The U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Anne Patterson, announced last week that the United States will provide Colombia with counterterrorism aid as part of Washington’s new war on terrorism. But many critics are concerned the new aid signifies an escalation of U.S. involvement in Colombia that might result in direct military intervention. Patterson’s announcement followed on the heels of a declaration by the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, Francis X. Taylor, that Washington’s strategy for fighting terrorism in the western hemisphere will include, “where appropriate, as we are doing in Afghanistan, the use of military power.” Taylor left little doubt about who would be the “appropriate” target when he stated that Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), “is the most dangerous international terrorist group based in this hemisphere.”
With its drug war policies under fire from all sides, Washington hawks are now using anti-terrorism rhetoric to justify escalating U.S. military involvement in the war against Colombia’s leftist insurgents. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently explained that defining a terrorist organization is not necessarily a “black and white” issue, claiming there are “gray areas” in which some armed groups might be fighting political, social and economic injustices. However, according to Powell, the FARC belong in the “black and white” category along with Osama bin Laden.
Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida also jumped on the link-the-FARC-to-international-terrorism bandwagon last week by implying that Colombia should be the principal battlefield in the war against terrorism. According to Graham, there were some 500 incidents of terrorism committed worldwide against U.S. citizens and interests last year, and “Of those almost 500 incidents, 44 percent were in one country. Was that country Egypt? No. Israel? No. Afghanistan? Hardly a tick. Forty-four percent were in Colombia. That’s where the terrorist war has been raging.”
What Graham failed to mention is that the huge majority of “terrorist” attacks against the United States by Colombian guerrillas consist of bombing oil pipelines used by U.S. companies to transport crude from remote oil fields to coastal ports. The Florida senator also neglected to point out that these attacks rarely target U.S. citizens, only the bottom-line of U.S. oil companies.
According to Ambassador Patterson, Washington will help Colombia defend its oil pipelines against rebel bomb attacks, while also providing training and equipment to elite anti-kidnapping and bomb squads. The U.S. ambassador did not elaborate on exactly how the United States would help defend “Colombia’s” oil pipelines, leaving open the possibility of protecting the interests of U.S. oil companies through, as Taylor stated, the “use of military power”. However, any such deployment of U.S. forces to safeguard the oil pipelines would inevitably result in a direct confrontation with Colombia’s rebel groups.
While the FARC utilize terrorist tactics that destroy infrastructure and kill Colombian civilians, there is no evidence to support claims that they are an international terrorist organization. The scope of their military operations rarely extend beyond Colombia’s borders, and when they do, they consist of forays into the remote jungle frontier regions of neighboring Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. And yet, the U.S. secretary of state, the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and a prominent U.S. senator insist on portraying the FARC as an international terrorist organization that poses a threat to the United States.
Meanwhile, there has been little discussion regarding the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary group that was placed on Washington’s list of terrorist organizations this year and has been blamed for 70 percent of Colombia’s human rights violations by international human rights groups and the U.S. State Department.
When President Bush declared that the United States would target all terrorists everywhere, he neglected to explain Washington’s definition of a terrorist. It has since become clear that the Bush Administration only considers those groups that target U.S. interests to be terrorists. This definition of terrorism is evident in Washington’s newly formed alliance with Pakistan’s military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, despite that country’s brazen support of Kashmiri terrorist groups that routinely attack India.
This double standard is also evident in Washington’s focus on the FARC while mostly ignoring Colombia’s brutal paramilitaries who just happen to be allied with the U.S.-supported Colombian army in its war against the leftist insurgency. In fact, only Ambassador Patterson made any mention of the $868,300 in checks drawn against a Miami bank that were discovered in a paramilitary hideout in southwestern Colombia last week. She said that Embassy investigators were looking at the cancelled checks.
According to Colombian authorities, the Miami bank account belonged to a man who manages the AUC’s finances in southwestern Colombia. Furthermore, several of the checks were made out to businesses in the United States, although authorities refuse to divulge the names of these companies. Meanwhile, most of Washington’s “anti-terrorism” campaigners, while pointing fingers at the FARC, conveniently ignored this newly discovered link between a U.S. bank, U.S. businesses and a terrorist organization that protects U.S. political and economic interests in Colombia.
As is the case in the drug war, Washington’s terrorist agenda in Colombia goes far beyond eliminating terrorism. Also like the drug war, the principal target of this new counterterrorism campaign will be the FARC, not the AUC. Over the years, in order to achieve its political and economic goals in Colombia, Washington has portrayed the FARC as a communist threat during the Cold War, narcotics traffickers during the drug war, and now as “evil-doers” to be targeted in the war against terrorism. Consequently, Washington is manipulating the legitimate fears of the American people regarding terrorism in order to justify an illegitimate military escalation in Colombia.