there are many reasons for the Colombians to welcome the Great
Pants-Dropper in such a fashion: we are not only violating
Colombian sovereignty and propping up an increasingly unpopular
regime, but planes paid for by US taxpayers and trained by
American "advisors" are spraying the whole of Colombia with
toxic chemicals designed to wipe out coca cultivation
and poisoning the population in the process. In the rural
areas where subsistence farmers raise plantains and other
crops as well as coca, respiratory problems, skin rashes,
and eye irritations are pandemic. The long term effects are
unknown, at present, but probably nothing to look forward
to. A recent
news story depicts the "leftist guerrillas in action:
fuselages flashing in the sun, two airplanes lazily circled
over fields of coca, ready to dump a load of herbicides onto
the robust, green bushes used to make cocaine. Rebels waited
below Crouching behind fences, tree stumps and the coca itself,
fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
or FARC, opened up on the two Vietnam-era planes with M-16
and Galil assault rifles, the crackle of automatic weapons
fire splitting the afternoon silence."
the plane was not shot down, the guerrillas considered the
encounter a victory, since "the unprotected aircraft veered
off without releasing their cargo" tons of poison,
meant to be dropped on the heads of Colombian peasants. Answer
me this: wouldn't you start shooting at government
planes dropping toxic chemicals on your home, your children,
and your town? But apparently "leftists" are the only sort
of people who resent being poisoned.
about Clinton's visit to Cartagena bodes ill for the US mission
in Colombia. Clinton is only staying for six hours: an overnight
visit was ruled out for "security reasons." From the US-occupied
Balkans to darkest Africa, the current President of the United
States has been globe-trotting at a rate that threatens to
bankrupt the national treasury. Yet in all his travels, only
in Cartagena was he frightened away from staying overnight.
. . .
in spite of unprecedented
security precautions: at least 3,200 Secret Service agents
were flown in for the occasion, part of an army of 10,000
guards from both countries. FBI, CIA, DEA, DIA every
acronymic agency with a place in the national security nomenklatura
will be represented on this trip, and that's not including
the President's personal and political entourage, amounting
to some 500: including Chelsea, Speaker of the House Hastert,
and the congressional leadership of both major political parties.
Like the progression of the court of Xerxes,
with its harems and luggage and sacks of gold and jewels,
lugged from one end of the Persian Empire to another, an American
President travels from Washington to Cartagena with all the
pomp and circumstance due the Emperor of the World. Like some
oriental despot of old, whose eyes could not be sullied by
unpleasant realities, the American potentate must be spared
the sight of toothless old Antonia Sarmiento as she stands
in the doorway of her pitiful dwelling eyes wide as
the most powerful being on the planet gets out of his limo
and strides up the steps of the Palace of Justice.
now there is a word one doesn't normally associate
with Colombia. For it is entirely absent from that tortured
land, where property rights are almost nonexistent, leftist
guerrillas control nearly half the country, and a three-way
civil war is currently underway that threatens to destroy
the "moderate" government of President Andres Pastrana. In
fighting for "Plan Colombia" a package of $1.3 billion
in largely military aid and increasing involvement of US "advisors"
Clinton has made the case for intervention in terms
of personal support for Pastrana. But in making such a massive
commitment to Pastrana, we are betting on his continued ability
to stave off the political demise of his regime and his Conservative
Party both of which are extremely tenuous. . . .
explaining why he waived clauses in the aid legislation that
makes release of the money conditional on fulfillment of human
rights standards, the President said: "I did it because I
believe President Pastrana is committed to dealing with the
human rights issues, about which we're still very concerned."
It was an extraordinary measure to take, waiving the human
rights provisions once touted by his administration as a kind
of insurance policy against turning Colombia into another
Vietnam. So much for the main argument they had used to sway
reluctant members of both parties to go along with the administration's
plan. But Clinton had little choice: the week before, a group
of children had been ambushed by a rightwing paramilitary
group and Army units were accused of collusion in the massacre.
And so the President's men were reduced to justifying their
chief's action by declaring that this is an emergency:
confronts a drug emergency that directly affects the United
States. In spite of aggressive counter-drug efforts, coca
cultivation in Colombia has increased 140 percent over the
last five years. This massive rate of increase threatens to
reverse the counter-drug successes in Peru and Bolivia."
writes this stuff? Surely someone who has no sense of irony
or sense of any kind. For if coca cultivation has increased
exponentially in the past five years "in spite of aggressive
counter-drug efforts," then what are the prospects for victory
in this war and at what price? And what about
those "counter-drug successes" (oh what a way with words these
White House flunkies have!) in Peru and Bolivia? The bad guys
coca farmers and those who profit off the trade
responded to the push by Peru's Alberto Fujimori, who finished
Luminoso pretty much without US help or hindrance
from "human rights" bed-wetters. But coca farming and processing
is a necessarily mobile operation, and the coca economy merely
packed its collective bags and headed northward to Colombia.
Neighboring countries, including Peru, have already expressed
their concern and voiced opposition to US moves, beefing up
their borders and increasing patrols. Fujimori is already
on the outs with the US State Department: his reward for wiping
out the Maoist guerrillas who protected the Peruvian drug
trade was that his US sponsors tried to overthrow him and
install their own Stanford-educated replicant. This escalation
of the Colombian war is likely to stiffen Peruvian resistance
to US dominance and encourage neighboring Venezuela,
in the hands of a leftist government, to give the rebels sanctuary
if not aid. In other words, the regional response of the American
push southward appears to be almost complete rejection. .
COMETH BEFORE A FALL?
politicians absurdly take credit for the great victory over
the Soviet Union a victory inherent in the weakness
of the enemy, and not due to any technological gizmo dreamed
up by our scientists, or any weapon in the cold warriors'
arsenal. Reveling in their own facile triumphalism, they imagine
that they are building a "New World Order," with Washington
as its epicenter and the Oval Office as the seat of a world
empire. Such arrogance cannot go unpunished for long. The
price of hubris is always a fall, and the US has been riding
for one since the end of the Cold War. Clinton's passage to
Cartagena is the inauspicious opening act of what promises
to be another American morality play of a war, like Vietnam
only worse. Much worse because much closer to
home. . . .
NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS . . .
news from Colombia is not good, and will not get any better,
As you watch Slick Willie ooze sincerity as he inveighs against
the "scourge" of cocaine, ask yourself if he even has
any nostrils left. (The same words out of Dubya's mouth will
seem equally absurd.) But don't get too depressed as
we slide down the slippery slope into the Colombian quagmire.
Look on the sunny side: at least there's one place still left
on earth where the Emperor of the World is afraid to shut
his eyes, lest rebel rockets disturb his sleep. As long as
that is true, it means that the would-be lords of the New
World Order are falling far short of their goal and
that is about as much good news as we have the right to hope