OF INCREASING COMMITMENT
is almost impossible to check such claims. Rios could be blowing
smoke or firming the justification for FARC rejection of peace talks
between the government and the rebels that were supposed to begin
this week. The "new'' plan released by Colombian President
Andres Pastrana a couple of weeks ago contemplates at least $1.5
billion in aid from the United States over three years (the US acknowledges
$298 million in aid to Colombia this year) and another $3 billion
from other international "donors.''
But Pastrana's plan doesn't address any of the items on FARC's longstanding
agenda. FARC wants the government to stop funding and training right-wing
paramilitaries that have waged brutal battles against left-wing
guerrillas (putting most ordinary Colombians in the middle). It
wants Colombia to end cooperation with the United States in the
drug war and arrange a prisoner exchange. None of these issues was
addressed and the first response from FARC was to reject the plan
Most top US officials claim they have no intention of getting US
forces more heavily involved in either the drug war or the anti-guerrilla
war. But there seem to be wheels within wheels in the top echelons
of the imperial center. US "drug czar'' Gen. Barry McCaffrey
(a former commander of forces in Latin America) has been plumping
for increased US military aid to Colombia, mentioning the sum of
at least $500 million per year, since July. He has traveled to other
countries in the region, spreading his current claim that the narcotraffickers
and guerrillas have become one and urging them to commit more money
and people to the drug war in Colombia.
CAUTIOUS BUT MIGHT BE CAUGHT
Colombian President Pastrana traveled to the United Nations to deliver
a speech September 20 the same day U.N. General Secretary
Kofi Annan announced that the "core challenge'' in the next
century will be for the UN to be less fastidious about sovereignty
and "to forge unity behind the principle that massive and systematic
violations of human rights wherever they occur should
not be allowed to stand Pastrana made it clear that he was
opposing foreign intervention, at least now.
"One of the sacred bases'' of the UN charter,'' Pastrana told
the General Assembly, is the obligation of state "to not intervene
directly or indirectly in affairs of other nations.'' Even though
his vaunted peace plan had recently been rebuffed by FARC, he expressed
confidence that FARC leader Manuel "Sureshot'' Marulanda was
ready to talk seriously about ending the civil war on peaceful terms.
"Colombia will accept no type of foreign intervention,'' Pastrana
But it might be difficult to avoid. Not only has the narco-guerrilla
war heated up recently, Colombia is in the midst of what may turn
out to be its worst economic depression since the 1930s. What that
means is that not only are many ordinary Colombians caught in the
crossfire, they can be deprived of the means to protect themselves.
Many want to flee the country. The US Embassy in Bogota has gotten
three times its normal number of visa requests in recent months
and turns down 80 percent of them.
So many Colombians are fleeing into neighboring countries. About
4 million Colombians have swelled the 22 million population of Venezuela.
There are large and growing immigrant/refugee communities from Colombia
in Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Panama according
to MSNBC reporter Jennifer Rich. About 1.5 million Colombians
have been displaced internally. And both narcotraffickers and guerrillas
have used neighboring countries as a refuge, sometimes to the point
of establishing bases in Venezuela and Panama.
these spillover effects of violence and a sense of hopelessness
in Colombia especially if they're compounded by failure to
reach even a phony peace agreement with the guerrillas could
cause neighboring countries to listen more carefully to Barry McCaffrey's
interventionist pleas. If Colombia seems to be descending into chaos
(and it wouldn't take long for a concerted burst of attention from
the international news media for such an impression to seem overwhelming)
and the neighboring countries seem to have a promise of strong backup
and plenty of aid from the United States, they just might cooperate
in an expeditionary force coordinated by the United States.
FARC leader Ivan Rios warns that "it's possible that this isn't
going to be like some little Vietnam but that it could turn out
to be a big Vietnam'' if Yanqui intervention becomes more massive
and more open. He might be indulging in empty rhetoric, but it is
certainly true that an area the size of Switzerland is openly controlled
by the rebels, that much of the countryside is mountainous jungle
that would be difficult for foreigners to handle.
US citizens who don't want to see US troops bogged down in a Colombian
quagmire would do well to inform themselves and prepare for activism,
starting with letters and phone calls to Congresscritters urging
that they take a stand against US intervention in Colombia.
TIMOR: EMPTY JUSTIFICATIONS
should hardly be surprising that the hyper-interventionist neo-conservative
magazine the Weekly Standard should have found somebody to
write a longish piece for its September 27 issue titled "Why
East Timor Matters.'' What is mildly surprising is just how empty
the justifications for intervention now and a long-term commitment
to "nation-building'' turned out to be.
The writer, Tom Donnelly, deputy executive director of the Project
for the New American Century, begins by lamenting that fact that
while the Aussies are stepping up to the challenge, "the United
States shrugs its shoulders, laments the humanitarian catastrophe,
and willfully ignores the larger, strategic concerns.''
So I kept looking for some statement of just what those strategic
concerns assuming that as with most commentators the term
strategic concerns refers to military or geopolitical worries that
might pose a threat to larger US strategic goals in East Asia
are. Poor Mr. Donnelly was unable to provide a single example of
such a concern that might justify his preferred policy "to
think of the peacekeepers as a down payment on a long-term investment
in creating a stable, democratic Indonesia.''
He does go into some recent history without much distortion, noting
that the Asian economic crisis has made Indonesia more unstable
than it otherwise would have been. But nowhere did he offer a strategic
reason for US intervention.
The best he could do was to claim that "our ability and willingness
to help resolve the crisis in East Timor and support Indonesia's
democratization will be read in the region as an indicator of our
reliability and staying power. America's closest regional allies
already have doubts about our resolve with regard to China and North
Korea, which we now compound by out reluctance to assume a natural
leadership role in East Timor.''
So the United States should commit money and people to an extremely
dangerous and potentially volatile situation (the Aussies haven't
had an easy time of it and the situation is unlikely to get better
for them in the near future) for essentially psychological reasons?
The strategic position of the United States is enhanced if we demonstrate
an ability to make a foolish commitment and then stick with it no
matter how long it takes or how brutal we have to be?
In fact, why is it important, let alone essential, for the United
States, as Donnelly insists, "to maintain its position as the guarantor
of East Asian security,'' whatever that means. The neo-imperialists
seem to think that such essentially empty phrases are enough to
justify any intervention. Perhaps we should be encouraged that they
seem so intellectually vapid as to not offer anything more concrete
than such macho phrases by way of justification. Or perhaps we should
be appalled that they no longer think concrete gains or geostrategic
advantages are necessary to explain the self-evident burdens of
contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's
Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in
the Balkans, a 60-page booklet packed with the kind of intellectual
ammunition you need to fight the lies being put out by this administration
and its allies in Congress. Send contributions to
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