by Rep. William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), May 23, 2002
Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr.
Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, as
my friend, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the
Committee on International Relations indicated, we have traveled together
frequently to Colombia, so I am all too familiar with the incredible violence
that has plagued Colombia for far too long.
I acknowledge we
must accept a certain responsibility, for it is our insatiable demand
for cocaine and for heroin that has exacerbated that violence and brought
it to a new horrific level.
Assistance and support
for Colombia is part of our responsibility, but it is extremely important
that we be clear about what kind of assistance we should offer and what
we should expect from the Colombians. I believe that what we have been
doing recently lacks that clarity.
The U.S. policy
is undergoing a sea change in such an incremental fashion so as to be
unnoticeable. That, I submit, is unfortunate and very risky. During debate
on the original Plan Colombia, which I supported, I rejected the argument
that our involvement in Colombia could lead us to a Vietnam-like quagmire,
in part because there were clear and bright lines in Plan Colombia as
to the limits of our support.
But now we are beginning
to blur those lines, Mr. Chairman. We are removing those conditions and
restrictions contained in Plan Colombia on a piecemeal basis. We are on
the verge of making commitments that quantitatively and qualitatively
substantially change our role in Colombia.
There have been
recommendations that we increase military assistance and enlarge our direct
counterterrorism role in Colombia, and I underscore ``direct'' role in
Colombia, all this without a thoughtful and extensive debate that carefully
weighs the implications of such a fundamental shift in American policy.
For example, 2 weeks
ago, Plan Colombia contained an explicit ceiling, 500, on the number of
U.S. military personnel permitted to enter Colombia. On May 10, this House
passed a defense authorization bill that would essentially allow the Pentagon
to introduce an unlimited number of American troops into that brutal conflict
without any consent or notice to Congress.
Today, the supplemental
contains $6 million to protect a single oil pipeline in Colombia. But
let us be clear: It really is simply a downpayment, because it is estimated
that the full cost to the American taxpayer to protect that one pipeline
is $98 million, and I believe that those additional monies will be included
in the regular course of the appropriation bills we have to consider.
How much will the
next pipeline cost the American taxpayers? One can imagine American taxpayer
dollars being utilized to protect all sorts of infrastructure projects
in Colombia: bridges, aqueducts. The United States ambassador in Bogota
indicated that there are more than 300 strategic infrastructures in Colombia
that need protection.
Now we are also
considering whether to eliminate the restrictions that limit our current
assistance to counternarcotics purposes. As others have said, make no
mistake, not only will this result in an increased involvement by American
forces in an expanding conflict, but it will be interpreted in Colombia
as a willingness on the part of the United States to become directly engaged
in actual conflict. That will be the interpretation that the Colombian
people will make on their own. Now, do we really want that? Do we really
want to chart this course without more debate?
I urge adoption
of the 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)