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
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
As of June 19, 2002,
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