Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

September 1, 2000


Lying comes easily to some people, and none find it more effortless than William Jefferson Clinton, who has elevated dissimulation to an art form. In Cartagena yesterday, with the Washington power elite in tow, and Colombian President Andres Pastrana at his side, the man who "never touched that woman" stuck out his fat lower lip and declared:

"A condition of this aid is that we are not going to get into a shooting war. This is not Vietnam; neither is it Yankee imperialism. Those are the two false charges that have been hurled against Plan Colombia. You have a perfect right to question whether you think it will work or whether you think we've properly distributed the resources. But I can assure you – a lot of the opposition to this plan is coming from people who are afraid it will work. So that won't happen."


In order to find out what is really going on in Colombia, all we have to do is invert what the President said: The aid will, in and of itself, drag us into a shooting war, since drugs and civil insurrection are, in Colombia, inextricably intertwined. Secondly, the parallels with Vietnam are enough to qualify this as the Deja-Vu War. Not only does this conflict come complete with Marxist revolutionaries, impenetrable jungles, and a country long victimized by foreign domination, but its unwinnability has been determined from the very outset. . . .


While we had no business intervening in Southeast Asia – Eisenhower started it – once in there the US did everything it could to ensure the defeat of its ostensible war on Communism. The Vietnamese anti-Communist forces, represented by President Ngo Dinh Diem, were opposed, undermined, and finally overthrown by the US government: the assassination of President Diem is today widely acknowledged to have been a US covert operation. Diem, a Catholic in a nation of Buddhists, was the bane of radicalized Buddhist monks, who periodically set themselves on fire whenever they wanted to garner the attention of the Western media. It was an effective tactic, one that led, eventually, to a US-organized coup, and also to Diem's death at the coup plotters' hands. Diem had paid the price for taking President Kennedy at his word. If the US had really been interested in fighting Communism in Vietnam, they would have backed Diem to the hilt; instead, they had him murdered. In Colombia, it's deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. Once again, the only force that is capable of rolling back leftist guerrillas on the ground has been targeted for destruction by the US. . . .


The Autodefensas, or autonomous self-defense groups that are known in the Western media as "rightwing paramilitary groups," grew up in the 1980s, when the wave of kidnappings launched by leftist guerrilla groups began to demoralize (and decimate the ranks of) the middle class: small business owners, ranchers; even the drug traffickers, some of whom by this time had achieved middle class status, were being terrorized. Aside from the kidnappings, competing leftist guerrilla armies were preying on the peasants, looting stores, and exacting "taxes" from a populace it couldn't even protect from the scourges of the army, which would periodically sweep into town and execute suspected guerrilla sympathizers. War often broke out between competing leftist factions, with civilians caught in the crossfire. The autodefensas sprang up in response to the inability or unwillingness of the central government in Bogota to offer the least amount of protection. Although the pro-leftist media likes to characterize them as moral monsters, and as little more than agents of the Colombian military, their leaders are often defectors from the ranks of the guerrillas who saw through the Marxoid rhetoric and realized that the FARC, the ELN, the EPL, and the others were just marauding gangs, out for power and loot. The campesinos themselves organized the self-defense committees, which merged into the Autodefensas Unidas Colombia (AUC). Their power base is in the north, where the AUC counts most of the biggest ranchers among its supporters. Consciously emulating the leftist groups, the autodefensas have waged a relentless war against the guerrillas and have generally been much more effective than the army. It has been widely remarked that the FARC and the other leftist revolutionary groups control about half the country: what is generally not said is that the autodefensas control the other half. They are the main bulwark against the final victory of the Left – and as a result, they have been targeted by the US. For it is they who will wind up being the main targets of "Plan Colombia." . . .


We are not in Colombia to fight Marxist insurgents, in spite of the nostalgia this idea may evoke in old cold warriors. Very far from it, our intervention could lead to the victory of the leftist guerrillas. Indeed, it seems almost designed to accomplish that very end. As Clinton put it in his Cartagena news conference: "Let me make one point very clear: This assistance is for fighting drugs, not waging war." In spite of the official characterization of the FARC guerrillas as "narcoterrorists" by overheated Republicans, as is widely known it is the autodefensas who have the most direct link to drug trafficking in the region. The nucleus of the autodefensas movement was a group founded because drug traffickers and their relatives had been kidnapped and killed by the guerrillas – Muerte a Secuestradores (Death to Kidnappers, MAS). The guerrillas, for their part, protect coca farmers in order to extort exorbitant "taxes," but much prefer kidnapping as a source of regular income. The FARC's hostility to commerce and their Marxoid puritanism had led them to call, like the Pastrana government and the US State Department, for "crop conversion": they recently held a conference on the subject.


If we are sending helicopters and "advisors" to eliminate the drug trade in Colombia, then we are taking aim, not at the various Marxist groups, but at their only effective opposition – the self-defense groups. Coca production is an integral part of the Colombian economy, and short of tearing up society root and branch it is unlikely to disappear any time soon: to target the autodefensas for being "drug traffickers" is to make war on them, in effect, for being Colombians. With the Colombian army on the run, and the US pledged not to interfere in the fight against the guerrillas, the full force of the US and its billion-dollar "Plan Colombia" will be directed against the AUC – and the country will be delivered into the hands of the last Marxist insurgency on earth. Not another Vietnam? Colombia is practically a rerun, frame for frame, down to the most telling details. Once again, a Democratic president escalates a war that is taken up by the Republicans with extraordinary gusto. Last time, we were told it was a "war on Communism" – and inside of a few years the red flag was flying over Saigon. This time, they're calling it a "war on drugs" – and if you believe that, I want to know what you've been smoking. How long before the red flag flies over Bogota is a matter of pure conjecture, but the success of "Plan Colombia" would make it practically inevitable.

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