Has the Pentagon Stepped Back From the Edge in Colombia?

Tony Abdo aabdo at SPAMwebtv.net
Thu Feb 22 02:15:12 MST 2001

The following article from Workers World illustrates the dangers of
accepting a false concept of what 'total war' is, even if it is the
current popular opinion of this phrase within Colombia itself.    
Much better that we thoroughly understand the idea of what 'total war'
is, as defined within US government circles.

Most Colombians do not fully appreciate the now international aspect of
their own national conflict.     They do not fully comprehend that
their war is no longer a civil conflict of the Colombian people
themseves, but rather has evolved into a war of national liberation, and
an imperial war to maintain control of a region.

And it is a fullhearted braggadocio to state that the 'Pentagon has
stepped back from the edge', when in fact they are charging ahead full
speed.      Or to accept the misbegotten Stratfor analysis of a
Colombian military supposedly incapable of winning the fight.

This is a military that IS winning the fight, and precisely because the
US has paid so little political cost, so far, in advancing its 'Drug
War' into Colombia, or in upping the ante in the amount of pure
terrorism in its attack.     The overwhelming bulk of Americans continue
to support a 'war against drugs' in Colombia.    The Left is not making
the Pentagon turn back from the edge with its miniscule current level of
opposition from within the US.     To the contrary.

The total war of terrorism based on the use of 'paras' began some time
ago.     It is little different than how total war was fought by the US
in Southeast Asia.      The Pentagon is going full steam ahead,
precisely because the International Left has not mobilized itself in any
significant manner to support the Colombian people.

Tony Abdo

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Feb. 22, 2001
issue of Workers World newspaper


In many ways, the soundtrack to the Feb. 8-9 meetings between Colombian
President Andres Pastrana and Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombian-People's Army (FARC- EP) Commander in Chief Manuel Marulanda
was as telling as the final communiqué.
As Pastrana entered Los Pozos on Feb. 9, the town in the cleared dialog
zone where talks are taking place, a song by FARC-EP troubadour Lukas
Igurarán played over the loudspeaker. "Let's go, dear, to Bogotá,"
the song intoned. "I want to see the barricades in the barrios and the
people incited. Prepare the dynamite!"
Pastrana and Marulanda announced an agreement on Feb. 9 to "unfreeze"
the talks that have been frozen since November. The agreement pulls the
Colombian ruling class a step away from the total war that would have
opened up if the military tried to retake the cleared zone.

A key concession by Pastrana's regime was the announcement of a national
commission to investigate the deathsquad violence in Colombia.
Paramilitary units coordinated by the government armed forces have
murdered tens of thousands of civilians in the last ten years. They are
set up to terrorize Colombia's unions, peasants, students and community

The FARC-EP froze the talks on Nov. 12 to protest Pastrana's refusal to
dismantle the death squads. Since that date over 200 people have died in
death-squad massacres.

While much was made of the inclusion of the topic of a cease- fire in
the new round of talks set to begin on Feb. 14, this development is
presented out of context. The FARC-EP have always been willing to
discuss a cease-fire--in return for concrete political and military
concessions by the Colombian death-squad regime.
The revolutionaries have categorically refused to discuss any form of
disarmament, calling their arms the guarantee that any agreement would
be carried out.

The FARC-EP and the Colombian government began the current dialog
process in January 1998, after a string of military and political
victories by the FARC-EP. The insurgents have been able to use the
process to advance their demands for a solution to the social roots of
the decades of war in Colombia.
For this reason, the government has repeatedly tried to derail the
talks. A widening, though still minority, sector of the Colombian ruling
class is openly agitating for an end to the talks and a new military

This sector is being encouraged by the $1.3 billion U.S. military aid
package known as Plan Colombia. That package includes counterinsurgency
training, military helicopters and deadly defoliants. Publicized as an
anti-drug package, Plan Colombia is widely seen as support for the
Colombian government against the revolutionary insurgencies of the
FARC-EP and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

A Feb. 8 report by the military think-tank Stratfor summarized the
quandary for the Colombian elite and their U.S. backers: "Although it
has begun to receive the first portion of $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, the
Colombian army's 30,000 combat troops are not yet capable of defeating
the FARC, which has about half as many fighters but a large network of
civilian supporters. FARC forces also roam freely over about 40 percent
of the country.

"At this point, the army is stretched thin, protecting vital economic
and communications infrastructure--and without the transport,
communications and intelligence necessary to deploy and engage more
mobile guerrilla units.

"In this context, the peace talks are primarily meant to appease the
FARC until the military's capabilities are enhanced by U.S. aid," the
report noted.
The new round of talks will delay any all-out confrontation between the
FARC-EP and government troops--although battles continue to be fought on
a weekly basis. The political situation will continue to be defined by
the talks and their center of gravity in the cleared zone.

Pastrana's commitment to solving the causes of the war remains
questionable. He has refused to back away from the Pentagon-sponsored
Plan Colombia--the major obstacle to peace in Colombia today.

The FARC-EP put forward their view on the peace process at an
anti-imperialist conference in Zurich on Jan. 26. "For the FARC-EP, the
quest for peace is not counterposed to the struggle for great social
transformations and the struggle for power. In Colombia, the struggle
for peace is complemented by the revolutionary struggle. We understand
peace as the building of a new country."

The immediate threat of total war has been avoided--largely because the
Colombian military is not prepared. But the looming and inevitable
conflict between the revolutionary process in Colombia and the
counter-revolutionary U.S. military intervention cannot be resolved
without the defeat of one side or the other.

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