This is an August 2007 copy of a website maintained by the Center for International Policy. It is posted here for historical purposes. The Center for International Policy no longer maintains this resource.

Home
|
Analyses
|
Aid
|
|
|
News
|
|
|
|
Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), May 23, 2002
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to discuss a critical issue of American foreign policy. Tucked quietly into this supplemental is language that will significantly increase United States involvement in the civil war in Colombia. Along with the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Skelton), I am offering an amendment to strike that troubling and dangerous language and restore some common sense to our Colombia policy.

The supplemental bill expands our role in Colombia beyond counternarcotics and into counterterrorism. The problem is that in Colombia, counterterrorism means counter-insurgency.

In short, Mr. Chairman, if the Colombia language in the supplemental survives, the United States will be plunging head first into a grinding, violent and deepening civil war that has plagued Colombia for nearly 4 decades. This House should think long and hard before it gives a green light to such a momentous shift in our policy.

For the past several years, the U.S. has invested billions of dollars into counternarcotics efforts in Colombia. It is difficult to argue that our investment has paid any dividends. Indeed, since the inception of Plan Colombia, coca production in that country has actually increased by 25 percent.

Now, having said that, our amendment will not affect our funding for counternarcotics. In addition, our amendment protects language in the supplemental that allows U.S. resources to be used for humanitarian assistance, including rescue operations.

Two weeks ago, this House unwisely voted to grant the Secretary of Defense the ability to waive the cap on the number of U.S. military personnel in Colombia. When you add it all up, increased U.S. troops plus increased involvement in the civil war equals bad policy. But that is the door that this bill will open.

The majority of U.S. aid to Colombia goes to the Colombian military, a military with an abysmal human rights record, a military that continues to maintain ties to paramilitary groups that are listed on the State Department terrorist list. I do not believe that American taxpayer dollars should be used to fund an institution like that, and I certainly do not believe that we should expand American resources beyond fighting drugs and into fighting guerrillas.

Mr. Chairman, I am also deeply troubled by the timing of this Colombia language. On Sunday, Colombians will go to the polls to elect a new president. Polls show that the winner of that election will be Alvaro Uribe. Mr. Uribe has based his campaign on a promise to expand the civil war, and there are widespread indications that the violent right-wing paramilitaries that are responsible for so many of the human rights abuses in Colombia are actually supporting the Uribe campaign.

Now, I believe it would be a huge mistake to pledge additional U.S. troops and resources to the Colombian government before we see what the Uribe government will look like. Indeed, if Colombia decides to increase its own investment in fighting its civil war, it would be a dramatic shift. Right now Colombia spends less than 2 percent of its GDP on the war effort. People with high school diplomas are exempted from serving in combat roles, leaving the dirty work to the poor and uneducated. Our troops and our resources are simply too precious to be used as proxies in Colombia's civil war. If American personnel are not targets now because of our counternarcotic efforts, you will be sure they will be targets when we pick sides against the guerilla force of over 20,000 well-armed fighters.

Mr. Chairman, we all support the efforts to combat the kind of global terrorism that threatens our interests and people. We all support the campaign to dismantle al Qaeda. But Colombia is not Afghanistan. It is the site of a terrible, terrible civil war. Kidnapping and other homegrown acts of terrorism have been part of this war since the very beginning and used by all sides. There is no new war on terrorism to be waged in Colombia, there is only more of the same.

Mr. Chairman, what is our plan? How many U.S. troops? How much money? What is the end game? Colombia is a huge country, three times the size of Montana, 53 times the size of El Salvador. It is a hideously complex place with widespread poverty and social unrest.

Mr. Chairman, this is a defining moment. Getting directly involved in Colombia's civil war is a mistake, plain and simple. Let us demonstrate the good sense to think long and hard before we plunge ahead.

I urge my colleagues to vote for the McGovern-Skelton amendment.

As of June 19, 2002, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20020523)

Google
Search WWW Search ciponline.org

Asia
|
Colombia
|
|
Financial Flows
|
National Security
|

Center for International Policy
1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Suite 801
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 232-3317 / fax (202) 232-3440
cip@ciponline.org