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Last Updated:3/12/02
Excerpt from transcript, hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, March 12, 2002

LEAHY:....Colombia, I hope you're looking at very closely. We all want to help Colombia. We want to help President Pastrana before he leaves. As we rush to expand our presence there, I hope we're extremely careful what we're doing so that we don't end up doing more harm than good and something that not only this administration but subsequent administrations will have to deal with.

SEC. POWELL: If I may say a word on -- if I may say a word on Colombia. With the end of the safe havens of course the Colombians have come to us with new requests -- increased intelligence sharing and other support we might be able to provide them. They are not asking for U.S. troops -- nor do I see U.S. troops going to Colombia. But we do believe we should help this democracy that is being threatened by narco-traffickers and terrorists. And therefore we will be sending up in the not-too-distant future language which would give us greater flexibility with respect to the kind of support we can provide. At the same time, being very, very mindful of human rights -- particularly other legislation named for you dealing with human rights -- and we will not in any way do anything that would undercut our commitment to making sure that as we support Colombia we hold them to the highest standards of human rights performance on the part of their military and their police forces.

SEN. LEAHY: I have a lot of questions on that. The Colombians have talked to me at length about what they request. I haven't heard anything from the administration about what they are hearing, so I -- and I know that you are all very busy. But if you can turn somebody loose to possibly -- I have a list of telephone numbers --

SEC. POWELL: Some of it isn't -- it's mostly in intelligence, and as you know we are --

SEN. LEAHY: I know, but they --

SEC. POWELL: -- proposal on the pipeline security.

SEN. LEAHY: They can -- well, I've read in the paper -- but it's -- some of this may end up coming before my committee, if somebody could take the time to do what the Colombians have, and let me know what they're thinking about. I'm always happy to hear from you.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you, sir.

SEN. HOLLINGS: ....Incidentally, Colombia -- we were down there last year, and the government itself hadn't seemed to make up its mind to get rid of the FARC and everybody else occupying that area down there. They were trying to modulate more peace and draw lines and everything else.

It reminded me of the time with Ben Gurion and the early prime minister behind him. They had a boatload of weaponry coming in -- Menachem Begin. And Ben Gurion had already agreed with the United Nations to withhold any kind of military activity being recognized as a country, and he had to, of course, call Begin down on that boatload of arms that he continued to use, on the premise, he said, that in a country there can be only one military force, and that's got to be in the hands of the government.

Similarly down there in Colombia, tell them -- or maybe you can get Pastrana to Israel and Sharon to Colombia. Maybe that swap would really get us going somewhere. I see you don't want to comment, but --

SEC. POWELL: No, sir. (Laughter.)

SEN. HOLLINGS: Well, you get down there. You get the training. I thought I was back in Vietnam. They had the colonels get all around the table and give us all a briefing. "We're ready to go, and we got 'em here and we're moving there," and everything else like that.

SEC. POWELL: We certainly will, Mr. Chairman. And I don't think the models there really compare back to Vietnam. The FARC is a terrorist organization. ELN is a terrorist organization. They can damage Colombia's democracy. They can't really destroy the nation or take it over. But they cause a great deal of disturbance throughout the society with their terrorist acts, with their acts of violence and with their connection to narco-trafficking.

And I think it is very reasonable for us to help them. There is no request for United States military troops even as trainers becoming -- you know, accompanying advisers and the kind of problem you mentioned. I'm very aware of that and very sensitive to it, because I was one of them some 40 years ago this year. So we're very sensitive to that.

I also think that is the case in the Philippines, where the Abu Sayyaf group, with its al Qaeda connections, cannot bring down or overtake the government of the Philippines, but it is a threat to the democracy of the Philippines, and therefore it is quite legitimate for us to assist those nations. But neither nation has indicated they want U.S. troops to come in, and I don't think we will slide down that slope.

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