A "second Vietnam" in Colombia?

jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net
Mon Nov 6 12:38:56 MST 2000

U.S. Antiwar forces should keep their eyes on what Washington is up to
in Colombia.  This was the message delivered at a public meeting  in
Highland, NY, Nov. 5.  Here is a report prepared by the Mid-Hudson
National People’s Campaign.
        Is the U.S. government about to create “another Vietnam” in Colombia,
the Latin American country of 40 million inhabitants where a people’s
war has been raging for decades?
        This was the topic addressed at the Nov. 5  public meeting in Highland,
N.Y.,  by journalist, CUNY professor, and International Action Center
activist Andy McInerney.  His answer, in essence: it certainly seems
headed in that direction, despite disclaimers from Washington.
        “In 1960, there were less than 1,000 U.S. military ‘advisors’ in
Vietnam,” he began, noting that the multi-millions Washington was
spending to support the corrupt South Vietnamese government at the time
was small change compared to the multi-billions budgeted in later
years.  And of course, the Pentagon was saying that the “advisors” were
to be kept out of combat.  Within five years the U.S. was sinking into
the quagmire of a widespread protracted war.
        “The American people didn’t know anything about Vietnam in 1960, even
though there were warning signs,” McInerney added. These same warning
signs are showing up once again 40 years later in Colombia.”
        “U.S. military aid skyrocketed to $90 million in 1998.  A year later it
increased to $300 million.  This year Congress approved $1.3 billion.
Colombia is now the Pentagon’s third largest recipient of free military
        The 200 U.S. military ‘advisors’ in counter-insurgency war already sent
to Colombia will be bolstered by 200-300 more, according to the latest
Clinton administration plans.  The latest allocation will include
sending 60 combat helicopters to Colombia.
        “Washington claims that all of this is part of a war on drugs,”
McInerney scoffed.  “This is just a sham--a cover for a
counter-insurgency war, as in Vietnam.”
        McInerney explained that the U.S. is getting deeply involved  now in
the decades-long guerrilla struggle waged by the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN)
because “the success of the people’s struggle has reached the point
where there is a serious contest for state power.” The territory of
Colombia is larger than the combined area of France, the United
Kingston, the Netherlands and Belgium--and the rebel forces occupy
almost half of it.  As in Vietnam, if the U.S. “loses” Colombia it fears
a domino effect might result in “losing” other countries it presently
dominates in Latin America.
        To this end, the U.S. and the Colombian government of President Andres
Pastrana have recently cooked up a major counter-insurgency scheme
(backed by a projected $7.5 billion budget) called "Plan Colombia," the
purpose of which is the eventual defeat of the guerrilla forces although
it is supposedly aimed at Colombia’s export of drugs.
        Speaking of the drug war, McInerney noted that the U.S. is the largest
importer of drugs in the world and that “if Washington really wanted to
end the drug problem in America it would take these billions and invest
them at home in drug rehabilitation programs,  in job  training and job
creation, and in vast improvements in educational services.  Investing
this money in the brutal Colombian army to fight the FARC and ELN won’t
have any impact on America’s dependence on Colombian drugs.”
        McInerney characterized as propaganda the notion that there is a
“three-sided war going on in Colombia” composed of (1) the government
and its armed forces, (2) the right-wing paramilitary armies and (3) the
revolutionary forces.  He said the paramilitaries--which he termed
“death squads” responsible for the bulk of killings in Colombia--worked
in collaboration with the armed forces, often doing its dirty work.
There are only two sides in the conflict, McInerney said, “the
government, which is backed by the wealthy ruling class and the death
squads, and the people’s forces” composed of military and civilian
components struggling to create a democratic Colombia free from control
by the oligarchy, the drug lords, the military elite, global
corporations and imperialism.
        The speaker also disputed the “blame-both-sides” argument that the
struggle is being waged between the government and the rebel forces with
the masses of people squeezed between them.   “Colombia is a nation of
heroes, not of innocent people caught in the middle,”  he said, noting
the activism of the country’s strong labor movement and other insurgent
forces fighting against International Monetary Fund demands for
belt-tightening by the poor and privatization of national resources.
        McInerney ended his nearly two-hour talk and Q&A with an appeal to
progressive forces in the United States “to become active in the
struggle against expanding U.S. intervention in Colombia.”  He urged
antiwar forces participating in the demonstration against the School of
the Americas in Ft. Benning, Ga., this month to raise the question of
Colombia “because it’s probably had more officers trained at the SOA
than any other Latin country.”  He also noted that the International
Action Center has just formed a U.S. Out of Colombia Committee that
planned to organize a nationwide movement to oppose U. S. intervention


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