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Last Updated:6/19/02
Speech by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), May 23, 2002

Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the McGovern-Skelton amendment. I am surprised that the gentleman from Arizona omitted a bit of history, because American troops were sent initially to Colombia and a line was drawn and it was drawn to provide training in antidrug activities only. This is a major step. This is a Gulf of Tonkin amendment that is in the bill that we seek to strike.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I speak today having recalled on so many occasions within the Committee on Armed Services and here on the floor, pointing out the fact that our troops are stretched, they are strained, their families are paying a severe sacrifice on their loved ones being gone so much, and that we have to increase the number of troops that we have. So with that in mind, I think that what is in the bill needs to be stricken. The implication is clear, that American servicemembers would become engaged in a broadened United States military effort in Colombia.

My concerns with the bill are several. Expanded American military activities will embroil us in a civil war that has been raging for 40 years. This is no small thing, as the gentleman from Arizona pointed out. This is a major policy change. We could find ourselves engulfed in a morass that would eat up American soldiers like we have not seen in years.

Second, and perhaps the most important, is that our military personnel are performing more overseas missions today than ever. In just the past several months, our forces have been deployed to the Philippines, to Yemen, to Georgia, in addition to the major operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo, not to mention Korea, not to mention the young men and women aboard ships on the seas. If the administration follows through with its plans to invade Iraq, invade Iraq, we simply will not have enough people to perform the missions, at least not to perform them very well.

So we should carefully weigh the consequences before undertaking expanding missions in places like Colombia. The administration has simply not made the case for this expansion of our role. It is well known that the Colombian law allows wealthy and educated youth to avoid military combat. Their own sons are not sent out to fight the insurgence, but American sons can do it. I do not think that is a good policy for the United States of America.

Mr. Chairman, expanding the drug program in Colombia to include terrorist activities is inviting war in Colombia. It runs the risk of embroiling us in an intractable civil war at a time when our military is stretched already. A vote for this amendment is the right policy for Colombia.

The bill says that the Department of Defense funds can be used for a unified campaign. That is a magic phrase. That means, as I interpret it, that it is a license to change the rules of engagement for our troops that allows them to engage in combat or war. If this bill is adopted without this amendment, we could be embroiled in a no-kidding shooting war; and we will know that this is a Gulf of Tonkin effort that we have passed, unless this amendment prevails.

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)

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