong with it?
Robert E. White: The Post editorial assumes that the Colombian military will carry the war into guerilla territory in some effective way. I believe it is far more likely that the FARC will shoot down our helicopters and turn back the Colombian army. Therefore, instead of putting pressure on the guerillas, the result of our assistance could well be serious setbacks to the Colombian military.
Washington DC: Could you to comment on the FARC’s perceived fear of U.S. aid to Colombia right now? It seems that they are already truly afraid and more willing to negotiate for peace now that they see the U.S. is serious about stopping the drug trade via Colombia. In fact the FARC have even asked the pope for his “blessing” of the peace process
Robert E. White: Negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC are more than two years old. These negotiations have been slow and laborious but they have produced a common agenda. And in Europe there has apparently been further progress. The FARC would undoubtedly like to avoid US intervention in Colombia; indeed the threat of military support may help the negotiations. But, this is the error we have made. Had the US actively supported the peace process and said: “unless we get progress we would be forced to consider military involvement” that would have been a better strategy.
The moment your military assistance arrives inside Colombia, you’ve lost that negotiating lever. In other words, the threat of military assistance is far more effective than actual military assistance.
Takoma Park, MD: What are the comparisons you’d make between US policy toward Colombia today and US policy toward El Salvador when you were Ambassador in the 1980s? Some of my questions: Are we contributing to the militarization of the country at the expense of democracy? Are we supporting the major perpetrators of human rights? Why are the American people not interested in where $1.6 billion tax dollars are going?
Robert E. White: When you support, as we did in El Salvador, a ruthless, bloodthirsty and ineffectual military, you are following a doomed policy. The big difference between El Salvador and Colombia is that El Salvador is a tiny country– as big as Maryland– while just the territory the FARC controls is the size of California. If this misconceived military assistance is approved I believe it will not be long before the American people understand that we are headed for yet another disaster.
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia: Do you know that paramilitary squads have been created by the Colombian army following instructions of the counterinsurgency manuals wrote and furnished by the U.S. Army?
Do you think that a “pocket human rights card” currently used by members of the Colombian army is enough to avoid human rights abuses of an army accustomed to hurt and kill disarmed Colombian citizens?
Robert E. White: It is true that the Colombian paramilitary forces had an official status as an auxiliary to the Colombian military until around 1990. It is also true that the Colombian military still works on a regional, local level with paramilitary forces. This is one of my chief concerns… to make war upon the FARC is to put the US on the same side as the drug dealing, terrorist paramilitary forces.
New York, NY: We are arming and training one of the most brutal and corrupt militaries in all of Latin America, what amendments -Leahy Law implementation, end-use monitoring- might be tacked on to the aid package and how can we be sure that they will be enforced in good faith? End-use monitoring has failed miserably in the past.
Robert E. White: I would support enforcement from the Leahy amendment and end-use monitoring. However, I am very much afraid that once the war is accelerated that the situation becomes so confused and violent that it becomes a war of your truth against my truth, your version of reality against my version of reality. This is exactly the game the Reagan administration played in El Salvador.
Evanston, IL: All sides in the Colombian civil war–the military and its clients the paramilitaries, and the guerrillas–are involved in drug production and trafficking. Both the military-paramilitaries and the guerrillas commit human rights violations -the military-paramilitaries are responsible for the majority-. Both sides have displayed intransigence in peace negotiations. What is the real reason the U.S. government is supporting the military-paramilitaries against the guerrillas?
Robert E. White: Excellent point. This is a counter-guerilla strategy masquerading as a counter-narcotics program. Illegal narcotics are Colombia’s third largest export. No enterprise of that magnitude can exist without the collaboration of important figures in business, banking, transportation and government… military as well as civilian
Washington, DC: Doesn’t the use of the term “narco-terrrorist” by the Administration preclude the possibility of a negotiated solution? Have we just backed ourselves into a diplomatic corner?
Robert E. White: Pres. Pastrana rejects the term narco-terrorist. An elected president can negotiate a peace with insurgents who have a political agenda. He cannot negotiate honorably with so-called narco-terrorists. The use of this term by high US officials directly undermines Pres. Pastrana’s peace initiatives.
Albuquerque, New Mexico: Drug interdiction is being cited as one of the primary rationales behind the aid that is being proposed for the Colombian government.
Is there is any reliable evidence that conclusively establishes that the Colombian government isn’t itself involved or benefiting from drug trafficking?
Robert E. White: Yes. In 1998, the chief of the Air Transport Command (Colombia’s air force) landed his plane in Miami. The DEA inspected the plane and found a half ton of cocaine on the plane.
GUADALAJARA, JALISCO, MEXICO: Drug interdiction has been cited as a primary rationale for the proposed aid. Is there any reason to believe that the Colombian government itself isn’t also somehow benefiting from the narcotics trade? And, if that is that case what measures have been proposed to deal with that issue?
Robert E. White: The United States has turned a blind eye to the complexities of our relations with Colombia. They have reduced this complicated country and its multifaceted challenges to a single issue: the revolutionaries who are involved in a drug protection racket.
The United States should respond to Colombia’s challenge with diplomatic support, social and economic help… we should not intervene on one side of another country’s civil war.
Washington, DC: Your February 8th article opposes the military aid provided in the President’s aid package, yet you seem to suggest that supporting development projects and a crop substitution program would be a better policy. How can such a policy have a chance of succeeding when such aid projects historically only work when the rule of law is strong and there exists readily available market access, a situation that does exist in Colombia?
Robert E. White: The precise point that I tried to make in the Post article was that Colombia need farm to market roads in order that the Colombian campasinos can get there product to market. 90% of Colombians live in cities. But there are no roads connecting guerilla territory to the urban areas.
These highways would also peacefully carry increased government authority into these neglected zones. In my visits to the FARC dominated area, the government had built no schools, no hospitals, and no municipal or state buildings of any kind. It’s no wonder you have revolution.
Cabin John MD: In a recent press conference, Secretary Albright stated, “strangely enough, our successful -drug policy] in Peru and Bolivia has lead to the current situation in Columbia.” Do you believe that this current package before Congress will stop Columbia’s cocaine factory? And if so, do you believe that a cocaine factory will “strangely” appear elsewhere?
Robert E. White: What we are up against in Latin America, particularly the Andes, is not a particular country or group. We are against and international market cartel. It’s a major, multifaceted, global industry.
When they feel pressure in one country, they simply spread out their production schedules and begin cultivation in other countries. If there should be some pressure in Colombia, they will move to Ecuador. If there is pressure in Ecuador, they’ll move to NW Brazil… the more pressure you put on drug traffickers, the higher the price, and the more incentives there are for new traffickers and new routes to be established.
Herndon, VA: Mr. Ambassador: Having served as a very junior Foreign Service officer in Bogotá in the late 70’s, and seeing attempt after attempt to stem the drug problem collapse, I believe this latest U.S. initiative is doomed to failure. Do you believe there are any effective steps which can be taken? I’m almost at the point of favoring legalization of every addictive drug there is, just to dry up the narco-traffickers flow of money.
Robert E. White: Most Americans know in their heart that drug interdiction does not work. Most Americans believe strongly that the United States should not get involved in other countries civil wars. The tragedy of this policy is that it is unsustainable. There will be, within a very short time– 2 or 3 years– the US will be under pressure at home to end our military involvement. It’s premature, not well thought out and has no well defined objectives.
Baltimore, Maryland: Mr. White:
I am a retired military officer who was involved in the counter narcotics mission during the late 1980’s. My experience tells me that when the choice comes down to providing the toys for boys, i.e., helicopters, arms, etc. to support a Latin American military in its struggle against the traffickers, or investing in the country’s infrastructure to provide alternatives to coca production, the toys win. After all, they’re sexy, make for better photo ops, and also keep the factories at home humming. Who cares about promoting development in some backwater where half the aid will go into some local official’s wallet? I may sound cynical but it seems to me that many of these decisions are made for domestic reasons.
Robert E. White: I agree. The United States now spends more on military preparedness than the rest of the world combined. That is an astonishing statistic. At the same time, we cut the budget the State Dept, we cut foreign aid. When countries turn to us for help, the only things we have offer are attack helicopters.
As of March 13, 2000, this document is also available at http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/00/world/white021600.htm”
This conversation from 8 years ago says much more than I could. We will go into Afghanistan and the importation of drugs into the country by the CIA another time.